To combat recidivism, correctional facilities are changing their focus from punishment towards rehabilitation. The examination of correctional methodology used in the United States, Japan, and Scotland offer profound insights into the growing trend to rehabilitate prisoners instead of punishing them. Through research, the evidence of innovative techniques geared to rehabilitate inmates in penal systems has proven to be of the utmost importance, ultimately leading to a heightened rate of success upon release.
Although there is no utopian system in which an inmates needs are immediately assessed, new implementations have provided the foundation for prison reform on a global scale. Recidivism and Reintegration As prison overcrowding becomes a global concern, one must question the effectiveness of correctional facilities that focus on punishment. To combat recidivism, correctional facilities are exploring reform to better prepare inmates for reentry into society through rehabilitation. Correction facilities need to increase focus on rehabilitation rather than punishment to reduce the rate of recidivism.
Many inmates come from a background of low education, poverty, and substance dependency. With such staggering odds against them, many facilities are conceiving new ways to aid inmates in correcting many inherent disadvantages that oppose them thus maintaining order and purpose within their systems. In this paper I will examine the importance of rehabilitation in treatment focus, and the subsequent results that lead to a lower recidivism rate amongst correctional facilities in the U. S. , Japan, and Scotland.
The purpose of prison in the United States has historically served to separate those who perpetrate the law from the population. “More than 600,000 inmates are released from U. S. prisons each year according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics” (Visher et al. , 2007, para. 1). With the undeniable aim of deterrence through incapacitation, the idea of rehabilitation has been somewhat of a recent innovation. In 2004 the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative (SVORI) was introduced to focus on reentry preparation for inmates just before, and immediately following release (Visher et al. , 2007).
This initiative presented an innovative response to corrections, as it was the first of its kind to focus on more serious offenders, as often federal programs provided services only to inmates who posed less of a threat to public safety. Participants in the SVORI program averaged a moderate success rate when compared to that of inmates who did not participate. A total of one hundred sixteen outcomes were measured during the evaluation of the program’s success. Of these outcomes, SVORI participants were conclusively doing better on ninety-eight of the hundred and sixteen possible outcomes (Visher et al. , 2007, para 5).
Although SVORI only spanned several years and cost the government millions of dollars, its inception forever changed the goal of correctional policy in the United States. Despite the discontinuation of funding, SVORI’s goals of rehabilitation continue to live on in the form of other organizations such as the Prisoner Reentry Initiative. “The Prisoner Reentry Initiative focuses on employment based programming for inmates” (Lattimore, 2007, para. 1). The Prisoner Reentry Initiative is lead by the Department of Labor and focuses only on less violent offenders, unlike that of the SVORI program who accepted violent prisoners.
This seems to be an inherent deficiency with the program, as the lack of accessibility to the program enables only a small percentage of the current prison population to undergo a multi-session, formalized prerelease program (Lattimore, 2007, para. 3). The Prisoner Reentry Initiative has also supported other smaller organizations such as the Texas based project for reintegration of offenders. Project RIO (Reintegration of Offenders) offers inmates many vocational and educational programs set to aid in the reintegration process.
Interestingly enough Project RIO has created an ATM like kiosk at many prisons that enable inmates to hunt for jobs thirty to ninety days prior to their release (Rarik and Kahan, 2009, para. 8). This has proven an essential tool in an inmates’ search for employment as the internet is restricted in many prisons (Rarik and Kahan, 2009, para. 8). As unemployment rates are rapidly increasing, prisoners are now able to compete for jobs in the same way as the general public. Innovations in reintegration such as this are becoming increasingly prevalent in the U. S. nd further evaluations of evidence suggest that they will lower recidivism.
Perhaps one of the oldest cultures can offer valuable insights in how to rehabilitate and reintegrate prisoners. The objective of rehabilitation has historically been the core focus of Japanese Correctional Facilities. Dating back to the late ‘1800s’ Japanese correctional facilities have provided prisoners with temporary housing upon release in an attempt to assist in reentry into society. These temporary housing facilities were referred to as “aftercare” facilities that served the purpose of a home for the prisoner.
This was imperative due to cultural stigma that had negative affects on newly released prisoners. Upon release many Japanese prisoners found themselves ostracized by their families, with no viable means to establish housing without assistance. The aftercare facilities were enabled by the contributions of a volunteer staff, creating an ultimate decline in recidivism at the time. As the role of correctional facilities evolved in Japan, they have expanded upon rehabilitative methodology in the form of strict inmate disciple (Geraci, 2003).
