Are prisons supposed to warehouses of society’s rejects or are they supposed to rehabilitate criminals so that they may become productive members of society?

It seems to me that they are warehouses.  If the prisoners were dogs or cats the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals would be pitching a fit.  In many cases they are treated worse than you hear about the racing dogs, circus animals and rodeo animals.

What surprises me is that some prisoners do come out better people than they were when they went in.  The reason is that while they were there they realized their mistakes and came to the conclusion that they did not want to come back.  Their outlook on life changed and in spite of the conditions they realized that it is their fault that they were there.  

Another thing that surprises me is how many innocent people are in prison.  Some of them work to prove their innocence and spend their time on their cases when they are allowed to.  It surprised me that many of them after years of false imprisonment are good people and they have not been destroyed by the system that put them there.

What doesn’t surprise me is that many of the innocent prisoners are turned into a menace to society and come out of prison to become criminals and/or substance abusers.

Prisons can take a good man and turn him bad or a bad man and turn him into a worse man.  

Yes some prisons have rehabilitation programs including drug programs, education programs, vocational training programs, work release programs and other methods of rehabilitation.

They also have drugs that are smuggled in by visitors and guards. They have cruel guards who keep the prisoners down, beat them, set them up for cases against them, look the other way when they are attacked by other prisoners and have other ways to physically and mentally abuse them.  The infirmaries have doctors who can not work anywhere else (Many who are not even licensed.) because they are incompetent, nurses who ignore their needs and guards who abuse them.  In some cases the prisoners who work there are the only ones who care and are the only ones who are competent.

Prison is a big business and those who run the system want the repeat offenders to come back.  They have a vested interest in not turning out rehabilitated prisoners.  Many guards, wardens and other prison staff members make money off the system.  

Many people say that prison is for punishment.  Conditions for the convicts are supposed to be harsh.  They get what they deserve.  Make life miserable for them.  What they do not realize is that most of the prisoners will return to society.

It seems to me that we would save money and lives if the prisons rehabilitated the prisoners and treated them humanely.  Give them training for jobs and educate them.  Give them treatment for mental illnesses.  Give them quality medical care.  Give them drug abuse and anger management programs.

We have to realize that the loss of freedom and control of your daily life is the punishment portion of being a prisoner.  The prison authorities can stop the drugs from coming into the prisons.  They can hire people who care.

Then we have the parole system.  I have met parole officers who care.  They work with the men and women that they have control over.  Then you have the ones that do not care and harass instead of help.  We also have the problem of too many cases for the parole officers.  They do not have the time to do the job that needs to be done.

The object of parole is not only to violate the parolee when he makes a mistake but it is also to help the parolee blend back into society.   It is supposed to help the parolee stay out of prison not to put him back in.  

One thing we have to realize is that people change.  The person you send to prison is not the same person that gets out.  Who that person is when he or she gets out is dependent on the treatment they receive in prison.

© Copyright 2002 Lee W. Gaylord

The Book to Be

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