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With crime rates increasing in America, many young adults are influenced to commit crimes such as theft, drug abuse, and even murder. Such extreme crimes tend to be easy for young adults to commit due to the stresses of home life, acceptance among peers, and light sentencing from the courts. Crime rates are at such a high level because some Americans are resorting to crime in order to provide for their families. When family finances begin to decrease due to unemployment, or unexpected layoffs and environmental changes within households, many feel the need to take all measures possible to ensure that their families are taken care of financially. Some of these drastic measures result in robbery, distribution of illegal drugs, and even solicitation. It is important to ensure that inmates are provided with some type of education or program that will allow them to reintegrate into society as functioning Americans instead of repeat offenders. In order to create educational programs it is important to understand why they were driven to crime in the first place.
Crime rates in America have been rising for a number of reasons over the past few years. A few major contributing factors associated with increasing crime rates are unemployment rates, increasing layoffs, piling debt, and decreasing incomes (Haq, 2010). With thousands of people becoming unemployed in today, Americans are running out of resources to provide for every day needs such as money to pay debts, gasoline to operate vehicles that help them look for work, as well as providing meals for their families. With poverty levels increasing, Americans are resorting to crimes in able to survive in this economic recession. Unemployment rates have increased dramatically over the past few years and government resources are drying up. In 2009, unemployment rates soared to 10 percent and have slowly begun to decrease since. The most current unemployment rate to date is 8.1 percent and is expected to continue to decrease over upcoming years. (United States Department of Labor, 2012).
With unemployment rates decreasing gradually, due to an increase in the job market, Americans are less likely to take drastic measures for survival. "The economic theory of crime starts with the premise that crime is a choice," (Cook & Ludwig, 2012). In today's society, making a young person understand that he/she has a choice to commit or not to commit a crime, should become a main focus that every parent should strive for. By having a stricter outlook on the consequences of committing crimes, young people can have a clearer understanding that the life of a criminal is not always the way to survival. Americans need to have a better understanding of what better choices can mean to their individual futures as well as their families.
Crime has been glorified in many media markets such as the music industry, television, and film. Rappers portray themselves as drug addict gang members that have the ability to do whatever they choose without recourse. Television shows like The Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire embrace the criminal tendencies of the mobster lifestyle. The actors and actresses in these shows may have problems but they continue to get away with their actions and still maintain their wealth and social status. Movies The Godfather and Scarface also praise the criminal lifestyle. In real life actors and musicians are shown great leniency when they break the law. Actresses like Lindsay Lohan are repeatedly in newspapers for driving drunk, child neglect, and drug abuse and the judicial system gives a simple slap on the wrist then weeks later the same individuals are back in the papers again.
With the way that media has portrayed the lifestyle of the rich and famous it is no wonder that many people have a savings the amounts to mostly nickels and pennies. When people have jobs that allow them to afford the lifestyles they see on television they tend to use credit in order to obtain it. When they are laid off or fired then the correlation between citizen and criminal can be seen rather clear. There is a thin line between doing what is right and choosing to do what is wrong, it the choice of the person that is the difference. Sometimes the choice is easy and other times it is clouded. When faced with the option of feeding your family or paying the mortgage it becomes extremely hard to continue to walk the straight road of a law abiding citizen. Sometimes this option leaves no other option than crime.
The United States government offers many different programs for the unemployed and disabled. These programs consist of Medicare and Medicaid for health care as well as food stamp assistance to provide food for qualified families. Families First is a government program that assists with educating individuals on what steps to take to find employment and rewards them upon success. They also help to provide child care for poverty level families while trying to retain employment, (Tennessee Department of Human Services, 2012). Although the United States government provides different avenues of assistance for the unemployed, often times, it is just not enough to make ends meet. Often times these resources not being enough, Americans are resorting to what they consider their final option.
