Prisons serve to house law offenders and ensure they are transformed to law abiding citizens. They isolate criminals from the community hence reducing the threat and danger they pose to people. American prisons run several programs that include punishment, rehabilitation, and reduction of recidivism. Although these programs have been carried extensively in all prisons and outside prisons, they seem to be futile. There are many reported cases of recidivism in American prisons (Dolovich, 2009). This paper analyzes the outcomes of these programs and evaluates their effectiveness.
American prisons act as the main weapon to reduce crime in the country. The prisons operate under different levels of security that range from maximum security prisons to minimum security prisons. The maximum security prisons confine the most dangerous criminals while the minimum security prisons confine those who are less violent . Inmates in American prisons include citizens and non-citizens alike, ranging from children to old aged criminals, and including both women and men. The greatest population of prisoners is non-white, with a contribution of 70% of total prisoners (Dolovich, 2009). Besides, there are more men than women who have been convicted of a crime.
The U.S jail facilities are located in all cities and states. Some of them are referred to as lockups. In this confinement, a person is kept for up to 72 hours waiting to appear before a judge, after which a person is transferred to a larger jail. There also exist private prisons where criminals are confined. Privatization takes place when private firms enter into a contractual agreement with government to provide jail facilities. These private firms are paid some money regarding to the contract they enter with the government. In private prisons, criminals are provided with medical services, vocational training and all basic needs that they require
In America, there are several degrees of imprisonment which include probation, jails, prisons, and parole. Probation is a situation when a convicted person remains in the society as ordered by the court. Specifically, the person is required to comply with certain rules as dictated by the court. Jails are used for people who are in the middle of legal proceedings. Jails can also be used for people who are serving less than one year behind the bars. Prison is used for people who serve more than one year behind the bars. Parole is similar to probation. The only difference is that the person under parole will serve the remaining term of imprisonment in the society. The convict lives in the society under supervision and has some limitations. There is a parole board that is concerned with release and monitoring the deeds of released prisoners (Dolovich, 2009).
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Prisons in the United States prisons serve several purposes. Rehabilitation is one of them . Several rehabilitative programs have been functioning which have been established to shape the American convicts. These programs are aimed at developing inmates emotionally and psychologically. They aim at improving their discipline, while convicts stay behind bars. The programs also aim at improving self sufficiency of prisoners when they are released (House of Commons Home Affairs Committee, 2005).
Another purpose of American prisons is to punish the law breakers. The American civil and criminal law dictates the kind of punishment that should be given for each broken law . Due to isolation from the society, inmates are acclimatized to prison conditions that act as punishment to them. The punishment they receive is an attempt to ensure they do not repeat the mistakes. This makes the society feel better when a criminal is punished (Dolovich, 2009).
Another purpose of American prisons is to protect innocent civilians from criminals. The prison system aims at isolating convicts from the society. It also aims at rehabilitating the criminals. These measures help to mould criminals and ensure they become friendly to the society, which protects them. Also, the prison serves the purpose of preventing more crimes to be done (Dolovich, 2009).
The conditions of American prisons aim to be consistent with health, safety and human dignity. The main aim is to reduce the number of imprisoned population especially among the people who are mentally ill, people of color and populations that are vulnerable. This will enhance expansion of prisoners’ freedom of expression, religion and association.
American prisons and jails are overcrowded. They hold a population of about two million people. The overcrowding is caused by slow court system to a large extent. This results in many non-sentenced criminals and those who are in remand (Dolovich, 2009). The overcrowding of American prisons has led to a number of associated problems, in particular in relation to health, sanitation, increased insecurity, and interference of personal space.
Due to a large population in prisons, sanitation facilities and cooking facilities have become limited hence putting the inmates and the staff at risk. As a result, control of contagious diseases becomes difficult. There should be long-term measures to reduce overcrowding in American prisons. These measures may include judges travelling to prisons to hold court hearings. Another measure is the use of probation and community service instead of imprisonment for criminals. The prisoners who seem to pose little threat to the society should be released on parole. The sentencing reform should also be reviewed by legislators in order to shorten the length of sentences of prisoners. There should also be an increase of prison facilities in all states. All these measures will help reduce overcrowding in American prisons (Dolovich, 2009).
