AP Language & Comp
21 September 2012
Why Prisons Don’t Work: Rhetorical Précis
In the Times article Why Prisons Don’t Work, Wilbert Rideau, a convicted murderer, claims that a vast number of criminals are forced to rot in prison so that “politicians can sell the illusion that permanently exiling people to prison will make society safe” (1). According to Rideau, the values prison holds are limited and it does not work because it is solely “a mop-up operation” (3); the only way to truly counteract crime is to prevent the unlawful act before it takes place. He supports this claim by first outlining the severe penalties of the Louisiana State Penitentiary. Then, he applies his observations from the Louisiana State Penitentiary to the entire prison system. Towards the end of the article, Rideau uses solid statistics and logic to expose the useless, endless cycle of the prison system and the role politicians play in it. Rideau’s purpose is to define the faults of the prison system in order to incite the community to “address the adverse life circumstances that spawn criminality” (7). He establishes a rational tone for politicians and educated, voting-class citizens; the people of the general community. Rideau is somewhat bias towards politicians, and pleading towards society. This work is significant because it reveals flaws in the prison system and supplies the public with possible solutions to crime prevention; all this from an unlike point of view, that of an imprisoned killer.