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KellyGram – Visiting Kirkland Correctional Institution

 

 

This week, for perhaps the first time in twenty years, I had occasion to visit a Department of Corrections facility. Accompanied by Kimberly Smith, the firm’s workers’ compensation paralegal, I visited a potential client in Kirkland Correctional Institution who suffered an on-the-job injury while participating in a work-release program upstate. After the meeting, Kimberly and I agreed that the visit was a thought-provoking experience for both of us—not to mention a little scary!

As we walked out of the facility and back into our freedom, we both were overwhelmed with broad spectrum of thoughts and emotions. The young man we visited explained that he had been at Kirkland since 2013 and is due to remain there for twenty more months—when he is released, he will only be thirty years old. At that point, he will have been incarcerated for nearly a quarter of his life. Our conversation served as a reminder that a prisoner is not stripped of his humanity when he is stripped of his freedom, and I left humbled and filled with empathy for him and the other inmates. What an unbelievable mental and emotional strain it must be to live in confinement and under constant surveillance for years and years.

As Kimberly and I were escorted out, my mind also wandered to the correctional officers—courageous men and women who are underpaid and understaffed. There is a high turnover rate for these positions, and I would imagine that’s due to the mental stress that comes with working in facilities like Kirkland.

Finally, I left carrying a strong suspicion that a significant percentage of the inmates at Kirkland Correctional Institution and similar facilities don’t necessarily belong there. Unfortunately, there are many violent criminals whose imprisonment is necessary as a matter of public safety. In many cases, it would better benefit the sentenced party and society as a whole allow persons convicted of non-violent crimes to carry out a sentence through alternative programs that do not require incarceration or the expenses associated with it. Here’s hoping that South Carolina’s lock ‘em up mentality will, sooner rather than later, shift to a focus on alternative sentencing. Food for thought!

Have a great weekend!

 

Mike Kelly

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