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Behind the walls of American prisons many crimes are committed. There exist gangs with leaders who make tactical decisions in prisons. There are cases of fights, murders, and drug abuse within prisons. Inmates are raped by fellow prisoners thereby leading to high rise of HIV transmission. Inadequate number of security personnel has led to an increase in insecurity in prisons. Also, due to insufficient staffing levels, the prison health system has deteriorated leading to death in some prisons (Dolovich, 2009).
There are a few rehabilitation programs carried out in American prisons. Rehabilitation aims at training prisoners to rejoin society as law-abiding citizens within the community. The programs includes needs assessment on each individual prisoner. This aims at identifying the needs of each prisoner and classifying interventions required. This program provides prisoners with proper resettlement planning after they are released. Another rehabilitation program is education. This aims at identifying prisoners’ educational deficits and addressing them correctly. Education programmes offered in American prisons includes vocational training, secondary education, and adult education (House of Commons Home Affairs Committee, 2005).
Another rehabilitative programme is behavioral and cognitive skills programme. This programme acts to challenge criminal behaviors and provide treatment for substance abuse. Finding employment and accommodation is one of the major challenges that prisoners face after they are released. Due to this reason, resettlement programme aims at assisting prisoners to find employment after they are released. An appropriate rehabilitation programme should ensure that there are no obstacles to its access . Increasing enrollment in the rehabilitation programs will ease re-absorption of released prisoners to the society as well as improve employability (House of Commons Home Affairs Committee, 2005).
The rate of recidivism is extremely high in America. Nearly two thirds of prisoners who are released are imprisoned back after three years. This rate of recidivism results in high costs spent by the government and families of offenders (Stanz, 2000). The costs of arresting, prosecuting and imprisoning these offenders are the main costs incurred by the government. Offenders are to pay certain sums as well. Using these costs, various programs for prisoners and released prisoners can be run with the aim to reduce the rate of recidivism (Bailey, 2009).
There are many challenges that released prisoners face. The main challenge today is the safety of the community from prisoners. Another challenge is how to transform prisoners accustomed to prison life into productive citizens (Bailey, 2009). Due to these challenges, there is a need to introduce programs that will help to reduce recidivism.
A quality programme that aims to reduce recidivism should consider the main factors that challenge released prisoners. These factors include the fact that prisoners and former offenders are from a diverse population and most of them face the problem of self sufficiency, low levels of education, lack of housing, lack of job experience, and mental and physical health disorders (Stanz, 2000). These issues are interdependent, hence an appropriate program should address all these issues. For instance, when addressing employment problem, substance abuse should also be addressed.
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The range of recidivism programs inside and outside the prison should prepare criminals for adaptation in a community when they are released from prison. These programs should support ex-convicts in self- sufficiency development, in finding and retaining employment and establishing respectful relations with the community. This approach is essential for ensuring that the former offenders do not engage in criminal activity (Bailey, 2009).
Three programs are offered with an aim of reducing recidivism in the United States. These programs include substance abuse treatment, education and employment services. Most inmates who successfully complete these programs become more successful than those who do not (Stanz, 2000).
Substance abuse is common within U.S. prisons. It is estimated that eighty percent of prisoners in the United States have serious drug or alcohol problems. Drug abuse addicts have a strong tendency of committing serious crimes. Many inmates are re-addicted after they are released from prison. This increases the chances of former prisoners’ engagement in criminal activities and parole violations. As a result, they face a challenge in obtaining stable employment, hence they are re-imprisoned. Effective substance treatment should be carried in and out of prison. This ensures that released prisoners overcome barriers that hinder employment (Bailey, 2009).
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Compulsory drug testing is carried out in every prisoner upon admission in prisons. This facilitates most accurate treatment that is required for each convict. By doing this, proper rehabilitative method is established as well as necessary data for drug abuse treatment strategy are obtained. Effectiveness of this program can be enhanced if it is carried out in prison and when the prisoners are released. This can be achieved when the government works in partnership with the community to track and monitor released prisoners’ access to community drug treatment facilities (Bailey, 2009).
