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..

  • 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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    • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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..
  • 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.
  • 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!
  • 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.
      • 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 .

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    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.
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    Jul 16 2012: No it does not. In the U.S. it has to do with most of the prisoners are drug addicts. The public unions want lots of prisoners for job security. The prison are basically human warehouses.

    Basically society is telling someone in prison that he is a liability to society. Yet they do nothing to help him and he gets out of prison and continues to be a liability. The prisoner has lost his self respect.

    The solution is to allow the individual to do what people naturally do. This is to make up for the damage done. This means allow them to produce something. This makes up for the damage done and the production helps to bring back self respect. Or you can use following technique sort of like scared straight:



    Two young guys appear in court after being arrested for smoking dope.
    The judge says, "You seem like nice young men, and I'd like to give you a second chance instead of jail time. I want you to go out this weekend and try to convince others of the evils of drug use. I'll see you back in court Monday."

    On Monday, the judge asks the first guy, "How did you do over the weekend?"

    "Well, your honor, I persuaded 17 people to give up drugs forever."
    "Seventeen people? That's wonderful. How did you do it?"

    "I used a diagram, your honor. I drew two circles like this: O o. Then I told them that the big circle is your brain before drugs and the small circle is your brain after drugs."

    "That's admirable," says the judge. Then he turns to the second guy. "And how did you do?"

    "Well, your honor, I persuaded 156 people to give up drugs forever."

    "Wow!" says the judge. "156 people! How did you manage to do that?"

    "Well, I used a similar diagram," the guy says. "I drew two circles like this: o O. Then I pointed to the little circle and said, 'This is your sphincter before prison...
  • Aug 13 2012: Steve
    My last comment on your question"Does prison work"?. If you look at history you will see that prison was ment to punish not rehabilitate. That is all well and good if you are punishing people who have been violent to others. But there are a lot of people in prison for non-violent offenses. My concern is this: Alot of the prison inmates will be released sooner or later whether probation or they have done their time. The key questions is what kind of person do you release to society? And are we turning non-violent inmates into violent inmates with the current policies. In a earlier comment I mentioned ideas on how to solve this issue. We have the technology to track anyone,anywhere.We have a lot of community service that needs to be addressed ( Infastructure ). We have a large amount of non-violent inmates that could be doing these things as a way of doing their punishment instead of being locked up. That is a productive solution to over crowding and the cost and problems associated with it. Do we really want people coming out of prison that are potentially more dangerous than when they went in? In that respect would it not be more cost efficent and safer for society to have other forms of punishment than just prison which I believe is a breeding ground for chaos for society now and in the future. Major changes are needed in how we deal with all offenders. Violent and Non-Violent.
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    Aug 12 2012: There are two ways to look at the function of prisons – for punishment and for rehabilitation. We've become obsessed with punishment that we forget the other function. There is no better way to bring this out than looking to the reaction of the British public, recently, when there was a bid from Europe to give prisoners the right to vote.
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    Aug 12 2012: The problem is that in many places prisons are effectively being used as poorly functioning mental health and addiction facilities. The mentally ill need to be separated from the rest of the population and drug treatment needs to be available for prisoners.

    The prison system needs to be diversified, so a wide variety of treatments and methods of rehabilitation are available for people who work in corrections. There are a lot of different reasons for why people end up in prison. Some people are desperate, some are cold calculating criminals, others get thrown in on purpose hoping for a warm place to sleep for the winter. Those who work in corrections need a wide variety of tools.

    Cramming everybody into cells just makes things worse. They don't call it con college for nothing. People with mental illness get worse. Drug addicts find all the drugs they want in there with nothing else to do and end up more addicted. Gangs have even more power to intimidate and lure in people than they do on street, and the skills of crime get passed on.

    There is definitely room for improvement. Rehabilitation doesn't always work but sometimes it does. Like other forms of social work, its a real art that is difficult to master, but the rewards for society are great.
  • Aug 12 2012: EXTREMELY complex question you know. Reading several comments it seems country of origin matters. I happen to be from the land of the free(USA) where we have gone incarceration crazy. Prison most certainly DOES work for the wealthy elites who run most every modern society. As the USA has become even more stratified, and the gulf between the 'haves' and the 'have nots' approaching historical proportions not seen since the gilded age of the robber barons.
    So I would suggest that the greater the rate of inequalities of wealth and income widen, the greater the possible need of prisons is. Of course, prison only exacerbates this process. So from the perspective of, say, "inmate life-situation improvement", prison fails in a majority of cases. My assertions are from casual observation, nothing more! Since I was myself incarcerated, I have read extensively on the subject. I was lucky. I was born into "haves" and got in trouble getting high(morphine, cocaine) my whole life. It took over 3 decades to finally hit prison. Upon release, my family was supportive. I remained clean for 5 years, then made an informed decision to return to narcotic use. However, prison taught me the importance of doing it legally. So thru Methadone clinics, sympathetic doctors and geographical/cultural differences I remain free.
    One last point about prisons. In America, they may become the only safety net available to the very poor and disenfranchised. I would be very reluctant to even consider shutting them all down. For many, you could say personal rehabilitation is a somewhat unintended consequence of prison. I say that because I believe in America prison is based on 3 faulty premises:

    1) Crime is Sin
    2) All but the mentally incompetent have "free will" and one's actions are "chosen" and, lastly,
    3) Sinners deserve punishment

    My comments only scratch the surface of the question. Does prison work? First I would want to know "For who?"

