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Do convicted criminals deserve a second chance at life? – Writers Fortnight 2019

Do convicted criminals deserve a second chance at life?

During our recent Writers’ Fortnight, Mr Suarez talked about two inmates he had taught in a maximum security prison. Gaby and German were two inmates who received sentences in an Argentinian prison. Jerman was arrested for being in a criminal gang for driving a stolen car across a border. German made a mistake and he was consequently sentenced to 11 years in prison. Although, Jerman had support from his family and he needed the 500$ from driving the car. However, on the other hand, Gaby was sentenced to life in prison (25 years) for being part of a prison band which intercepted loaded trucks with drugs and money. Gaby, on the other hand, had a horrible childhood, his father was abusive at a young age and at the age of 12 he hit him with a brick and escaped with his mother. A few months later, his mother got a job as a maid and therefore, Gaby was forced to live on the streets for years, and that’s where crime came into his life.

What Is a maximum security prison?

A maximum security prison is like a regular prison but, as stated in the name, is a prison with much higher security, which includes less yard time and less time out of their cells. In a survey of 6,500 prisoners had shown 50% spend less than six hours a day outside their cells and for 20% it is less than 2 hours.

Furthermore, during the highest security prison, there is solitary confinement along with little contact with other people as well. Enforced social isolation can be severely detrimental to mental health. For those not previously suffering from mental health issues, social isolation heightens anxiety, loneliness, low and depression. However, for those already suffering mental health issues, prolonged periods of isolation intensify the symptoms of mental illness, causing exacerbated feelings of low self-worth, anxiety, depression, hallucinations and suicidal tendencies.

Gaby and German

When Mr Suarez was in his 20s, he visited the prison that incarcerated Gaby and Jerman. Mr Suarez would come in his free time and teach the inmates, such as Yoga, math, science and chess. Through many months, every week Mr Suarez would come and visit Gaby and Jerman. Not only did Gaby and German learn a lot, but Mr Suarez learned a lot from them. Mr Suarez said this in his talk, “I was inspired by them, how much they have learnt and how resilient they are. Every day I would come in and they would smile and say hello, how are you as if nothing was wrong.” 

At the end of their journey in prison, Gaby and German had both studied a high school education, and then at a university level. The things you can achieve are colossal and even if the odds are against you and even if you think that your life is ruined, just in this case of Gaby and German. Although sadly, when Gaby was released from prison, he went back to crime as he had been so exposed to this type of life when he was young.

Writers’ Fortnight was all about stories and this story was very intriguing to me. Mr Suarez donated a colour TV, which was rare at that time and devoted his time to something that some other people would never aspire to do, work in a prison with convicted criminals and yet we people find this very inspiring for someone to do. Personally, I found Mr Suarez very inspiring as he aspired to do something no one would ever want to do, even his parents and his family were against his decision in doing this.

What can we learn from this story?

You can be a convicted criminal if you were a drug kingpin or someone who just made a tiny mistake, which broke a law and got sent to prison. As Mr Suarez has shown in his story, you can certainly turn your life around even in prison. Not many people aspire to do what Mr Suarez did and not many people would choose to do what he did. With the right educational and correctional programs in prison, I think that convicted criminals do deserve a second chance at life. Mr Suarez had a colossal effect on both of the inmates and education pulled them out of the metaphorical hole they had been in. Now the question is up to you. Do you think that criminals, such as Gaby and German deserve a second chance? Do you believe that with the right education, criminals can turn their life around?

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