Prisons are generally seen as hotbeds of intolerance, with inmates effectively self-segregating along racial lines in a move that also helps to proliferate gang culture which has problematic implications both during and after incarceration.
This is a state of affairs which administrators are aware of, and in many cases are taking proactive steps to tackle so that the fallout can be minimized and conditions improved for inmates and prison employees alike.
Here is a look at the strategies being adopted in prisons in Michigan as a means of fighting back against racism and gang culture to have a positive long term impact.
Education & training
The most important tool in dismantling hate is education, as by developing an understanding of others it is easier for the inbuilt and learnt prejudices of inmates to be tackled head on rather than allowed to fester unquestioned.
From smaller facilities like Midland County Jail to larger prisons across the state, the rehabilitation of inmates is being realigned to ensure that they are adequately educated on the issues of race which impact modern society.
This goes hand in hand with providing prisoners with vocational training while they are behind bars, so that their time is not just wasted or spent on menial tasks that will be of little use once they re-enter society at the end of their sentence.
Such schemes are needed to instill inmates with the values that will set them up for a place in the multicultural world of today, as well as giving them a framework within which they can overcome the disadvantages of their situation and better themselves through gainful employment without falling back into the gang culture which may have been responsible for their incarceration in the first place.
Even with all of the education and training in the world, it is ultimately impossible to rely on these strategies alone to deal with racism in general and gang culture in particular in a prison setting.
For this reason, a number of institutions have developed policies which address the ways in which prisoners are allowed to congregate so as to limit the opportunities for gang-like infrastructures to develop.
While this is clearly a steep challenge from an administrative perspective, it is still necessary for gatherings to be monitored, managed and to have limits on attendance imposed.
Prisons in Michigan are having to adapt to the changing pressures they face, as well as to the efforts of external organizations, influential individuals and legislators, as they move forward.
The broader trends for mass incarceration, over which the prisons themselves have no direct control, throw up the ongoing complications relating to racism and gang culture in these facilities, which are therefore tackled as part of multifaceted campaigns.
While it is impossible to eliminate either element completely, it is hoped that prisons are moving in the right direction and that through adaptations and ameliorations over time, things will get better.