Prison Reform the United States Research Paper

Download this Research Paper in word format (.doc)

Note: Sample below may appear distorted but all corresponding word document files contain proper formatting

Excerpt from Research Paper:

The average felony sentence imposed upon federal and state offenders in 1996 was 62 months, or just over 5 years. On average these prisoners actually serve 45% of a state sentence for a mean prison stint of 2 years and 4 months, and 85% of a federal sentence for a stint of 4 years and 5 months. Once they are released, the recidivism rates are high. According to Lin (2000), "incarceration, as it stands, does not prevent recidivism" (p. 4). In addition, even if the released prisoners do not commit another crime, it does not mean that they become self-supporting and contribute to their community as much as possible.

.Lin (2000) argues that it is not clear that prisons, as institutions, have the capacity to provide the type of environment required for preparation of returning to the outside world. Prisons are not presently designed to be schools or factories, most do not have any facility for providing advisors who can counsel or environments where family ties and support can be nurtured. The history of work, counseling, and family programs in prisons does not bode well for the future. The programs that do exist are difficult to evaluate, often operated arbitrarily, and continually wondering if rehabilitation actually works. The prison is an institution marked by great staying power but modest achievement.

Johnson, in his book Hard Time: Understanding and Reforming the Prison (xxxx) quotes Hawthorne who, at the turn of the 20th century, described his prison experience in an article called "Our barbarous Penal System." Hawthorne was writing about Atlanta Federal penitentiary, but his focus was that all prisons were basically corrupt. To Hawthorne, prison reform is impossible. As noted above, many prison critics share these views. They would believe that the American penal systems will never serve any constructive purpose. Prisons are just taking people off the streets and warehousing them. According to Johnson (xxxx), most Americans favor prisons that offer a combination of punishment and treatment. They believe that prisoners should get their punishment, get well with education and training and then get on with their lives.

Johnson (xxxx) explains that prison reform has at least two present connotations. The first is restructuring sentencing to assure that only the more serious offenders go to prison, perhaps for longer terms than presently and the development of intermediate and other sanctions to take up the sagging of the smaller prison system. Johnson's emphasis is on the second connotation of prison reform, or improving individual prisons. He states that reformed prisons must provide Spartan but responsive conditions of confinement that have access to programs, because these promote personal autonomy, security and relatedness to others and allow offenders to assume responsibility for their own conduct and "get on" constructively with their lives. Even a bloated prison system, Johnson explains, which has decent prisons, is a major improvement over warehousing. Johnson adds that this means understanding the pains of the prison system. The goal of prison reform is to develop mature adults who are able to live productively in a society and cope with daily problems they face in life without harming others and to attempt to become productive citizens who are willing take responsibility for their community and work for its progress.

One of the more successful programs that Johnson (xxxx) uses as an example is the Quay classification system, which consists of a reliable and valid measure of the prisoner's current behavior by looking at his or her past behavior. The Quay system provides prison officers with a tool that they can use to provide a quick and reliable account of a prisoner's current behavior. This vehicle can be used in a number of ways: to track changes in a prisoner's behavior over time, to compare the behavioral characteristics of the populations of different prisons and determine the degree of displayed aggressive behavior, to measure the change in the behavior of a group of prisoners following a change in regimen, to be part of a classification system that will ensure that prisoners are not held above a necessary level of security, to protect certain vulnerable prisoners.

Another example that Johnson (xxxx) provides is unit management, with the purpose of determining inmate program needs and monitoring involvement to encourage pro-social institution and community behaviors to benefit inmates, victims and society. Unit management stress a multi-disciplinary unit team, with staff offices located within each inmate housing unit, which are responsible for responding to emergencies and disturbances and assuming necessary correctional officer posts. These unit managers are responsible for directing and supervising a housing unit and total administration in addition to planning, developing, and implementing programs to meet the inmates' particular needs. Innovative programming requires close supervision and evaluation. Correctional Counselors develop and implement these programs, provide counseling and serve as the unit expert and coordinator of inmate.

Dealing with stress is another necessity, Johnson (xxxx) notes, and points to Toch who has suggested an orientation program for incoming prisoners. In an ideal situation, no one would send inmates into an unfamiliar environment where the prisoners cannot monitor the consequences of decisions. Environmental circumstances are another issue to face. Johnson (xxx) writes about defining ecological settings that are conducive to the prisoner. For example, prisoners who are prone to violence would be assigned to settings that combined the ecological dimensions of freedom and support. It is necessary to place people in proper environments and have constructive activities from learning how to cope with daily adjustment problems to participation in formal correctional programs.

Another program that has been very successful with a variety of different populations, not only prisoners and parolees is cognitive behavior therapy. This program is used with the general public who has anxiety problems as well as individuals such as returning soldiers who have post-traumatic stress disorder. The main goal of cognitive programming is instructing individuals to better understand their behavior and its consequences and learn how to change to more pro-social attitudes, beliefs, cooperation and flexibility. Cognitive restructuring/distortions programs are aimed to changing the individual's beliefs and values and cognitive skills deficits programs look to change the person's thinking process. Cognitive restructuring work toward altering errors in thinking and cognitive skill interventions attempt to alter thinking deficits. Both of these forms of cognitive interventions assist in promoting pro-social thoughts and behaviors. That is, the major goal of these forms of cognitive interventions is the rehabilitation of the offender. Such cognitive programs have been effectively implemented in community corrections, juvenile facilities, adult prisons, and substance abuse programs Although the adult prison system has been more reluctant to utilize cognitive programming, research suggests that can be quite effective at reducing recidivism rates of program participants.

