The Need for Reformation in the Prison Systems

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As a criminal justice major, I have learned that the world is not as black and white as it seems. From crooked cops to an unjust prison system I have learned that to truly make America great again we need to make some major readjustments to this system. When I first started my major I had to dig deep to really understand what an unjust prison system was and how could we reform it to do its intended purpose of reforming ex criminals into model citizens. On November 6, 2017 Meek Mill the rapper was sentenced to two to four years in prison on a position of drugs and gun charges. After that he was placed on probation where he was for almost a decade due to abuse of power. However this is not the earliest reports of injustices in the prison system; in fact the earliest reports come from the early 1700’s “The only offense for which long-term imprisonment was common was debt, though this presented a paradox. Wealthy debtors who had money but refused to pay might be persuaded by the prospect of imprisonment to settle their obligations.

Locking up the poor, though, guaranteed they could never earn the money they owed, and this struck many as absurd” (Jack Lynch, 2017). The main job of the prison system is to reform inmates into the model citizen, but the prison life can leave an exceptional toll on the detainees life in various classifications. The first and seemingly most significant comes as emotional well-being. Living in jail will greatly affect the mental piece of their life in fact “In a review of literature and criminal justice statistics, Beck (2000) proposed that individuals who are released from prison are likely to encounter difficulties with mental health and access to behavioral health services ,as at least 14.4% of individuals released from prison are diagnosed with mental illness.

According to Wolff (2005), approximately 96,000 individuals with a mental illness reenter society from prison each year” (Baier, Stefan, and Johan Fuhrmann, 2013). the reason for this can be linked to the fact that only world the prisoners knew of was of the jail world, however, inmates are not warned of the life behind bars so when they get thrown in prison the only thing on their mind is how to survive. it is because of this mentality that logic is thrown out the window. Also putting the inmates in solitary confinement adds on to that stress the inmates already have. Solitary confinement is used as a method of detaining inmates from a situation that was started such as a fight, murder, or them braking the rules. However researchers have found that solitary confinement can cause the detainees a lot of psychological harm, according to APA “The nation's roughly 80,000 inmates in solitary confinement are at grave risk of psychological harm… The conditions of confinement are far too severe to serve any kind of penological purpose… At a June 19 hearing, he showed pictures to illustrate solitary confinement's harsh conditions, including filthy cells that are 'scarcely larger than a king-sized bed,' he said. As a result of the endless monotony and lack of human contact, for some prisoners ... solitary confinement precipitates a descent into madness.

Many inmates experience panic attacks, depression and paranoia, and some suffer hallucinations. Former inmate Anthony Graves, who spent 18 years on death row, including 10 in solitary confinement for a murder he didn't commit, drove home Hanley's points. 'I would watch guys come to prison totally sane, and in three years they don't live in the real world anymore,' he said. One fellow inmate, Graves said, 'would go out into the recreation yard, get naked, lie down and urinate all over himself. He would take his feces and smear it all over his face” (Haney, 2012). So with that being said if inmates come in with a clear head and come out crazy then the system is not doing its job or rehabilitation. Corrupt cops are another reason for the prison system not doing its job correctly. These officers pretty much listen to every word the prisoners say whether or not through bribery where they are getting paid to listen or through intimidation; the officers are scared of what the prisoner could do to them, let alone their families. they wouldn’t have these problems if they had a better handle on their officers maybe do an evaluation every other month, or rotate the officers to different prisons after a couple months. These are just two out of many problems within the justice system. the U.S. has the power to fix it, when will it be fixed? That is a question for later on down the the line. The prison system decreases job opportunities and make reentry hard for ex-cons. Ex-offenders have a difficult time getting back on their feet due to the title they have over their head and the position they are put in. The biggest thing that ex-offenders have an issue with is getting back on their feet and becoming a productive law-abiding citizen is getting a job; once they go through the application process and are interviewed the number one problem that stops them from getting that job is the fact that they have committed a felony, even though at times the felon could be as small as refusal to pay parking tickets. This is very tough because many employers do not want to hire an ex-offender no matter small or big the reason. A focus on pre-release programs, which prepares individuals to be productive members of their communities, is essential. Providing incarcerated individuals with jobs and life skills, education programming, mental health counseling and addiction treatment will help overcome some of the challenges they face upon re-entering their communities.

