Thursday, April 25, 2024

BHS Student Kayla Johnson Named Rotary Speech Finalist

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Rotary Four Way Test Speech Contest Semi-Finals

Kayla Johnson from Bunnell High School Goes to Finals

Kayla Johnson from Bunnell HS delivers her Four Way Test Speech in Semi Final

The Rotary Four Way Test Speech Contest Semi-Finals was hosted by the Trumbull Rotary Club on Saturday.  Eight high school students from the southwest area participated. Although all were very good, the judges selected Stratford’s representative, Kayla Johnson from Bunnell HS, to move on to the finals. Kayla was awesome, and the Stratford Rotary Club can be very proud of our representative.

This was the first year that the Stratford Rotary Club participated. Thank you to Jeff Krause for leading the way. Congratulations to Kayla, and good luck. The finals are Saturday, April 20, at a location to be determined. 

Kayla Johnson will represent Stratford Rotary in the Finals of the Four Way Speech Contest

Kayla’s Speech:

 Each year that someone spends in prison cuts their life expectancy by two years. When compared to the general population, men and women with a history of incarceration are in worse mental and physical health. This topic is important to me because I have family members who are incarcerated, and I have watched shows such as 60 Days In, where actors and the audience see firsthand what inmates go through. Incarceration can take an immense toll on the physical body, mental mind, and sexual ideals of the inmates it inhabits. Throughout this speech, I will address inmates’ struggles and how the justice system should be reformed to help rather than hurt those incarcerated.

Firstly, incarceration has negative health effects on inmates because it influences their physical well-being. An article by the National Institute of Health analyzed a range of physical conditions experienced in solitary confinement and broke them down into the top three most common. These three symptoms include skin irritations and weight fluctuation associated with the strict conditions of solitary confinement, untreated and/or mistreated chronic conditions, and musculoskeletal pain aggravated by these strict policies. A lot of these physical symptoms are due to the small space they are confined to, lack of movement/exercise, and a lack of medical treatment and/or care of inmates, especially those with pre-existing conditions.

Prior studies have found evidence that health care provided to the U.S. incarcerated population, roughly two million individuals, is often understaffed, underfunded, and of poor quality. Just this past October, an inmate at the South Mississippi Correctional Institute in Leakesville noticed blood in his urine and experienced extreme back pain.  He was taken to the ER six days later but was referred to a specialist. He went weeks without being taken to this specialist and was told he was unlikely to see them because of “transportation issues.”  Whether this is true or not, inmates are humans and deserve the right to medical care. This example is sadly a common occurrence throughout the prison systems in the United States. When an inmate is denied medical treatment in jail or prison, officers are literally violating that person’s civil rights and, in turn, breaking the law.

In addition to physical health, incarceration has negative effects on mental health. The mental health conditions inmates experience are often serious, which is indicated by the large number of inmates on psychiatric medication. Mental illness in prison also leads to a variety of detrimental outcomes, both during and after the period of incarceration, when inmates are released. Poor mental health is associated with higher rates of prison misconduct and higher overall costs for the institution, due to the need to acquire more medicine and more medical personnel. Poor mental health during incarceration reduces employability and the ability to find housing after an inmate is released, and it likely contributes to continued mental health difficulties after release, due to the high risk of recurrence associated with some mental health conditions.

Lastly, incarceration can even negatively influence an inmate’s sexual well-being. The National Institutes of Health noted an increase in poor relationship decision-making and more incidents of HIV and STD following release from prison.

We as a society need to rethink the way in which we treat those who break the law.  Of course, we need consequences for our society to function properly. However, the conditions of our prisons need to change. Those who are incarcerated should not be subjected to physical and emotional turmoil. They should be there to learn and grow in order to contribute positively to our society upon their release. It is time to rethink how we structure our prisons and create a better society.

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