Champion (xxxx) raises another issue: How what happens to the parolees when they are on probation. What programs, if any, are the most effective? Can they achieve their objectives and support recidivism? He stresses that every program that is implemented needs to be evaluated to determine if it cost effective and accomplishes its stated goals. Each of these programs have different elements, for example, heighten offender accountability where restitution to victims or the community is encouraged. It is also necessary to clearly define recidivism, which can have many different meanings and expectations.

At the end of his book, Johnson (xxxx) asks for the American citizens to place their efforts on penal reform. Is this possible? Can the American mindset be changed from warehousing to supportive programming? There is a major difference between the U.S. And many countries in Europe and the rest of the Americas, actually nearly anywhere else worldwide. The difference is that the U.S. penal system is not a criminal justice system. Instead, as many state, it is a Gulag system similar to that in the Soviet Union. It is being used to politically control the population and specifically a targeted group within in this general population. Huge numbers of people are being incarcerated and no longer treated like citizens. This has proven to be easier than putting greater efforts on the society that has developed these criminals in the first place.

In America, it is a necessity to change more than just the system. It is changing the underlying belief systems of the populace. In order to have true prison reform, it is necessary to alter the prejudicial attitudes that are underneath the system itself. For example, the negative attitudes toward prisoners that many people have. These prisoners are seen as individuals who have not followed the correct rules of the society and need to be banned from that society and put away from the general public. Unfortunately, then the situation comes "out of sight, out of mind." With all the other issues facing the American citizenry on a regular basis, the plight of those behind the prison walls is not a high priority. Americans…[continue]

Cite This Research Paper:

"Prison Reform The United States" (2010, April 27) Retrieved December 8, 2016, from http://www.paperdue.com/essay/prison-reform-the-united-states-2339

"Prison Reform The United States" 27 April 2010. Web.8 December. 2016. <http://www.paperdue.com/essay/prison-reform-the-united-states-2339>

"Prison Reform The United States", 27 April 2010, Accessed.8 December. 2016, http://www.paperdue.com/essay/prison-reform-the-united-states-2339

Other Documents Pertaining To This Topic

  • Prison Life and Strategies to Decrease Recidivism Upon an Inmates...

    Prisons An analysis of the purposes for prisons in the U.S. justice system. The corrections system in America has historically fluctuated between being dedicated to incapacitation, rehabilitation, and to being punitive in nature. They can serve all three of these functions at the same time. Current trends in criminal justice remain focused on punitive justice that fosters prison environments lacking rehabilitative services, but recent scholarship and public policy have indicated a slight

  • United States Singled a Shining Democratic Governance

    United States singled a shining democratic governance;, U.S. system governance immune criticism. Scholar One of the critiques of democracy discussed within the articles for this assignment is greatly associated with the role that private property and wealth plays in democratic societies. Specifically, within Santas' "Plato's criticism of democracies in The Republic," the author alludes to the fact that the influence of these two external aspects of government -- the

  • United States Has the Highest Rate of

    United States has the highest rate of confinement of prisoners per 100,000 population than any other Western country. Analyze this phenomena and discuss actions that you feel are necessary to combat this problem. The United States currently has the highest incarceration rate of any nation worldwide. For example, greater than 60% of nations have incarceration rates below 150 per 100,000 people (Walmsley, 2003). The United States makes up just about

  • Prison Overcrowding Prisoners Rights Allegations

    '" Two steps if taken, however, would almost halve our prison population. First, repeal state laws that now mandate the incarceration of drug offenders and develop instead many more public and private treatment centers to which nonviolent drug abusers can be referred. Second, stop using jails or prisons to house the mentally ill. Tougher sentencing is being justified, in part, by the widespread belief that incarceration is the chief reason violent crime

  • United States Enjoys the Dubious

    Spending more on prisons means spending less on other public purposes" (2008, p. 120). The area most affected by the ex post facto application of the revised sentencing guidelines would be northern Virginia where almost 900 inmates (fully twice as many as any other region of the nation) would become eligible for early release (McCabe, 2011). The retroactive application of the revised sentencing guidelines in this area alone would

  • United States Border Patrol Border

    He didn't have to say it but political posturing and the power of special interest lobbying will not stop anytime soon. Nor will the illegal immigrants who want a better life in the U.S. stop trying to come across into the U.S. And while all that goes on, the Border Patrol agents are out there on the front lines, doing their best to protect the border and risking life

  • US Government Should Limit the Level of Immigration

    Immigration to America An Introduction and Claim Over the years, the issue of immigration in America United States has raised complex demographic issues. Elements of population increase and cultural change on the native societies in the United States are evident characteristics of immigration. The social, political, and economic components of immigration cause controversies on issues of employment, settlement patterns, ethnicity, and economic benefits for non-immigrants. The government works on developing social mobility,


Read Full Research Paper
Copyright 2016 . All Rights Reserved