    Tom
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    Aug 12 2012: Add there also "forced" category. There are people who are simply forced to rob to live. I do NOT justify them, I do judge the governments which tolerate that.

    About working... yes, it works. But only for those who are convicted for 3-5 years. There's enough time to think about everything you've done. If you didn't - you're hopeless, and it's much easier to execute you because you pack a wallop to the society and it still costs something to keep you.
  • Aug 12 2012: It is very interesting that the great majority of people who are in prison have come from backrounds that were strikingly disadvantaged and often included neglect and abuse. Many also live with mental health issues and have not been well educated and these factors compound their challenges. This is not to say that people who are raised in poverty and/or with violence cannot transcend thier formative influences and environmental conditioning. Many do. However, one's life chances are affected by one's access to opportunity. For example: If a person starts in a home where they are neglected and abused, have inadequate nutrition and are fearful because of violence in thier community, they must work quite hard to beat the odds and move into a life of security. Some may not be able to reach thier full potential (even with
    support) if they have sustained damage to thier brain (or brain chemistry) from the trauma experienced in thier youth.

    And the bottom line: if I were very hungry and saw no way to find food, I woudl be more tempted to steal fruit from a tree than if I walked by that same tree with a full belly ... (especially, if I walked by that tree as a hungry child and grew into a hungry adult without much hope of ever owning a tree of my own.)
  • Aug 12 2012: The short answer is No. The longer answer is to open the can of worms that details criminal conduct... the penal code. The legislature seeks to address the harm caused by individuals and institutions engaging in criminal acts. In the case of violent crimes, prison acts as a holding cell for the criminally violent so that society at large can be protected from their violent tendencies. This has to be a correct action... for society to protect its law-abiding citizens from its predatory ones.

    Another aspect of the prison sentence is the need to demonstrate that society is displeased with the criminal's behaviour and one element of sentencing (the duration) is usually thought to show society's displeasure. Finally, prison is supposed to contain an element of rehabilitation and this is where the system in the UK appears to fall down.

    The strongest human instinct is that of survival and criminals are clearly not considering their own survival when committing crimes. It is reasonable to suppose that their higher centres are over-riding the need to survive and so they have somehow arrived at having warped thinking processes. If this proposition has any credence, all criminal acts are acts of insanity and yet we know that greed and upbringing also play a part in criminal mentality.

    Back to the laws... most of the penal code is concerned with property rights and it must have been the need to hang on to one's own property that prompted the penal code. Happily, no-one is hung today in the UK but there was time when the justifiable (if petty) theft of food, to feed a starving child who lived on our streets, would have seen the miscreant hanged.

    When our public representatives stole public money, very few were prosecuted, let alone jailed. Our bankers have been cheating us on a grand scale yet jail sentences are not handed down. This double standard must anger petty criminals no end. Career criminals are set a wonderful example of how to behave by society's leaders.
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    Aug 11 2012: I feel that if we as a society could get under both the self judgment and the judgment of what we label 'offenders' to the point of admitting that if we were in the persons' shoes who committed the crime, we would have done the exact same thing; would be so huge in making our penal systems into something we haven't conceived of yet.

    To say 'I would never do such a horrible thing if I were them,' is really to say 'I would never do such a thing because I am not them.' and leaves you and them crippled in the domain of self superiorizing comparative difference, and affords no true and lasting healing.

    This doesn't make abusive behaviours OK. In fact, it makes them out to be much deeper offenses against our mutual humanity. People live and breathe out of their perception of others view and opinion of them. Our penal system at root reflects our rejection of our own humanity. That, IMO, is why it is failing, thank God. It needs to reach the end of it's natural life cycle.

    We all suffer under a corrections paradigm that is truly a carry over from dark ages barbarism, and is rooted in our self punishment and rejection or ourselves.
    • Aug 12 2012: To say 'I would never do such a horrible thing if I were them,' is really to say 'I would never do such a thing because I am not them.' and leaves you and them crippled in the domain of self superiorizing comparative difference, and affords no true and lasting healing.


      The above is a very good point, Wayne.
  • Aug 10 2012: The problem is exascerbated by the novice criminal who enters the prision system for a stipulated period of time only to re-emerge therefrom a relatively short period of time later with enhanced criminal skills, an expanded criminal network of contacts and a more determined mindset calling into question the whole rehabilitation and positive educational process he was supposed to undergo while incarcerated.
  • Aug 10 2012: NYes prison works if you are asking does it keep that person convicted off the street for the crime that was committed.For rehabilitation purposes NO it ultimatly is up to the person sentenced there to make the choice to do the things that need to be done in order to not have to go back.
  • Aug 9 2012: You have to keep this simple. Rehabilitation does NOT work. I have seen people laugh while they walk out and go and do the same crime again within the next month.

    If they are in prison, they are not commiting crimes. Simple as that. We don't care about making him a better person, they know its wrong yet they have commited the crime. Everyone else can manage their life fine without mugging someone, they chose to. Punishment is rehabilitation.

    There is a reason that they are going to prison, they broke the law. Simple. No excuses.

    The fact that here in england we say "We have run out of room in prisons so we are making more crimes no jailable offences". What is that?

    Thats completely the wrong way of doing it, I would rather my tax money went into building more prisons and locking every offender up. Simple, it would cost less than the damage they cause anyway, and the fact that with the public knowing that offenders are just walking around, people actually do not feel safe walking around in their community anymore. What kind of life is that, where you are made to feel weak and powerless in your own area. You should never be made to feel worthless by anyone.

