02 Nov 2017
In my opinion, 18 year olds should not be sent to prison for a life term. Many factors can play into a young adultâ€™s decision making and attitude towards life. Social and economic reasons also reasons for crime. Family life can have a dramatic effect on a young adultâ€™s life. For instance, the type of family and economic status can have an effect. Lack of parenting can also affect the young adultâ€™s decisions. They do not have a constant guardian showing them how to be a successful contributor to society.
Being born into a low economic class family can have a dramatic effect on a young adult. The child goes to a low class public school that labels them as incompetent. This can make them think that they are not good enough. This can trigger abnormal thinking which may result in a volatile crime.
Fuller noted that there are three important functions of the family:
First is to raise children responsibly. Fuller says the first task is to socialize the children into the cultureâ€™s prescribed ways of doing the work of society and finding their role and identity in the world. Another function the family must perform is to provide children with a set of moral values of honesty, hard work, respect for others, and responsibility. The second important function is to provide economic support. This helps provide the necessities for life. A third important function of the family is to provide emotional support. Fuller explains well how young people require emotional support of family members when stiff competition, high obstacles or disappointments challenge them. (250)
The spokesman for the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, John Caher, has said that individuals who are released on parole after serving sentences for murder consistently have the lowest recidivism rate of any offenders (The Crime Report). Also, a national study done by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics in 2002 tracked 272,000 inmates released in 14 states found that only 1.2 percent of those freed after serving a murder sentence were rearrested on homicide charges within three years - the lowest rate among all reported crimes by released prisoners (The Crime Report).
I believe 18 year olds can change. People change constantly throughout their lives. This usually happens to new experiences and learning from your mistakes. Some people are not in the best mental and emotional health throughout their lifetime. They might make decisions that they regret later in life. Life is also a learning process. Everyone has failures but we must learn from those failures to become a successful person.
If we change the life in prison sentencing and instead use a lesser amount of years, we could help people become successful contributors to society. I believe imprisonment of a life sentence adds to the problems. Prisoners rarely learn the skills to become a contributing citizen. Instead there time in prison is spent with social groups that consist of other criminal offenders which encourage the "schools of crime" view (Gendreau and Goggin). Once released from prison, the former prisoners resort to their past behavior which can make them repeat the same crime again.
I donâ€™t believe there is certain age that someone can be redeemable. Usually people think as the older you get, the more mature you become. I highly disagree with that idea. In my own life I have met many people older than I who show immaturity in their life. I only think it deals with the personâ€™s mindset. If they have been truly redeemed from doing a previous criminal act, then they should get their second chance. Of course, they should at least pay for their criminal act.
One major debate in the USA is between correction and punishment for prisoners. I believe society should be considered more on correction than punishment. There have been many studies regarding the effects of rehabilitation on prisoners that result in a low rate of recidivism.
Until the 1970s, the U.S relied heavily on corrections in prison. Prisoners were taught to establish skills and to undertake their mental problems. These included any problems that would conflict with their entrance towards society. Rehabilitation has since been pushed away though. The belief in tougher crime laws took the place of rehabilitation. This has resulted in a massive prison population.
As humans, our first thought is to punish those who have done wrong. Itâ€™s in our nature to punish. However, this should not be the case. Punishment has been shown to be ineffective and sometimes more harmful than helping the offenders.
According to Newton Frazer in his article The Effects Of Punishments to Deter Crime, there are seven real effects of imprisonment.
Prison has a small and brief deterrent effect.
Prison educates criminals how to be "better" at crime. It is college for crime.
Prison hardens criminals making them more antisocial, vicious and dangerous.
Prison makes the criminal desire revenge on the society which took revenge on him. It continues the revenge cycle.
Prison damages society by breeding evil and violence. Prison is the cradle of crime.
Prison is expensive. At this time each prisoner costs the taxpayers over $36,000 per year. Almost all of that money is paid to the staff. The staff, not the prisoners benefit from the tax money.
Prison creates an expensive underclass of convicts. When they're released, they have few legitimate prospects. They are fated to remain criminal.
Psychologists are helping the prisons to move back towards rehabilitation. They are doing more studies and research into what causes crime. Other research includes the mental effects of imprisonment. Not until recently though, psychologists have brought about a hefty amount of information cataloging the important issues in relation to criminal actions. The findings suggest that individual-centered approaches to crime prevention need to be complemented by community-based approaches (Benson). When properly implemented, work programs, education and psychotherapy can ease prisoners' transitions to the free world (Benson).
According to Sohail Inayatullah in his article Crime and Prisons: Beyond the Rehabilitation and Punishment, there are seven reform interventions needed for rehabilitation:
1. Remove class barriers. Ensure that the possibility to move from lower to middle class and even to the upper class is there for all. Society should be based on merit. Equity. Equity. Equity.
2. Help single parent families. By ensuring that children of single-parent families do not fall into the poverty trap, the chances of future crimes is reduced. Funding can come through various programs. Ensuring a nutritious breakfast for children (for body and brain development), housing allowance, unemployment insurance, counseling; indeed, any intervention that helps those outside of the merit system get the benefits that others are getting, and that increases the possibility of them feeling they are part of society is to be encouraged. And: it is crucial that a dependency trap not be created such that there is resentment on both parties â€“ the state providing the benefits and the recipient who now becomes a welfare victim. Social justice should not be confused for psychological entitlement.
3. Promote finer peer groups. As children grow, and develop peer groups, intervention comes through job training, sports camps, and community clubs â€“ again anything to ensure that children do not start on paths of crime and that they remain integrated in the family and broader community.
