How Prisons Can Better Rehabilitate Incarcerated Criminals
Running Head: HOW PRISONS CAN BETTER REHABILITATE INCARCERATED CRIMINALS
How prisons can better rehabilitate incarcerated criminals
Inmates are some of the people who are looked upon by society after ending their sentences in prison. Most of these inmates have no self esteem for themselves after leaving the correctional centers. They are at war with themselves and very insecure in the society they are living at. During incarceration, we would want the offenders to learn on how best they can become functioning members of our community. Thus the prison authorities are meant to rehabilitate offenders so that they can have a good life after they are released from prison and in turn make our society safer. In this paper, we will look at how best the prison system can rehabilitate criminals while they are incarcerated.
During the 1980s, the expansion of prisons was all over the US as authorities talked of them being places of punishment. Most of the politicians said that prisons should be a place where prisoners learn “the joys of busting rocks” and “a tour through the circles of hell” (Worth, 1995). But really, is that the case? Recent statistics show that the prison system is not working as the rates of crime are ever expanding. About 1.2 million Americans are in jail today and as expected the crime rates are also higher. Also of considerable observation is the number of former offenders who repeat their crimes and are arrested and jailed again. Like in California, a whopping 75% of paroled prisoners are re-incarcerated. Therefore with this kind of statistics, there is something wrong with our prisons and something has to be done urgently to reverse the trend. Our prisons are just imprisoning, paroling and again re-arresting offenders without rehabilitating them.
With the correct rehabilitation programs, we can change the offenders so that when they are released they can be re-integrated back to society as productive people. In the recent years some states have been reforming to rehabilitate convicts in their jails. What is needed in our jails is rehabilitation and this will definitely change the penal system in our country for the better. The problem with US prison system is that of taking revenge to punish offenders for the crimes that they committed by punishing them. Using such insulting words like refuse, scum, dirt or slime to refer to these criminals will not help but aggravate them. Basically what is needed is reform of our leaders who will then reform prisons and change of heart to rehabilitate these members of our society and leave ridiculing them. The reforms should be done in earnest and desist from the traditional punishment treatments approaches but be based on non-violent and scientific principles. (The United States penal system).
There are several techniques used to rehabilitate incarcerated criminals than just sending them to prison. One of the ways of rehabilitating these members of our society during incarceration is by giving them a chance to acquire job skills. This will definitely give them a chance of acquiring job skills such that when they are released they will improve the chances of becoming productive. Most of those who are given the chance to acquire and be productive are most likely to develop self esteem which is essential for a normal and integrated personality. Szumski, puts it better that these kind of programs will provide the skills and habits that will replace the sense of hopelessness that is usually associated with inmates. When these inmates are released they have the necessary skills to make a living and get busy somewhere. In Oregon institute, inmates are allowed to choose from a variety of classes. Butterfield says that here at Oregon some prisoners are in advanced computer classes, building customized computes for state agencies. Clearly, this is the kind of a person who can walk into the real world secure a job (Militello C.).
Another useful technique used to rehabilitate criminals is counseling either as individual or group counseling. For group counseling, the aim is to develop positive peer group pressure influencing the members passively. In this case, a wider variety of ideas and solutions are developed by drawing from experience of the several people each with their own experience. Here also, an individual’s problem can easily be solved by a group member. Usually if a peer proposes a solution to the inmates, it carries more weight than if it were a counselor (The United States penal system).
In sociology it has been discovered that some people learn their ways from the undesirable people who they were forced to associate with. This kind of association then changes their thinking and their social attitudes. Thus group counseling can result to group interaction, and other group activities resulting to offset of any earlier bad associations.
Another way of rehabilitating criminals is by making the prison environment be like ‘home’. An example of such an environment is McKean Correctional Institute in Bradford. The place has got clean, carpeted corridors and air conditioned classrooms that in fact most people compare it with a college. The results here are amazing, within the last six years only six assaults on inmates have been recorded and three on the staff members. Usually this kind of statistics is recorded weekly in most of the prisons around the US. Here at McKean, some inmates have teaching classes to fellow prisoners. Obviously there is some magic working here; the institute centers on the idea of respect for its inmates. Posted around its prison walls are 28 beliefs that have created this kind of atmosphere some of which read: “inmates are sent to prison as punishment and not for punishment”, “you must believe in a man’s capacity to change his behavior”….and “most inmates will respond to a favorable and clean environment…” The institute though is strict in its own ways; it holds prisoners in high regard and also high expectations such that minor incidences can lead to expulsions from classes. This system seems to work in that those inmates who were regarded as being violent and then were transferred to McKean often do settle down. Another interesting and encouraging statistics is that of paroles from the institution who are re-incarcerated much less than average. These two prison institutes are paving the way for other correctional centers to emulate them and pave the way for rehabilitation for other prisons (Militello C.).
Another rehab programs that should be encouraged in our prisons are about religion. Religious rehabilitation programs involves teaching religious beliefs to inmates during incarceration according to their religious believes. It is assumed that this kind of program heals the offender’s soul after a dark past. These religious programs instill a positive perspective in their lives and thus have hopes of better life. Also of important to note is that some of these prisoners take the role of religious leaders while in prison and after they are released they become religious leaders themselves and leave their dark past. Although it is true that prisoners would want to change themselves but giving them a hand and guiding them especially in religion matters will prove vital to change of character. Religion should be considered as a method of altering the career of offenders rather than as a way of rehabilitating criminals (Himelson A. (2010).
Apart from these rehabilitation programs being good to the inmates, they are also economical in the long-term. This is not wasting the same as those critics who say they do not want their money to be wasted by educating criminals. These classes keep prisoners busy and thus less supervision. This means less staff translating to less money. The federal cost of maintaining a prisoner is averagely $21,350 but in McKean it is $15,370 (Worth, 1992). Also this kind of raining means that the prisoners can take the role of some staff like answering caller questions saving money due to fewer staff needed.
Warren Burger, a US Supreme Court Chief Justice once said that the society must accept the reality that “to confine offenders behind walls without trying to change them is an expensive folly with short-term benefits”, he further said that it was like winning the battle but losing the war. Society has to realize that just by locking criminals is only a partial solution to solving the crime problem. Therefore there is need for policymakers to invest more resources in rehabilitating and treating criminals while they are locked up in prison. This way, they will ease the problem of re-entry to crime and help released prisoners with opportunities to re-integrate back into society.
Inside the prisons, the process of rehabilitating the offenders should start early and be used like a guiding principle during the time the offenders are locked up. If the process of rehabilitation is done carefully, then it will eventually reduce the congestion in our prisons and make our communities safe. This is because today’s challenging inmate has a very high chance of becoming a failure tomorrow if they are just released to society without rehabilitation or by any chance escape the prison walls. The professionals in the area are therefore encouraged to to use the opportunity to use statistics to make each of these inmates a success and thus make our societies safe.
Goyer KC. Incarcerating and rehabilitating offenders. Retrieved from: http://www.iss.co.za/pubs/Monographs/No93/Chap6.pdf
Himelson A. (2010). Prison programs that produce. Retrieved from: http://www.worldandihomeschool.com/public/2003/december/cipub1.asp
Militello C. Rehabilitating our prisons. Retrieved from: http://www.iss.co.za/pubs/Monographs/No93/Chap6.pdf
The United States penal system. Retrieved from: http://www.studyworld.com/newsite/reportessay/History/American%5CThe_United_States_Penal_System-341757.htm
Worth, R. (1995). A Model Prison. Retrieved from: http://www.theatlantic.com/issues/95nov/prisons/prisons.htm