Sally Fitzgibbons Foundation

Beginning the Academic Essay

Prison is an institution that not only punishes but rehabilitates criminals so that they could contribute to the good of society. Prison reform is necessary to improve the conditions the prison system. The article I will be discussing is called “sessions and Kushner Square Off, and Prisoners Hang in the Balance”. This article talks about prison reforms and how the White House want to reduce recidivism and improve prisoner education as being their top priority (Apuzzo, 2018). Based on the article, there is a disagreement over reforming sentencing laws because people who oppose say it might reduce sentences for highly dangerous criminals, such as, murderers, violent assaults and drug traffickers (Apuzzo, 2018). This paper will talk about the historical and current events, social attitudes and beliefs, about the prison reform and how to prepare incarcerated people for life after prison.
According to the article, One of the White House plans is to offer incentives to persuade prisoners to enroll in educational programs, so that it could prepare and benefit them for life outside of prison, as well as prevent prisoners from committing crime again (Apuzzo, 2018). Even though there is a high demand of education from the inmates, there isn’t enough staff to do the teaching due to the Trump administration cutting more than 6000 prison jobs which led to the shortage of prison workers (Apuzzo, 2018). “There is a high demand of the education program that more than 15,000 federal inmates are on the waiting list, but there isn’t enough staff to do the teaching” (Apuzzo, 2018).
The United States is known to have one of the highest incarceration rates across the world. “According to a recent report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, one in every two hundred Americans is incarcerated” (O’Toole & Sahar, 2014). People who have a higher understanding and knowledge about the prison system as well as those who are politically liberal, agree with the idea of changing the prison system is necessary (O’Toole ; Sahar, 2014).
There has been many research recently, that show significant connections between crime attribution and punishment (O’Toole & Sahar, 2014). Even though many personals who are part of the justice system understand the importance of increasing research, budget, funding and prison revision, there have been numerous bills proposed that have failed in regards to this initiative (O’Toole ; Sahar, 2014). This contrasting outcomes raises the question why many people don’t support prison reform bills and initiatives (O’Toole ; Sahar, 2014).
There are various reasons why many people don’t support prison reforms. People attribution and behavior towards prisoners varies from the crimes they have committed. Some of the reason is many people assume and believe that, those who are convicted of sexual offences, will re-offense (O’Toole ; Sahar, 2014). In addition, people tend to have a high level of anger for those that are considered serious crimes like murder, violent assaults and mostly sexual offense (O’Toole & Sahar, 2014).
Based on a study that was found, those who are considered conservative highly support retribution of prisons. In addition, when it comes to social attitudes, conservative people are less likely to support changes as well as justify inequalities for prison and inmates (O’Toole ; Sahar, 2014). Meanwhile, those who are considered liberals, acknowledge the essentiality for prison system to be changed as well as, support, and advocate for rehabilitation programs to benefit incarcerated population after their out of prison (O’Toole & Sahar, 2014). They also show great support for changing the current prison system as well as make changes to inequalities suffered by the incarcerated population because the inmates are identified as individuals who have suffered unfavorable conditions prior to being incarcerated and will likely confront discrimination upon reentry (O’Toole ; Sahar, 2014).
Based on surveys and researches, people who are more knowledgeable about prison systems support rehabilitative efforts (Reid, 2015). They also voiced the necessities to make changes to the prison system. They believe that prison reform is necessary if prisons have more violence, disobedience, and have more gang presence (Reid, 2015). Also, people of color and manysupport a more punitive prison reform than white people do (Reid, 2015). Many people believe that the “purpose of punishment is a way to make criminals suffer” (Reid, 2015).
There are a lot of forms of discrimination and oppression prisoners face. U.S federal prisons are known to be overcrowded (Reid, 2015). Inmates are also given extremely long sentences, and because of the overcrowding of the prisons as well as the length of sentences, it is very hard to have rehabilitation and reintegration programs for inmates that are in jail (Reid, 2015). Some of the discrimination inmates face is the lack of respect from prison authorities. Even though there are principles that said, inmates should be treated with respect and be valued as a human being, that is not the case in most times (Assembly, 1990). “Unfortunately, in prison, respect oftentimes only comes through violence and aggression, especially among inmates” (Reid, 2015). Something highly seen in every prison is, inmates who are convicted of serious crimes, get imprisoned in solitary confinement and because of that, they deal with “serious psychological disturbances” (Reid, 2015). Because of the isolation, inmates show symptoms of social withdrawal. Some of the reason that led to this, is the lack of activities that are inside the prison (Reid, 2015). “most of the time spent in prison is a complete waste of time and taxpayers’ money unless the individual is a true danger to society and needs to be isolated” (Reid, 2015).
In the era of the Great Depression in the 1930s, the incarceration rate increased tremendously. “From 1925 to 1939 the nation’s rate of incarceration climbed from 79 to 137 per 100,000 residents” (Prisons: History – Modern Prisons, 2018). During that time also, many African American incarceration rate were three time greater than it was for whites (Reid,2015).
In 1935 the Ashurst–Sumners Act was passed. This law prevented items that were made by prison labor to be sold in other states, which limited the use of free market labor (Putney, 1937). It also restricted the sale of prison made merchandises to in-state government agencies, and because of that, there were many people who were concerned that prison labor was taking jobs from the general population (Putney, 1937).
Also during the early 1930s, over laboring prisoners were considered beneficial and helpful. In some southern states, they used labor camps (Gardnej, 2013). Most prisoners were used as a free labor and the majority of them were African American prisoners (Gardnej, 2013). Things are a lot different currently, because preparing prisoners for life outside of prison through educational program is seen as beneficial and helpful. This shows that societal attitudes towards incarcerated people is slowly progressing. There weren’t much federal prisons, but the conditions of state prisons are a lot similar. The Prison Industries Reorganization Administration, studied the conditions in state prisons and discovered that many were overcrowded, some buildings were unsafe, there were many untrained/unqualified staff, and they had limited educational and training opportunities (Gardnej, 2013).
During the Great depression, prisoners were considered non-deserving because of lack of funds, prisons were in poor conditions, and changes in labor laws were due to concern for common citizens, not the inmates. Similarly, the prisoners are undeserving currently, because they cut budgets, staffs, and insistent on using private prisons. Private prisons are known to be more violent for inmates and guards, than federal prisons (Williams, 2018). Because of the lack care, attention and short staff of guards in private prisons, inmates tend to protect themselves with weapons, promoting a chain of reprisal violence (Williams, 2018).
In the 1930s relief was provided by state governments but not much was done for prisoners. Currently however, the relief is going to be provided by the Federal Government. The policy during the Great Depression, as well as, the policy currently is written from a strength centered and problem centered perspective. Its strength centered because it is recognizing inmates have potential to be a productive members of society if given more opportunities but it also addressing the financial and conditions of the prisons making it problem centered.
In the 1930s, the policy was Social Justice for white inmates and oppression for minorities, but the current policy is Social justice for all prisoners, because it’s recognizing the value of the inmates, and that they should be treated as a human being, and can do well if barriers are removed. Treatments were always given on individual level but the ultimate goal was social control.
It’s important to improve the prison system by increasing funding to better assist and provide support to prisoners. Throughout the year, treatments of incarcerated population have always been devastating. Prisoners were exposed to horrible conditions and discriminations. There have been many changes done to prison reform in order to rid of this conditions. Among those changes is providing programs to prepare prisoners for life after prison.

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