Laws need to be revised so that ex offenders will be able to get jobs to help themselves and become productive citizens. However even if some of these solutions were to be implemented who’s to say that the prisoners will take advantage of the opportunity for the better and not for an ulterior motive according to reform in the making “At the Drake Correctional Center- Six or seven of the men are sitting, heads in hands, staring at workbooks; the rest are sleeping, talking, or doodling. Discussing the class with me later she shrugs, frustrated and resigned. The men are in a mandatory literacy program, she explains, and most stay only because the alternative is time in solitary confinement, and a restricted choice of jobs” (Lin, Ann Chih, 2000). which in other words, there were a few prisoners who only took the class so that they could escape other consequences instead of trying to better themselves.

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I feel that instances like this shouldn’t stop prisons from implementing education programs because there are prisoners who do pay attention and try to learn something so that they can be prepared for when they renter society, so that they won’t have to worry about having a relapse and end up right back in jail. But what about the ex-con’s who try? Well according to Lindsay A. Phillips and W. Michelle Spencer “In spite of the high recidivism rate, there are individuals who are successful in their reentry and begin a crime-free life. In the Liverpool Desistance Study, Maruna (2001) interviewed 55 men and 10 women and qualitatively analyzed the interviews. These participants were categorized into three groups, 30 individuals who were no longer committing crimes (which Maruna and others term “desisting”), 20 still committing crimes, and 15 who could not be placed in either category. Maruna (2001) identified common themes of all participants, which included a history of substance abuse, and an upbringing in an inner-city environment with a high crime rate and low employment rate. Those who were identified as desisting, however, had several key differences in their stories. People who desisted were those who found employment or some type of valuable work, expressed accountability about their past, and began to feel optimistic about their futures” (Baier, Stefan, and Johan Fuhrman, 2013). In other words the only convicts that will make it out and not have a relapse are the ones who go out and get jobs but it’s hard for them to find jobs. Another suggestion is for businesses to do background checks on the reason why they were incarcerated they would have a better chance of getting the job. We should create organizations where they help ex-cons get better jobs that could help them support themselves.

By creating more accessible programs to help ex-offenders get a job, this would help so many lives and prevent many ex-offenders from reverting back to jail. If they we clean up the justice system, the prison system is sure to follow. The Criminal Justice System is unique in both its punitiveness and its resistance to political reform. It is a system made of series of government agencies and institutions whose goals are to identify and catch unlawful individuals to inflict a form of punishment on them. However The rate of incarceration of people of color vs Caucasians differs greatly which shows that the sole purpose of the system is to lock us away with gruesome charges that are not always necessary. Some reforms that I believe need to be made are psychological evaluation of those in positions of power. Some reforms need to happen to help change the system. Eliminating mandatory minimum sentences and cutting back on excessively lengthy sentences; for example, by imposing a 20-year maximum on prison terms. Shifting resources to community-based prevention and treatment for substance abuse. Examining and addressing the policies and practices, conscious or not, that contribute to racial inequity at every stage of the justice system. Removing barriers that make it harder for individuals with criminal records to turn their lives around. If the criminal justice system actually took the time to know the mental state of those who are supposed to 'protect us' there would be far less deaths.

Another aspect that needs reform is deescalation without a weapon, a tactic that would also decrease the amount of wrongful deaths. Police officers should not be granted possession of a weapon if they cannot remain calm in certain situations. Also their needs to be more judges, attorneys, and prosecutors who identify with the prejudices, struggles, ridicule people of color suffer from on a daily basis. Having more people of color in positions of power will potentially construct a just system that abolishes wrongful sentencing and hopefully encourage empathy within the court. The prison system is to busy working the prisoners as free labor instead of actually rehabilitating them. Some prison as a way to rehabilitate prisoners to become a working class citizen they make them work doing tedious jobs for as little as ten cents on a dollar. Did you know that “Arizona prison labor is organized by a company called Arizona Correctional Industries (ACI). People may be surprised to learn that those with jobs through ACI don’t just do work for the prison that incarcerates them. Last year, ACI, which last year earned nearly $45 million in sales, farmed out “over 2.7 million hours of labor to private sector companies” as well” (Warren Stewart). This is a serious problem because the system is supposed to be making the world a great place but instead it’s doing the opposite by not teaching the convicts how to get a real job as what it takes to become a law abiding citizen. One solution which is the obvious solution is to stop treating convicts like slaves; actually give them long break times, days off, and bigger pay. They could also do an interview process where they have the inmates apply for the position, that way the convicts can have a feel for what applying for a real job is like. This would be beneficial to system as well with less ex-cons returning they won’t have to worry about seeing the same faces again. This will also lead to more revenue for the prisons because they will have workers outside of the prison as well as inside.