Many implementations made in modern day Japanese correctional facilities exude military like order. This focus on stringent discipline has succeeded in the prevention of incidental disorder amongst inmates. Inmates are required to address correctional officers as “sensei,” which translates to teacher in English (Geraci, 2003, para. 5). “Teacher” is a fitting term for the officers, who are compelled to play an active role in both counseling inmates and discouraging negative behavior. Positive reinforcement is also a tool in which corrections officers aid in the rehabilitation of inmates through implementing a ranking system.
This ranking system incorporates four different ranks, four being the starting point for incoming prisoners (Geraci, 2003, para. 5). The fourth rank provides the new inmate with education and guidance relating to prison regulations and living goals (Geraci, 2003, para. 6). The fourth rank provides relatively few privileges to the inmate, although, as the prisoner proves to correctional officers the desire and capability to change he is promoted through the ranks eventually reaching rank one. The privilege associated with the first rank enables the prisoner access to increased visits (Geraci, 2003, para. 6).
Not only does this ranking system succeed in keeping order within the correctional facilities through incentives, but it also encourages self-introspection and furthermore remorse amongst inmates. At the end of each day, prisoners are expected to express remorse for their actions as well as their commitment to rehabilitation (Geraci, 2003, para. 15). This assertion on reflection and remorse is something that is lacking in penitentiaries throughout the United States. Although the Japanese method of corrections proved to be a useful tool in preventing violent recidivism, the system still failed many inmates who exhibited substance abuse issues.
Perhaps the most relevant case of inmate rehabilitation for substance abuse can be attributed to newly established methadone clinics in Scottish correction facilities. Despite having a very small prison system, the numbers of inmates in Scotland have conveyed an overwhelming proclivity for drug use. Scotland was forced to implement harm reduction practices as heroin use throughout their correctional facilities proved to be out of control. The Scottish prison survey of 2004 showed that 82% of people admitted into prison had substance abuse issues, with 56% of these inmates reporting that heroin was their drug of choice (Luyt, 2007, p. ).
To combat these staggering statistics, Scotland has begun to redesign their methods of practice to focus on a more rehabilitative approach through the induction of methadone clinics. Methadone is a synthetic opiate used for the treatment of heroin addiction to gradually wean the user off of the drug altogether. For years prior to these implementations, Scottish correctional facilities have resorted to mandatory drug testing, although they eventually discontinued this practice as it punished inmates rather than rehabilitated (Luyt, 2007, p. ).
Instead of choosing to deal with drug use through law enforcement, Scotland has begun to deal with substance abuse through harm reduction. This approach is extremely different from that of the United States, whose “War on Drugs” seeks solely to punish drug addicts through harsher sentences. In order to provide rehabilitation to those who need it the most, Scottish correctional facilities provide many services to inmates regardless of the outcome of their drug tests.
Scottish prisons have drug free areas for those inmates who have rejected or have undertaken to reject the drug culture, and since its inception, 73% of prisoners are in favor of more drug free areas (Luyt, 2007, p. 8). With such high inmate approval, it is evident that implementations in harm reduction are reaching the prisoners. Methadone clinics are just the beginning for Scottish prison reform as they are now also providing prisoners with hepatitis B vaccines, bleach tablets for sterilizing injection equipment, increased staff training and counseling, and a methadone detoxification program (Luyt, 2007, p. ).
These programs have statistically proven their effectiveness. Before the induction of methadone programs 80% of inmates reported drug addiction, although preceding the treatment only 15%-35% of inmates still reported addiction (Luyt, 2007, p. 8). Precautionary measures for inmate rehabilitation have been reported to have several positive effects including diminished inmate violence and improved family ties upon release. The measures taken by Scottish correctional facilities have provided prisoners with continued methadone maintenance upon release.
The prevalence of methadone maintenance programs has enabled the smooth reintegration of inmates into society as they learn to overcome their addictions. Research indicates that the incorporation of programs reduce recidivism and aid in the reintegration process of inmates. These programs often compensate for the majority of prisoners who come from a disadvantaged background that were major proponents of their initial incarceration.
Not only do such programs incorporate certain measurers of positivity in the seemingly negative environment within correctional facilities, but they also provide smooth and successful reintegration into the community. From the SVORI, PRO, and RIO programs of the United States, to the Scottish methadone clinics, and the historical Japanese interest in rehabilitation, there is a global trend to help reduce rates of recidivism with successful reintegration techniques. These methods of rehabilitation are constantly being refined and eventually could lower recidivism on a global scale.