REHABILITATING OUR CRIMINALSAmerica releases 600,000 prisoners each year, but does little to prepare them for work or to improve their unlawful habits. Howevernot surprisinglywithin three years, many of the ex-convicts are re-arrested (Irwin 38). People who have already spent time in prison or jail move back to some of Americas poorest neighborhoods to terrorize neighbors who can ill afford the costs of crime. United States prisons are ineffective in protecting society and in rehabilitating criminals to return to society.
A new Urban Institute study, From Prison to Home: The Dimensions and Consequences of Prisoner Reentry, provides frightening documentation of Americas failure to improve the prospects for released prisoners. According to the Urban Institute study, within the past decade, fewer prisoners have gotten education and drug treatment behind bars while more have violated parole terms. Many of the ex-convicts are released with no money and a bad past record which makes it difficult for an ex-convict to succeed. The Urban Institute study states, Despite tough-on-crime rhetoric, over 100,000 people a year get released without any supervision and per-convict spending has fallen for those who remain monitored (Solomon et al. 38). Many ex-convicts are forced to live in poverty and continue to live a dark life, which often makes it difficult to find a full-time job and to return to their families with the adequate care and mentality to support them.
However, prisons do, in fact, protect society from harsh criminals who commit violent felonies against society. U.S. government official, Donald Taylor states, Over the past ten years, prisons have maintained their essential task: keeping United States citizens safe from convicted felons (Ballard). The overall purpose of a prison is to keep bad people away from society where they are not able to commit violent acts against innocent people. Essentially, prisons are effective because they lock up the people who are a threat to the society. According to the book entitled, Evaluation of Penal Measures, The range for success in rehabilitation cases range from 30 percent success to 60 percent success (Wilkins 82). This particular study was taken over a five-year period and shows rehabilitation had a positive impact on many prisoners once released into society.
Although the overall purpose of rehabilitation in prison has its positive aspects, the weaknesses of rehabilitation make prison time ineffective in protecting society. Rehabilitation may provide aide to some of the prisoners; however, there are still a large number of prisoners who are not affected by the rehabilitation and leave prison in the same state of mind as the day they were sentenced. Twenty-five percent of all prisoners released commit an additional crime within five years of being released (Irwin). Prisons dramatically change the values and morals of a person. According to a book entitled, The Felon, Persons who are sentenced to prison experience a sudden blow that hurls them outside society. It not only unravels their social ties; it stuns them and reduces their capacity and their resolve to make the journey back into society (Irwin 176). Prisons change people, and regardless of the rehabilitation offered to the convicts, many prisoners are impacted by their time in prison, which consequently becomes apparent when they are released. Fifty-five years ago, nineteen year old Rueben Fischer finished his job at Louies Garage at nine o clock pm. He began his four-block walk to his apartment as the sun was beginning to set on a beautiful day in June. Two blocks from his apartment, a man in his forties approached him and asked him for spare change. Rueben told the man he had no money and walked away. Reuben walked five more steps before he was shot through his back and killed. The man took Reubens life for a wallet with no money in it. An old woman witnessed Reubens death through her small shop window and was able to describe the felon to the police. The offender was a forty-five year old man who had just been released from prison for a previous murder. Obviously prison did not rehabilitate or institute the proper time or punishment to keep this man from taking another innocent life. Reuben would possibly still be alive today if an ex-convict wouldnt have cruelly taken his life. Similar instances occur in our society constantly because prisons are not serving the purpose in keeping society safe.
US prisons are ineffective in protecting society and in rehabilitating criminals to return to society. Statistics show that rehabilitation in prisons does have an impact on the reduction of prisoners re-entry; however, there are still a large number of ex-convicts who continue to disobey societys norms and go against the nations laws. Rehabilitation may protect society on a small scale; however, it will not successfully reintegrate all of the 600,000 men and women who leave correctional facilities each year. Convicts who have stolen, murdered, raped, or committed other wrongful acts against innocent people have affected many lives. Funding needs to be implemented to monitor prisoners on an individual basis to determine whether a convict is truly ready to be released into society.
WORKS CITEDBallard, Dorothy R. The Life of a Prisoner. New York: Dell Publishing, 1998.
Irwin, John. The Felon. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1970.
Solomon, Amy, Jeremy Travis, and Michelle Waul. From Prison to Home: The Dimensionsand Consequences of Prisoner Reentry.1 Jun 2001. 8 Oct. 2001.
http://www.urban.org/pdfs/from_prison_to_home.pdf. Wilkins, Leslie T. Evaluation of Penal Measures. New York: Random House Inc., 1969.