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steve freer

Business Development, Ministry Of Justice UK

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Does prison work?

For a certain cohort of prisoner i.e prolific burglar,should we ignore the issues of why they commit crime or intervene and challenge?
I categorise offenders as Bad / Mad and Sad and the burglars usually fall into the Sad category.To ignore their issues and send them back onto the streets as they came in,is failing society and a backward step.
To engage with them ,deal with the issues and send them out work ready is hugely beneficial to all parties.
Reduce reoffending
Reduce number of victims
Reduce cost to taxpayer
Create a worthwhile being who could pass this on to future generations,rather than the alternative of becoming a career criminal impacting on our society in a negative way..

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  • Jul 22 2012: My opinion on this question is yes and no. I categorise offenders as violent and non-violent. For people who pose a danger to anyone.For the safety of all, then prison is the answer. Now the but part. Prison is not the answer for non-violent offenders.That is where most of the costs go for. The non-violent offenders. Now here is some ideas on how to change the system. Have half-way houses for non-violent offenders. Have them doing community service and teach them a trade that will get them a job. Have strict probation guidelines. Oversight is important.The goal is simple, give the non-violent offenders the tools and supervision that will help with them from being repeat offenders. As I said before, prison is needed for the violent offenders, but in my opinion and observation that a lot of the prisoners that you have could be productive members of society under the right circumstances. And it would save and make society money and good citizens. This can be applied anywhere in the world to reduce prison population in a productive way. Thank you and I hope that I have been helpfull with my ideas and opinions.
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      Jul 22 2012: Terry,
      You provide some very good ideas, and I agree that there are many different levels of crime. Is there any reason, in your perception, that violent offenders cannot be taught skills, and be productive while they are incarcerated?

      For example, years ago, in the state where I live, offenders used to produce license plates for motor vehicles. The production facility was housed in the prison, and supervised. Offenders contributed to society by producing something which cut the costs to the motor vehecle dept. (and reduced our state tax), so they provided a service that was beneficial to the community, and it was a work opportunity that kept them occupied.

      Somehow, people decided that we were taking away their rights, by "forcing" them to work, so that program desolved a long time ago. Now, the state pays a private company to produce the plates. It seems like there are many things like that which could be done by violent offenders within the facility. What do you think?
      • Jul 22 2012: Hello Colleen,
        I do agree that there should be jobs in a prison system for the violent offenders to do to help with the costs of their food, housing and supervision.Education and life skills would be helpfull to. I am not fond of the idea of caging anyone but for societies safety there are offenders that need to be seperated from everyone. I am referring to murderers and anyone else who poses a threat. I do not believe in forced work, whether prisoner or not.Forced work is a form of slavery.But use work as a choice, And reward as in Privileges(no work, no privileges) those who are willing to work with the system and not against it. Thank you for the questions and input.
      • Jul 23 2012: Hello Colleen, great example for this topic.
        Your example as many others we see around is only a proof that as long as the system is not human oriented (either free or convicted) it will always prevail this kind of financial interests.
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          Jul 24 2012: Thanks Cornelia,
          I agree that we need to encourage the systems to be "human oriented". We can still consider the financial, practical, logical, reasonable and safe sides while ALSO considering the human side.
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    • JEFF D.

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      Jul 21 2012: why not ask the prisoners themselves how the system can be fixed? good idea
      if you want to hear a deaf row inmate talk about not only the prison system but the entire world try searching on youtube - Mumia Abu-Jamal. you may or may not agreed with him but he is an example an inmate sharing his ideas on the world.
      also there's a documentary made by former prisoners of the one of the worst prisons in ___state, and they tell the story from within, and they also compare the prisons today to the slave buildings use back in the day in africa, to hold the slaves until someone took them. at the end they tell you the views of inmates who serve a lot time, and got out. you might be surprise on their views. documentary is called- scarface for life! http://www.1channel.ch/watch-2720313-Scarface-For-Life
  • Aug 6 2012: No, from my experience prison doesn't work. I spent time in Ohio's juvenile prison system when i was 16, and when i got out i was worse than i went in. After getting out, i became addicted to a very serious drug, and eventually went back. When i went back i went to a different kind of place, it was a rehab place, but not drug rehab, criminal rehab i guess. Miami Valley Juvenile Rehabilitation Center is what it is called, its ran like a jail (punishment) but it has a whole rehabilitation program, which teaches inmates positive traits (like: trust, altruism, gregarious, caring, e.t.) while showing thinking errors in the process. I honestly own the people at MVJRC is much, if it wasn't for them i wouldn't be where i am today. The program was put together by Dr. Robin Herman. I believe this program should be the model for all jails... But i also have a friend in jail for burglary right now. My buddy has a long background story, but in summary, hes had a horrible family life, he basically grow up in foster care (which is how i met him). But he moved to West Virgina to be with the only family he thought cared about him. After a while, he had a disagreement with his uncle , probably over money, and then got in a fist fight with him. Two days later i got word he was in jail for burglary. Which i believe is due to him being emotionally unstable, alone in a place he had no help or support, and too financially broke to get back HOME to Ohio. I know for a fact, that my buddy is not a bad guy, he actually is one of the goofiest nicest guys i know, and he would have NEVER done what he did if he had support, money, and was not just in a fist fight with the only family member he thought loved him. He's about to go to prison for something that could have been avoided, he wouldn't have done what he did if he was in Ohio. I believe a correlation can be made between his case and many others, showing us what we need to fix in society; or what kind of assistance individuals need.
    • Aug 7 2012: Great response. I agree that the underlying emotional/psycholgical issues must be adressed through true rehabilitation for people to have a viable chance to learn the skills necessary to become independent, healthy and productive citizens. All of society benefits when someone is able ot turn thier life around, (as you have. ) Best to you John. I hope that you can find a way to help your friend find a more positive life ... I hope that we all can support this type of compassion.
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    Jul 24 2012: Prisoner facts:
    90% of prisoners have at least one mental health disorder
    Prisoners are 13 times more likely to have been in care as a child
    Prisoners are13 times more likely to have been unemployed, with 67% unemployed directly before imprisonment
    Roughly 60% of prisoners leave school with no qualifications
    Around half of all prisoners have a reading age less than an 11-year old child
    65% of prisoners are numerate at or below the level of an 11-year-old
    Over half of women in prisons have suffered domestic violence
    65% of prisoners test positive for drugs on arrest, with one in eight addicted to heroin or crack
    63% of males and 39% of females were classed as hazardous drinkers in the year before coming into prison, with 34% found to be severely dependent on alcohol

