Prison Life

Prison life is not designed to be easy, it is punishment for committing a crime. Prison is a facility that confines convicts who are a threat to society and have broken the law. Over the years, the government has recognized that positive reinforcement reward programs to criminals while they’re incarcerated have been successful. There will be explanations as to the purpose of having prisons and the examination of the current conditions of those prisons. Next, there will be information on programs that seek to reduce recidivism in prisons and rehabilitative programs offered in prisons and their outcomes.

Finally, there will be discussion on the re-introduction to society programs and approaches to protect the public upon a prisoner’s release. Prisons are designed to confine criminal offenders in a controlled environment where they are kept safe and humane. There are also other facilities that serve the purpose of confining offenders and what comes to mind is community based facilities. Community based facilities are basically facilities that can reside outside the prison walls and offer rehabilitation programs and work release.

Allowing a prisoner the opportunity to be detained outside of prison gives them the chance to prove they can function in society properly. Most inmates are eventually released from prison and by providing them the basic educational, vocational programming and treatment means society will be safer when an inmate is released from prison (Florida Department of Corrections). Each prison is different and even though there are policies and procedures set out to ensure that prisons are being ran properly, there are always going to be incidents where something happens.

Not only are there policies and procedures, but criminals are still considered U. S. American citizens and are protected by the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Society is entitled to have their own opinion and believe that inmates should be stripped of their rights, but unfortunately that is not how the U. S. stands. The Eighth Amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. It is inhumane to allow a prison guard or another inmate to beat someone to death. A former judge of twenty-five years, by the name of Sol Wachtler, spent ten months in prison and three months in a halfway house for harassing a former mistress.

After serving his time he launched a campaign to reform the criminal justice system in respects to prisons. He states “I have been in solitary confinement” and “you know the cruelty of it once you suffer through it” (Caher, 1995). Wachtler says that half of the prisoners he encountered while in prison did not belong there. He didn’t say that they were innocent, but in his opinion prison only exacerbated the conditions that led the prisoner to commit crime in the beginning.

Wachtler states “after ten to twenty years of humiliation and loss of self-worth, these ex-felons – almost all of whom have lost their families – come home to a hostel community with no job, no skills and a prison mentality. He further states and we wonder why we have repeat offenders” (Caher, 1995). The percentage of criminals in prison that have been charged with a drug crime traces back to about seventy percent. Wachtler’s solution is to rehabilitate these criminals instead of incarcerating the non-violent offenders.

Wachtler is not advising or admitting that he believes illicit drugs should be legal, he is simple saying that by building more prisons and mandating longer sentences isn’t going to resolve the problem when it comes to crimes regarding drugs (Caher, 1995). There are multiple programs offered in modern prisons that are designed to reduce recidivism. One program offered to help rehabilitate woman and help ensure woman will not become repeat offenders is allowing the offenders child to live in custody with the parent while they serve their time.

This program is not offered everywhere and even though many people have the opinion that prison is not a place for a small child; the child is only concerned with their bond with their mother. At such a young age, children don’t understand the criminal justice system, but they do understand when their mother is not around. Not only is this program beneficial for the mother, but also can ensure that the child has a stable living environment instead of being bounced around from foster home to foster home. A second option offered to prisoners that can be beneficial when it comes to reforming is faith-based programs.

A lot of criminals come out of prison saying that they were saved in prison and that they found God. To some this proclamation could seem pointless, but as long as the inmate believes it could be enough to help the inmate find the right path in their life and continue on a more secure and safe path in life. A major problem for inmates when released from prison is finding employment. Many companies do not want to take the risk on a past convicted felon, unless that felon has something they can offer the company. That is why it is important that prisons continue to offer educational programs.

Not only can an inmate receive their GED, which is equivalent to a high school diploma, they are also offered certified programs that can lead to receiving a certificate at the end of the program. The certificate can help an inmate when they are seeking employment. Some would think it is unusual to hear that inmates are training and caring for dogs while incarcerated. It is often said that a dog is a man’s best friend. The number of prisons that offer this canine program in which inmates train dogs has increased rapidly in the past twenty five years.

There are at least twenty states, in the United States, that offer the program and other countries like Australia, New Zealand and Italy. Not only has this program been beneficial to inmates, but also to the administrators in the facility. This program has the potential to break down barriers of fear and mistrust between the staff and inmates. There is some evidence that shows that this program can reduce recidivism and behavioral infractions among the inmates (Britton, D. M. , & Button, A. , 2005). It is a main objective for correctional institutions to continue to reduce recidivism in modern prisons.

Recent survey data suggests that boot camp prisons, also referred to as shock incarceration programs, can be beneficial when reducing recidivism. “The study examined recidivism amount boot camp completers in eight states during community supervision. The analysis suggests that those who complete boot camp do not inevitably perform either better or worse than their comparison group counterpart. Rather the program effectiveness has to be judged on a state-by-state basis” (Mackenzie, Doris, Layton, 1995).

Rehabilitative programs offered in prison are very beneficial for both the inmate, and also for society. Many complain that there is too much money invested on the rehabilitation of inmates. In most cases, inmates are sentenced their time and once that time is completed the inmate is released back into society. One would think that society would want an assurance that the inmate is receiving some kind of rehabilitation before being released to society. If the inmate does not receive any rehabilitation, what is to stop that inmate from committing more crimes?

Debra Herndon, Associate Director for Female Offenders in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is proud to say that more than two hundred women who have been treated at the facility, less than 10 have returned (Kotowski, 2012). Women say that the rehabilitative center turned their life around. One inmate, by the name of Markesia Huey, spent a total of thirteen years in and out of prison. She walked the streets as a prostitute and abused drugs. As much as Huey didn’t want to steal and take from others it’s all she could do to get by.

It was a relief to her when she was sent to prison for her crimes because life behind bars seemed easier. At her last conviction, Huey was sent to Casa Aurora, a female rehabilitative community correctional center that offered treatment services, counseling and more than thirty classes a week. Huey has turned her life around and has not returned to prison since she was released. She is now off parole and she volunteers her time taking to people who are in the same situation she once was (Kotowski, 2010).

An example of a program that focuses on inmates being re-introduced into society is California’s New Start program. This program provides inmates and parolees a statewide employment network. “The primary goal of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s California New Start Prison to Employment Program is to improve the employability of offenders leaving California prisons, to increase the likelihood that they will secure and retain gainful employment up reentry to their communities, reduce recidivism and enhance public safety” (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, 2010).

This program is funded federally through the Workforce Investment Act and the funding is based on the amount of parolees’ in the each particular area or location (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, 2010). The following are key elements set out by the New Start Program:

* “Use labor market data to determine the types of jobs that will actually be available in each county; * Matching existing training and work opportunities in prison to jobs available in communities; * Providing individual documents needed to secure employment prior to release from prison (e. g. Social Security card, birth certification, selective service registration, etc) * Providing essential job prerequisites such as resumes, trade certificates, licenses, trade union members, etc; and * Providing support to seek, secure and maintain employment through a collaborative partnership with the community to link offenders to jobs and a support system” (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, 2010). There have been many findings regarding state correctional facilities not offering enough education, treatment and/or job training programs to help prepare inmates for society upon their release back into society.

Many citizens have a problem with offering criminals programs while incarcerated because it is tax payer dollars that fund the institutions and programs. The downside to society believing that the money isn’t worth spending on inmate programs is that if an inmate cannot seek treatment, than they cannot be reformed. There have plenty of approaches to protect the public upon a prisoner’s release. Not all prisons offer the same rehabilitation programs or same education programs, but each facility offers something.