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Response to chapter 7 STRAIN OF TWO CITIES in the book Inside Rikers - Essay Example

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She used the term “two cities” as an allegory for the lives of the rich and the poor. She argued that society entrenches poverty, which…
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Response to chapter 7 STRAIN OF TWO CITIES in the book Inside Rikers
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The imprisoned Poor May 23, Introduction In “Chapter 7: Strain of Two Cities,” in the book Inside Rikers by Jennifer Wynn, she depicted the differences between two cities. She used the term “two cities” as an allegory for the lives of the rich and the poor. She argued that society entrenches poverty, which results in greater criminality. What I find most interesting in this chapter is that Wynn believes that the rich have designed society to keep out the poor from tapping the former’s wealth. It is interesting because she is right to some extent. The poor’s conditions make them vulnerable to criminal attitudes and behaviors, although society can help change these internal factors while also changing the environment. Nevertheless, the criminal has to make the decision of maximizing these opportunities in order to be released from the cycle of imprisonment, criminality, and poverty.
The Environment and the Criminal
Society provides the conditions for poverty, which easily breeds criminality. Angel is one of Wynn’s students at Fresh Start (Wynn, 2001). For his first job, he earned eight dollars an hour as a handyman in a hospice for people with AIDS (Wynn, 2001). Unfortunately, his contract changed, so he shifted from a full-time job to a part-time one (Wynn, 2001). Wynn was amazed that Angel did not revert back to a life of crime. Angel admitted that being poor and an ex-convict sharply decreases opportunities for advancement (Wynn, 2001). He complained about not being able to get jobs because of his criminal record: “I feel like I’ll never stop paying for the past. I’ve done my time, but it doesn’t seem to matter” (Wynn, 2001). At the same time, he did not have healthcare insurance, so when he got sick, he waited to be sick enough to be brought to the emergency room (Wynn, 2001). Wynn had to help him get a free checkup. Angel provides proof that society tends to push people to poverty, which facilitates criminal conduct.
Society can reverse these conditions by offering opportunities for education and employment. John Wareham is an international executive recruiter, a psychologist, and famous business lecturer who joined Fresh Start as a teacher (Wynn, 2001). Wynn narrated a debate that John initiated, where three lawyers and writers debated with three convicts on the topic of robbing a bank versus working at McDonalds. The lawyers and writers argued for robbing the bank, while the convicts argued against it. Wynn stressed that the convicts used their hearts and minds to support their arguments. John said that this change in thinking and behavior would get them their parole: “What the parole board needs to hear is that you’ve addressed the cancer that’s brought you to this place…” He added: “…that you’ve looked at yourselves, treated the offending infection, and that you’re now a different person, someone who knows the meaning of the word remorse, someone truly ready to go out into the world and support yourself” (Wynn, 2001). John helped these convicts change from the inside so that they can take advantage of the opportunities that some people are willing to give them.
Many ex-convicts are truly interested in changing themselves so that they can transform their lives. Kenneth had participated in Project Renewal for six months and had made it to the second phase of the program. He almost lost his chance for a new life when he got caught stealing a book. He realized then that he wanted to change himself so that he could change his circumstances in life. He said: “All the time I was out there in the street gettin’ high, I still had a feeling inside of me, an image of what I wanted to become” (Wynn, 2001). He improved himself because he wanted a better life: “I’d look at people in restaurants and wish I could do that— eat and pay without runnin’ out…” (Wynn, 2001). Since then, he studied and worked hard to become a good person.
The gap between the rich and poor generally increased for the past decades, and one of the losers of this reality are ex-convicts. Wynn argued that society made it easy for poor people to be criminals and for ex-convicts to stay poor. Poverty, in turn, disables ex-convicts to completely change their lives. Nevertheless, Wynn offered the examples of Angel, John, and Kenneth to prove that society can remove the cancer it produced. This cancer, however, cannot be eliminated by society alone because ex-convicts have to ultimately decide to turn their mentality around for good. Once they have made this decision and maximized education and employment opportunities, they will be on their way to recovery from criminality.
Wynn, J. (2001). Inside Rikers. New York: St. Martin’s Press. Read More
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