Drug and abuse treatment have been successful with most prisoners. Those that have completed the program show decreased incidences of criminal behaviors. As a matter of fact, released inmates stop committing crimes for a long time (Bailey, 2009). Treatment of substance abuse also reduces the quantity of drugs that are consumed in the country. The costs that are incurred through treatment of substance are effective in that they are less than the costs that would be used to arrest and prosecute offenders when they commit crimes (McMillan, 2008).
Educational programs for inmates include vocational training, adult education, and secondary education. The importance of these education programs is to enable released prisoners to obtain skills that will enable them to find and retain jobs. Education is the greatest factor in reducing recidivism with a contribution of 29 percent of total control factor of recidivism (Bailey, 2009). The high school education is the most important to the prisoners. Education plays a significant role in providing skills to the inmates and obtaining jobs. It helps them to start earning their income. Through education, inmates can obtain jobs that are more rewarding (Dolovich, 2009).
The employment services program advocates that prisoners get employment after they are released from prison. This program focuses on job preparedness, career development skills, and job placement. Through the programme, the prisoners gain income and increase stability and self-reliance. Released prisoners need income for self- sufficiency. This reduces chances of engaging in any criminal activity. Apart from providing income, employment stabilizes the released prisoners through letting them get occupied, so they do not get time to commit crimes (Stanz, 2000). Different employments have different rates of recidivism. Ex-criminals that have done jobs that are well paid have shown lower rates of recidivism than those involved in doing low-paid jobs.
Another recidivism program is the faith based program. All American prisons have chaplains to meet the worship and religious needs of prisoners. This program concentrates efforts on addressing a range of social issues. Specifically, the faith-based program addresses issues such as mentoring, substance abuse treatment, employment opportunities, and accommodation after inmates are released from prison. It provides approaches that bind prisoners and community after they are released. Also, they help prisoners reintegrate in the community and start acting to protect the local community (McMillan, 2008). This program is highly contributive to reducing recidivism.
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The recidivism programs discussed above should ensure that they identify inmates with higher risk of being re-imprisoned. The challenges that the prisoners face after they are released contribute highly into their return to criminal behavior. The effectiveness of the foregoing programs can be enhanced by providing a parole supervision system that provides monitoring of the released prisoners (Justice Policy Institute, 2010).
Released prisoners pose serious threats to the community. They are likely to commit crimes again. Due to this, there are several programs that aim at reducing the threat. The community in which ex-prisoners settles down may perceive them as a threat. There is a need to provide reentry services that include supervision of released prisoners in the communities where they live. Police efforts and community participation are key partnerships that assist reentry of prisoners to community (Justice Policy Institute, 2010).
Police efforts in providing reentry of prisoners acts to support any community in its integration of released prisoners. Police force provides surveillance in the streets hence assisting communities in their supervision. In addition, police officers work together with correction officers and individual prisoners to ensure successful reintegration into the community (Justice Policy Institute, 2010).
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Increased surveillance can be done through the use of knowledge of criminal history on substance abuse and monitoring any associations with other criminal gangs. This information is highly crucial in preventing criminals from associating themselves with criminal activities. It also gives the law enforcers easy time in targeting criminals who are at higher risk of offending instead of spreading scarce resources to all released prisoners within the whole community (Justice Policy Institute, 2010).
The community also participates in prisoners’ reentry programs by engaging themselves in problem-solving partnerships. This is done by offering opportunities for active participation of the community of the released prisoners as part of their reentry effort. Release of prisoners is usually met with fear on the part of community. The public is educated on topics of prisoners’ reentry and strategies that have been put in place to supervise them (Justice Policy Institute, 2010). This ensures that the issue is addressed in a comprehensive way, which will enhance public confidence.
To ensure that the community is protected upon prisoners’ release, the latter are supposed to comply with specific conditions which include curfews, maintaining contacts with supervising bodies, and random drug testing. Releasing prisoners early to community supervision helps to reduce their chances of returning to prisons (Justice Policy Institute, 2010).
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All the efforts that have been made by the government and community to rehabilitate prisoners and control the rate of recidivism have not been successful enough. There is still a continuous rise in population of convicts in U.S. prisons. More programs which will ensure that the prisoners’ population decreases should be introduced.