How can the prison system rehabilitate prisoners so that they will enter the society as equals?

Topics: Prison, Criminal justice, Penology Pages: 6 (1900 words) Published: August 3, 2003
The prison system is one that is looked upon as a part of our society that is needed yet doesn't work. Like Jim Hightower said in 1988, "Do something, if it doesn't work, do something else." Since the rehabilitation process doesn't work, we must do something about it. We must change the rehabilitation process so that it actually works and prisoners that are released come out of prison as new men with pride and a feeling that they belong outside the gates. How can the prison system rehabilitate prisoners so that they will enter the society as equals?

Prison inmates, are some of the most "maladjusted" people in society. Most of the inmates have had too little discipline or too much, come from broken homes, and have no self-esteem. They are very insecure and are "at war with themselves as well as with society" (Szumski, 1985). Most inmates did not learn moral values or learn to follow everyday norms. Also, when most lawbreakers are labeled criminals they enter the phase of secondary deviance. They will admit they are criminals or believe it when they enter the phase of secondary deviance (Doob, 1994). In the end, most inmates find themselves behind bars or abusing drugs and/or alcohol within 3 years of being released (Ripley, 2003).

Some believe that if we want to rehabilitate criminals we must do more than just send them to prison. For instance, we could give them a chance to acquire job skills; which will improve the chances that inmates will become productive citizens upon release. The programs must aim to change those who want to change. It was seen in the case of Jean Sanders that it is hard to stay off drugs and away from the lifestyle you lead. "Like most who leave prison, he will be returning to the scene of his crimes" (Ripley, 2003). Those who are taught to produce useful goods and to be productive are "likely to develop the self-esteem essential to a normal, integrated personality" (Szumski, 1985). This kind of program would provide skills and habits and "replace the sense of hopelessness" that many inmates have (Szumski, 1985).

Moreover, another technique used to rehabilitate criminals is counseling. There are two types of counseling in general, individual and group counseling. Individual counseling is much more costly than group counseling. The aim of group counseling is to develop positive peer pressure that will influence its members. One idea in many sociology texts is that group problem-solving has definite advantages over individual problem-solving. The idea is that a wider variety of solutions can be derived by drawing from the experience of several people with different backgrounds. Also one individual's problem might have already been solved by another group member and can be suggested. Often if a peer proposes a solution it carries more weight than if the counselor were to suggest it (Bennett, 1978).

Further, in sociology, one of the major theories of delinquency is differential association. This means some people learned their ways from "undesirable" people who they were forced to be in association with and that this association "warps" their thinking and social attitudes. "Group counseling, group interaction, and other kinds of group activities can provide a corrective, positive experience that might help to offset the earlier delinquent association" (Bennett, 1978). However, it is said that group counseling can do little to destroy the power of labeling (Bennett, 1978). The differential-association theory emphasizes that a person is more likely to become a criminal if the people who have the greatest influence upon them are criminals (Doob, 1994).

Most of today's correctional institutions lack the ability and programs to rehabilitate the criminals of America. One can predict that a prisoner held for two, four, eight or ten years, then released, still with no education or vocational skills will likely return to a life of crime. Often their life in crime will resume in weeks after their...

Bibliography: Bennett, Lawrence. Counseling in Correctional Environments. New York: New York, 1978
Doob, Christopher. Sociology: An Introduction. Harcourt Brace & Company, United States: 1994
Fox, Vernon. Community-Based Corrections. Englewood Cliffs: New Jersey, 1977.
Ripley, Amanda. The Struggle to Stay Outside the Gates; Feb. 2003, Vol. 161, Issue 6
Schneider, Julia. PRISON LIBRARIES CHANGE LIVES; Nov. 1996, Vol. 27, Issue 10
Szumski, Bonnie. America 's Prisons Opposing Viewpoints. Greenhaven Press, Inc.: 1985
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