Most of us don’t think about the prison system in America – after all, we’re the “good” ones and won’t end up there ourselves. Only the “bad” people do. But the truth of the matter is, the incarceration rate of the United States of America is the highest in the world, at 716 per 100,000 of the national population. 7.2 million people in America are either in prison on probation or on parole. That’s 1 in every 45 people who are under some type of criminal control.
The story I’m telling you today is about a man named Jamar Toler. Jamar is a father, a son, and a brother. He’s currently serving a 16-month sentence at Suwannee Correctional Institution in Florida. He pled guilty and accepted the full sentence for an offense that he takes responsibility for. He recognizes the only his actions have brought him to where he is, and understands that he needs to pay his debt to society.
After he accepted his consequences, Jamar was informed that his case was still open in regards to his violation. When he was sentenced, he was not aware that the entire case was not closed. The second hearing was scheduled after he was in custody, and the prison is unwilling to transport him across state to the courthouse. Since he is unable to attend his hearing, the courthouse is stated that upon release from prison, he will be held on a warrant until he is sentenced again. They apologized for this mistake and said they aren’t sure why this wasn’t taken care of prior to him leaving the county.
After several weeks of persistent phone calls with the courthouse, his probation officer, and the public defender’s office, it was agreed that he would be sent a plea in the mail before his hearing. The plea states that he can accept time served which means that the sentence he is serving right now will count as his punishment. However, he must pay a probation fine of $300 within 30 days of accepting the plea. The state has given him a classic catch-22, forcing him to come up with fees while he has no income, or to suffer added time to his sentence.
These circumstances, or similar ones, are often forced upon offenders with little to give. Nationally, 76% of all inmates return to prison within 5 years, most due to financial obligations from parole fees. When released, many former convicts struggle with finding a job, or even a place to sleep, which almost enables them to reoffend and land right back where they started. This is how the American prison system works. The cards are stacked up against human beings who need rehabilitation. Instead, most are condemned to return.
The United States has less than 5% of the world’s population, yet we have almost 25% of the world’s total prison population. In comparison to 30 years ago, the numbers are much higher, despite the fact that crime is at historic lows. I’m starting this fundraiser because not only do I want Jamar to be able to serve his time and get back on his feet, but because I want to bring attention and raise awareness to the fact that situations even worse than this are happening all over the country to people.