    The laws are there for the benifit of every other person in this country. They broke it, they lose the privilege of being in society. The fact that they get let of so easily and basically rewarded with playstations etc in prisons, means more kids are growing up, not caring because they know they will get let off.
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      Aug 9 2012: "You should never be made to feel worthless by anyone" I think is actually a pretty good argument about why jails DON'T work. A cycle that keeps certain people and families and communities with no opportunities and no support from society is detrimental to everyone. If people were allowed to feel a sense of self-worth from the start, they might have better things to turn to than crime.
      • Aug 9 2012: No matter how hard we try, it has been proven by countries like Germany, England, Spain etc, that integration of different communities does not work. It's easy to say that "we should all get along with one another", but its another thing to get it working. Some groups of people will never mix.

        How do you suppose we make all these criminals suddenly change their ways and become good hard working citezens?

        It's nothing to do with the community they are in, they as a person, have known since day one that crime is unacceptable.

        What kind of message are we sending out to the world and the population that you have to work hard in life to get the things you want, and then someone else that hasnt tried can steal them from you without concequence, and without giving you full compensation because they "Cannot afford it"?
  • Aug 7 2012: I'm not sure that this is germane to your question but I'd like to say it anyway.
    I agree with everything you say but I believe that if you wait until the child has already learned to be remorselessly self absorbed, you will fail. Instead we must take our educational system and recreate, from its ashes, a system which encourages the individual to follow his own passions/interests wherever they may lead.
  • Aug 7 2012: The system of imprisonment is failing because of social laziness and sluggish state bureaucracy.

    It's contradictory that the official mantra of all western prison systems is "Rehabilitation rather than punishment", when individuals are actually being incarcerated with little real prospect of rehabilitation.

    Introducing satellite institutions that could provide educational, medical or social treatment to prisoners would be a rewarding task for society. It requires intricate involvement of authorities, which is difficult when facing the current level of efficiency amongst the governing institutions in general.
  • Aug 7 2012: There is a guy in my neighborhod ( let's call him Harold) and he has a pretty serious drug and alchohol problem ( he is also diagnosed as having Bi-polar Disorder. ) A few years ago, Harold stripped the copper piping out of a neighbors house. Harold sat at the curbside waiting for the recycling truck to come and pick the copper up. ( In this way, he was hoping to get paid.) Well ... the cops came before the recycling truck arrived and Harold spent a year in prison (it was a felony to steal that much copper [and I think they added some extra time because he had done it so foolishly.])

    Anyway ... The year passed and Harold was out again. He started to break into cars. One day the owner of one of the cars punched Harold in the face because he had broken into his car twice in one month. Harold had become more well associated with the law during his time in prison. Harold turned around, filed a police report and sued the guy for punching him in the face!!

    So, does prison work?? Well, my neighbor has learned how to not cross the felony line ... These days, he seems to go for more petty stuff that adds up. Harold has "diversified," so to speak. (I guess that counts for something.) Harold definitely has gained a better understanding of the law and he now knows when others cross that felony line (and how to file a proper report.) ... I guess that counts for something as well. I have observed (outside my window, he is still not all that slick) that Harold is also more careful with how he steals and especially with how he SELLS "stuff" ... (Let's just call it all "stuff.")

    But honestly, none of this has gotten him clean or sober, (or proper psychiatric care)These days, he just has frequent but shorter stays in the "clink." By the way,

    I have offered to drive Harold to "meetings" but so far, he hasn't had the time to go. Sigh.
  • Aug 6 2012: Thanks Steve.
    Sounds like you are an up to date, and on the ball, prison officer, social worker, welfare worker, psych nurse, helper volounteer, tradesman civilian overseer, or someone in a similar capacity.
    Did I hit it "right on the head", or not even close ?
    The fact remains , that have seen DOZENS of good people , exactly like you, who have been, blackmailed, had their wives and children threatened, seduced into providing drugs, and even sex, for highly manipulative, career criminals, who just chew up and spit out wonderful, well intentioned people, who as well as doing their job, are GENUINELY interested in the welfare , and rehabilitation, of those inmates they work with.
    After the implementation of the Equal opportunity Act in Australia, guess what, the stated goal of the Victorian (Australia) government, was 50 % of prison (uniform) staff would be FEMALE.(sexuality)
    No matter how well ANY prison is run, somtimes, either for medical, or management reasons, a prisoner has to "locked up", due to an assault taking place..(quite common in prisons), or somtimes because a psychotic episode", has made a mentally ill person, extremely dagerous, to himself, staff, or other prisoners.
    This may be resolved by "chemical restraint", i.e. higher than usual doses of anti-psyctic medication, prescribed by his supervising medical officer (usually a psychiatrist ), or mechanical restraint, if drugs are NOT medically authorised,i.e. Handcuffs, restraint jackets, body chains,batons, attack dogs, (in extreme situations), such as riot, deliberately lit fires, and injury of both civilian and or uniform staff.
    This RARELY happens in modern Corrections, because prisoners are given LOTS, of "goodies", that can be "taken off" them, for disipliniary reasons. Canteen spends,( chocolates, hobby materials,) color T.V.'s Computers, access to the gym, pool, entertainment programs,( watch Johnny Cash in Fulsom Prison, for example.) Only the BEST behaved prisoners,got to that show !..
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    Aug 4 2012: I agree. Work release is benefecial. Alternative programs that hold one accountable are the key.
    Quit holding ones past by holding a felony over someones head, keeping them from getting a job is a mistake!
    Then again Im sure the judges and lawyers and cops all have stock invested in the department of corrections.. It is on the stock market you know.. Its all about money. Until you can take the corruption out then things will change..
  • Jul 29 2012: If I go to jail for the crime i committed, i am probably going to explain to my cell mate how i got caught, and he would eventually do the same. From this interaction we have just learned from our mistakes. We may have learned and taken into fact that our crimes were wrong to begin with. But we also learned how to do them a lot better. Because jail is suppose to serve two purposes, one is to remove the individual from our society, and to allow the individual to reflect on his actions for a period of time sometimes lasting more than 10 years. Imagine if you had 10 years to think about what you could have done better to not get caught, but you also have a wealth of information and experience around you that are thinking the same thing. So a new question, How do we fix this new established problem of the criminal mind?
  • Jul 27 2012: I love your attitude and agree with you, sending you my little reflection on this matter that is close to my heart, as I work with students with behavioural problems and many of them (or their family members) have seen the prison life close up:)

