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Prison: To Punish or to Promote Progress

https://eic.rsc.org/analysis/prison-break-could-you-escape-from-jail-using-a-wet-shirt/2021318.article

https://eic.rsc.org/analysis/prison-break-could-you-escape-from-jail-using-a-wet-shirt/2021318.article

Sarah Bethurem

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The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a prison as a place of confinement especially for lawbreakers; however, what exactly is the purpose of prison? As of March, 2018, according to Prison Policy Initiative, the United States had more than 1,316,000 people in state prisons, more than 615,000 people in local jails, and more than 225,000 people in federal prisons, making the United States of America accountable for almost a quarter of the world’s prisoners (https://www.prisonpolicy.org/graphs/pie2018.html). With this many culprits, it’s hard to determine the best means of action. Should prisons focus on punishing people for their actions, or should they be attempting to reform them? Instead of prison being a place to solely discipline people, I believe they should make an effort at trying to reform their inmates.

Due to severe overcrowding, thousands of people are being released from their sentence early; this does not mean that they are ready to reenter society. A study, conducted by the National Institute of Justice, showed that 76.6% of their criminals that they released during a specific year were arrested within five years of being released (https://www.nij.gov/topics/corrections/recidivism/Pages/welcome.aspx). It’s evident that something needs to be done with the behavioral side of things if three-fourths of the people that were released are being rearrested.

People are already put in prison as a form of punishment, so why continue to punish them when we could be working on their social skills and job skills? Isn’t the hope to eventually have them contribute to the rest of society? Not all people in prison are terrible people. In fact, a rather surprising amount of people in prison have mental disabilities that prevent them from performing properly in public; these people should be provided with the help and facilities they need, instead of tossing them into a prison. Also, a fraction of people in prison are where they are because they refused to pay their traffic tickets. Although this is frowned upon, it does not mean that we need to place them in solitary confinement for long periods of time.

Personally, I consider community service a great thing to do in order to try to better their future decisions and actions. The Justice and Reconciliation Center states, “Community service provides an opportunity for the offender to see first-hand the indirect injuries caused by his/her offence. In this way, the offender may see the reasons for the limits of social tolerance. Moreover, the offender is provided with a constructive, proactive means of repairing the injuries caused by his/her crime, with the potential to improve the offender’s overall sense of self-worth” (http://restorativejustice.org/restorative-justice/about-restorative-justice/tutorial-intro-to-restorative-justice/lesson-3-programs/community-service/#sthash.wwsqisMj.dpbs).

People make mistakes, some big, and some small. They pay the consequences for their actions. A portion of them will end up in prison; however, there are means to help them. Prison is a place that should take a shot at reforming people, instead of punishing them.

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