The Prison System Essay
The United States has a huge prison problem. Today, more than one out of 100 Americans are behind bars (Liptak). Additionally, the United States has one of the biggest prison populations, and it's not helping anyone. Studies have shown that a few days in prison increases the likelihood that an inmate will re-offend, "Too often a prison sentence does not cure the causes of crime but aggravates them" (SEU). The prison systems need to be improved.
Imagine having no control over anything, what to eat, when to sleep, where to go. You're going to go crazy. Prison makes these inmates want to re-offend more. Research shows that prison is not effective since it doesn't reduce crime, even though they're placing criminals in prison (Are Effective). Moreover, there are other concerns about isolated imprisonment; when inmates are isolated in their cells for a few hours a day, with little to no social contact. It created severe psychological problems for prisoners, many of whom experience fear, anxiety, anger, and depression, especially if confined for long periods (Incarceration nation)—thus causing Inmates not wanting to change if they're not giving the right help and treatment. If you're going to treat them like criminals, they're going to act like criminals (Treating).
We need to understand why criminals are criminals. Many inmates walked in with trauma in their lives and were raised to become criminals. During their youth, over a third of the prisoners in a study were put in foster care. Prior to prison, all participants experienced at least one event of violence (Kazemian). Including one-third of prisoners reported being victims of sexual assault. Events like this usually generate fear and helplessness (Kazemian). Therefore inmates don't change unless they want to. Just like the regular world, an inmate chooses what kind of person he wants to be and chooses the people he builds strong relationships with (Samenow, Offenders). Research shows that time spent in prison doesn't help anyone, and most inmates instantly return to a life of crime. Many claim that while locked up with their fellow inmates, most of them will learn new and better ways to commit crimes. They even build connections and get more into the criminal world. (Rehabilitative Imprisonment)
Prison time is very serious. John Stuart Mill has compared it to consigning it to a living graveyard. Saying any society that employs this should do so cautiously and with restraint. Yet the United States doesn't. Maybe because people think prison is helpful and believe the criminals deserve the punishment. Mill says the problem with prison time is that its cruelty is hard to imagine. It's hard to imagine how it feels to be confined in a small space with a restrict routine for periods of years, or sometimes until death (Rodham).
The government got tough on crime policies, thus have jammed prisons and jails mostly with poor and uneducated people of color, about half of them are suffering from mental health problems (Incarceration nation). Craig Haney, a professor at the University of California at Santa Cruz, stated the negative impacts these policies have had on inmates, families, communities, and the nation (Incarceration nation). Inmates experience a number of problems impacting their ability to become responsible members of society when they leave prison, professional training, and educational services haven't been used as commonly as they should be. Imprisonment can also build or worsen mental health problems (Incarceration nation). About half of the inmates have some mental health problem, and 10-25% of U.S. prisoners suffer from severe mental illnesses. Its also challenging to offer quality mental health care in prison, Haney states, because "prisoners are hesitant to open up in environments where they do not feel physically or psychologically safe" (Incarceration nation). Also, prison is unsafe for inmates who are forced to share a cramped space with more violent inmates than themselves. This makes prison an inappropriate setting, as the risk of violence is a serious problem (Are Effective). The prison system needs to be improved.
Since there's a high risk of safety, why are we still promoting prisons as a therapeutic tool if they are not successful or safe? Well, some countries like Norway claim that they help repair the harm that's happened during the crime, rather than sentencing the criminals. In Norway, they had less than 4,000 inmates in August 2014, from five million people. They keep the numbers so low by a system called "restorative justice." Which attempts to repair the damage from the crime. It is not about punishing criminals but about rehabilitating prisoners. If this system works to minimize crimes and reduce the number of re-offenders, why don't other countries use the same system then? Compared to the United States, the small number of prisoners from Norway would suggest that our method of keeping people locked up for years just doesn't work (Are Effective).
Prison should be a great way to make someone successful, but the present prison system is ineffective. Many criminals go back to a life of crime; it proves prison isn't doing anyone help, it's actually increasing crimes. Some say the prison system is fair, and others disagree. Why not improve it though? It's not causing any harm if the government changes the system. My professor told me to provide a research paper, and I had no idea how to do it. Thank God, I've found social work research topic ideas. I used it and wrote a paper myself.