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Social Issues


Over 3 million people are currently incarcerated within the United States’ justice system, and while billions in taxpayer dollars go toward their confinement, rehabilitation isn’t often stressed much beyond lip service. National recidivism rates run somewhere between 60 percent and 70 percent, which means that a stint in prison isn’t likely to lead to a life of engaged and law-abiding citizenship, and oftentimes, incarceration is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the difficulties that will occur after prison. From problems in obtaining employment to trouble securing housing, past jail time creates a slew of problems that are often hard for even well-meaning people to overcome.

Thankfully, a number of charitable organizations are regularly working to improve the lives, recidivism rates and families of the men and women currently serving time across America. Each of them addresses the needs of the prison population from unique angles. Whether you want to donate your boat or car to help inmates or you’d like to volunteer at a summer camp for prisoners’ kids, here are five different organizations going to bat for the men and women behind bars in America who could use your patronage.

Improving-Prisoners-and-Their Post-Jail-Lives

Angel Tree

More than 2.7 million children across the United States have a mother or father who is currently serving time in prison. The abandonment, loss, loneliness, financial stress and concern that these children feel are all too real and can have long-lasting effects on their futures.

Angel Tree is a program within Prison Fellowship that seeks to reach out to the children of inmates across the country. By partnering with people in local churches, Angel Tree works to help meet the physical, emotional, financial and spiritual needs of these at-risk children. From Christmas presents and summer camps to financial assistance and family reconciliation programs, Angel Tree exists to help lessen the negative effects of having a parent in jail.

Prison University Project

In 1994, the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act passed, effectively barring inmates from receiving Pell Grants for college. This reduction in funding brought the number of prison programs that granted college degrees from 350 to less than ten. In response to that de-funding, The College Program at San Quentin began in 1996 run entirely by volunteers.

Through expansion and fundraising, that program founded the Prison University Project in 2003. Not only does the program grant associate’s degrees through Pattern University, but the Prison University Project also works to educate the public about the role and importance of education in prisoner and prison reform.

Women’s Prison Association

Founded in 1845, the Women’s Prison Association is the oldest women’s advocacy group in the United States. While its early years focused on prison conditions faced by women, as well as the issues that often landed women in prison — namely, alcohol abuse and problems attributed to poverty — today the WPA tackles a wide range of concerns, including:

  • Residential drug treatment alternatives to incarceration
  • Housing for homeless women with children
  • HIV-positive women prisoners
  • HIV education and advocacy
  • And much more

prison-guard-towerThe Lionheart Foundation

Established in 1992, the Lionheart Foundation works to provide “emotional literacy education programs to incarcerated adults, highly at-risk youth and teen parents in order to significantly alter their life course.” Committed to rehabilitation and advocacy, the organization provides high-quality rehabilitation resources and training for inmates and at-risk youth and the professionals who work with them.

They also aim to educate the public regarding the need to change the United States justice system into one where nurturing, emotional rehabilitation, positive values and improved behavior patterns are commonplace.

The ACLU National Prison Project

The American Civil Liberties Union’s National Prison Project actively works to ensure that America’s places of detention are all in compliance with the U.S. Constitution, the principles of recognized international human rights and domestic law. Additionally, this organization seeks to bring the policies that have seen the nation’s incarceration rate rise to the highest in the world to a close, and it seeks to help prepare prisoners for release as well.

Through lobbying efforts, education, legal challenges and more, the ACLU National Prison Project is working to lower incarceration rates and improve prison conditions.

While some people currently serving time in the United States justice system are a threat to those around them, the vast majority of over 3 million people are incarcerated for non-violent crimes that were probably a result of untreated substance abuse, mental illness or both. While the path to a better justice system looks like a long one, these charities and others like them are working hard to bring compassion, rehabilitation, help, education and change to America’s still-burgeoning prison population.


Globalization is sending people packing. That is, they are packing their belongings and sending themselves across national boundaries to find better paying jobs. These transnational families maintain deep roots in their home countries while they establish new social networks within the host country. An increasing number of women are leaving their children behind in order to provide a better life for them in the future. What does it take to make it to the US and secure that elusive green card?

Globalization’s Impact on Families


Strong family ties make civilization work. When important family members move thousands of miles away, those ties are broken. Workers from less-developed nations often find themselves marginalized by the more prosperous societies they have moved to and are restricted to low-paying positions within it.

Relocated workers have a powerful impetus to remain working within their more prosperous neighbors. Most send money back home to support family members unable to find work there. In fact, these remittances account of 20% of the GDP in some nations.

If workers arrive without a green card, and many do, the process of obtaining one begins. Without a green card, they run the risk of not being able to return to the host country after a trip home. Since this process can take many years, it effectively breaks down long-standing family bonds. Getting a green card for parents of individuals who have already become a citizen can be a trialing process that challenges many to succeed.

Globalization: The Journey to a New Land

When money is scarce, desperate individuals will do just about anything to find work. Stories abound of local area markets where illegal immigrants find work for pennies on the dollar with the promise that legal help for a green card will be provided. Some of the most horrific news stories tell the tale of truckloads of people left to die as they were being smuggled into the US.

Workers flock to areas where their native language is spoken to learn how to negotiate their new home. Those areas are often high in crime with sub-optimal housing. Companies such as WalMart provide profitable money wiring services so that temporary workers, unable to secure a banking account, can send their wages home. Globalization is big business in more ways than one.

The Economic Effect on Local Economies of a Large Migrant Workforce

Much of the disruption of families during this period of globalization stems from their inability to get legal paperwork completed to ensure that family members are able to return for regular visits. These difficulties are fueled by ideas that the wealth of the host country is being diminished when large numbers of migrating workers from low-wage nations arise. Is this truly the case?

Many migrants don’t apply for legal status because they wish to return to their home nations once they have saved some money. By loosening the restrictions for legal residence, local economies can actually thrive by keeping the best workers. Mobile workforces can be available for peak production periods. Workers who have been able to maintain their family ties will be much less isolated and more likely to contribute to the society at large.

What do you think? Should nations like the US that attract many workers from less industrialized nations take steps to help migrant workers maintain their traditional family structures? Do transnational families help or harm the local and national economies?

Prominent human rights activist Xu Zhiyong has been sentenced to four years in prison, a Chinese court has ruled.

Xu Zhiyong, who campaigned for children’s rights and against corruption, was convicted of “gathering crowds to disrupt public order”.

Several other activists from a transparency movement are facing similar charges.

Rights groups have criticized President Xi Jinping – who pledged to fight corruption – over their cases.

Xu Zhiyong was arrested in July 2013 and the trial began on Wednesday.

Human rights activist Xu Zhiyong has been sentenced to four years in prison

Human rights activist Xu Zhiyong has been sentenced to four years in prison

Reacting to the verdict, Xu Zhiyong ‘s lawyer Zhang Qingfang said his client had told the court that “the last shred of dignity of China’s rule of law” had been destroyed.

Xu Zhiyong, who was also previously under house arrest, is a leading member of a group calling for officials to reveal their wealth.

The activist has also campaigned in behalf of inmates on death row and families affected by tainted baby milk formula, among other causes.

Many across China believe Xu Zhiyong was targeted by the government because of his rising popularity and his growing presence on Chinese social media platforms.

In 2009  Xu Zhiyong was arrested on tax evasion charges that were eventually dropped after public outcry.

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