Tonight, the Wealthy Theatre will host an interesting event on prisons. The event, “Live/Life: From a Prison in Ionia to the Streets of Grand Rapids,” will provide a live forum in which 7 prisoners at Ionia’s Bellamy Creek Correctional Institute will take questions via telecast from the audience at the Theatre. It will be held at 5:30pm at the Wealthy Theatre at 1118 Wealthy St SE.
The event is being organized by a variety of entities including the Community Media Center, the Grand Rapids Police Department, the Michigan Department of Corrections, the Michigan Prisoner ReEntry Initiative, and Weed and Seed.
According to the news release:
The purpose of the event is to educate “at risk” youth and young adults, between the ages of 13 and 25, on prison life and the importance of making the right decisions to prevent the youth from entering the criminal justice system. The inmates will talk about their life experience and will expose the myths and hardships of prison life while answering questions from youth in the audience.
I think there is good reason to be skeptical of the program on some level. The news release and the article in the Grand Rapids Press focus solely on the role that “bad decisions” play in getting people into prison. While that certainly plays a role, many other things inform those “bad decisions” including lack of access to opportunity, how law enforcement operates, sentencing disparities in the criminal justice system, racism, classism, and more. Unfortunately, I don’t think people end up in prison simply because they make one “bad decision”–there are a host of other factors that all too often make prison a very real possibility for a large section of our population.
Nevertheless, it is a rare chance to hear from prisoners. All too often, they are cast out from society and forgotten.