The past few weeks, we have been discussing the social issues that are incarceration and homelessness, along with the factors that contribute to them such as poverty, mental illnesses, education, etc. Over break, I sat down around my kitchen table over break with my three friends, Sophie Escario, Jen Sendi, and Molly Martin, to get their views on these controversial issues.

The first few questions were about issues that may be a contributing factor to people being incarcerated. Here are there questions, along with their answers.

Q:  Do you think mental health issues are a contributing factor to people becoming incarcerated? 

Jen: I don’t think mental illness leads to crime. I think it’s crime that leads to mental illness. Being locked up in a prison can definitely make you go crazy.

Sophie: I think it could be a factor to incarceration, but I think poverty is a bigger problem with incarceration. I think people who have mental health issues and are tried in court should end up getting the help they need in mental institutions instead of jail.

Molly: Yes because if you’re crazy then it is easier to get arrested.


Q: Why do you think people with a lesser education are more likely to be incarcerated? 

Jen:  Because educated people have more of a background on what is happening in life and lesser education people only know what they know.

Sophie: Because usually those who are not as educated are associated with poverty which is more of a reason to be impoverished.

Molly: Because its more of a means of survival for them if they aren’t educated because if they live in poorer areas, they are less educated and have to fight for their survival.


Q: What do you think is the relationship between poverty and incarceration? 

Jen: I think every one in three people who are impoverished are incarcerated.

Sophie: I think poverty is one of the major factors of people being incarcerated.

Molly: People commit crimes to protect themselves and survive which gets them into trouble.


Q: Do you think it is fair for homeless people to be arrested and incarcerated for small crimes such as stealing for survival? Do you think they should receive some other kind of care instead?

Jen: I think they should be treated the same as anyone else

Sophie: I don’t think homeless people deserve to be incarcerated for petty crimes, but if it is something more intense then they should.

Molly: Yes and no because if they had money to buy food but were stealing it why would they be arrested, but if you have nothing and are stealing to survive than you shouldn’t be thrown in jail for protecting yourself


Q:  What do you think can be done to stop people who are released from prison from going back into homelessness?

Jen: I think there are a lot of things that can be done, but I think keeping them being how they were before they came in can help them not be homeless.

Sophie: The people being released should be offered some type of transitional housing where they can stay for a certain amount of time until they find a job.

Molly: I think they should have the homeless people get paid a wage for the work that they do not prison so that they have a chance to find housing when they are released.


Q: Why do you think homeless people end up committing crimes even after they have already been to jail once and know they have a good chance of going back (recidivism)? 

Jen: In jail the criminals aren’t given a rehab facility. They are thrown in jail for the crime, but they aren’t given assistance and help on why the crime was wrong. They are seen as a criminal, not just as a person who has committed a simple crime.

Sophie: There isn’t any transitional programs that are there to help them, and they should be really taught that what they did was wrong and to get them help instead of just being thrown back into the world. Even after criminals have done their time, they are still treated like criminals which can be degrading to them.

Molly: They don’t have a job or anything when they get out of jail so they continue with their old habits


Q: What role can digital media play in helping to address the problem?

Jen: Spread awareness and make people who know nothing about it know about it by spreading news about it through social media.

Sophie: It can help to spread the awareness of how high incarceration rates are and let people know that its an issue. PSA messages of what its like and prison and show that we shouldn’t send people there.

Molly: Educating the public on why our incarceration rates have gone up so much through the use.

Again, special credits go to Jen Sendi, Sophie Escario, and Molly Martin for giving their insightful answers to some pretty tough questions.