A Speech on “We Should Reform Our Prisons”

The term “prison reform” is nothing but an attempt to improve the conditions inside the prison. It also deals with the improvement of the effectiveness of a penal system and also to look for alternatives to incarceration. It also focuses on those whose lives are greatly impacted by crimes.

Incarceration is the primary form of punishment and rehabilitation in the United States for the commission of offenses. The United States ranks the largest prison population in the world.

Last month on the 10th anniversary of the federal Second Chance Act, provided aid for state and federal prisoner re-entry programs. President Trump declared April as the “Second Chance Month” to get a closer look to programs that “provide opportunities for people with criminal records to earn an honest second chance.”

One early milestone in this field was the early-1970s publication of the review by sociologist Robert Martinson, declaring that “nothing works” in inmate rehabilitation. In the 1970s, we had some doubts with the corrections system and there was a large growth of in-prison population that continued to grow until the year 2000. 

After 25 years since then, there has been a vast change. When there are meetings of corrections administrators now, there is a talk to insert “community” to the process, and there are uncountable programs under the Second Chance Act and other laws to improve prisoner re-entry. 

A dramatic change has been noticed in some corrections systems that are paying attention and are focusing more on change. Great gains have been found in the reduction of jail populations, but that can grow more challenges to deal with the people who remain in custody, and who are not at all easy to deal with. It would not be a surprise if those people have high rates of failure.

It is high time that we need to look at systemic changes rather than programmatic ones.

Some conditions of confinement must undergo a severe change. For example, so that some people do not stay in prison so long on the front end and it becomes a little easier to focus on the high-risk individuals who remain there. A new and updated facility is required that will include medical and mental health treatment, and improvement in the collaboration between other agencies must also be looked after.

More businesses are required as stakeholders. Various businesses are recreating their policies and hiring ex-offenders. It’s completely new and different to have them at the table.

There also are more formerly incarcerated people taking part in re-entry programs that brings a sense of reality to them.

There are also many social workers involved in prisoner re-entry, but the quality of services is not that clear and transparent. It would rather be good to strengthen the social service community with a smaller number of workers with better quality services.

You must have heard about the Horton case. Most dramatic about this case was that he was a convicted first-degree murderer. After this incident, there were wholesale cancellations of prison systems’ contracts with halfway houses, and the programs that remained were highly restricted. The debate here shouldn’t be on transitioning the heinous criminals but rather whether the vast majority of people in the corrections system are getting the opportunity to be housed in places like work-release centers.

More people must get the opportunity to use community resources before their release, under strict supervision. 

Good corrections mean setting up a clear and fair system of rewards to encourage behavioral change.

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