Be Smart - Choose Freedom: New Jersey unveils its crime prevention campaign.

Author:Fedkenheuer, Deirdre
Position::Speak Out

Perhaps more than in any other realm of law enforcement, it is the corrections professional who witnesses the broken dreams, the societal ills and economic disasters that are precipitated by the unprecedented number of young people flooding into the nation's prisons and jails. The New Jersey Department of Corrections, under the direction of Commissioner Devon Brown, has culled literally hundreds of years of correctional experience and packaged these crime prevention precepts into seven 30- to 60-second public service announcements with but one thought--stemming the tide of incarcerated youths.

"The public service announcements send the strong message that crime and incarceration are not acceptable options and that jail should be regarded as the most negative of four-letter words," said Brown. "We believe that these announcements, encapsulating the theme 'Be Smart--Choose Freedom,' will in some meaningful way help to deter young people from criminal involvement."

With the fear of crime prevalent among American citizens coexisting with a political climate of decreased tolerance for those who commit criminal offenses, it seems especially timely to explore the potentially beneficial role of corrections in crime prevention. By broadcasting the public service announcements, television stations are joining the DOC in forming a crime-prevention strategy intended to reach citizens throughout New Jersey and neighboring states.

Due to the vast number of people now under correctional supervision, penal systems have assumed increased presence as social institutions. As such, in subtle yet significant ways, jails and prisons have inadvertently begun to impact and shape American culture due in large part to the immense number of those who are exposed to these settings. As an unfortunate outcome of these circumstances, corrections has, and will continue to have, a powerful, yet covert influence on the country's values and way of life--unless the rate of incarceration drastically declines. The facts on which these sentiments are based can readily be seen in the following:

* The enormous number of offenders, particularly minorities, entering correctional facilities statewide (in New Jersey, approximately 81 percent of those in prison are black or Hispanic) and nationwide;

* The obvious yet insidious assimilation of prison culture by the nation's youths--most notably reflected in the style of dress (i.e., pants hanging well below the waist);

* The alarming...

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