Many times programs like Welfare, unemployment, and food stamps are abused by the people they are given too. Welfare recipients have been known to take jobs that pay "under the table" in order to evade taxes and continue to receive benefits. Some food stamp recipients sell their monthly allotments in order to pay for drugs. This is a known practice that is abused by the benefactors of the food stamps and the normal American citizen who has fallen victim to the increase in grocery costs. Americans who receive unemployment benefits continue to draw year after year because they make more money with unemployment than with minimum wage jobs. They continue to file extension after extension while the government turns a blind eye.
Unemployment has become one of the major reasons law abiding citizens have resorted to crime. Bank robberies have increased along with the unemployment rates. People who were formerly employed in high paying jobs found themselves laid off without the means to pay the debt they had incurred while they were employed. Some feel ashamed and refuse to tell their spouses and children due to the embarrassment they feel will follow. In order to maintain the life style they were accustomed to they turn to bank robbery. Many tend to start small with a convenience store and work their way up to a full fledge bank. This is because bank robbery is seen by some as a victimless crime, no one tends to get hurt and the money that they steal is insured by the federal government. They continually tell themselves that they only need one more "score" and they will have enough but tend to find that they need more with more bills coming in. Due to popular belief, most banks do not have much money on hand, typically two hundred to four hundred thousand. This money is dispersed between the tellers, the vault, and the ATM. It would not be a surprising notion if a bank robber only left with a few thousand dollars in hand for a quick getaway.
Many unemployed Americans joined the military in order to provide for their families. This was acceptable during the Iraq conflict but as the war dwindled towards the end there was no longer a need for a large military force. Now the military is trying to reduce its numbers which will in turn aid in increasing the unemployment rate even more. Mental and physical abilities are being raised more as the days go by which means that the normal American citizen will no longer be able to maintain the requirement for military service. As the reduction in force continues the unemployment rate will once again spike and along with it so will crime rates. It is a never ending cycle that must be dealt with. If the government continues to refuse benefits to certain members of society while giving them to other then the cycle will continue with no avail.
There are approximately 2.4 million individuals incarcerated throughout the United States. The costs that are associated per inmate can range anywhere from $18,000 to over $60,000 per year, depending on the geographical location of the prison, (Corbin, 2012). This cost is passed off to the American tax payers through government funding. Many would argue these costs are too much for those who chose to commit crimes resulting in incarceration. These costs are generated from the level of security required to ensure the safety of each inmate, healthcare provided for each inmate, food provided, support groups for the inmates and their families, as well as free educational programs to aid them with employment opportunities upon release.
"Although security levels, healthcare, food, and support groups are an acceptable cost, free educational benefits are often up for debate. Inmates typically only receive basic vocational educations to help assure that upon release, they would reduce the chance of becoming a repeat offender" (Yates, 2012).
If the inmate wished to pursue a further educational program, there are grants and financial aid that he or she could apply for to obtain the education goals of which he/she is trying to achieve. Though a portion of the tax payer dollar goes towards these inmates, there are ways to cut some of these cost for us and it also can benefit in surrounding areas throughout the United States.
"The idea to put prisoners to work has been around for decades. In the 1950's, chain gangs in the South built roads and broke rocks as a form of punishment. Cheap prison labor, supporters say, helps offset the high costs of incarceration, prepares inmates for real-world jobs and reduces recidivism a system plagued by overcrowding," (Nicholas, 2011).
This is a practice that should be utilized in the prison system to reduce the costs for tax payers. If inmates have to work to pay their way in prison, and not have all things handed to them, they will be less likely to want to return and resist from resorting back to crime upon release. Some may argue that the practice of providing jobs to inmates can reduce the amount of employment for others not in the prison system. However, if they are limited to work details that include keeping the litter picked up off the streets, working in the prison as cafeteria staff, and maintain the grounds of the prison these are jobs that most would not want to keep. "It is estimated that the work done by inmate work squads saves the District government approximately $154,000 annually" (Department of Corrections, 2012).
In addition to inmate labor, a rehabilitation process is provided for each inmate within prison walls. Once the inmate is admitted into the prison system, he or she goes through an evaluation process to assess their individual needs on their road to recovery. The programs that are put into place are to assist the inmates during incarceration and help them to cope with their upcoming release and reintegration into society.
