Creating Social Value Blog / Social Innovation

Stopping the Cycle of Incarceration

By Jon Feinman M’10, Executive Director and Founder of InnerCity Weightlifting

Our brains are wired to quickly categorize people and situations, which helps us navigate a complex and dangerous world. For example, if we see a group of young people standing together in a so-called “rough” area of a city, who look different, dress different, have years of trauma expressed through their eyes, most of us will cross the street to avoid them.  Our instincts are powerful and clear on this point: these young people are threats to our safety. They must be contained and policed. They must be isolated.

But what happens if our most fundamental instincts are wrong? Or when we deliberately defy them? What if young people involved in gangs were not a threat to our social fabric but rather a potential source of community strength, the thing that will bring us together? What if we should be working not to avoid them, or to neutralize them, but to engage them as future leaders, as friends.

The U.S. represents 4.4 percent of the world’s population, yet houses nearly 25% of the world’s prisoners. What if we could change that? And, what if this change wasn’t dependent on police or politics, but instead was dependent on our own decision making as individuals, as a community, as a society?

We recently had the opportunity to share an idea, a simple solution that we can all play a role in, at the Spring TEDx Cambridge event. Below is the video of that presentation: