Does Prison Really Rehabilitate?

The prison is one of the most essential elements of the criminal justice. Schaefer defined a prison as a correctional facility where inmates are forcibly confined, as well as, denied a set of freedoms, however under the authority of the state through the constitution. In many countries, individuals that have been officially convicted or charged with a specified crime(s) are confined to the facility until they are tried or until when their sentence successfully comes to an end. Schaefer revealed that prisons were not meant to punish but to help the offenders to lead the right course of life. As such, the prison facility and program is applied in such a manner that it assists the criminals to withdraw from their anti-social behaviors and thus lead a life, which is according to the norms and values and the virtues of the society. In other words, the role of the prison is to rehabilitate the crime offenders that have been convicted.

While this is the case, there have been growing criticisms on the whether the prison really fulfills this course. Several reasons have been cited to show that the system does not deliver the rehabilitation outcomes. For instance, it has been argued that, across the world, there are a growing number of repeated offences committed by offenders once they have been released from the prison system. It has also been revealed that, rather than rehabilitating, the prison system serves to punish the convicted criminals. In the light of this, it is right to argue that the prison system does not serve to rehabilitate but rather, to punish. To defend the above position, the present paper will first seek to define the various positions that have been advanced in support of the rehabilitative role of the prison. These views will then be reviewed to depict out the fallacies, misconceptions and gaps in their basic premises. The research paper will then transition towards evidence-based arguments about the ineffectiveness of prisons in the aforementioned role, and how it punishes the offenders.

In their research study, Marshall, et al. made reference to the Australian prison system in which he revealed that there is a set of programs that have been implemented aimed at rehabilitating the offenders. One such program, according to Marshall, et al., is the sex offender rehabilitation program, which was introduced in 2003. At the heart of this program is to understand the sexual offender with regard to their motivation to cause such offences. The researchers added to this in which he revealed that prisoners that have been convicted of sex offences are increasingly showing their readiness to engage in emerging interventions and this has helped the successful completion of the programs, which in turn deliver rehabilitative outcomes. In the Southern Wales jurisdiction, Marshall, et al. referred that sex offenders are now being subjected to the new preparatory and motivational programs, which play the role of reinforcing treatment gains. Adding to this, the researcher claimed that the majority of jurisdictions in Australia have developed and implemented the denier’s program, which is meant to manage sex criminals who categorically reject or decline their offending behavior. The program, according to the researcher, works by developing and reinforcing the offender’s emotion regulation skills.

The above points of view indeed show that there are immense plans that prison systems across the world are making towards enhancing the rehabilitative roles of the facilities. It is undeniable that the sex offender program and the subsequent sub-programs are unique and innovative and have the potential to deliver the most desirable outcomes for the sex offenders. While this is the case, there are several flaws that can be derived from the position. Foremost, Cullen and Gilbert revealed that the rehabilitation, as well as, the management of sex offenders across the world often presents a significant range of challenges within the prison environment. This is especially due to the fact that sexual offenders are heterogeneous in their attributes. While the behavior is amenable to change, Schaefer confirmed that there are a number of unique issues that constantly or routinely arise when a prison system attempts to rehabilitate sex offenders. One of such challenges include of and how the programs should separate or mix rapists and child molesters, the manner in which those offenders that categorically deny offending ought to be managed, the extent to which the prison-based programs should address the issue of non-criminogenic human needs, as well as, the use the preparatory sex offenders rehabilitation programs. Australian prison-based rehabilitative programs are not exempt from these issues. However, the claim by Marshall, et al. does not address or touch on these difficulties. Rather, he only discusses the mechanisms of the programs and the potential positive outcomes.

Several other researchers have sought to denounce the view by Marshall, et al. by reflecting the outcomes of the sex offenders in Australia after they leave the prison system. A good example of such researchers is Gelb and Sentencing Advisory Council. The researchers indicated that some considerable portion of offenders, even after going through the Australian prison systems, often reoffends. The researchers, citing the Australian Bureau of Statistics, indicated that in the period between 2004 and 2005, there were 1,816 sex offenders. Out of this number, 853, which translated to about 46.9 percent, were serving a second or a subsequent jail term. This was exactly a year after the Australian prison system implemented rehabilitation programs. What this necessarily means is that, even with the Australian prison system’s concerted efforts to rehabilitate the offenders, no rehabilitative outcomes are achieved. In the light of this, it is indeed undeniable that Marshall, et al.’s opinion about the effectiveness of prison systems as rehabilitative centers is invalid and unjustifiable.

Away from proposing arguments and counterarguments, there are several valid and original observations and assertions about the non-rehabilitative nature of prisons and prison systems. Tiger indicated that number of repeat offender who continues to commit crimes once they have been released is still high. However, in order to elicit a greater understanding, the researcher first defined the concepts of rehabilitation and re-offences as applied in the criminal justice law. Rehabilitation refers to preparing an offender for a productive life following his or her release from a prison facility. On the other hand, a re-offence is omitting or committing an act that the penal codes forbid, and which is punishable in a court of law, after one is released from prison. Cases of re-offenses have been in existence throughout the history of criminal justice system. In the 1980s, a case involving Rummel and Estelle was heard that this was the fourth time that the defendant was being convicted. He had been apprehended and sentenced to prison in 1964, 1965 and then in 1973. It was heard that In Ewing v. California, which was heard in 2003, it emerged that Ewing had been previously convicted of four violent crimes with serious outcomes on the victims. In each of the crime incidences, he was arrested and released after a successful completion of the prison term. More recently, in Memphis, Tennessee, a man was convicted after he was apprehended having committed a drunk driving offence. It was reported that this was the fourth time that the man was being convicted. In another case, 19 years old man was resentenced back to prison for drug dealing and shooting. In the first incidence, the young offender was found guilty of engaging in the drug business. He was then convicted to prison in which he was supposed to serve a term of 232 days and at the same time, attend and complete at least 100 hours of community work service.