"These programs help them to go back to normal life and earn livelihood ethically. The rehabilitation techniques used vary from inmate to inmate, depending on the crimes committed, age, gender and back ground of the individual" (Rehabilitations).
During the reintegration process, inmates are provided with programs lead by religious and social organizations to help them to regain a normal life outside of the prison system. The programs provided for inmate can include counseling for healing, basic education, as well as assistance with job placement. "Research and studies show that encouraging prisoners with education provide better results. After undergoing literacy and training, many former offenders have returned to the normal life" (Rehabilitations).
Many times after inmates are released back into society they will rejoin their friends, or families, and be subjected to the same tendencies they had before. This is one of the hardest things to combat with prisoner reintegration. It is easy to work hard and try to conform to society while a prison is behind bars, away from the influences that originally brought them to the prison, it is a completely different scenario once placed back into their former environment. It may be that reintegration needs to be in a different town or assume the inmate a completely different identity in order to achieve success with reintegration. Depending on the crime that originally placed the person in prison, it might not be an acceptable decision to place them back where they were before. If person was a gang member before they reach prison and then placed back into the gang society for reintegration it is most likely that the person will be brought back into the gang atmosphere whether by choice or not.
Gangs present a dilemma in the process of prisoner reintegration but an attempt must be made in order to ensure that every member of the prison system is given an opportunity to become successful again in society. Boys and Girls clubs give young people a way to grow up in gang ridden neighborhoods without succumbing to gangs but these organizations also serve as a means for gang members to recruit more members. Gang members tend to loiter around these facilities in order to recruit new members. A lack of security for the buildings that house these organizations is a large reason that these types of criminals are allowed to use government facilities for recruitment. In many ways the lack of security is a way the government has aided the crime rate in certain areas.
One way to aid in with gang related activity would be to create programs in lower income neighborhoods that helped parents to prevent their children from falling victim to the activities. Programs that taught parents how to keep their children away or teach them techniques to avoid the dangers of gangs would help to reduce the amount of new gang member recruited each year. Another way would be to give free vocational training to help young people gain skills to help them outside of school that would give the youngsters another outlet rather than the criminal activities of gangs.
Neighborhood watches, with the continual aid of local law enforcement, would help keep gang related activity away from lower income neighborhoods. Gang members tend to conduct their activities in places that law enforcement tends to vacate. Once gang members take over an area even local law enforcement has trouble trafficking the environment. If places could be saved from gang activity prior to it being plagued then gang activity would be less of a problem.
"Neighborhood Watch, Block Watch, Town Watch, Crime Watch - whatever the name, it's one of the most effective and least costly ways to prevent crime and reduce fear in your neighborhood. Neighborhood Watch Programs fight the isolation and separation that crime creates and feeds upon. It forges bonds among area residents and businesses, helps reduce burglaries and robberies, and improves relations between police and the communities they serve" (Los Angeles Police Department, 2012).
If the government wants to ensure that crime is a thing of the past then it is important for government agencies to continue to monitor the programs that have been put in place. It is one thing to create programs that aid in the education and reintegration of an inmate but it is another to ensure that the programs are continually monitored for success. Inmates can be related in some ways to children, they must be walked step by step though the reintegration process. This includes continually monitoring their process after they have been released back into society. If prisoners, both current and former, are continually given aid then they will be more successful after they have been released. Parole is a way the government monitors certain prisoners after they have been released however this is temporary and the parole officers rarely offer assistance to keep the former inmates from returning to their past behaviors. Many times the parole officer only gets involved after the former prisoner has succumbed to the behaviors that they are deemed unacceptable.