    http://beatastasak.hubpages.com/hub/Scattered-Images-in-My-Mind-Perception-is-everything
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    Jul 25 2012: from my point of view the majority of prisons in their current setup never work, on the contract i see it emphasize the criminal intentions specially knowing that lots of gangs were created in prisons!

    for prisons to be a place where it suppose to rehabilitate people whom were convicted with crimes, it should build programs that help them to get a profession and some sort of informal psychiatric treatment to help eliminating any hidden motives for the crime within the persons souls.

    Also we should have the societies look to the people whom were in prison changed, so instead of always blaming them and make fun of them, treating them like they are part of a social disease, people should treat the like human beings, we all do mistakes that either we can get the punishment for , or escape with none. So we should look with tolerance and give them the second chance to be good people again. also note that i am not saying the all criminals are same, there are some kinds of crimes that needs a special handling and this should be taken care off while we are building such culture.
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    Jul 25 2012: Prison does work, but not alway.
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    Jul 25 2012: I understand that society needs some kind of system in place to keep order and also that individuals need some kind of comfort that those who wronged them but is there there any evidence to suggest that the prison system, as it is now, actually works? This is a serious question. I can not find any data.
  • Jul 24 2012: Except for keeping people off the streets,no. Replaced before the jury gives it's verdict! Lock up all law breakers,big or small and will have to invade and take over Canada to house them.
  • Jul 24 2012: To put those wrongdoers in prisons is necessary because it helps them to know their misbehavior. And this is also helpful to the stability and safety of the society. However, the most important thing is to help rehabilitate them. Stuff like giving them some work in prison will be recommended. They should come to realize their value in the society but not their threat to it instead. Only when they have been aware of their life value can they struggle for a better future, can they achieve something to the society finally.
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    Jul 21 2012: IN MY VIEW:
    Human Being by nature are neutral. The transformation that follows is caused by their perception of the world caused by action/inaction of elements within their senses. Their participation with these elements and action/inaction that follows gives permanence to such transformation. Now these transformation become their identity. These transformation in perspective of society can be judged as Good or Bad. Hence Human Being also get categories into Good or Bad. The only way to fix such a condition is to make them unlearn or relearn what society considers as Good or become self conscious or be locked up away from the society i.e in prison. In reference to the question prison does work in addressing one of the options but if managed well it can do more.
  • Jul 20 2012: This has been well discussed; however, we need to focus on where it doesn't make sense. We can save a fortune by not bothering with insignificant problems or considering alternative methods to bring about changes in behavior.
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    Jul 20 2012: I like to read Sci-Fi. I just read a story about a space travelor who visits planets with many different cultures. Some cultures focus on honor or wealth or forms of power - either economic or military.
    One caught my attention. It focused on politeness. The punishments for impoliteness were severe.
    In sort of a 'three strikes and your out' system, an offender could be fined, jailed or killed. There was an alternative to death: chemical lobotomy. They came out docile and pacified, with a different personality. Most people thought this was the more cruel punishment and would choose death over lobotomy.
    Yes, the 3rd offense, after being taught and fined and jailed, was death or lobotomy. It was the most peaceful of the societies visited in the story. No cussing at each other, no vulgarity aimed at another person, no insulting each other, no rude or sarcastic remarks disparaging the honesty or courage of another.
    Everybody thinking before speaking. It was very refreshing. Self control became the norm.
    Of course there were other laws in the society, but the main point of enforcement was the quickness that offenders were put to death.
    Of course it was just Sci-Fi. No relevance to our society, right? Let's just put them in jail and make slaves of them as we teach them to work...
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      Jul 21 2012: The 2 problems with the polite society, perhaps like China?, is that the hostility becomes masked but make no mistake it is there, secondly the people who get things done and make changes are not big on politeness.
  • Jul 20 2012: Well, first we have to assess what we mean by "work." Do they accomplish the goals of those who imprison people? The key is understanding the goals and they are twofold.

    One goal is punishment and, certainly, is the primary goal. You may not feel it should be, nor do I, but it actually is. Does it work as a punishment? Yes. Most inmates kept longterm are evaluated by their psychologists as suffering from a panoply of problems due to incarceration. Its like a kind of slow torture. There are many who will argue they are satisfied by this because they find their crimes so reprehensible and there are others who feel 2 wrongs don't make a right but in the end, if punishment is the goal, it works.

    The second goal is keeping them away from society. Given that they are imprisoned, we'd have to concede that goal is satisfied as well.