    I think this says it all - people who end up in preiosn are people who have been failed by society.
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    Jul 22 2012: No...most prison environments are too hostile for proper rehabilitation. A nice portion of people who are in prison have respectable intelligence levels. They don't need their minds picked or to be caged like an animal. I believe the communities that produce the most criminals should be lifted. That means deeply investing in the youth and young teens of these neighborhoods.

    Some criminals were dealt a bad hand when growing up. Its hard finding your way at a young age in the mist of madness...whether it's due to bad family financial problems or bad school systems....those problems are cancers.

    We all need a decent shake at life.
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      Jul 22 2012: I agree with everything you said... but I would just like to point out an element of the discussion often forgotten, which is that many maximum security prisons aren't designed for rehabilitation, we say they are... but they're not, they're for punishing murderers, rapists, and pedophiles.

      Minimum security prisoners, and non violent felons being forced into max prisons by overcrowding, need much better education and rehabilitation facilities. They need job training, and language skills. I think the people in prison for life for violent crime... should get put back to forced labor though. I don't really care if they like it, or it's an aggressive hostile environment.

      That's a bit extreme I know. I think for many people who have gone that far down the path of violence however, forced work, might actually be healthy for them. Remind them they don't have a choice in whether or not to contribute. If ya don't work, ya don't eat.
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    Jul 19 2012: I think prison does work to keep society from thinking to much about the real problem. With the illusion that justice was done they rest to go on within a society that only works for most people and leave many people in the cold.
    If we want a society without crime we need a healthy society and the way to get there is to look after those children that grow up under violent or other bad conditions.
    If all the money spent on prisons was invested in prevention crime would be almost banished within two generations.
    The rate of crime you could see as a sign by wich you can measure the injustice of any society.
    • Jul 19 2012: Frans- I'm right with you on this. Why must we wait until the house is burning down before we consider how to put out the fire?
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      Jul 20 2012: Dear Frans,
      You always manage to simply, insightfully take us to the "bottom of the barrel", so to speak. You are ABSOLUTELY right...you have hit the nail on the head!!! The prison system, as it is, does indeed work to keep society from thinking too much about the underlying challenges.

      YES...with the "illusion" that justice was done, we (humans) move through our daily lives, thinking the probelm is solved.

      One thing that motivated me to volunteer with corrections was the fact that I volunteered at the woman/children's shelter and the family center for a couple years. We were seeing the same people time and time again. The abusers spent some time in jail, came back to their home and behaved the same way time and time again. I decided to volunteer working with abusers. When working with SRS (oversees children in state custody) we were seeing the same kids, from the same families who often had members in the shelters and in jail!

      You are absolutely right Frans, we need a healthy society, and that does not happen by continually sending people through the systems that are OBVIOUSLY not working for anyone!!!

      I totally agree...we need to somehow, take care of children at risk, while continuing to improve other systems that are not working for the majority of people.
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        Jul 22 2012: It will take time Colleen but things has been worse.
        Civilazation has yet to come but there's hope and we may trust it will come when like you more people radiate some love into the world.
        From that it all starts or fails.
        If youngsters weren't hurt but loved everywhere as they deserve to be, society would be much more easy develop into a cooperative, peaceful community.
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          Jul 22 2012: Yes Frans....I know....change takes time.....thanks for the reminder:>)

          The positive thing, is that we are now talking about how the system does not work (except to provide the illusion of problem solved!).

