The Rights Of Punishment Wake Up Call Is this a hellish nightmare that I have to awaken from? Caged and confined, thinking and pondering, I wonder what human is this that he should be subjected to imprisonment that neither improves nor corrects his soul? Is there no compassion for restoring a man to contribute to this nation? Or does the dark side of humanity see offenders of the law as utter undesirables unworthy of aid and therapy? Society, I have been tried and sentenced. Serving time for violating the law is not supposed to be a picnic. But demoralizing and dehumanizing a man to the dust of the ground does not correct behavior that got him incarcerated in the first place. This only fuels the fire, a fire which, if not handled properly, will in time burn everything in its path. Now who is the real criminal? Cell 52514 Block 2-229 Crescent City Penitentiary Everyday, the American prison system becomes more crowded and over-burdened. Prison bed space cannot keep up with the prison population.
While presidents and governors call for a tough stance on crime, the infrastructure is inadequate to contain all offenders. However, even if there were enough room to fit every individual that commits a criminal act, would this be the best move for the community and the offender? Placing an individual into a prison removes them from the general population, thus making the society they live in safer. But, separating individuals in a community does indirectly injure the community as a whole. These individuals obviously are no longer contributing to the local economy, but on a basic level, their absence places a hole into a community. Offenders have been shaped by the values and practices of their community. So, even though an individual may have acted in a way that is unacceptable to their community, that person is still the product of his community.
Therefore, communities must hold some of the burden for making people into who they are. So, prisons must do more then just contain offenders. A responsible society must make the effort to rehabilitate these individuals and make strides to re-connect them with the community. As Bill McKibben says, Isnt it time to focus harder on substantive problems, such as how do we build a society that doesnt destroy the planet by its greed, and doesnt ignore the weak and the poor (McKibben, p. 720).
Much attention has been given to issues of big business versus the environment. People can sympathize with this cause. Though it may not be as glamorous, it is just as important that societys addresses the needs of the less fortunate. Even though criminals who commit the most heinous crimes receive the majority of public attention, most offenders are not intrinsically evil or irreversible. Often they are weak individuals who may not have received the best upbringing or have instilled in them a set of values incompatible with the community.
McKibben feels that it is important not to ignore these unfortunate individuals, and give them an opportunity to re-engage with society in a mutually acceptable way. Therefore, prisons need to train offenders to exist with the rest of society. In the book, C-Unit, the authors suggest that prisons fulfill a certain role. The modern prison is asked to perform three tasks: (1) to make explicit in action that the community will not tolerate certain destructive behaviors; (2) to protect the community, for at least temporary periods of time; and (3) to prepare such persons to be responsible members of the community when they are released from prison. (Studt, Messinger and Thomas, p.
3) By containing prisoners within the confines of a jail, they are removed from the community at large, thus protecting the community. In addition, by making this prison stay punishment, inmates, for the most part, realize that they acted in a way that was unacceptable. Preparing individuals for re-integration into society is where the role of a prison becomes complex. A prison stay is unlikely to reform any criminal if it only means that they are separated from the community and there is no drive to change. The first change that needs to be addressed is on the value system of an inmate. Without this, it is only superficial to urge an offender to conform to the role of a responsible citizen. The offender must be made to realize that the act they committed was unacceptable. Further, they need to understand why it was not legal within society and comprehend why it was wrong. The authors of the C-Unit think that offenders need to learn what it means to hold a moral role within society.
They say; Specifically we consider that a moral relationship is characterized by ascription of dignity to individuals, respect and concern for the rights and welfare of others in pursuing individual interests and reliance on positive social controls rather than on force or manipulation to regulate interaction. (Studt, Messinger and Thomas, p.5) Offenders have to acquire the ability to relate to others in the community. They need to have concern for more than their personal desires and must learn to act in a way that does not infringe on the lives of other individuals. Specifically, offenders must develop compassion and tolerance towards others in their community. McKibben would agree that in order to be a responsible member of society, an individual would have to consider the needs of the community.
