Assignment 5 – Prison Break

Hi students of English 110,

Welcome to your newest assignment!

There are over 2 million fellow American citizens incarcerated at the present time. Our current assignment is a study of the prison system and to explore the lives of the inmates before, during and after their incarceration. Many of those incarcerated in our prisons are stereotyped as hard criminals and cruel human beings. We are going to investigate and discover the nature of many of these inmates. We will look into their backgrounds and upbringings. What are the factors that contributed to their present situations? What are their feelings now? What are the ramifications of their being in prison? How will they act once released from prison? What will happen to their families while they are locked up? What effect does incarceration have on their lives and on the lives of those close to them?

We will be writing a research paper about the lives of these individuals based on our findings and research.

To answer some of these questions, the first stage of our three week project will consist of some background research by going through some readings, listening to podcasts or watching videos. We will spend three days working in computer labs searching for and gathering this information.  Some of the media available will shed light on the plights of current and past inmates and how their incarceration played out in their lives. Radiolab’s Dear Hector sheds light on one inmate’s personal story throughout his life and how he got to where he is. MSNBC’s “Lock Up” series explores life in prison from many different perspectives of both the prisoners and the staff. Some readings to consider are the New York Times article “Prison and the Poverty Trap” by John Tierney or Craig Haney’s Psychological Impact of Incarceration. Feel free to search for any relevant media that you think will contribute to your paper.

During the second week of the project we will visit two prisons in the tri-state area, one of which is a maximum security facility, where we will have the opportunity to speak with a few of the inmates and staff there. When speaking with them we will be splitting into groups of three so that everyone will have the opportunity to ask questions. These questions will be focused mostly on the individual stories of the inmates. These questions may be personal (obviously within limits) – what got them into prison, how their families or communities reacted, how they foresee their future etc.

Our goal here is to discover the feelings and sentiments of both the inmates and their families. Some of the families who live close by will be coming to our campus during that second week to speak with us as well. We will be able to ask them their perspective on how the incarceration affected them and how they perceive their spouse/sibling/son/daughter etc. now after what has happened? Were they to blame? What’s in store for them after they get released?

We will be taking notes during our interviews with the inmates and staff and as we get tours of the facilities. Take notice of are how they are treated in prison and how they get along with each other. How does this affect their well being and overall health? As we research and jot down notes during this two week period, we will begin to start forming outlines and writing rough drafts of what our paper will look like and what we hope to accomplish with it.

During the final week of this assignment we will be writing our papers and describing what we learned about the inmates and their families. We will compare how we had thought about incarceration before and after we undertook this task.  The final week will be spent working individually both at home and in computer labs on campus. Towards the end of the week we will have a session of peer review to get feedback on our writing and how we can improve or add to it.

Finally, by sharing our writing with the inmates, their families and the world at large we will present incarceration and its ramifications as we see it.

4 thoughts on “Assignment 5 – Prison Break”

  1. Hi Yehuda, I think your idea is very interesting. You’re right that when we think about people that are in prison we automatically assume that they are criminals. We never think about their families and why they are in prison. Investigating the situation that occurred will let us know the person for who he or she really is. Visiting two prisons in the tristate area is a good idea. It would be interesting to find out if they truly belong there. How many innocent people are in there by mistake? What they will do when they get out and will they be able to get a job after they’re released.
    After the investigation that would take place. I think we should all get together and try to do something for them. If they have been in prison for many years they have paid for their mistakes. It would be nice for them to get a job after getting out of prison and putting that part of there lives behind them. The families have been through enough and now that they are out of jail and back home they should be able to start their life again. Even though it will be very hard.

  2. I find your assignment to be very interesting. I like the Idea that you included field work with the project, so it can give people a realistic idea of the situation. Unfortunately, society often stigmatizes people who went to prison and this make their like miserable after being released from prison. It doesn’t matter if they are completely rein vindicated from their crime, convicted felons that are released often do not find the support they need from society, which makes them go back to committing crimes.

  3. Wow professor, very interesting assignment. I like the idea, it gets me thinking about a very important topic, on which previously I did not put much thought into. The U.S. has the largest prison population in the world, many of these men and women are in jail for crimes that hold great controversy in terms of the length and severity of the punishment and if the act should be a crime at all? For example, a sizable percentage on inmates are incarcerated for crimes involving marijuana, which is legal for recreational purposes in 8 states and medically legal in over 20 other states. Also, will we be able to use “Jeff Ross Roasts Criminals: Live From the Brazos County Jail” as a resource?

    “There are men in here locked up for possession of less marijuana than is in my lungs right now”
    -Jeff Ross, RoastMaster General

  4. The idea behind the assignment is a very interesting one, of course, I have mixed feeling about it however. At the beginning, when you mentioned that there were 2 million incarcerated at the present time, I actually went to check up on that. Of course that info was from 2013, so the number could have gone up or down by this point. Furthermore I felt, as I read this, 2 million isn’t a large number for me, considering there are 324 million people in the United states alone. Of course, what it does make me wonder is what part of those 2 million inmates were incarcerated for minor offenses. Of course, we can’t really visit a prison, as I think there are none nearby. You could have your students watch certain documentaries on these prisons, and their inmates. Finally, I do feel this project of yours could do some good, especially for those who have been wrongfully incarcerated, but there is the be much further planning.

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