          Change starts with awareness, and if we are not part of the solution, we are part of the problem. Ever hear that before Frans? Another one of my life mantras!!! LOL:>)

          I appreciate you...thanks for being you and sharing the gift with us:>)
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    Jul 30 2012: The greatest problem which stretches throughout every institution on this planet be in science, education, business, religion etc etc etc is that there is one fundamental pattern we need to observe carefull: just because we wear different clothes doesn't make us more than human. Human beings,can get drunk on power, and the purpose which the institution was created ends up becoming the very thing we sought to fight. For example, how many policemen who truly sought to help people out of the compassion of their hearts have ended up becoming the very monsters they sought to protect people from? How many scientists and doctors who sought to help, have become instruments of evil? Put a man on a pedestal, in any institution, and we'll see hm for what he really is. In this light, the prisons which "work" are only those being run by those who look not to fulfill their addiction to power, but actually aim to get good works done. Just like everythign else run by humans.
    • Aug 5 2012: Totally agree Luke.I've worked in prisons for 26yrs and see exactly this you describe.It is very sad that staff become institutionalised like the very men they should be acting as positive role models for.
      What is your connection with the Criminal Justice System?

      Steve
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        Aug 10 2012: Hi Steve,

        Actually I'm just some guy who works in a map shop. I spent my youth growing up with a father who traveled the world, so by the time I was 19 we'd already lived in 13 different countries. I guess seeing the world like that while my brain was developing just led me to various feelings about the human race, in that we're very simple beings trying to be complicated. It's like as a species we're scared sh*tless of the universe and we try to blanket that fear with wealth, materials, power... but it's all in our heads, imaginary. I think this is what all religions and cultures ultimately spawned from, just simply the vulnerability of feeling naked. Except some people will go to much further extremes than others.

        Luke
  • Jul 29 2012: One major problem is privatized prisons, the owners make boat loads of money off of people going to jail. And in order for them to make more money, they need more criminals. Interesting fact: one of the most influential voices in California is the CCPOA or California Correctional Peace Officers Association. Who vote every year to make stricter laws so more people can go to jail.
    • Aug 6 2012: BIG Business, Correctional Services, especially in USA.
      I went to California, quite a few years ago, and (somewhat reluctantly), called a few prisons by telephone. My prison manager, (Governor, in the old talk,) encouraged me to do this, and then it was a "study tour", of how prisons operated in America, and a lot of the expenses were tax deductable.
      "What will I study ?" I asked him..." Who cares", was his reply. "just make something up."
      So I decided to study "Suicide Prevention programs in Californian Prisons."
      I then wrote a list of about 20 seemingly "intelligent" questions to ask.
      When I rang California Mens Facilty, I asked to be put through to the Psychitric Unit, and spoke to the head psychiatrist. "Oh you work in XXXX prison in Victoria , Australia,"...Mr Keen , do you ?"...(Yes).
      How many "clients" do you have in your psych. facility..(About 50).."Oh, that would be nice" she said.
      I asked how many prison "clients" were in HER psych. facility.
      "About 3,500" she said."
      Oh my God I said...that is a BIG prison"
      "Mr K ", she said ..."that is only HALF THE PRISON , CMF has 7,000 inmates ...The other 3,500, are just not crazy....We have 17 full time psychiatrists, 27 psychologists, as well as an untold numbers of welfare workers, social workers, medical staff and others . And that NOT include the uniform staff.!!

      BIG BUSINESS..Bloody Oath..!!

      In my "state of origin", the prison population, DOUBLED in the 10 years after I left,..( in 1996..) DOUBLED.from 2,000 to 4,000 !!."clients".. (i.e "crims", as we used to call them...)

      With most of the prisons now being "privatised"..i.e ''run for profit" by Group 4 and Corrections Corporation of America, to name just 2....( THEY BUILD the "prison" AND staff them)..
      The land is usually "donated" by the local council, for NOTHING!..( because of all the JOBS and MONEY created for the "local economy")

      Corporatisation of prisons, and prisoners, FOR PROFIT...who would have thunk it...!!
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    Jul 20 2012: I recently read a book entitled "The New Primal Scream" by Dr. Arthur Janov. It is an intriguing book. It talks about the psychological and psychosomatic effects of early childhood trauma. What the author had discovered is that there are many people who do things for reasons that they themselves don't understand because of repressed memories which are too painful to recount.

    Children of abuse need help. Often, they cannot afford it, and because of the social stigma, many would reject it even if they could because they don't want to be labeled as mentally handicapped. It's a problem that isn't going to go away until we learn to see things differently. Children of abuse are mentally handicapped by virtue of environment, not because of genetics, and there is help but it is not part of the prison system to obtain it. Many even refuse to accept the theory. What the prison system does is to try to revert behavior by virtue of punishment. It rarely solves anything. It merely forces the prisoner to try harder at controlling unwanted feelings, but it never addresses why those unwanted feeling exist in the first place.
  • Jul 18 2012: lets look at the facts...the country spend more housing prisoners than some states do on education....more than half of the prison system have a substance abuse issue...so the question should be...how do we rehabilitate accurately. there are current methods that work.. i just gave a presentation at Suny on the matter. without getting into too much detail i will say this....the treatment methodologies are not 90 day celebrity programs. also the effective treatment programs are actually less to treat than prison cost to incarcerate
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      Jul 18 2012: Thank you Christopher for weighing in on a topic that truly interests you. It helps us consider all sides of the issue- particularly the informed one!
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    Jul 16 2012: Great question.
    One the whole, prisons, especially in the US are not set up to work.
    The is a lot of money to be made in the prison system and yes there are an enormous amount of inmates that are addicts and not going to get the help they actually need. They serve inedible food and have little or no structure in most-such as cleaning/washing duty, jobs, etc.
    Yet, some great examples are the 10 day course of Vipassna, there is a wonderful documentary called Doing Time, Doing Vipassana in prison in Jaipur, India. These were rapists, murderers, addicts and all sorts coming together and being taught to meditate.
    Here in the US, the Department of Corrections in Oregon needed help defraying costs and put the inmates to work. One of the companies that grew out of this is Prison Blues. Inmates get paid and have a feeling of accomplishment/self-worth and the OCE is beefed up.

