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Lawlessness or lack of social order negatively impacts the stability and development of any society. As a result, every government and authority puts in place measures to control crime levels by dealing with crime and putting in place measures to promote law and order in the society. These include imprisonment of violators of the law. Therefore, commission of criminals to the correctional facilities like prisons is one of the ways in which the government responds to crime. However, the efficacy of the prison system in handling the violators of the law still remains debatable. This justifies the need for continued reforms in the prison systems in a bid to make them effective enough in dealing with law violation.
Efficacy of Prison System in Handling Law Violators
The effectiveness of prisons in dealing with law violators in the society is debatable. By putting criminals in the prisons, the authorities hope to deter them from future criminal behavior. However, imprisonment may not be a very effective tool to deal with crime in the society. It is unfortunate to mention that in some cases, the prison system have served to only hoard and harden criminals awaiting re-integration before they again re-offend. Thus mere imprisonment does very little in preventing crime but rather promotes recidivism.
The high risk prison facilities keep law violators that interact and even become more hardened. Without behavioral reforms and rehabilitation programs in the prisons, such criminals end up becoming worse than they got into the prisons (Ambrosino 450). This is because of social learning and interaction among the prisoners in the correctional facilities. Upon completion of the committal term, such offenders end up committing even more serious criminal offenses. This reveals the harsh reality that prison systems lack the efficacy to deal effectively with crime in the society. It just serves to protect the vulnerable public against criminal activities for a short-while.
The reasons underlying crime commission are various. Until the prison system is able to deal with these issues, their relevance in dealing with crime will still remain questionable (Ambrosino 450). Such issues such as poverty can only be addressed through empowerment of prisoners with skills and training and resources. This is not possible to achieve with offenders sentenced for short committal terms. The prison systems currently offer rehabilitative programs, capacity building programs and trainings but only for those criminals who have been committed to long-term imprisonment. This leaves out a big percentage of offenders who return to the community and re-offend since the real cause of the criminal behavior has not been arrested or “imprisoned”. Prison facilities thus lack this holistic approach in war against crime (Ambrosino 450-451).
Reforming the Prison System
There is urgent need for changes in the prison system if they are to effectively deal with the problem of crime in the society (Clear, Cole and Reisig 38). To begin with, not all offenders should be sentenced to imprisonment. Those sentenced to short-term imprisonment should instead be committed to community service to enhance faster re-integration into the society. Only offenders with long committal terms should be imprisoned. This will solve the problem of “warehousing of criminals” through imprisonment. This measure will help to decongest the facilities that are ever over-stretched thus being very ineffective. Parole and short term sentencing should be promoted to decongest the prison facilities and improve effectiveness and quality.
The prison system should be reformed if they are to facilitate rehabilitation of the criminals and enhance reduction of crime commission. Most offenders commit crime due to economic, psychological as well as emotional issues. Once committed to prison system, such individuals should be empowered so as to be productive and law abiding citizens upon re-integration. This will reduce incidences of re-offending. Prison facilities should therefore target “repairing” of deficiencies in the individual instead of merely housing offenders (Ambrosino 450). This approach will promote self-reliance among prisoners. As prisoners are empowered through training, the social, emotional and psychological needs of such persons should be addressed through welfare programs like counseling and other rehabilitative measures.
Societal Benefits of Imprisonment
The society benefits from imprisonment since prisons take away criminals from the public thus protecting the public against criminal acts (Cole and Smith 8). The prison systems also help in deterring potential offenders from committing crimes because of the punishments enacted against such conduct through imprisonment. In some of the prison facilities, offenders are trained and empowered with resources and skills that make them productive upon termination of their jail terms (Cullen and Wilcox 466). The society thus indirectly benefits from the skills of such prisoners. Imprisonment thus helps to rehabilitate offenders and reduce crime commission (Ambrosino 450).
Families that could otherwise have not managed to train their members and empower them directly benefit from the training that the prisoners get as they serve their terms. Upon release or termination, such offenders are able to provide for their families in a conventional way. Besides, such people rarely re-offend (Cullen and Wilcox 467). However, this may only be short-lived for the offenders given short-term prison sentences. Upon return to the society, such persons may re-offend if they are not fully and effectively reformed and empowered.
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Problems of the Prison System
Prison systems keep offenders serving sentences that could alternatively been dealt with through community service (Lousley 34). As a result, there is a lot of congestion in the facilities. Women and children are mixed up with men in some of the prisons as a result of strained facilities. This is a potential for further social problems. The congestion results in poor hygiene making the prison systems to become a ground for spread of diseases.
The quality of services including rehabilitation is greatly compromised in the prison facilities. Besides, the personnel serving in the systems are often very harsh and inhuman. This impedes their effectiveness in actually helping the offenders to correct their criminal attitudes and become law abiding (Ambrosino 450). The harshness and ruthlessness with which offenders are treated in the prisons only serves to harden them against correctional measures in the prison system. Such offenders thus end up not benefiting from the prison system and only return to the society to re-offend.
Prisoners and Wages
Prisoners who participate in productive activities should be paid wages. Inmates that are employed in work, education, induction programs, training or the offending behavior programs should be paid (Lousley 37). This will motivate prisoners to value the training programs which in turn enable them to learn life skills, earn more money and thus be self-reliant upon integration to the society. When prisoners learn that they can earn wages by acquiring skills through training in the prison facilities, they become motivated to learn, acquire skills and become responsible citizens. Lousley (37-38) cited that this is a long-term strategy of reducing the high levels of recidivism and preventing crime. Besides, such wages will enable the prisoners to make compensation payments to their victims and mend fences with the society.
Explaining the Purpose of Imprisonment
Imprisonment should serve as punitive measure against crime and criminal acts. The long term goal of this measure should be make law violators better citizens. However, for this to be realized, prison facilities must shift focus from mere holding of criminals to begin empowering and rehabilitating the offender. Ambrosino (450) cited that rehabilitation and empowerment during the jail term will transform the prison facilities from being points of hoarding criminals for a season and transferring the problem back to the society upon release of offenders. Imprisonment should thus be used to deter future violation of the law by offenders.
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