4. Create learning and healing communities. Ultimately intervention is about healing communities, reweaving the fabric of friendship, helping peers see that we are all in this together.
5. Rehabilitate through transforming the prison. The rehabilitation model in prisons as well works to ensure that when the prisoner is released he will leave behind his previous behavior and start afresh. Interventions go from the simple of changing diet (research suggests that diets rich in fruits and vegetables and low in refined sugar reduce prison violence), changing the colors of prison cells, giving prisons meaningful work, prison gardens (so inmates can connect with nature), and work training.
6. Use alternative sentencing. As much as possible, and where appropriate, keep those who have committed crimes out of prisons: whether through electronic sentencing or half-way houses, or volunteering ensure that those sentenced find ways to reconnect, to psychologically earn their way back into society. European nations have especially had success with this approach.
In this model â€“ aspects of what now are called in the social policy profession the "What works" model â€“ the goal is to ensure the prisoner (and victim, community) is healed â€¦ that connections between self, nature, god, and community are remade, restored. Once balance is restored, the chances of the prisoner re-offending are diminished. The scientific evidence is that this model does work.
7. Finally, if the offender or the person on the margin is from a non-dominant ethnic background there are many instances where culturally appropriate dispute resolution is important. Re-integrating back to the community may mean not using the dominant legal system but using restorative justice that is more culturally attuned. This is not universally applicable but there are cases where culture is crucial in policing and sentencing.
Since crime is largely dependent on environment and mentality, prisoners should have the right to utilize services that would oversee their progress. With a strong outlook concentrating on rehabilitation, we can help people who are experiencing a rough time in their life. Rehabilitation can also help the prisoner to learn from their problems and mistakes. It also can teach them how to alter their behavior. With the correct rehabilitation, prisoners will feel more secure when entering society again. Without correct rehabilitation, prisoners are often forced to correct their behavior by their own effort. This is not helpful because not having the proper rehab can cause the offender to stick with the same behavior that got them into trouble in the first place.
According to Doug Hooley, there are also six evidence-based practices proven to lower recidivism. First is the risk/needs assessment (Hooley). This explains that high risk offenders should be forced to take the necessary assessments to determine if the offender will commit another crime. Second are individual motivators (Hooley). This helps figure out what motivates the individual. Third is to target the appropriate behavior. By treating the behavior, we would have a better effect on the individualâ€™s future. Fourth is to rewire the brain (Hooley). This is done by trained professionals who can enforce different cognitive-behavioral approaches. Fifth is to increase positive reinforcement (Hooley). Hooley explains that what has been found to be most effective is a four to one ratio of positive reinforcement over sanctions. Sixth is ongoing support. This is a critical component to these practices. By having a community that is supporting the individual, the individual lessens the possibility of conducting future crime. Hooley states the following:
"An offenderâ€™s peer group is the number one leading factor as to whether or not the individual will re-offend. Even more than staying away from drugs, it is tough to stay away from old "friends" and family on the outside. Those deeply entrenched in a gang culture have the greatest challenge. This is why most offenders fail and it is the main factor outside the jail or prisonâ€™s control. At most, as far as the corrections system goes, an effective parole and probation system is our best chance of having a positive impact."
A great example of low recidivism is in the state of Ohio. From 2003 to 2008 Ohio dropped twenty one percent in the states recidivism rate. According to the Council of State Governments Justice Center report, Ohio ranks among the top states in the nation for reducing the number of ex-offenders returning to prison (Johnson). Gary Mohr, director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, has said the study does not include Ohioâ€™s most recent numbers, which show another drop â€” to 31.2 percent â€” the lowest rate in more than 20 years (Johnson).
Prisons should also create more opportunities for inmates to work for money. They would be able to feel like they belong somewhere and hopefully that kind of mindset will alter their criminal behavior. If they get paid for their work they are also less likely to commit other types of crime. Also offenders would be able to get their own place to live, while starting a slow reentry into society.
Another idea I strongly believe in is that the community has an obligation in helping the damaged individual. Crime does affect society and if society can in some way help with the rehabilitation of criminals, we could create a safer place for everyone. Neighborhoods and communities have come together to help offenders, which has shown to be effective in altering criminal behavior. The rehabilitation and supervision did cost millions of dollars invested but it shows to be well worth it. Also, the senate has passed a law on collateral sanctions which will help former prisonerâ€™s reentry into the work force. Lombardo and Levy describe following which concentrates on corrections rather than incarceration:
There needs to be a nationwide effort to shift the focus of corrections from incarceration to alternative programs that address the special needs of offenders. In addition, most alternative programs are far less expensive than incarceration of prisoners. Such savings can then be used for educational and preventive programs. However, there is a drawback of such a mobilization: the "buck stops here." Individuals, communities, local, state, and federal governments must be involved in order for such programs to succeed. Once executed, these programs will benefit not only the offenders, but all parties involved: victims, various correction agencies, and local communities. (57)
In conclusion, I believe rehabilitation should be implemented much more than strict punishment for offenders. Prisons today do not administer the correct groundwork because prisons are imbedded with the belief of punishing bad people rather than rehabilitating broken individuals. During imprisonment, offenders need to be educated through rehabilitation services. An education that offers a basic opportunity for the prisoner to get on their feet once they are released can dramatically reduce the crime from being repeated. Reports, reading and trade skills can have a better effect on the offenderâ€™s behavior. The prison can actually shape the behavior of the inmate throughout their stay thus helping in the reduction of future crime.
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