    The system is terrible. There are inmates that will be there for life and some that will be in for 2,5,15 years. They need education, jobs, training, and counseling.
    Why not have Edx or Coursera offer these amazing courses from MIT, Stanford and Harvard to prisons?
    Some prisons do have GED courses, there needs to be more.

    This is a part of society that is swept under the rug. It eats it own tail.
    Treat a human like a piece of garbage.....expect that human to treat you the same.
    • Jul 19 2012: Here where I live in Arizona, the only part of the state budget that was increased was for our prisons.

      Joe Arpaio is also infamous for bringing mental aspects of punishment into play, such as pink jumpsuits and food that is dyed to be the wrong color. Does it work? Nope.
  • Aug 7 2012: This is an interesting question I had to answer when completing my Master's degree. First, society must answer why the need for prisons. Do we use prisons for deterrence? Do we use prisons for rehabilitation? What is the use for prisons? Studies have shown that the threat of prison has little to no deterrent effect on first time offenders and even less of a deterrent effect on repeat offenders. So, the answer to the deterrence question is that prison has little to no deterrent effect.

    Rehabilitation has shown positive results concerning recidivism (repeat offenders). When a person received rehabilitative treatment, designed for that person, the chances they will re-offend decrease. This is evidence below by the comment from John Young. However, so few of our prisons offer the type of rehabilitation required to reduce recidivism. There aren't enough workers to develop a plan for each inmate, and generic rehabilitation plans don't always work.

    The last, and intentionally left out, reason for prison is justice. In the most recent, horrific case, the Aurora,CO movie massacre, the victims and victim's families will be demanding justice, and rightfully so. We use our prison system to exact justice on offenders. This, though, creates a vicious cycle: someone breaks the law and is sent to jail/prison, because they do not get the necessary rehabilitative treatment, when they get out of prison, they re-offend, and the cycle continues until the person gets a sentence that leaves them behind bars for a significant period of time, or they commit a crime so heinous that they must spend a significant amount of time in prison.

    Last, more recent studies show that most people behind bars have some sort of mental health issue. Fortunately, police are being trained to identify this before arrest.

    We have not, as a country, gotten this right yet. The answer is out there, but unfortunately, too many people pay too high a price while the rest of us try to find the right answer.
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    Jul 28 2012: Prison must become a true correctional facility. Currently, especially in the United States, many prisons are more focused on keeping the prisoners in and away from the general populace. However, this attitude carries with it the unfortunate side effect of repeat offenders. This is why we have prisons over capacity.

    So what do is to be done about it? Not to be inhumane, but conditions cannot be this good in prisons. For many offenders, a stay in prison is a free stay in a hotel. I am not advocating a concentration camp by any means, but rather, prison must be perceived as a punishment. Furthermore, an interest must be taken in the lives of those in these facilities. An attempt must be made to help these individuals.
  • Jul 27 2012: I worked for 17 years in a maximum security prison in Australia, as an operational "on the ground" prison officer, and got to know a lot of prisoners well, on a personal level.

    Mad, Bad, and Sad are 3 appropriate generalisations, which I would agree with.

    You seem to overlooked one other important category, those criminals who have freely CHOSEN this lifestyle, with occasional incarceration seen as nothing more than an "occupational hazard".

    Conjugal visits are now allowed in many facilities , to try to maintain the integrity of the prisoners family unit.

    The hours are good, about 4-5 hour work per day,....If you CHOOSE to work ...and in the newer up to date facilties, a level of comfort such as air conditioning and heating, pool tables,.. colour cable TV's in each cell... are not available to many honest citizens.

    Taxpayer funded ...

    (i.e.free to the prisoner) medical, dental, dietry and psychological support.
    Meals if required, to meet your religious beliefs,i.e Ramadan for Muslims.

    Free gym, swimming pool, playing fields and general sporting equipment . Free cable television. Free educational programs, up to and including University level.
    Support from lots of well meaning individuals and organisations to assist prisoners "rehabilitation"

    (The root meaning of this word is to "restore to the previous level of functional capacity"..).

    In 17 years, I could count the number of prisoners I knew, who turned their lives around , on the fingers of both hands.
    The rest (about 70%) are recidivists, who come and go through the "revolving door" As late as 1980 prisons around the world , had generally pretty undesirable conditions for prisoner to live in.
    Now for a lot of intellectually and socially challenged individuals, prison is the BEST LIFE THEY ARE LIKELY TO HAVE.
    The sadness of this sitiuation is not lost on me, but the solution to incarcerating more and more dysfunctional, and often mentally ill people certainly is.

