blog post

Breaking Out of Our Prison System: COVID-19 Can Spark Solutionary Approaches

Zoe Weil is a blogger for Psychology Today and she has been writing weekly posts about COVID-19. We’re sharing them here. We hope they are helpful to you during this pandemic.

When I was in graduate school in the 1980s I volunteered at a women’s “correctional institution,” a euphemism for prison. So many of the prisoners I worked with shared similar stories: they grew up in foster care, were separated from siblings, experienced childhood sexual abuse, wound up on the streets, became addicted to drugs, and turned to prostitution to support themselves and their drug habits.


As I witnessed these already victimized and traumatized women endure imprisonment—with all the damage that incarceration would surely bring, even after they were released –  I began to reflect on the purpose of prisons, as well as the strange term—corrections—used to describe the prison system.

These women were not being “corrected.” They were not being rehabilitated, supported, or educated so that they could escape the vicious abuse-addiction-prostitution cycle. In addition, taxpayers were paying a hefty bill to incarcerate them.

When solutionaries seek to understand a problem, they look for the interconnected systems that perpetuate it, and they also look for the deeper causes—the beliefs, values, and worldviews – that lead to the creation of those systems.

psychology today