Reforming Rehabilitation in the U.S. Prison System

Reforming Rehabilitation in the U.S. Prison System

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Melissa Gonzalez started this petition to Department of Justice

Since before the 1980s, the number of prisoners in the United States’ Federal/private prison systems have been on a steady incline, reaching numbers of over 2.3 million people by the mid 2000s. Even in the current days, federally and privately owned prisons house over 2 million people and have been raking in millions of dollars in profit from abusing the tax dollars that have been invested in them. Even though counseling programs and vocational training have been recorded to be in use since 1979, it is evident that these programs have not been serving its purpose. Whether it is due to the ineffectiveness of the current rehabilitation process or the lack of focus on actually rehabilitating the inmates, the data collected by the Pew Research Center and the Census of State and Federal Correctional Facilities clearly state that post-2000s imprisonment numbers have been higher than it was in the 20th century, and even compared to other well-developed countries with high populations such as France and Germany. U.S. has an incarceration rate over 6.48 and 8.5 times of the respective countries.

The lack of control over ex-cons along with the relatively understated awareness of the importance of rehabilitation has blown the number of persons imprisoned out of proportion, and there needs to be change.

The effects of well-executed rehabilitation programs are abundantly positive. In certain states like Ohio and New York, it has been reported that the number of inmates that enroll in college courses have a significantly lower rates of re-incarceration; 18% and less than 50%, respectively - whereas those who do not are twice as likely to be re-incarcerated.

Currently only about 30% of state prisons offer college courses and less than half of private prison systems offer vocational training with these numbers being significantly lower for lesser jails while nearly 30 percent of all state prisons do not offer a drug-dependency assistance or counseling sessions. Although it has been shown, time and time again, that these counseling sessions and higher education programs can notably decrease not only the number of prisoners in the system but also the cost of running these prisons.

There is an increasing demand for a reform in the prison system, mainly in the rehabilitation sector. More often than not, to fight the increase in incarcerated criminals, the justice system will act upon ‘habitual offender’ laws to increase the sentences of repeat offenders. However, simply increasing the punishment not only tears down the mental health of the previously-incarcerated, but also further provides the criminals with ulterior motives to take their crimes a step up in order to retaliate.Instead of pushing the boundaries of humanity and potentially worsening the crime crisis that is prominent throughout the states, more specifically in high-crime neighborhoods, we believe that the justice system should instead focus on encouraging the criminals to be actively participating members of society once their sentence is served. Simply put, the current prison system merely serves the purpose of housing the criminals. Instead of inmates living unproductive lives while incarcerated, the overall productivity of the nation could increase if the justice system instead focused on rehabilitating inmates as opposed to punishing them.

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