The prison system today is shown to be quite ineffective in assuring that ex-cons won't recommit a felony once released. The situation can only get far worse if nothing is done while they are incarcerated. Money, effort and thousands of man-hours could be saved if alterations were made to the prison system. A sought after prison system that doesn't focus on punishment and maltreatment to insure a more hardened criminal, but one that correction and the encouragement to change ones' behavior. The prison system would prove to be more effective in American society if it was more punitive or rehabilitative in nature.
Law enforcement is taking the wrong advancements on the situation. Over the past decade, the criminal justice system philosophy lowered rehabilitation in favor of sequestration and retribution. Rehabilitation is the idea of curing an inmate of their criminal wants or needs. This is possible, by changing their criminal impulses, their outlook and possibly even their personality, so as to make them less inclined to commit crimes in the future. It seeks to prevent a person from reoffending by taking away the desire to offend. This is very different from the idea of 'deterrence' (the idea of making him afraid to offend, though he may still desire to), and the idea of 'incapacitation' (the idea of taking away his physical power to offend, though he may still desire to and be unafraid to). These three consequential ideas are very different from the penological idea of 'retribution' which is not primarily about reducing reoffending. The prisons of America today take on a variety of forms. Many are large industrial buildings housing thousands of inmates. The prisoner population is littered with difficulties. Two-thirds of the prisoners in custody have a history of drug abuse or are illiterate. Over one-sixth of the prisoners in the prison system are mentally ill. Yet, the primary goal of prisons is to hold as many inmates as possible under low standard living conditions and also to do it effortlessly with the least amount of expense. Building more prisons hasn't worked, neither has more police on the streets been beneficial to the crime situation in America. (The Problem Today). CBS News says that "Americans are paying an estimated $40 billion a year for prisons costs. Feeding and caring for an inmate costs about $20,000 a year on average and construction costs are about $100,000 per cell. The demand to build more prisons has often siphoned funds from the few existing treatment and education programs. This leads to a vicious circle in which more prisons are needed because, partly due to the lack of these programs, more prisoners continue to come back."(CBS.com) Published reports show that little or no effect occurred in areas where police patrols had been increased. In retrospect over application of prisons and law enforcement officers has been hardly effective or cost effective.
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An inmate is released on parole after spending twenty years in a state prison. How could such a person be expected to conform to society so quickly or be employed for that matter? In such places as Hennepin County, Minnesota forty-five percent of all offenders will recommit and be sent back to prison within a year of their release (Rehabilitation is needed now 3). Former inmate, David Lindsey after serving a nineteen-year sentence said, "There is no rehabilitation in prison anymore, it's a business and men, like myself, are the product." The solution is to fix the problem before it occurs. Many mandatory housing, employment and positive support groups have been executed with the hope of rebuilding former inmates as proud and healthy American citizens once again. For these programs to be sought after by other correctional facilities would improve the effectiveness of the prison system.
The primary problem in today's justice system in the United States is the sheer size. There are five-hundred prisons in the United States, about forty of which are Federal Institutions. From the State Prison of Southern Michigan with 6,500 prisoners down to community based criminal institutions with twenty or less inmates the United States tops the charts at 715 inmates per 100,000 people (Prison Today 2). The United States has the largest per capita of prisoners in the world, leading second place Russia by one hundred and thirty-one (Crime Statistics Extra Source 5). This shows that the other countries have a far better way of rehabilitating and keeping their former inmates out of jail. In many prisons, inmates are victims of physical abuse and degrading acts. Along with crowdedness and double-bunking these are not foreign topics. At the same time, many prisons subject inmates to extensive periods of isolation in small cement cells, which frequently contributes to cases of mental illness. Prisoners also tend to have limited access to resources that allow them to maintain their mental and physical health. How are these actions helping to rehabilitate and reform inmates today? Scandinavian countries penal systems compared to the United States are far more effective by means of prisoner population and crime rates. The root of these achievements are programs more economical then disciplinary in nature. Prisoners in Scandinavian countries are more of a work force than anything. Prisoners perform productive labor and receive wages to support their families or repay the community. This allows the inmate to have a sense of success compared to the long depressing hours in a jail cell.
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Concession It is true that the American prison system has proven to be effective. Fortunately, many areas in the United States are starting to recognize the rehabilitative system's failure and inadequate results. Such as, drug treatment and job training which have proven to be the effective. These programs show beneficial results of reduced recidivism rates in reformed ex-cons. However, the expense of law enforcement is still costing Americans 450 billion dollars annually (The Problem Today 4). There is always going to be room for cost effective improvement. By implementing rehabilitation in U.S. prisons a brighter future will be seen. Helping fix the problems before they happen, lower crime rates and further lowering the population of prisoners. Therefore, the American Justice system will be highly more effective and save money in the long run.
With law enforcement taking wiser actions to prevent crime and healthier rehabilitational actions being made toward prisoners the American prison system has room for considerable improvement and working for a safer tomorrow. So let's fix the problem where it starts and not try to control the problem where it ends.
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Baigent. "Why Prison Reform?". Prisonreformtrust.org.us/section.asp?id=17 (2006). Accessed: Feb 15, 2010.
Evert, Jaclyn. "There is no rehabilitation in prison Ex-cons and their advocates". www.tcdailyplante.net/artical(name).html (2009) Accessed: Feb 15, 2010.
Goffman, Erving. Asylums: Essays on the Social Situation of Mental Patients and Other Inmates. Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor Books, 2007. Accessed: March 5, 2010.
Wright, Roberts J. "Prison" 2010 Grolier Online <http://ea.groleir.com/article?id=032187 Accessed: Feb 15, 2010.
"The Problem" Natural Law. Http://ww.natural-law.org/platform/crime Accessed: Feb 15, 2010.
"Prisoners Per capita (most recent) by country." http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/cri_pri_per_cap-crime-prisoners-per-capita Accessed: March 5, 2010.