The parole system only monitors former prisoners by checking in with the parole officer anywhere from once a week to once a month. This is typically by a phone call or other type of non physical communication. It would be better if the meeting were with other parolees in a meeting area that would allow one another to speak about the difficulties that come with reintegration. The military uses a buddy system that allows soldiers to always have someone to go to when they need help. This type of system would allow parolees a security blanket in case they are exposed to their former lifestyle. A system of this type would be reflective of the types of programs provided to alcoholics and drug abusers. It is a way for them to feel comfortable when they feel that they will succumb to alcohol or drugs again. In a way crime can be considered a type of habit as well. Once a person steals without getting caught their adrenaline rises and they tend to want to feel the same way again, only they must commit larger crimes in order to obtain the same feeling.
"Less attention has been paid to the role of supervision (as opposed to services) in improving the lives of parolees and the communities to which they return. Most current systems of supervision perform poorly as measured by the condition and behavior of those subject to them.
Not only does parole markedly fail to control the behavior of its clients, it also contributes heavily to the prison-crowding problem by sending so many of them back. And the high recidivism rate among parolees, while casting doubt on the capacity of incarceration to achieve either deterrence or rehabilitation, also complicates the task of reducing the number of people behind bars: It is harder to make the case that large numbers of prisoners don't need to be there when they have such a hard time staying out after they are released" (Hawken, A, Kleiman, M, 2008).
Prison is found throughout the Bible as well. Joseph was thrown into prison as a young man (Gen. 39:20) and Samson was put to work in a grinding mill after he had his eyes put out (Jdg. 16:21). All though the New Testament many of Jesus' disciples were placed in prison; Paul, John the Baptist, James, and Peter. Prisons, though, were not God's way of dealing with criminals.
"When Israel was led out of Egypt, God gave the nation a civil code of laws that would cause the Gentiles to view Israel as a "great nation" that was both "wise and understanding" (Deut. 4:6). However, in this code God included no provision for prisons. Instead, there were swift and sure punishments for each broken law" (Baxter, S, 2007).
When God's people complained they were hungry he fed them until they could eat no more and then made them continue to fill their bellies. When Moses disobeyed God and struck the mountain with his staff, He did not place Moses in a prison, rather he refused to let him into the promise land. He made Moses watch his people enter the land of Canaan and the ended his long life afterward. In the Old Testament God was feared and his judgment was swift. He did not allow for a termed sentence for law breakers.
Many societies assume the role of "an eye for an eye" where they will give a punishment in correlation with the crime that was broken. In Singapore a man that steals will have his hands chopped off so he will not steal again. In other countries a man who rapes a woman or child would be relieved of his manhood. Other societies have been known to remove eyes, ears, and other appendages in retribution for crimes committed. Even God used this type of punishment,
"If a man takes his sister, his father's daughter or his mother's daughter, and sees her nakedness and she sees his nakedness, it is a wicked thing. And they shall be cut off in the sight of their people. He has uncovered his sister's nakedness. He shall bear his guilt. If a man lies with a woman during her sickness and uncovers her nakedness, he has exposed her flow, and she has uncovered the flow of her blood. Both of them shall be cut off from their people" (Leviticus 20:17-18).
Punishments like these should not be a part of the American judicial system but a harsher punishment for harsher crimes would be more of a deterrent for others looking at committing the same crimes. Some punishments do not deter the criminal from returning to their old ways nor do they deter potential criminals from engaging in these acts. When murderer is placed on death row for their crimes it does not meant that they will be killed upon leaving the courtroom, many times a convicted murder will be on death row for years before their punishment or die in prison before the punishment can be enacted. The reasons for the delay in punishment are due to funding but it actually costs more to house the inmate than to conduct the punishment. In times like these there should be a better way to enforce the punishment rather than let the victim's families suffer knowing that the perpetrator is still alive.
A life of crime is a choice in today's society. Often times some Americans will resort to crime in order to ensure their families are provided for. It is the responsibility of the American people to ensure that measures are taken to prevent situations like these from occurring. If properly educated from an early age, and shown the right steps to take during desperate times, many can get by in a normal society without having to resort to this type of behavior. By resisting a life of crime to provide for their addictions, Americans are able to live fulfilling lives through assistance programs through religious and social organizations during times of need.