He states, by accepting the idea that we should never limit desire or choose from the options our material and spiritual liberations give us, we ignore similarly pressing facts about our larger community (McKibben, p. 721). Offenders need to learn that their actions have a direct impact on the community and that they cannot pursue their selfish wants inconsiderately. They need to live within the same set of limits as everyone else. If an offender is able to perceive these limits, they are better able to re-connect with the community This change in an offenders perception of values cannot be facilitated by force. The C-Unit authors talk of change through positive social controls, rather than coercion.
Such an important change in individuals fundamental value system must be taken voluntarily, otherwise the risk of rejection increases. In his essay, The Idea of Community: A Critique, Dennis Wrong examines the difference between conformity based on shared values and straight conformism (Wrong, p. 79). Wrong believes that a person will naturally conform to an ideal if that person shares the same values as other of the ideal. Conformism is different in that it requires no agreement on values.
It is conformity driven solely by the want to conform. The risk involved is that if offenders conform to the role society has laid out for them, they may not have accepted society’s values. It is important, for lasting change to occur, that this conformity, back into an accepted member of the community, also include agreement on values. If the values of an offender remain in conflict with those of society and the offender is just practicing conformism, there is less of a chance that the offender will be successfully re-integrated with society. Even if an offenders value set changes, they will still have difficulty returning to society because they often lack the social skills necessary to exist with others.
They may also lack the ability to trouble shoot their own problems in a way that does not include an illegal act. In order to rehabilitate individuals, it is required that they develop the proper set of skills to help them lead a respectable life. In his essay, Probation and Cognitive Skills, Frederick Chavaria says that; Nearly every notable (successful) program shared one common characteristic: some technique had an impact on the offenders thinking. Effective programs not only targeted the offenders environment, behavioral responses and skill development, they also sought to increase the offenders reasoning skills, problem solving abilities and expand offenders empathy toward others. (Chavaria, p.57) Not only must a program address the values and compassion of an inmate, but it must also give the inmates a set of tools that will allow them to be successful. When inmates leave the confines of prison, they need to have some vocational skill that will allow them to gain useful and satisfying employment.
Many of the skills offenders need, however, are more soft and not based on a specific job function, but are universal. Offenders need to be taught how to handle the difficult times they will run into beyond prison walls in a way that is acceptable to the community. If an offender does not have these tools, often they will relapse into their old ways in order to combat a problem. Having the skills to deal with individuals and problems increases the likelihood that an offender will have a smooth transition back into the community. Many programs attempt to induce these important changes in offenders behavior.
All of these programs accept that some criminals acts are too abominable or an inmate is so hardened to the prison system that they are beyond change. First, these programs must focus their energy on offenders who can be rehabilitated and who have committed crimes that are not overly nefarious. Once an offender population is defined and a program is put in place, it must be objectively determined whether a program is successful. In order to evaluate effectively a programs ability to make changes to an offenders life and break the criminal cycle, appropriate measures need to be examined. A successful program would primarily reduce the chances that an offender would commit a crime.
A reduction in recidivism would indicate that the reformed offenders had acclimated back into the community in an acceptable way. Changes in lifestyle, though difficult to measure, including an increase in education or the ability to hold a quality job, would also indicate that a program is achieving its goals. Programs that claim to fulfill these measures include, shock incarnation, prison boot camps and the extended use of the parole system. (University of Cincinnati, Division of Criminal Justice) Both shock incarcerations (SIs) and boot camps take place while offenders are still serving their custodial term. SIs place new offenders into a very intensive prison sentence that is harsher than the standard sentence for a particular crime, but for a shorter period.
For instance, an offender might normally receive fivehundred hours of community service or the option of entering an SI that would require a jail term that amounted to less time served than the community service program. The offender is segregated from the regular population, but is still subjected to the realities of prison. The Criminal Disposition Commissions Alternatives to Incarceration Committee found this imperative for the success of SIs. They say, Shock programs are purported to give felons sufficient experience with prison to deter them from crimes without risking Prisonization and its accompanying effects (Coyle, p. 3).
By segrega …