Another solution is for the government to allow the convicts to keep their jobs once they are released just move them to an actual facility that specializes in that same line of work, that way it kills two birds with one stone. It gives them jobs and it allows them to become productive citizens. This could also potentially create new programs to help show ex-cons that there is still hope for them once they get out of prison and that they can make something out of themselves. prison life is hard for anyone, but it can be exceptionally hard for people whose bodies have aged over time. Prisons in the United States have a growing population of aging men and women who cannot climb stairs, get in their bunks, or walk long distances to meals or the pill line. Not to meet you there at the have multiple health issues, which cost a lot of money, according to BOP officials “an aging inmate population’s most significant impact is on medical costs. From fiscal year (FY) 2009 to FY 2013, the BOP’s spending on inmate healthcare increased by 29 percent, according to BOP data. In FY 2009, the BOP spent $854 million of its $5.5 billion budget (16 percent) to provide medical care for its inmate population. By FY 2013, medical costs increased to $1.1 billion, representing 17 percent of the BOP’s $6.5 billion budget that year” (evaluation and inspection division 15-05). Also another problem is the fact that the elder population is growing, if this continues to happen this could cause cutbacks and more labor for the prisoners to make up for the funds that have been spent on the medical care. Which In return will cause even more problems for the younger inmates that have to pick up the slack for the ones that are not able; this could cause an outrage with the prisoners and possibly cause a riot. I have carefully analyzed the problem and have come up with a few solutions.

One solution is to shorten their sentences and put them in other facilities that are more suited to their needs, there is no need to have them in a facility that can not tend to their medical needs. And sure there might be controversy about what they did to others but there are others who have done minor things to get put in jail such as steal food or sleep outside because they didn’t have anywhere to lay their head. But let’s not forget about how much prison life can take a toll on everyone else not just the elderly. From physical and mental, all the way to exhaustion, prison life is tiring all together. Think about ties who have been separated from their loved ones for two long. Being separated for that long is bound to have some problems, according to Baier, Stefan, and Johan Fuhrman “Reunification with one’s family might also contribute to difficulties in the reentry process (Petersilia, 2003). Legally, individuals might have difficulties regaining parental rights. This is a concern, as in a review of national prison demographics from 1991 to 1997, researchers noted that two-thirds of individuals who are incarcerated have children (Lynch & Sabol, 2001). Individuals might also be returning to family members, such as significant others, spouses, parents, and siblings, that are engaging in criminal behavior, or to families that are angry or hurt due to their criminal behavior and prison sentence” (2013).

This problem right here is a shame and could possible the toughest challenge the ex-cons face once they leave the facility. Some have lost loved one due to them turning to a life a crime and some may have been lucky as to get a slap on the wrist however, that doesn’t excuse the fact that they will have lots of rebuilding to do with their families. Prisons should try and help rebuild their confidence and help them try to reconnect with their families after so long of being incarcerated. Because that is the prison systems job to help rehabilitate minds and change lives. The sooner they realize this the faster they could start the molding process to becoming the pertinacious, conscientious, and perspicacious citizens we want them to be. To them these solutions are a new chance for them to make themselves useful and a way to do something with their lives besides the regular go to drugs, shooting, and killing routine. These programs would allow them to really get to know the themselves on a personal level. As a criminal justice major, You go through a moment where you learn that the world is not as black and white as it seems. From crooked cops to an unjust prison system you learn that to truly make America great again we need to make some major readjustments to this system.

When You first decide to pursue this major you will realize that you must dig deep to really understand what an unjust prison system is and how could it be changed to do its intended purpose of reforming ex criminals into model citizens. The main job of the prison system is being able to reform inmates into model citizens, but with all the problems that hinder this process, ranging from how prison life can leave an exceptional toll on the detainees life in various classifications to corrupt cops being another reason for the prison system not doing its job correctly; again to elaborate officers will listen to every word the prisoners say whether or not through bribery where they are getting paid to listen or through intimidation. These are just an insignificant amount of problems out of many more within the justice system. I believe the U.S. has the power to fix it, when will it be fixed? That’s a question that I myself can not answer. However I can say the first step has already been taken and that’s acknowledgment of the system being broken.

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