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How to Reform the PrisonsEssay

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U.S. PRISON SYSTEM

US Prison System

The United States prison system has become the subject of much debate in modern society and the media. This has happened for a litany of reasons such as concerns about racial disparities in sentencing, overcrowding, recidivism rates, rehabilitation performance and the policy-making process in general. There are also questions and concerns about the number of drug users/addicts in prison, the amount of mentally ill people in prison and how prisons now seem to resemble the asylums and institutions of the past in that they are more about warehousing undesirables rather than actually administering justice a lot of the time (Houser & Belenko, 2015). People complain about some sentences being too light while others assert that some sentences are entirely too harsh given the crime involved. Others are at odds over habitual offenders who keep getting into trouble and whether escalating sentences over time, regardless of the severity of the crime, is a good answer for crimes and criminals that just do not seem to stop (Pinto, 2015).

There is no shortage of statistics and other details that people point to when they decry and critique how the United States handles its criminals and prisoners. Indeed, many assail the United States as being the civilized and industrialized country with the most criminals per capita while others might say that this only because there are a lot of criminals and all of them could and should be incarcerated for the actions they commit. Further, the United States has roughly three hundred million guns and a lot of the crime that get people sent to prison involves those guns, whether possessed or bought legally or illegally (Cook, Harris, Ludwig & Pollack, 2015). Even with all of that, finding solutions and protracted improvements to this system has been found to be elusive. While is a lot of concern about the ongoing lives of criminals once they get out, there are many in society that are unsympathetic. Even so, reintegrating prior criminals back into society is important because an ex-convict that has a record is much less likely to find gainful employment and this increases the odds that they will return to a life of crime and/or will otherwise be non-productive during their life (Miller & Spillane, 2012). The fact remains, however, that many are not caring about that because prior history is indeed a great predictor of future behavior and hiring people known to be criminals in the past can lead to lawsuits and other uncomfortable situations for employers if/when the person gets into more trouble. This report shall do a strong literature review of all of the above situations and problems and some solutions shall be offered for the same during a subsequent critical analysis section of this report. While both sides have compelling arguments, there is a good and single path forward and it requires ex-convicts, drug addicts or mentally ill people to actively participate in their redemption and/or rehabilitation or they will seal their proverbial fate when it comes to how productive and fruitful their lives will be. While people who make mistakes should get second chances if they are serious about doing the right thing, people that repeatedly break the law and game the system should be hit with punitive and thorough measures to ensure that they know that this is not a game and that their anti-social, insidious and hurtful behavior will not be tolerated or accepted on any level (Goodman, 2012).

The overall problem that will be addressed in this report is how to address and handle the fact that the amount of crime and incarceration in this country is entirely too high given the ostensible modernity and advancement of our society (Redburn, Western & Travis, 2014). At the same time, deviancy and bad behavior in general is rather rampant in the United States and this cannot be ignored. While it is true that poverty and other social strife leads to bad decisions being made, the individual making the choices cannot be given a simple slap on the wrist and told it is not their fault because society is keeping them down. It can indeed be very stressful to have more bills than money in a month but taking a gun, robbing a store, potentially or actually hurting an innocent person in the process cannot be tolerated or accepted ... not to mention left unpunished (Hlavka, Wheelock & Cossyleon, 2015).

Literature Review

One major issues when it comes to prisons is that many prisons are extremely overcrowded. Like most structures and dwellings, prisons are rated on the amount of people that they could or should be housing at any given time. For example, prison A might be rated to hold 2,000 prisoners at any given time. Often times, however, there are prisons that are holding and detaining many more prisoners than they are rated or even allowed to hold and this is creating a number of problems. The most sterling and epic example of this is almost certainly California. It has gotten to the point where judges are mandating that prisoners be released so as to get the inmate level to a morally and/or legally acceptable level. Indeed, packing in prisoners too tightly makes a bad situation worse a lot of the time. Beyond that, there are many who assert that these overcrowded prisons have effects on recidivism and substance abuse rates of the prisoners that are being housed there. Ruderman, Wilson and Reid (2015) looked at precisely this subject in a recent treatise about prisons and California was indeed one of their main focuses in terms of location. In particular, they looked at how overcrowding aggravates the drug abuse of inmates due to the overcrowding causing less efficacy in the providing and enforcement of rehabilitation while inside (Ruderman, Wilson & Reid, 2015).

The Ruderman study used an observation period of two full years, spanning from January 2003 to December 2004. Generally, prisoners subjected to over-crowding in prisons were compared to those that were paroled or were otherwise in much less restricted and cramped situations. Their assertion is that prison overcrowding has a strong correlation with recidivism and other bad outcomes as compared to people that are not crammed into prisons with such vigor. While the nature of the crime is important when it comes to whether recidivism is enhanced as a result of overcrowding, it was found that drug offenses in particular were much more apt to repeat when overcrowding was present. Other adverse prison experiences such as assaults and so forth can also be a factor (Ruderman, Wilson & Reid, 2015).

When it comes to problems that plague prisons and the wider criminal justice system, recidivism is right up there near or at the top. Indeed, a lot of prisoners end up offending again after they get out of prison and there have been many that have sought ways to prevent this vicious cycle from starting or otherwise propagating. One theory and framework that is commonly cited and used is known as inoculation theory. This is a widely recognized theory in the field of communication. It is commonly used a means of preventing or at least reducing recidivism. This is seen as a major and important movement due to the things and events that can happen when recidivism occurs such as homicides, sex offenses, larceny, assaults and batteries. There is also the factor that the government almost always uses some sort of confinement method to deal with criminals and thus isolating them from society (Matusitz & Breen, 2013).

However, confinement and isolation alone is not enough as there needs to be behavioral modification, cognitive restructuring and persuasive resistance that should all be explored and used as needed to get a convict back on the right track. The paradigms of crime, incarceration and rehabilitation move and bend in concert and they must be shaped in the right ways so as to get the desired and full results so as to lower relapses into criminal life. Each piece must be wielded in the right way and there are a lot of examples where it is not. For example, many prison situations are less than conducive to reducing recidivism. As explained in part in the last source, certain prison situations can lead to recidivism being higher, at least with drug offenses. However, there are other situations that are less than helpful including the housing of non-violent offenders with violent offenders, not keeping members of rival gangs separated and so forth. Indeed, any wise prison warden or other leadership will not intermix the wrong kinds of criminals and convicts because it tends to create bigger issues and many of those issues involve assaults or even deaths. Whether it be mental illness, gang turf wars or the severity of the crime, just throwing everyone into the same population and hoping for the best of the antithesis of what should be done if inoculation theory or anything like it is the way forward that is used… [END OF PREVIEW]

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