    If the system were run by people who actually wanted to rehabilitate convicts rather than punish them in a chamber of horrors, replete with beatings, rapes and confinement in such small, dim places that a kind of madness must surely ensue, then we'd have to say no, it doesnt work. Convicts exit prisons hardened, unstable, and disturbed. Many have said they learn how to refine their criminal tactics while in a think-tank of crime.

    But can we, as a society, seek to rehabilitate rather than punish? Right now, more and more prisons are springing up under private corporations. Its become very profitable to imprison people. And with wealthy corporations owning politicians, there are many more prisoners who will get no hope of exit. I recently saw a film documenting the construction of a "supermax" prison and a lot of thought went into how to construct cells to emotionally harm the occupants. To keep costs down, they chose not to use electric lights but rather natural sunlight -however steps were taken to ensure there were no windows so the prisoner had not even a tiny view of the outside world. The builders were adamant about this, and gleeful.
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    Jul 19 2012: Well said. You have some very good ideas here :-)
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    • Jul 19 2012: Michael, where does prison work? Certainly not in the United States with a 2/3 recidivism rate. To say sending someone to prison stops them from committing a crime and therefore means prison works, is incredibly short sighted. If we returned to the stockade and left people there for 6 months as an assurance that they would not commit the crime for 6 months, would that mean that stockades work, or that they effectively reduce crime? There are large amount of complicated reasons as to why people go to prison, why they are sentenced in certain ways, and why or why not they reoffend.

      Im not sure sending people to prison serves society at all unless you are dealing with a sociopath. Prisons constantly turn out people who are worse off than when they entered. Just take a look at the statistics in the U.S. that show how many people we have locked up and how futile it has been in the fight against crime.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_incarceration_rate
  • Jul 19 2012: I think prison only works for certain type of offenders. It only works for certain type of convictions such as murderers, rapists, pedophiles, etc. But what it does not work for is small time offenders like drug users, SOME drug dealers. The reason why I say SOME drug dealers is that some times people see the distribution drugs, mainly marijuana dealing as the only out of a situation. Instead, of prison time for small time offenders rehabilitation then, a change of location, with a pay in to education so that the whole burden isn't placed on tax payers. Oh, and for the rapists, pedophiles and murders if rehabilitation is not a reality then i say the death sentence. I know many will disagree.
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    Jul 18 2012: How do Steve
    No they don't work they won't work and can't work at least here in the US. I've read most all the comments and everone agrees the system is broke. We all know there's no rehabilation and for the biggest part it. a good vaction for most. I think to fix the problems we have to overhaul the courts,laws,and the prison system. That's a start then we have to change the way society thinks about crimes and punishment. What constitues a crime and what is a just punishment.
    I also think they should farm and raise livestock make there own clothes and shoes. I believe that all there excess food and meat should go back to schools. There should also make he uniforms fo state employees like state troopers fish and game and the gaurds. This way the state lowers operating cost and you will teach them skills that can be used after prison. No not all these skills apply to life out side those walls but not all of them are going to get out and there's a lot of support jobs that will have to be filled keeping all that equiipment running.
    That would be my suggestion for what its worth the only other problem keeping the lawyers from getting involved and screwing it up
  • Jul 18 2012: Having work at San Quentin State Prison as one of the T.T.A. (a.k.a. E.R.) nurses I say, "No."
  • Jul 18 2012: thanks for the feedaback. there are significant ways to rehabilitate that work and prove to be great successes. unfortunately, they are not universally used. Programs like the DTAP, CEC, and i think Utah has a new project regarding rehabilitation have proved, through research, that a long term in-patient treatment program correlated with aftercare can yield significant results. this can break the cycle of addiction and turn a addict, who drains tax paying money through arrests and incarceration, into a tax paying citizen. we as citizens though, and not to dive to strongly into it, must understand and orchestrate restorative justice as Worrall defines it.
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    Jul 18 2012: I think restitution would work far better and prison should be reserved for the violent and the incorribiles (those pigs who insist upon returning to their slop).
  • Jul 18 2012: i don't think it works. Not at all. But it's the closest thing we have to a solution and until such a time when a better method of rehabilitating someone comes around it is all we have.
    Second it depends on what we think a prisons soul function should be; is it to punish or to rehabilitate. By this i mean that of course prisoners need to be punished and that is actually part of rehabilitation but i am talking about the end game here, the soul purpose. It is no good punishing someone without hope of rehabilitation.
    Also as far as substance abuse goes and the thought that prison might be good way of cleaning someone up is a myth and i think the majority of people know this. I learnt this from my ex girlfriends Dad who was a criminal defence lawyer. All of his clients who suffered from drug abuse all claimed that it was easier for them to get their gear when they were inside compared to on the street.
    Again it's not working but its all we have for now and it might just well be the only thing that is the closest to a solution that we might have to live with.
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    Jul 17 2012: Well said Colleen
    I love the idea of a village set up.
    Also very valid point about privatised Jails
    There are no easy answers.
    Many people get through very difficult childhoods and prosper.
    I guess the question is why don't the rest? Mental Health problems, Personality, Coping Mechanisms, Genetics and the list goes on and on
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      Jul 18 2012: Thanks Sarah,
      The idea of educational programs, and learning skills which offenders can use to honestly earn a living when/if they rejoin society, seems much more appealing to me than spending $65,000 - $85,000 per year per person to keep them in jail. If we want our world to be more safe, we need to change our court and correctional systems, which are NOT working, and have not worked for a very long time.