Referencing to such a history, Tiger stated that it is not expected that a person would see the prison system as rehabilitating the prisoners. The researcher stated that, based on the legal definition of the term rehabilitation, a prison system ought to help the prisoners to adopt a more positive life, using his or her capabilities in order to lead a productive life. The prison system is required to teach the prisoner about the consequences of living a life out of crime and in the process, restore an appropriate behavior. However, given that there have been re-offenses; it clearly shows that the rehabilitative programs of the prison system are not working. If they were, a prisoner, upon release, is supposed to engage in socially appropriate behaviors and contribute towards an improvement of the society in terms of the various societal elements, rather than causing degradation through crime and its subsequent effects. Additionally, once a prisoner is released, he or she is supposed to engage in legal, gainful activities in order to sustain his or her life, along with that of people under them. However, the case of re-offence does not reflect this. Based on this, researchers boldly claimed that the world prison system is not adequate in rehabilitating the prisoners.

Similar views were advanced by Crime in America. It was revealed that in 2005, it was revealed that 405,000 prisoners were released from prisons across 30 states. However, 68 percent of this number was rearrested, three years following their release. Of the remaining, a quarter was re-convicted, five years after they had been released from the prison system. The researcher also revealed that the longer the released prisoners went without being arrested again, the less likely that they were to be arrested again in their lifetime. Such an incidence, according to the researcher is concerning and makes one disregard the role of prisons. Heseltine analyzed this context further and claimed that it seems that it is the natural mechanisms of the society that helps in rehabilitating the prisoners after they have been released and not the managed mechanisms of the criminal justice system. From the findings by Giertsen, et al, most released offenders are reconvicted almost immediately they leave the system. What this means that the prison systems’ rehabilitative mechanisms do not have even the slightest impacts on the prisoners. It would be expected that given the concerted management efforts and integrative programs implemented in the system, the released prisoners would outright and immediately show signs of a positive change in behavior. However, the almost immediate re-arrests do not satisfy such an expectation. Onto the natural mechanisms of the society, Crime in America found out that the issue of re-offence reduces as the length of time from the prison release increase. This scenario necessarily means that the natural societal mechanisms often set in play to shape the behavior of the former prisoner. Gradually, the former prisoner learns, from other people, the way and the essence of leading a socially effective life. Therefore, it is right to say that the rehabilitative role of the prison has been shifted to nature. As such, nature performs better than the prison systems when it comes to restoring the social behaviors of released prisoners.

There is another category of research knowledge that seeks to contribute to this debate. This knowledge specifically investigates on what the real nature of the world prison system is. A general conclusion has been reached in which it is stated that prisons do not rehabilitate but instead, punish. Giertsen, et al. conducted a study where they investigated on the prisoner experiences of drug treatment, as well as, punishment ion four Nordic countries, namely Denmark, Sweden, Normal and Finland. From the responses of the interviewed prisoners, it was determined that indeed, most correctional facilities have rehabilitation programs for the prisoners. Aside from this, it was determined that the prisoners were willing and ready to take part in these programs. While this was the case, they were shunned by the nature of treatment that the staff allocated to these programs subjected to them. As such, they are coercive and tend to threaten or even use force on the prisoners. Some of the prisoners indicated that did not have any control of the program. They were coercively mandated to follow the frameworks that had been implemented. Commenting on this, Giertsen, et al stated that the lack of prisoner’s control in the prison-based rehabilitation programs is the major undoing. The researchers indicated that rehabilitation is more of a nursing intervention approach. In the field of nursing, it is often deemed that the best health delivery outcomes can only be achieved by placing the patient at the center, allowing him or her to make decisions regarding how care should be administered. Unfortunately, this ideal is not reflected in prison-based rehabilitations. Rather, the prison staff, despite their vast experience and skills, makes the programs their own. As such, they take the center-stage meaning that the prisoner does not have any role. What the prison staff fails to recognize that, by them taking the central role, it means that they will devise rehabilitation plans and strategies that are not idea for a given prisoner. The effects of this are non-rehabilitation.

Kilty also revealed the punitive nature of prisons systems. As such, the researcher conducted a study in which she examined the manner in which women incarcerated in both federal and provincial jails within the Canadian society tend to experience medicalization as a form of correctional measure. The researcher revealed that the medical intervention implemented upon these women are punitive in nature. The respondents informed the researcher that they are subjected to psy control and interventions, being forced to take prescription drugs without explanation, and are continuously denied access to non-medical forms of interventions. From this, Kilty termed the prison rehabilitative treatment as unjust, punitive, and disciplinary enterprises that often delegitimize the prisoners’ self-identified needs. This argument also confirms that prisons do not really rehabilitate but rather, punish the offenders.

In conclusion, the present paper sought to investigate the effectiveness of the prison and prison systems in rehabilitating the prisoners. The paper took the position that the prison system does not serve to rehabilitate but rather, to punish. True to this hypothesis, it has been discovered that a significant number of prisoners that are released following the completion of their jail term are often rearrested and convicted of similar crimes or new crimes. Aside from this, it has been discovered that, even if there are rehabilitative programs in the prisons, they are only meant to further punishment rather than rehabilitate. As it has been revealed, the prisoners are subjected to coercive treatment. This should not be the case. The criminal justice system should borrow from the nursing field. This is to say that reforms should be made such that the prisoners take the central role in managing their own rehabilitation, rather than the prison staff making the programs their own. In this way, the value of the prison system as rehabilitative will be accepted.

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