Punishment or Rehabilitation?
Prepared by: DeEtte Heaton
Prepared for Communication and Composition 1
University of Phoenix
Dr. Diane Hall
I want you to imagine yourself in a very different place, a different life if you will. Imagine a deep dark life driven by a sick unexplainable need. Every minute clouded by a sickness that you do not understand. This monster growing inside of you distorts every thought you have. Your decisions are no longer your own; they are this monster’s; this evil thing that eats away at your soul. Your life has spun out of control. You no longer even think to go see your children and your spouse. Your job has been long lost. Your body no longer feels like your own. You cannot bear to look in the mirror, because you no longer see your own reflection. That person is gone, lost inside you somewhere. You hate the monster that took your place, but you are too weak to fight it off anymore. Now, I want you to imagine this same battered body lying on a cold steel bed. Every muscle hurts with withdrawal. Your mind is spinning with disbelief, regret, and fear. All you hear are angry voices yelling at each other or laughing at you, and the constant clang of steel doors is deafening. Tears are running down your face as you see your children’s faces flash in your mind. You begin to wither with the realization that they are going to spend the next twenty years without you. You will never see them graduate from high school, or even college. Will you be home in time to walk your oldest down the aisle as she marries? Will you see your new grandchildren beyond the glass of a visiting room? The agony of what you have done is too much, and still you do not quite comprehend where it all went wrong. Why is this happening? Did you murder someone? Did you rape a child? Did you rob a bank?
There is an ongoing battle in our world today. It is the war on drugs. This war is so much more than we see on the news. It is a battle between a man and a monster that consumes him. It becomes a battle between the same man and the law. The entire time, the battle between society and its lawmakers over punishment or rehabilitation for these offenders pushes on as they continue to overfill our prisons with addicts.
Over five million adults in the United States are under control of the criminal justice system, in either prison, both state and federal, or jail, and probation or parole. Over 60% of these people are drug offenders, and 32.8% of those are first time offenders. That means there is currently three million Americans incarcerated for drugs, and 984,000 of them are there for a first time offense. The other 27.2% are split equally. Half of them were rearrested by parole officers for positive urine tests and the other half have been rearrested for new drug related crimes. The one common denominator they share is that they are all drug addicts.
Now look at the cost to the taxpayers of America. It costs $32,600 to house an inmate for one year in this country. That is a combined cost of $39 billion dollars a year that Americans are paying with their tax dollars. The average prison sentence is 5 years, so that means each of those inmates is costing American taxpayers $163,000.00 for their incarcerated time. Not to mention the fact that most of them will do a minimum of 5 years on parole, which will cost an additional 25- 30 thousand taxpayer dollars.
The prison system has become a revolving door for drug addicts. They are arrested, incarcerated, and released on parole or probation. It seems to be a never-ending cycle. In the prison system, only 15% of inmates charged with drug related crimes are offered treatment. This happens for a number of reasons. The biggest reasons are overcrowding and underfunding. The average treatment in an American prison runs between 60...
References: American Probation and Parole Association and NASADAD. 2002. Interagency Drug Training Program. Lexington, KY: APPA
Andrews D.A and J. Bonta. 1994. The Psychology of Criminal Conduct. Cincinnati, OH: Anderson Publishing
Faye S. Taxman, Ph.D. 1998. Professor of Treatment and Criminal Justice Supervision, University of Maryland
Greene, Judith and Roche, Timothy. 2003 Washington D.C.: Justice Policy Institute
Miller, Jerome G. 1992. Alexandria, VA.: National Center on Institutions and Alternatives
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