      I totally agree Sarah...there are a multitude of situations that cause people to offend...mental health, personality, coping mechanisms...as you say...on and on. One size does not fit all, and it would be beneficial for us as a society, to re-vamp our systems to fit some situations, rather than paying to keep people in jail, and/or worry about when/if they get back into society.
  • Jul 17 2012: No.

    Gail?
    Government already knows how? And they are not doing it!!
    What does that tell you? They don't intend to. Wake up please.
    Besides, it isn't up to them it is up to us. Us. Us.

    Get rid of government. They never solve any problems. They benefit and profit from them.
    More and more U.S. prisons are now private businesses, traded on the stock exchange.
    What does that tell you? They need to make a profit in order, not only to survive, but to what?
    GROW! More profits are needed, so, more laws are passed without you voting on them, that will make more citizens criminals, leading to more customers for the private enterprise prison system. Wake up!

    The odds of you now being incarcerated in your life are greatly increasing and they also have you believing in the institutionalization of those in prison so that you never evaluate your own institutionalization that you, as a so-called free-member of society, have been undergoing since you were born. You and the general public are as institutionalized as those in prison. And soon, more of you will be there.

    The cause of crime is money. This has been studied for decades and proven. Get rid of money. No, most of you will scoff, laugh or simply dismiss it.

    We, the People know what needs to be done. Those we wrongly call leaders, also know, but they ain't doing it.
    They have to go, along with their gangs, who have now been turned against those they were sworn to protect, and perform only in servitude to their bosses, which ain't in their oaths.

    Those in power continue to take action while the citizens don't. It is that simple and true.
  • Jul 16 2012: Rehabilitation is controversial, and will remain that way until rehabilitation programs have a much better success rate.

    Even highly successful programs will still have to compete for funds. Spend more on rehabilitating criminals or addicts? Could that money be better spent on childhood education? What money? For many states of the USA, there just isn't any to be spent. And the federal government continues to go further in debt.
  • Jul 16 2012: Hammurabi.
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    Jul 16 2012: A+ to Pat. Prisons are warehousing. There are more crimes, drugs, and sexual offences in prison per population than in the state or country. As a 20 year vet of prison work I can tell you almost all of these people will return to prison. Going to prison does not stop them from running drugs, running prostutes, or conducting other illegal operations. For officer protection we film almost every encounter with inmates. I have been sued for eating pizza, being on duty when a guy got beat up, and ending visits when time was up. I have been on the hit list for over 20 years. As one inmate told me, "your not a bad guy, your on the list because we cannot allow you to tell us what to do. We run this place. Be more like officer XYZ and let us slide and you and your family can be in peace."

    Take a quick quiz ... Tomarrow they are letting mass murderer Joe Hatchet out of prison. He will be living withy a family you associate with and have over for dinner often. They would bring Joe if they continue to come. What are you going to do. You have a spouse and three kids.

    Protesting is one thing but when it becomes personal is totally another.

    All the best. Bob.
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      Jul 16 2012: So what is the solution?
      • Jul 16 2012: We can always just take a page from Hammurabi! :)
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        Jul 16 2012: Pat, Thanks for the reply. I do not think there is a solution. There are, in my opinion, some steps that could reduce the recedivisim. The largest and easiest step would be to consider designer prisons. Each prison now contains murderers, car thiefs, child molesters, white collar, and blue collar felons. (there are many more). Some are in for life and others for 6 months. We expose the lessor criminal to the hardened one who extrots, abuses and rapes the "kid". Initiation into the prison gangs takes time and that is what happens. The counsellors are over run with administrative details they never address the problems. If they were housed by crime then the staff could be trained to address drug, alcohol, or domestic problems that the population represents. It would also allow the security to be better designed to prevent the introduction of the needs of that group. That would not cure any thing but it would address some of the problems and allow the staff a better view of the other problems and begin to find solutions one by one.

        The major problem is that visitor and parents believe everything the prisoner tells them. The families must come to the conclusion that the inmate has problems and work with the staff toward a resolution. Don't get me wrong there are staff problems. Courts need to stop frivilous lawsuits. The general public needs to become knowledgable of the system. Currently they put them away and forget about them. Corrections costs us billions in each state but it is given almost like hush money.

        What do you think Pat?

        All the best. Bob.
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          Jul 16 2012: Bob

          You are probably not going to like this but I think that there are abuses from the legal system as well.

          Don't get me started on Tort law it has nothing to do with justice, but that is not this topic...;

          I'm speaking about California there appear to be quite a bit of coercing the charged individual into copping a plea in order to get the detectives more brownie points and justify their 6 figure salaries.

          Contrary to what you say, from what I read education programs are very successful. I have to think "chain gang programs" would be as well. There was an article I read a while back about Susanville in which they illustrated that the recidivism rate skyrocketed after they stopped the education program. The reason they were stopped was to get money for the prison guard pensions and 6 figure salaries.

          I also hear what you are saying. I think the rules should come from both the bottom up and the top down in order to come up with more workable policy as with your idea of categorizing the prisoners by type of crime.

          I know from experience of having hired a few of these guys that some are genuinely bad apples that are sociopaths that I don't care what you do they are not going to change and any effort on them is wasted. For these guys warehousing is the best solution.

          My main solution would be privatize the prisons and pay them not only for warehousing but recidivism rate.
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    Jul 16 2012: No Prison doesn’t work for many people

    They have warm clothes, good food, gyms, TV, sports, luxuries. We are more worried about human rights than making these people pay for their crimes. What rights should you have for serious crimes?

