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The Prison System

Essay by   •  March 14, 2011  •  Research Paper  •  998 Words (4 Pages)  •  1,104 Views

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Prison inmates are some of the most “maladjusted” people in society. Most of the inmates have had too little discipline or too much, come from broken homes, and have little or no self-esteem. They are very insecure and are “at war with themselves as well as with society” (Szumski 20). Most inmates did not learn moral values or learn to follow everyday norms. Also, when most lawbreakers are labeled criminals they enter a phase called secondary deviance. They will admit they are criminals or believe it when they enter the phase of secondary deviance (Doob 171).

Some believe that if we want to rehabilitate criminals we must do more than just send them to prison. For instance, we could give them a chance to acquire job skills; which will improve the chances that inmates will become productive citizens upon release. The programs must aim to change those who want to change. Those who are taught to produce useful goods and to be productive are “likely to develop the self-esteem essential to a normal, integrated personality” (Szumski 21). This kind of program would provide many useful skills and habits and “replace the sense of hopelessness” that many inmates have (Szumski 21).

Another technique used to rehabilitate criminals is counseling. There are two types of counseling in general, individual and group counseling. Individual counseling is much more costly than group counseling. The aim of group counseling is to develop positive peer pressure that will influence its members. One idea in many sociology studies is that group problem-solving has definite advantages over individual problem-solving. The idea is that a wider variety of solutions can be derived by drawing from the experience of several people with different backgrounds. Also one individual’s problem might have already been solved by another group member and can be suggested. Often, if a peer proposes a solution it carries more weight than if the counselor were to suggest it (Bennett 20-24).

Further, in similar studies, one of the major theories of delinquency is differential association (Cressey 1955). This means some individuals learned their ways from “undesirable” people who they were forced to be in association with and that this association “warps” their thinking and social attitudes. “Group counseling, group interaction, and other kinds of group activities can provide a corrective, positive experience that might help to offset the earlier delinquent association” (Bennett 25). However, it is said that group counseling can do little to destroy the power of labeling. The differential-association theory emphasizes that a person is more likely to become a criminal if the people who have the greatest influence upon them are criminals (Doob 169).

Most of today’s correctional institutions lack the ability and programs to rehabilitate the criminals of America. One can predict that a prisoner held for two, four, eight or ten years, then released, still with no education or vocational skills, will likely return to a life of crime. Often their life in crime will resume in weeks after their release. Although the best prisons and programs in the world will not cure the problem totally, improvements still must be made (Szumski 20).

Although counseling is effective, there are some disadvantages. For instance, members of the group might not be as open or show emotion because they want to appear “tough.” Also the members might not express their opinions openly because the others might see it as “snitching.” For the process to work, it takes a dedicated counselor (Bennett 22-23). Another type of correctional center used for rehabilitation is halfway houses. Halfway houses are usually located in residential communities and are aimed to keep offenders in the community. The name comes from the fact that they are “halfway between the community and the prison” (Fox 60).

The “rationale” behind halfway houses is that criminal activity originates in the community, so the community

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