Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg called for sweeping prison reform after a visit to San Quentin prison in California. He and his wife traveled to San Quentin to get a first hand perspective on how prisoners are treated in the American justice system.
The visit was prompted in part by Zuckerberg’s exposure to “The New Jim Crow,” a book by Michelle Alexander criticizing the treatment of blacks and Latinos in prison. The book details a countrywide crisis, noting that 40 percent of all prisoners in the U.S. are black.
Many prisons are ill equipped and underfunded, preventing them from properly rehabilitating their inmates. This contributes to the revolving door effect, which can lead to the same people continuously rotating in and out of the prison system.
However, Zuckerberg’s visit to San Quentin was not to get a glimpse of one of these failing prisons. San Quentin has one of the country’s highest rates of prisoners being successfully reintroduced into society and leading crime-free lives.
San Quentin has systems in place not only to rehabilitate prisoners, but also to help them find consistent work and appropriate housing in the real world. They even have education programs that teach skills like coding that can give ex-convicts a leg up in the search for employment.
Zuckerberg’s trip to San Quentin was an attempt to shed light on how a system focused on rehabilitating prisoners in America could look. After his visit, Zuckerberg publicized his trip, praising the staff at San Quentin for the phenomenal work they do there and calling on corrections teams across the nation to find ways to emulate the programs available in California.
Zuckerberg has not taken any specific actions or announced a plan to spearhead prison reform on his own. However, his visit and subsequent statements have attracted substantial attention to the system of justice and rehabilitation used in the United States. Increased attention to this issue going into the 2016 election season could have a major impact on prison reform.