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(in)Justice This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     Incarcerated criminals should receive fewer benefits while the homeless should receive more help to provide them with basic necessities. You may have walked downtown and noticed people sitting in the cold, unwelcoming doorsteps of closed stores. The homeless huddle together wearing ripped shorts, tee shirts almost unrecognizable because of all their skin showing through the holes, and tattered shoes. Many, too many, suffer the heartbreaking conditions of homelessness while our criminals sit in heated cells with TVs. There is something wrong with this situation and Americans need to know about this injustice.

One secretary at the MCI-Framingham Correctional Facility told me that the female prisoners have access to a gymnasium, a work-out room, other recreation options, a library, educational and health programs. Homeless people have none of these. It was hard for me to believe that the homeless who have broken no laws exist in conditions far worse than those who are incarcerated.

Many I spoke with were shocked when I explained the plight of the homeless and the accommodations of the incarcerated. One fellow student said, "We should spend less time and money on the destructive people in our society and work harder to provide for those who are trying to get out of their dilemma and make something of their lives." I agree, and was pleased to hear my opinion expressed by others.

It's important and necessary that we give our incarcerated a second chance at making something of themselves, but we should give our homeless a second chance, too! This could be accomplished by eliminating some of the extras, like cable TV, and use that money to benefit the homeless.

Research from the MCI-Framingham prison's website shows that as of last June, Massachusetts spent $41,070 to support one imprisoned person for a year. That is phenomenal! A lot of teachers aren't paid that much. It is mind-boggling that a prisoner receives benefits totaling that much. If we spent even a fraction of that on more accommodations for our homeless, we would probably have a more balanced society.

As our homeless fight cold winters, our incarcerated watch TV in warm cells. As our homeless wonder where to get their next meal, our incarcerated play basketball before having a hot dinner. As our homeless worry about how to get necessary medications, our incarcerated have almost unlimited health benefits.

Some people tried to counter my argument by pointing out the availability of homeless shelters. There are not nearly enough beds for the number of homeless. Shelters do not need to have gyms, but there should be enough space so that no one is sleeping on the street.

About 85 percent of those I spoke with agree that the government should designate more money to help the homeless, and less on benefits for those in jail. Five percent had an "It's-not-my-problem" attitude. Maybe some don't care, or not as much as they should, because it's not their problem, it's not their freezing hands, their hunger pangs, or their suffering body. Americans can no longer be bumps on a log, we need to take action and help our fellow citizens. A small percentage felt that the government was adequately distributing the money to both prisoners and the homeless.

The jail situation really does not seem that bad when you look at the big picture. Some poor families (in addition to the homeless) do not have adequate heating or hot water, for that matter; never mind a TV, radio or CD player. It makes me think that maybe some crime is due to the fact that the very poor know they can have a better standard of living in jail. Inmates' medical bills are paid with the tax money of hard-working citizens. The poor may have to choose between buying medication and food.

My mother once told me a story about a homeless man who was always doing things so he would be sent to jail. He knew that he would live better there. Stories like this really make you think about how homeless people have to deal with difficult choices. The situation is ironic, because most would assume the government would treat lawbreakers harshly and try to help those in need, but it seems we think our incarcerated deserve a better existence than our homeless.

This world has become nothing less than twisted, nothing less than crazy, nothing less than unjust when it comes to installing cable television for inmates as opposed to buying food for the homeless! We need to have more love, caring and conscientiousness for those in need. If Americans pondered the gravity of this issue, they might come to the conclusion that our homeless deserve more support.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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This article has 3 comments. Post your own now!

toxic.monkey said...
Jan. 22, 2010 at 11:45 am
notice how you say "the homeless", not "homeless people". just something to think about. (this is actually a point made by writer Anna Quindlen)
 
Chrissy_L said...
Jul. 3, 2009 at 10:17 pm
I entirely agree. If I was homeless, what would stop me from "robbing" a store? That way I would recieve daily jail meals, a bed, a tv, and heat. How can it be that the murderers and robbers and rapists of the world have it better off than the poor, ignored, homeless population?
 
kenny14 said...
Mar. 20, 2009 at 1:45 pm
The article does make a very good point. If you are a criminal the last thing you should be getting beter and more resources than the poor
 
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