By Christopher Zoukis
American Prisons: A Failure of the Greatest Magnitude
The state and federal prison systems of America are in tatters. Inmates are being transformed into hardened convicts. Recidivism rates continue to rise. And all the while, the concept of prison rehabilitating offenders has become a running joke, ongoing dialogue on prison reform aside.
It’s pathetic, plain and simple. Inmates are real people that go through real struggles and aren’t provided the tools they require to succeed, but still the American people expect prisoners to be rehabilitated upon their release from custody. It’s laughable to think that inmates could leave prison without any type of additional education, vocational training, or treatment program and succeed in an unfamiliar and unaccepting world outside prison walls. American corrections simply provides no structure or protocol to promote recovery, and the significant stigma against former prisoners acts in a way that practically ensues that all will return to a life of crime and recidivate.
The Onion Presents its Case: Prisons Don’t Make People More Employable?
It’s crucial that prison policies, procedures, and governing principles changes to assist former inmates in leading a better, more productive, and law-abiding life after their term of incarceration has concluded. In fact, the need for reform is so obvious that even “The Onion” — the satirical newspaper — wrote an entire article characterizing the thought process of those who think that prison provides inmates with the tools required to leave prison and not return to a life of crime.
“It just doesn’t seem possible that an inmate could live for a decade and a half in a completely dehumanizing environment in which violent felons were constantly on the verge of attacking or killing him and not emerge an emotionally stable, productive member of society.”
While satirical to the utmost degree, this is the situation we currently find ourselves in. According to http://prisonlawblog.com, prisoners are subjected to damaging, dangerous, and violent prison cultures. In order to survive, they change. While at first they might be wrongdoers (but not hardened, violent wrongdoers), they eventually are forced to change into true convicts in order to survive the prison experience. Regardless of this, the American people expect these people — inmates who’ve had to fight to protect their commissary purchases or simply for seats at a chow hall table — to hit the ground running and abide by social standards of conduct upon their release from custody. This is plainly a joke.
“The Onion” article continues, “Gunderson then noted his additional confusion at how the man’s criminal record and the social stigma of his prison sentence had somehow failed to land him a steady job immediately upon his release.” While obviously a joke, this is the attitude that many have, an attitude that leads to existing flaws in our criminal justice system persisting relentlessly due to a lack of understanding, reform, and even plain old logical analysis.
Figuring Out a Better Way to Rehabilitate Prisoners
Despite the humor of “The Onion’s” article, it still presents an important point — inmates are placed in environments that aren’t conducive to rehabilitation. And while prisons themselves are supposed to be punishment for crime, ideally they still should address the end result that the entire system is designed to fulfill: a successful reintegration back into society of former wrongdoers who will abide by the law, pay their taxes, work, and support their local communities and nation.
Whether it’s through prison education, better oversight, therapy, drug treatment, vocational training, life skills classes, or any of the other numerous ways to address rehabilitation in prison, there needs to be something in place that is designed to ensure that inmates are able to contribute to society upon their release from custody, otherwise there will continue to be sky high recidivism rates and the victimization that comes hand-in-hand with that. According to http://prisonlawblog.com, current strategies are simply inadequate, so much so that they can be easily turned into satire.
Published Jul 17, 2014 by Christopher Zoukis, JD, MBA | Last Updated by Christopher Zoukis, JD, MBA on Oct 24, 2021 at 10:20 am
1 thought on “Breaking News: Fear and Discouragement Don't Rehabilitate Prisoners”
100% AGREE. I saw that onion article when it came out, and the fact that they nailed it so well shows how incredibly obvious their conclusions are that politicians and those on the far right don't seem to understand.
No one is saying don't have prisons, either. What people are saying is:
– Make sure those prisons are about teaching and training.
– Make sure those prisons are a safe environment.
– Make sure those prisons are doing something, ANYTHING, to help law breakers become law abiders.
Prison itself is a deterrent, but that doesn't mean someone leaving prison has the skills to get out of it. Even if one were to believe that some prisoners (perhaps murderers or rapists) deserve more harsh punishments, then fine. Put them in a high security prison. I don't necessarily believe that's the right solution either, but okay – maybe politicians do. But those on drug offences? Those with petty crimes? Those with financial offenses?
It makes no sense to treat them like their life should be over, because it's not over. You don't even need to think about them – at least politicians should think about those that will be affected by them in the future if they don't get help. Makes no sense the way the current prison system works.
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