    Any ideas out there ?
    • Aug 5 2012: Terry
      Good points well made and I don't believe there is a one cap fits all here.Personally I would have jails categorised on type of crime and the regime would reflect that.However we have to accept we are a western civilisaton whose principles and values are not to torture or kill (sometimes unfortunate in my opinion)
      Because we can't ever be everything to everybody I believe to work with those recidivists who come from fractured societies is a journey worth going on,and here at HMP Leeds we are changing men from crime to taxpayer.
  • Sandy S

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    Jul 25 2012: I don't think prison works because the objective is unclear. Is prison supposed to punish or rehabilitate?

    If punishment is the focus, then it should fit the crime which means there shouldn't be cookie-cutter sentences forced onto the judges and juries.

    If rehabilitation is the focus, there first needs to be honest discussions about whether perpetrators of certain crimes can or cannot be rehabilitated.

    Finally, the two need to be separated. Exposing someone who can be "rehabbed" to someone who cannot is, as we see, a recipe for disaster.
  • W R

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    Jul 24 2012: Someone somewhere else said this more eloquently.

    It's a question of "Rehabilitation vs Retribution."

    Do you want to rehabilitate people to become working members of the public or do you want to enact retribution against them to make sure "Justice Is Served"? Rehabilitating someone who you want justice to be served is a much different goal then rehabilitating people. You could say they are polar opposites. Meaning, society must pick one or the other. Having both is almost impossible.

    Most societies around the world, so far, has been picking retribution. If retribution is the goal, then, yes, prison does work.
  • Jul 24 2012: A Added note to my earlier comment: Somethng to think about. If you put a non-voilent offender in regular prison population either the offender becomes a victim or the offender has to turn violent to survive. With that said the prison system is potentially creating more violent offenders with its policies, Being released to to prey on the public.I guess that one of the questions for me to ask in that respect is the current prison system creating violent offenders out of non-violent offenders with its polocies? Just something to ponder..
  • W R

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    Jul 21 2012: The answer to that question is that it's complicated - especially when you look at prison as it relates to private matters. Let's take this above prison and bring in the idea of law enforcement itself. Why not go even above that? Back in the old Roman days, murder was considered a private matter. Thus you can say if someone killed a relative, the family's anger is shown and they seek vengeance. The person they seek vengeance on may or may not be the one who killed their relative in the first place. Thus if you keep going, you'll see a lot of killing was done mostly because people have an innate desire to right what is wrong, per say, even when they are wrong.

    Thus the idea of prison and systemic justice was created to control this innate human thirst for revenge. Did it work all the time? Of course not, but you follow that thread, you can see how a lot of things we as society creates really have nothing to what we say they do. The loss of one item or person is sad but the cascading result of people going after other people just to satisfy the loss of the first thing results in 1000x the damage. Society can survive with one or two losses. Society cannot survive if everyone goes after each other due to that one or two losses.

    Thus you can see, law enforcement and prison in itself has one major purpose. To control the innate human desire for VENGEANCE and REVENGE. To balance the equation of something lost. To basically prevent people from "taking things into their own hands."

    It's pretty tragic when you think about it. Also, I didn't cover prison use for political or power reasons which opens another can of worms.
    • Jul 22 2012: nice! you got me thinking!! good comment.
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    Jul 21 2012: Nothing works until people behind it make it to work for
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    Jul 21 2012: Prisons were designed for one single purpose. That is to punish. In that capacity, yes they work.

    If you want to reform somebody, change their behavior or right a societal wrong, look someplace else.
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        Jul 21 2012: Nobody is disputing that. Just don't expect positive reinforcement to come from a system designed to punish people.

        The people that work there have not been trained for it. They are trained to take whatever little you have away from you if you do not conform to structure. Including the privilege of speaking to another person.

        It is a punishment system.

        No gold stars or lolly pops in prison.

        There are good reasons for this. Maybe some people should go work with career criminals before you start thinking positive reinforcement is the appropriate response.
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        Jul 21 2012: Linda and Griffin,
        Perhaps you have hit on the underlying cause of the conundrum?

        Linda, you write..."Prisons were designed for one single purpose. That is to punish".

        Griffin writes..." i've read that while punishment works in the short-term very well, positive re-enforcement works better for the long term"

        Linda..."Nobody is disputing that. Just don't expect positive reinforcement to come from a system designed to punish people".

        I totally agree with this dialogue. We (society) are trying to change a well established structure (punishment), with new information we have about cause and effect (education and reparative practices).

        While many of us see the benefits/positive effects of the new paradigm, there are obviously still people who are stuck in the old paradigm.

        Although my interactions in facilities were not usually with "hardened criminals", I did have a few of those interactions. It was a man doing life in prison, who introduced me to the book and workbook called "Houses of Healing", by Robin Casarjian. He was reading the book, showed it to me, and suggested that I facilitate sessions based on the ideas in the book, which I agreed to do.

        I spoke to the administration about it, and they enthusiastically encouraged me to proceed. I got a list of names of offenders who wanted to participate, ordered the books, got a CO who agreed to be present, which was required, arranged for a conference room within the facility for a certain time weekly, etc.