    In Australian they send boat people (Illegal immigrants) to camps in the desert and most of these people are not criminals just people fleeing their homelands. They are kept in terrible conditions and have no human rights. These people are fleeing war and dictatorships. Surely they deserve human rights. They are not people convicted of serious crimes. Just desperately seeking a new life. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woomera_Immigration_Reception_and_Processing_Centre

    Bring back chain gangs make these people work, Grow their own food, Workshops, Teach them a trade, Educate them and if you reoffend well they will never learn so stay in.
    Bring in jails like this http://articles.cnn.com/1999-07-27/us/9907_27_tough.sheriff_1_prison-guards-inmate-joe-arpaio?_s=PM:US. People might think twice the next time they violate another human being.

    In the Northern Territory Australian in 1997 the Northern Territory brought in Mandatory sentencing system. It was a strike system of strike 1 - 14 days imprisonment, Strike 2 - 90 days Strike 3 or more 12 months imprisonment. These are for a broad range of property offenses. It has shown no real difference for strike 1 and 2 offenses and in conclusion states it really hasn’t worked http://www.nt.gov.au/justice/policycoord/documents/statistics/mandatory_sentencing_nt_experience_20031201.pdf

    In conclusion all people are able to change. I believe we give these individuals opportunity to change. If they do not embrace that opportunity then it’s back to jail for you
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      Jul 16 2012: The problem with the immigrant thing is here in Calif they flock here because the politicians give them endless amounts of free stuff. I hear what you are saying about human rights but that is really all it should be otherwise you will be flooded with immigrants.

      Not that I have a problem with immigrants. But when Reagan gave amnesty it irrevocably changed the economy here for the worse.

      We also have the 3 strike law here and surprise surprise it doesn't work here either. The problem is that this is another example of the tyranny of democracy. In effect the voters have legislated laws that bypass the judges. Judges are professionals and are qualified to make these decisions and voters are not.
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      Jul 16 2012: Hi again Sarah:>)
      Are you familier with the "Real Justice" programs, which started in Australia, and are used successfully around the world?
      www.realjustice.org/

      I facilitated several programs applying the concepts of reparative justice, and it does work. In this area, we have a "Diversion" program, which is pre-court, and meant to re-direct first time young offenders. We also have a "Reparative" program, which is post court, and also meant to re-direct older offenders of minor crimes.

      Another good program which I used while volunteering with the dept. of corrections for 6 years is based on a book and workbook by Robin Casarjian called "Houses of Healing".

      We have quite a bit of information about offenders...95% are drug and/or alchohal dependant...a huge number of them are from very dysfunctional families...many with generations of offenders, so it has become a lifstyle for some...many have been emotionally, physically, sexually abused as children...often by friends and relatives. Do you know that a statistic shows that 1 of every 6 men in our world has been sexually abused as children...usually by someone they trust...family member, friend, clergy, etc.? That is a huge number...and we wonder why there are so many wounded people in our world!!!
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        Jul 17 2012: Hi Colleen :-)

        I was aware of this program but had no idea it originated here. I have heard it can be an amazing and healing experience for all concerned.

        If it works for some that is really great.

        Yes 95% drugs/ alcohol and they say here about 50% in our jails may have a mental illness but I have to say it. What about all the rest that have had terrible lives and don’t end up in jail. Also what about the people brought up well and end up in jail? It’s easy to make excuses for these people but most people know right from wrong. Life is about choices. I think I can’t name anyone I know who isn’t wounded from something? But it’s a small amount of society who do time.
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          Jul 17 2012: Oh Sarah...rest assured....I am not making excuses for anyone. I said..."We have quite a bit of information about offenders". I believe that with the information we have, we could create programs that may reduce offending.

          I believe correctional institutions, prisons, etc., could be self sustaining villages, where those incarcerated learn how to function productively, peacefully in community, while learning skills they can use when they are released. It's already been mentioned, that offenders actually learn more about offending while incarcerated! They are in there with some of the best criminals! That's why I like the Diversion and Reparative programs...if at all possible, it keeps them OUT of jail, and may start indroducing the idea of accountability/responsibility.

          Most of our prisons in the US are privatized now, and I do not think that is a good idea. If they are money making businesses, what's the motivation to try to rehab offenders? None...they would be reducing their income if they genuinely wanted to contribute to rehabilitation.

          There are MANY in our world from challenging backgrounds...I'm one of them....very violent abusive father, and yet I and 7 siblings managed to stay out of jail!!! LOL! I totally agree that life is about choices....people may be getting tired of me saying that on TED....but it is true
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        Jul 17 2012: Colleen

        I like a lot of what you said however needless to say I like the privatized prisons the only change I would make is to pay them on their recidivism rate.
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          Jul 18 2012: Pat,
          You've mentioned privatizing (they already are pretty much) and pay them not only for warehousing but recidivism rate. I agree that this could work...at least better than what is happening now! Do you perceive any other advantages to privatizing?

          We used to have "work camps", which were for incarcerated offenders who were not a threat to society, and/or were close to release. There were road crews, paint crews (painted the correctional facilities, as well as buildings that housed non-profit organizations), there was a woodworking shop ( built and repaired furniture for government buildings and non-profits), mechanics shops, gardens ( raised all their own produce as well as supplied several non-profits), etc. etc.

