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The Effectiveness of America’s Prisons

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State of Texas
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General public
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criminal law
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Texas A & M

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Matthew S.
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documents in English
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case study
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5 pages
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  1. Introduction
  2. Crime
  3. Drug offenders
  4. The Effectiveness of America's Prisons
  5. Conclusion

Crime has been a defining characteristic of modern America. It has claimed thousands of lives and has cost billions of dollars. The U.S. "correctional" population is at a record high. During the past two decades, the prison population has grown more rapidly than at any noted time in history. This growth resulted in a massive new prison expansion program, which was implemented in order to deal with overcrowding in prisons (Banes, 1998).

The present day role of our prison system is one of deterrence. By being "tough on crime" with stiffer drug laws, tougher parole requirements, mandatory minimum sentences, "three strikes" laws and other legislation, our nation, supposedly, strives to lower the crime rate. The millions of Americans behind bars, the majority of them nonviolent offenders, means jobs for depressed regions and major profits for private contractors wanting to "cash in" on the opportunity (Banes, 1998).

?America imprisons 756 inmates per 100,000 residents, a rate nearly five times the world's average. About one in every 31 adults in this country is in jail or on supervised release. Either we are the most evil people on earth or we are doing something very wrong? (Webb, 2009). Our current prison-based rehabilitation programs have not kept up with this growing number of offenders. Our "corrections" system is failing; we are not rehabilitating prisoners. Instead, we are simply housing inmates, then releasing them back into society having received little or no job training, drug treatment, or education. Many are unable to find jobs and are barred by law from living in public housing projects, so they quickly return to crime. This pattern is a major factor in recidivism rates which have barely changed in over twenty years (The Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics, n.d.).

[...] The education of inmates is an ongoing problem within the penal system. "Nineteen percent of adult inmates are completely illiterate, and forty percent are functionally illiterate, which means, for example, that they would not be able to write a letter explaining a billing error. Comparatively, the national illiteracy rate for adult Americans stands at four percent, with twenty-one percent functionally illiterate." (Frolander- Ulf & Yates, 2001). This statistic alone should stimulate change with education . "literacy programs reduce recidivism? (Frolander-Ulf & Yates, 2001); it is obvious that education, throughout the correctional system, is pivotal. [...]


[...] References Banes, S. (1998). Making strides in the recidivism battle. Retrieved April from: www.sph.tulane.edu Frolander-Ulf, M. & Yates, M. (2001). Teaching in Prison. Monthly Review. Volume 53, Issue July/Aug. Gateway Foundation Inc. (n.d.) Retrieved April from: http://recovergateway.org National Center on Addiction & Substance Abuse. (n.d.) Retrieved April from: http://www.casacolumbia.org The State of Texas. [...]


[...] Many correctional officers, me included, feel that when released, the ex-prisoners can't hack it the real world and it becomes a vicious cycle of recidivism. Prison is a microcosm of the streets. The behavior that takes place in the streets will be reflected and exaggerated in prison- the drugs, the violence, and all the bad characteristics of the streets. The drug scene seems to intensify in prison. The drug "business" is as profitable and structured as it is on the street. [...]


[...] The longer a prisoner is incarcerated, the more "institutionalized" they become. Prisoners have no voice in the decisions that affect their lives. They are told what to do, when to do it, how to do it, and where to do it. The prisoner lacks any real responsibility in life. They have no goals and no ventilation for their emotions. Prisoners become concerned with surviving in the prison environment and adjusting to prison routines, rather than with developing coping strategies that would allow them to address problems in the free world. [...]


[...] (n.d.) Adult Correctional Rehabilitation Programs/Recidivism Reports. Retrieved April from: www.cjpc.state.tx.us TDCJ-State Jail Division. (n.d.) Substance Abuse Felony Punishment Initiative. Retrieved April from: www.tdcj.state.tx.us U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics. (n.d.) Correctional Populations and Facilities. Retrieved April from: www.ojp.usdoj.gov Webb, J. (2009). What's Wrong With America's Prisons? Parade. [...]

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