USA : inmates explain how they would run prisons

Every year, countless reports on how to make prisons more rehabilitative are published by think tanks, scholars, and advocates. Some of them rely on interviews with prisoners, while others focus on data and documents. But a new report on how Texas prisons can improve is unique: It was written solely by prisoners.

Aaron Flaherty is serving a life sentence—for his role as the getaway driver during a 1997 convenience store robbery-murder—at the Darrington Unit, in rural east Texas, where he is enrolled in a seminary program. Two years ago, he began corresponding with Wolf Sittler, a furniture maker in Austin. “We’d throw ideas back-and-forth” about prison reform, said Sittler, himself a former probation officer.

Sittler encouraged Flaherty to write his suggestions down, and a month ago, he received the 65-page report, “Reshaping the Texas Prison System for Greater Public Safety,” written by Flaherty along with David Graham, Michael Smith, William Jones, and Vondre Cash. They have named their group the “Responsible Prison Project.”

It has often been said that those who are closest to a problem are closest to its solution,” Flaherty writes. “That is no less true of prisoners.

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