Inmates serving long prison sentences have been neglected by both researchers and policy makers despite their potential to be “valuable leaders” within the prison community, write Lila Kazemian and Jeremy Travis in a research paper titled “Forgotten Prisoners” published in Criminology & Public Policy, a journal of the American Society of Criminology. Kazemian, an associate professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and Travis, the president of the college, argue that investing in the well-being of “long termers” and “lifers,” who spend a significant portion of their lives behind bars, could have a positive impact on the prison environment as a whole.
“Leadership is a quality that shapes and enriches any given community, and the prison community is no exception,” the authors write. “Given their prolonged presence in prison, long termers and lifers are ideal candidates for positions of leadership and mentorship in this environment.”
To better address the unique needs of individuals serving long prison sentences, Kazemian and Travis make several research and policy recommendations, including offering “long-termers and “lifers” opportunities to engage in leadership positions in prison, encouraging useful habits and skills that will ease inmates' reentry, and developing research that focuses on long periods of incarceration.