          When they started to privatize, most of these programs were cut out. The gardens are the only ones that I know of that remain. Now the guys play computer games and watch TV. I believe that those programs were a valuable way to teach the offenders skills, and to give something back to the community. They started to learn responsibility, accountability, and started to understand how it might feel to do something that they were proud of, so it helped increase their self esteem. In my perception, the privatization does nothing along these lines at all...what do you think?
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      Jul 18 2012: Colleen

      The advantage to privatizing is competition.

      If self esteem, responsibility, and a skill lower recidivism, yet the private companies do not use these then either they do not lower recidivism or they do practice this and you don't see it or the private companies are not motivated by the compensation for lower recidivism. It has to be one of the three. If I were to guess it would be one of the latter two.
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        Jul 18 2012: Pat,
        I don't believe privatizing DOES lower recidivism...most facilities in the US have been privatized for years, and I don't think we are seeing recidivism change...do you think so?

        I volunteered with the dept. of corrections for years, was in the facilities, and working with P&P often. I'm pretty sure I would have "seen it" if "it" existed! I've never heard of payment for lower recidivism...have you?

        I've gotta hit the sac...tired...ttyl:>)
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          Jul 18 2012: Oh well that is the problem they ABSOLUTELY need to compensate for lower recidivism rate.

          At the other end of the spectrum here in Calif none of the prisons that I know of are private. An example of the problem here is at Susanville prison they had such a low rate of recidivism that prison officials would visit from the entire country. The reason was they did teach the prisoners a trade. But as the prison guard union demanded ever higher compensation (which ALWAYS occurs with public employees) they had to get rid of the educational programs, consequently Susanville now has one of the highest recidivism rates in the county.

          With a private prison you simply change contractors with public prisons...
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        Jul 18 2012: Pat,
        YES...we agree on that, and so do many other people. They/we ABSOLUTELY need to lower recidivism...one way or another.

        I was curious to discover how many prisons/correctional facilities are privitized in the US, and I cannot find a number. I thought most were, and it appears that I may be wrong about that.

        I found this...we were talking about advantages/disadvantages...pretty small study...

        "A study was performed using three comparable Louisiana medium security prisons, two of which were privately run by different corporations and the third was publicly run. The authors report the data from this study suggests the privately run prisons operated more cost effectively without sacrificing the safety of inmates and staff. They conclude the privately run prisons had a lower cost per inmate, fewer critical incidents, safer environment for employees and inmates, and a higher proportional rate of inmates who complete basic education, literacy, and vocational training courses. However, the publicly run prison outperformed the privately run prisons in areas such as less escape attempts, controlling substance abuse through testing, offered a wider range of educational and vocational courses, and provided a broader range of treatment, recreation, social services, and habilitative services.

        The results of this study show why this issue is complicated without an obvious solution. The privately run prisons were found to be a cheaper alternative without diminishing the level of safety and generating a higher completion rate of the offered educational/vocational programs. But, the publicly run prison offered more services that suggest a larger commitment beyond guarding and housing inmates.
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          Jul 18 2012: That report is vague.

          It goes without saying that the private prison will be cheaper the key though is to compensate on the recidivism rate consequently the prison would offer more of whatever is effective.

          As far as the drug use goes I would question that statistic as the prisoners can get the drugs and the prison is not going to want to spotlight self incriminating evidence not to mention drugged prisoners make their job easier.
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        Jul 18 2012: Pat,
        I agree...report is vague...that's why I wrote..."pretty small study". It's difficult to get valuable, accurate information from a small study:>)

        That being said, I thought I would offer the info anyway:>) Based on my interactions with incarcerated offenders, administrators and state legislative entities, I was not in favor of privitization. Because of your comments, I decided to explore it a little more....just thought I'd offer some of what I found.

        To me, it does not go "without saying that the private prison will be cheaper". It all depends on how it is administered, and what the long term loss/gain might be.....which is why I was looking for more information:>)

        As far as drug use...
        One of my first experiences within the facility, was a meeting with all the men in a particular "pod" of the prison...about 60 offenders, councelors, guards, etc. in an "encounter" session. It was a gathering they had every once in awhile to "vent" all their "stuff". During the meeting, almost all the offenders kept going to the bathroom. I thought...."these are all adults....why can't they sit for an hour without having to go to the bathroom?".

        I asked one of the councelors after the session. He said they were "flushing". They knew a mass drug test was coming up soon, and they were flushing drugs from their systems."They are in jail.....how do they get drugs....says the new kid on the block (me)? Well...everybody knows that one of the COs (correctional officer/guard) brings drugs into the facility, sells them to one offender, and he sells them to the others.....EVERYBODY KNEW THIS.

        I went directly to the warden...what's up with this? He said COs are hard to replace...difficult to fill that position, so we allow him to do it!!! The offender who received the drugs on the inside bragged that he made more money inside than he did outside!

        They also regularly gave offenders behavier modifying perscription drugs...yes...you're right...makes their job easier.
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          Jul 18 2012: Just one thing if you look at the facts the private sector is always less money because of the competition, you sooner argue whether there is gravity.
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    Jul 15 2012: It depends on the prison system of individual nations. What do they intend to achieve by the operations of their criminal justice system and prisons? Are they only after the punishment of the convicts? or do they have a programme that aims at reformation?

    It also depends on the individual convicts. How many of the convicts become remorseful and decides to change? How many of them accept the opportunities presented for reformation?

    And finally, does the society ever give ex-convicts a second change? Or are they despised, ostracized and hated?

    It depends on individuals and the society.