        When the books arrived, I passed them out to those who expressed an interest. The next time I went back to the facility to co-facilitate another program I was doing, I discovered that the books had been confiscated by the administration as being "illegally brought into the facility", and the program, which had not yet started, was cancelled.

        The program based on "Houses of Healing" is used in at least a couple facilities in the US as a requirment for early release, and seems to be very helpful.
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        Jul 21 2012: @ Griffin
        No it is not about the money. Money simply medicates the underlying spiritual distress. But somehow money is easier to rhyme. The truth in rap is beneath the words. Rap is superficial.

        People are in prison because they are under such spiritual distress that their behavior warrants a 'time out' from society. They may be drug dealers or murderers but whatever, they are not allowed free reign in society.

        I disagree that turning prisons into schools or rehab centers will address the underlying problem. You're just gonna have educated criminals that are in touch with their feelings.

        Rehab may give socially acceptable alternatives to current behavior but to work it in that direction, you must provide experiences that 'cancel out,' for lack of a better term, their previous experiences that developed socially unacceptable behavior in the first place. That is very time and labor intensive and will need to leverage WAY more resources than simple incarceration provides.

        Recitivism rates happen not only because prisoners revert back to previous behavior, but also because for some people, prison provides structure, health care, and three square meals a day that many cannot manage outside of the system. There are no jobs, no housing, no relationships, no NEED to develop new skills. People will always default to what worked before.

        @ Colleen. You ran into the fact that the system is not designed to help anybody. It is simply glorified babysitting. Basic needs are met and that is all. (Maslow level 1). Also for some people, those needs would not be met without the system.

        What we need to do is think OUTSIDE the prison system. If we can address the circumstances that result in incarceration in the first place we may be at a starting point. Then address what happens after incarceration. And then, with sufficient data, maybe we can address what happens within the system itself.

        But in the end, people will not vote to give criminals more.
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          Jul 21 2012: Linda,
          I like the idea of turning prisons into schools, rehab centers, or as I suggested in a previous comment on this thread, and other discussions about incarceration...self sustaining villages, where offenders can learn life skills, including how to earn an honest living, and how to live peacefully in community:>)

          I agree with you that we need to provide experiences that "cancel out" previous experiences including unacceptable behavior. Again, that is why I believe self sustaining villages, with the opportunities I suggest might be helpful.

          Did you read my previous comments Linda? I didn't actually run into anything. I volunteered with the dept. of corrections for 6 years, in a number of different capacities. I was NOT there to babysit anybody!

          I've been thinking outside the box on this issue for many years...which is...again, why I keep suggesting self-sustaining villages. As I co-facilitated "cognitive self change" sessions, there were guys who came in directly from the gardens, and we could see, feel and observe the difference in their ability to accept and assimilate information...much more open minded and willing to learn something new. They had been working hard, in fresh air and sun on a productive project.

          I'm sure you know Linda, that sometimes, change needs to happen WITHIN a system, You're absolutely right in that it is necessary to address what happens before AND after incarceration. We HAVE sufficient data. Now we need to implement it:>)

          We don't need to "give criminals more". We need to give them what is appropriate for the benefit of the whole.

          Oh...BTW...when I stopped volunteering at one correctional facility, there was an investigation, after which the 4 top administrators were replaced. Coincidence? Not likely. When funding for corrections was on the agenda for the state legislature, I testified about the abuses by the administrators, I witnessed while in the facility, which prompted an investigation, which led to change.

          YES WE CAN!
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          Jul 21 2012: One of the reasons that criminals are criminals are from the help of the likes of those administrators. You mentioned the book class being cancelled that sent up red flags to me.
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          Jul 21 2012: Linda

          The difference between ethics and justice are that ethics are something that an individual does for himself and justice is something that society has to do because the individual has not used ethics on himself.

          It follows that the transgressions that did in the individual are the ones he did to himself causing him to loose self respect.

          This is the key area that most of us need to work on criminal or otherwise
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        Jul 21 2012: Colleen, I know that you were not there to babysit anyone. But the people that work there are trained to do little more than that and prevent altercations. When you strip someone of what it means to be human, it tends to lead to more violence.

        I like the idea of self sustaining villages but I also understand how prison really works. If a lot of violent people are incarcerated together it precipitates the violent behavior. Some corrections officers are correct when they are trying to prevent altercations.

        If you truly believe self-sustaining villages will work, do it. Write the grant, facilitate with the appropriate facilities, develop the model, and implement it. Demonstrate the cost effectiveness. I really do not think it will work for violent offenders. I think we might be talking about different prison population groups.
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          Jul 21 2012: Yes Linda, I agree...
          When we strip someone of what it means to be human, it tends to lead to more violence.

          I agree that when a lot of people are incarcerated together, it precipitates the violent behaviors.

          Thank you for your advice. As I've stated several times, I've been working toward change for many years in the best way I know how....participation in the process.

          You are right...there are many different levels of offences, and many different types of people and offenders in our world.
  • JEFF D.

