Hawaii Pacific University
Critical Response to “Why Prisons Don’t Work”
By Wilbert Rideau
The prison system is a topic that is widely debated. Many are either for or against how they are ran. Though I am only an observer; I have no ties to the prison system. I do agree with many points that Wilbert Rideau made in his original article. What caught my eye was that Mr. Rideau was in the Louisiana State Penitentiary in 1962. He describes the kind of prisoners that were typically brought there. He goes on about his opinions and observations “that permanently exiling people to prison will make society safe” (10). Mr. Rideau goes on to say that prison is not a cure-all. He describes what prisons do as “isolating young criminals long enough to them a chance to grow up” (31). I agree when he says that prison should only be a temporary arrangement, not a way of life. As well as many criminals are kept there for too long making the prison a way of life and not allowing them to readjust to normal society. The prisoners are potentially being held hostage longer than rehabilitation should allow. Mr. Rideau makes a point that because of mandatory sentences prisoners are much older. He states “rather than pay for new prisons, society would be well served by releasing some of its older prisoners who pose no threat and using the money to catch young street thugs” (41). Think about it. A fifty, sixty, or even seventy year old prisoner doesn’t necessarily pose a major threat to society; but, the younger criminals on the streets do. It shouldn’t take thirty, forty, or more years to rehabilitate someone. However, there are prisoners who are serial killers, rapists, and worse that do deserve to rot in prison. Prison times and sentences are decided by politicians and not necessarily the penal professionals. I don’t necessarily agree with Mr. Rideau when he states “even murderers, those more feared by society, pose little risk. What if those...