Taft inmates discuss life choices

Laura Lanfray, Feature Editor

As part of a youth outreach program called Those Outspoken, inmates from the Taft Correctional Institution visited Bakersfield College for a Q&A session in the Levan Center on March 7.

Faculty and students were in attendance to listen to the inmates’ life stories and discuss some of the topics in Baz Dreisinger’s book, “Incarceration Nations,” a non-fiction dive into prisons around the world.

Due to privacy reasons, the inmates were unavailable for direct interviews or photographs.

Many of the inmates at the session had families whom they had to leave behind. Most being fathers, they acknowledged that their absence turns their loved ones into “the true victims” for having to live without them and with limited and expensive visits at any given time.

Most of the inmates at the panel were incarcerated for fraud, drug possession or conspiracy, choices which, at the time, seemed easy for them to get away with. One inmate stated how grateful he was to have the opportunity to be a part of Those Outspoken because it felt like he was getting another chance to be involved with the community while serving his time in prison, “This is part of our rehabilitation, to come out here and talk to you guys.”

The discussion took a turn away from personal matters at times to discuss the United States Prison System as a whole: the way Federal and State offenses differ, whether or not rehabilitation for drug offenses should be the first course of action rather than serving time, and even the way the inmates are assigned and paid for jobs they do around the facility.

Rather than call in other people to maintain the facility, the inmates get the chance to do that work for themselves. This keeps them occupied and according to their own experience, helps keep them out of trouble.

When asked what the community could do better for them to keep them from going back to their old lifestyles after sentence, most of the responses seemed to agree that the community as a whole was not to blame, but their own choices in returning to those lifestyles.

The attendants were respectful of the inmates

“About the programs [Those Outspoken] I think it’s helpful; instead of people talking about them, it gives them a chance to speak for themselves.”Said attendee, Carolyn Lan