    • +1
    Jul 20 2012: Part 2 of my comment
    I think that the root of the majority of the problems human kind has, are because some people believe that they are better than others or certain people for whatever reason (or above the law) . I heard a rapper once say “try take man from his soul, you will on strengthen his, and lose your own”. Also I think the EQUAL idea should for apply rising, and educating children- not raise them with FORCE, but with understanding, , and educate their kids, WITHOUT force. Example- if a parent really believes that kids should not curse all the time, they shouldn’t curse all the time either (these days even kids develop independent thinking at early ages- ---the same goes for criminals, they are people like you and me) in a way prisons try to degrade criminals of being humans by treating them like trash. FORCING them to a certain extend its not the way!. A lot of prisoners also need health, and mental assistance-they should more hospital like. If prisons keep the forcing criminals to behave method, the criminals won’t really change –and nothing gets solve!
  • JEFF D.

    • +1
    Jul 20 2012: CLEARLY PRISON DOES NOT WORK. I theorize that the reason of why an inmate decided to break the law in the first place is the problem worth resolving. Much too often the people that break the law, and do really bad things, are those with rough pasts. I think that one cannot change an independent thinker with his or hers own views on life and the world such as criminals, by brute force (example- Plato). If one really wants to change a person, or make then fully understand why their actions and behavior were bad, one has to treat the person as his or hers EQUAL. If a criminal is uneducated due to a lack of education- educate him or her. Do not treat them like worthless trash (make prisons less shiity). Explain to that person why his or hers actions were BAD, if necessary even debate the broken LAW itself- (example Jesus was locked up for teaching people his beliefs). Also explain to them that if someone else commits the same crime it is still bad (don’t exclude yourself). A lot of times people feel rebellious against the world because they believe the government or a special someone or group is above the law.- THAT right there BREAKS the EQUAL idea. For this to work no one should be above the law-if we wish to come to an understanding with each other and the entire world. As of right now we are hopeless, prisons dot not truly works over time. Something I think the government should focus on is the kids in need that are statistically almost destined to end up in prison, physically and mentally.
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      Jul 20 2012: So very true about the need to treat people as equals. Making prisons less shitty seems like such a surface approach to such a deeply rooted problem, but I'm sure you're right that it couldn't hurt if the environment itself sent a less condescending message.
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      Jul 20 2012: JEFF D,
      You bring up a LOT of good points about things that need attention if we are ever going to change crime and our prison systems.

      One of the most important things you mention is children. You talk about kids, and how we could be better models for our kids. You talk about humans not being treated like trash. I agree...how can we expect people to behave differently, if they are not treated differently? We can't....you are right about that. How can we (adult humans) continue to be poor role models for children, and expect the kids to act/react differently? We can't. If we continue to do the same things over and over again, we will get the same results.

      You say..."the government should focus on... kids in need that are statistically almost destined to end up in prison".

      I agree, and add...we all need to focus on kids at risk. One way we can do this as a society, is to get involved with mentoring programs for kids at risk. These programs are available in most states/cities/towns in the US.
      • JEFF D.

        • +1
        Jul 21 2012: thank you for that reply. i'm glad you understand my point. but just to let you know, i' am a kid myself. i'm only 15. i agreed with your statement about getting involve with mentoring programs for kids at risk, we should!
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          Jul 21 2012: Hi JEFF D!
          The fact that you are only 15 is even better! You are our future my friend, and your insightful comments ( and comments of other very intuitive, perceptive teens on TED) give me hope for the future!
  • Jul 20 2012: I remember an episode of The A Team which is about "prison reform" called Pros and Cons released in 1983 where there is a program for inmates to learn trades (hairdresser being one of them).
    Even before that time many researchers also claimed that educating the velons (or should we say 'corrupted victims') works really well.

    And nowdays we know for sure. Although I don't have any links, at this time (well I have a dutch research which is linked on wikipedia where they claim to have 47% less repeats compared to just prison time), I have heard of several programs for mild offenses have been lowering the repitition of similar actions a lot.
    I think many law systems use 'task punishment' where the offender is forced to do a task to undo his wrongdoing (possibly in combination with a few days in prison).
    I guess it all falls under Rehabilitation according to law stuff (but I'm no expert on this.... going from your job title I would expect you to know much much much more about this than me.... I'm actually confused as to why you're posting a viewpoint so widely spread and supported.)
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      Jul 21 2012: Hi Richard,
      Perhaps the discussion was started to further explore and bring more attention to this issue? I agree with you that the viewpoint is widely spread and supported. I do not, however, see it implemented. If it was effectively used, we would not be seeing overcrowding of prisons and construction of new facilities to house the growing number of offenders.

