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The Need for Prison Reform and Prison Rehabiliation in America

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In America, there is an epidemic. Americans are in desperate need of a prison reform. Prison reform is a topic that has been on many legislators minds lately. With its increasing popularity from social media stars like Kim Kardashian, it has attracted the attention of many catalysts. Some are for it, and some strongly against. Prison Rehabilitation would cause less relapse in prisoners and therefore lessen the load of taxation used to maintain the overcrowded and barbaric prisons, ultimately lowering the crime rate.

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America has a problem with overpopulation in prisons. We have 5% of the world’s population, but 25% of the world’s prison population (Webb). At least seven million Americans are incarcerated or on parole. 2.7 million of those are currently in prison, which is five times the world’s average (Webb). We have the world’s largest prison population, yet we have fewer people living in our country (Ciaramella). It is so overwhelmingly full that even if we released all nonviolent drug offenders, we’d still have the highest (Ciaramella). Having a big prison population isn’t necessarily means to reform by itself, but the fact that ⅚ of those 2.7 million people end up back in prison in nine years of less is cause for concern (Cotton). The average offender is rearrested on an average of five times (Cotton). And these aren’t just parole violations. 77% of them get rearrested for more serious violent crimes (Cotton). For example, if someone was convicted of a drug offense, many of them get rearrested for rape or murder. This is a reason to take a second look at prison reform. It’s a cycle that Americans have the power to break.

Some people may worry primarily about the cost of prison rehabilitation and adding more to our tax load, but in the long run, it’s generally more cost-effective. If there were fewer people cycling in and out of prisons, Americans would not have to pay as much every year. The states spend about $50 billion a year on maintaining prison institutions (Pfaff). This equates to each prisoner costing a total of $35,000 a year (Pfaff). If some form of rehabilitation was installed it would lessen the rate of recidivism, therefore costing less each year. Having rehabilitation would cost less to society after the offender’s sentence is over.

Being in a prison such as the ones in America wear down your mental health (Pfaff). There is a time where someone may need the extra security measure or seclusion, but most people get torn down by such things. Prison takes away their freedom. It confines them to a small area with little to no privileges. That is the punishment, the offenders lose their freedom. The focus should not be tearing down their humanity, little by little. No man can be expected to return to society and function normally after the abuse they face in American prisons. It’s no wonder why the recidivism rate is so high, the abuse that prisoners, especially men, experience is surreal. Many hours of therapy and possibly medication are needed to function normally (Pfaff). Therapy hours and medications that are mandated by the state add another cost to our prison fund. Rehabilitating these men and women in prisons instead of stripping them bare of their humanity would cost less to society and taxpayers in the long run.

Inserting education in a more effective way is one solution to this issue. Having an education makes it easier for them to hold down a steady job upon their release. Michael Gove, who is a writer at the Daily Telegraph says, “The evidence shows that education and employment are critical in reducing reoffending and therefore cutting crime – yet only around one in four prisoners enters employment on their release.” (Gove) Without the skills to hold down a job, they will go back to what they do know. They could find another way to make money, a less legal way. Offenders are 43% less likely to reoffend if they are involved in some sort of education (Montlake). Inputting a form of education in the prisons will make it less likely for them to re-offend. How is someone supposed to integrate back into society after being isolated from it for many years? Education would give them a crutch to go off of when they are released. If they have an education, they are more likely to get employment, and therefore less likely to re-offend. They would serve their time, but still be able to be functioning members of society when they are released.

One example of a prison that has instituted a rehabilitation system is in Sweden. They differ from American prisons in their foundations. In this prison in Sweden, their goal is not to punish the prisoners (Aleem). A worker at the prison says, ‘Our role is not to punish. The punishment is the prison sentence: They have been deprived of their freedom. The punishment is that they are with us’ (Nils Öberg). The role of prisons is to protect civilians and in Sweden, they take it to the next level. They protect the citizens even after the offenders are put in jail. They teach them how to be a functioning and fruitful member of society, which provides safety for the civilians even after said prisoners are released (Aleem). The rehabilitation system in Sweden is not all talk, it produces results. The recidivism rate in Sweden is 40% lower than that of America or most other European countries (Aleem). This specific prison is a maximum-security prison. In America, those entail caging and solitary confinement, whereas in Sweden it’s a rehab center. They see prisoners as people in need of psychological help (Aleem). They assign contact officers of each prisoner and they check in with them and assist in their rehab in any way that’s needed (Aleem). Not only that but the prison is made as an open community. They interact with other prisoners. They have jobs inside the prison, like farming or carpentry that will give them skills that will help with the transition back into society (Aleem). This way of imprisonment takes away the reason for resentment of the state, and fuels less anger towards society (Aleem). Sweden has created a safer and more effective way of dealing with crime while still punishing for the lawlessness.

Some people would argue against rehabilitation for the reason that its not punishment enough. They commited a crime, some an extremely heinous act, they need to be punished severely. Adopting a more relaxed system will repeat the crime waves of the past. During the 1960s and 70s, there was a movement for prison reform and early release and less jail time became more common (Barnes). A crime wave evolved from that. People thought they could get away with more since the government was being lenient on crime (Barnes). Some say America has an underpunishemnt problem (Latzer). Nearly 80% of all inmates are released before serving their full sentences. This is not decreasing recidivism, but increasing criminal activity (Latzer). Although these facts are true, this is not what rehabilitation is. Instituting rehabilitation is not going soft on crime. The offenders would still be punished. They would be taken out of society and their freedom would be gone. But that’s not enough to keep society safe. Adding rehabilitation would keep society safe even after the cell doors are open. Rehabilitation does not mean letting people off early or without a sentence. It means making sure that what happened is less likely to happen again. Rehabilitation betters the individual to a state where they don’t feel the need to commit a crime again.

There are conflicting views on whether or not rehabilitation in prisons would be beneficial. Prison Rehabilitation would cause less relapse in prisoners and therefore lessen the load of taxation used to maintain the overcrowded and barbaric prisons, and lower the crime rate. The statistics of America’s prison numbers show that there is a need for something to be done. Its costing the american people much more than it needs to. Adding education provides more opportunities for work, which is proven to decrease recidivism. It’s been proven to work before in Sweden. Rehabilitating prisoners is not pardoning them. They are still in jail, they have commited a crime. Rehabilitation would provide the opportunity for growth in the offender and change for good. There is a reason that so many social media stars have given attention to this issue. Rehabilitation works, and it’s needed in America.  

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