      We've known for a long time that reparative practices like education, learning trades, and community service, works, and these practices are used in some places, some of the time. I believe we need to ramp up the use of these practices in our courts and correctional facilities/prisons.
      • Jul 21 2012: You could be right about what his intentions are but I interpreted his text like "Is there any better way in which we can treat convicted felons of minor crimes than to throw then in a cell for a few days?". Ofcourse my interpretation could be wrong... but that's what I had in mind when I wrote the reply.
  • Jul 19 2012: I guess the answer depends on "Does it work for WHO?" It certainly does not work for the prisoner or society as a whole. It may work well for those involved with the prison system.
    Some great work is being done with the help of a Federal Judge in Oregon and a company called SOI Service. It's called the re-entry program. SOI stands for Structure of Intellect. This system helps identify some of the educationally related root causes why someone may have disconnected from education and gone down a destructive path. Once those barriers to learning are discovered the inmates are connected with some work/study toward areas they are most likely to be successful. The Judge and her collegues were creative enough to acquire a parcel of land and began growing fruits and vegetables to aid the area's hungry. This, I believe gave the inmates a true sense of purpose and inspired them to "RE-Connect" to a societly in which they may had never truly felt a part.
    This method of academic and career self-improvement is very effective and if ijmplemented in schools as an early childhood intervention tool would prove the point as no student would fall years and years behind in reading or any other subject ie "Certified Learning" See www.soisystems.com
  • Jul 19 2012: I disagree that burglars are "sad" and "need help," but I agree that prison does not work well for them. It puts them into a society where their only friends are other criminals. Prison serves to protect the public from violent offenders, but in terms of rehabilitation I think it does little.
  • Jul 18 2012: The criminal justice system doen't provide equal treatment. Much of the bias is socio-economic and the way that certain laws are written that target the poor. Here are some examples.

    If you steal hundreds of thousands from clients in a white collar crime with no prior record and a good lawyer, you may lose your license or get minimal jail time. This crime may cause many people that were victimized to die from suicide or cause them to hurt themselves or others from the frustration of lost fortune.
    If you shoot someone while holding them up for a few hundred dollars and you are poor with no lawyer, you are going to jail for a long time.
    If you have an addiction to prescription drugs like painkillers and you are caught forging prescriptions or buying from someone illegally and you are wealthy, you may end up being sent to rehab, or probation.
    If you are a crack addict and you steal to support your habit, you are going to jail for a long time.
    Many people in jail are poor and uneducated. They are being punished for making bad decisions from a limited choice of decisions. If they were fortunate enough to have access to money, they would not have ended up in jail.
    Jail will not fix why they ended up in jail. You can teach them all the lessons you want, but it will not change their situation when they get out. That's why many end up back in jail.
    So to wrap it up:
    No, jail does not work.
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      Jul 19 2012: Very much so. Law is made to protect property and not to do justice.
      Prison by the way is the university for the skill of crime. From prison they fall back in worse conditions than when they got in and are better equipped to commit any crime without being caught. Most part though of the convicts have mental problems and need psychiatric care.
    • Jul 19 2012: This is not true for my parents' neighbor, who comes from an upper-middle-class family and has been in jail several times.
      • Jul 19 2012: There are bad apples from every socio-economic level. However, there is a disproportionate amount of poor people of color who are serving long sentences in state prisons. County jails are different than state prisons in terms of the types of criminals that they deal with and the length of incarceration.
        Without knowuing what the crime was, it's hard to apply any comparisons btween this person and other people in jail.
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    Gail . 50+

    • +1
    Jul 16 2012: The saddest thing about our "justice" systems is that they do not have to be necessary at all. Governments already know how to drastically - if not abolish - crime and violence that is the scourge of our inner cities. It knows how to change the poverty/wealth dynamic that is responsible for the issues that CREATE the PERCEIVED need for prisons that house criminals in places where they learn how to escalate the violence. The problem? Criminal justice systems - as well as war and illness - are profitable businesses. Erase the problems and the economy will fail.

    How to fix it? Did you know that if the square root of one percent of a city's population were to gather into a group to meditate (trained meditators), that crime and violence will be reduced by 16-24% (consistently - now in 600 studies)? Most governments have conducted their own studies, as have major universities around the world. So why the silence? There is more evidence of this than there is evidence that aspirin ends a headache. So why is no one in government talking about this? Answer: $$$$$ (£££££)

    In the US, in the most violent prison in America, someone decided to use a voluntary meditation technique to teach prisoners empathy (meditation is particularly good at doing this). The state objected because it wasn't "Christian" enough. The program was ended by the legislature.

    Some inner city schools are using experimental meditation programs that are ending school bullying, gangs hanging around the school are leaving, focus and improved self-esteem are growing. But the christian community is objecting because it's too un-Christian.

    There are groups that go into war zones with the purpose of reducing / ending violence, and consistent with all experimental data, are achieving success, but these groups are silenced. Why? War is profitable, peace is not.

    Start with Pavlov. Neg. reinforcement =/= positive effects. So why do we build jails in spite of alternatives?

    Enforced ignorance!
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    Jul 16 2012: Atleast in my countries prisons don't work...
    There are hardly very few prisons which try to rehabilitate prisoners else the prisoners are harrased by the long term inmates and the jailers give a damn ... These kind of treatment will make the prisoner more aggressive and might eventually end up joining mafia ... Since there are so many loopholes in our judiciary, even the person is caught again ,his lawyer will ensure he is released on bail....

    Solution is to keep rehab centres in prison, understand prisoners background and find the root cause for the crime...
  • Jul 16 2012: works for some people but most of them never forget the hatred theyve got inside them
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      Jul 21 2012: This is a good point Aryana,
      We can contribute to change on some levels, and some people may never forget the hatred they have inside.
      That is what we need to attempt to touch, if we ever want to really change our societies.