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Prison Reform in the US


The respect and protection of human rights are essential for each State’s welfare. Both conceptions emerge from the robust enforcement system – the legislation and the execution of sentences. Currently, the federal government confirms the ineffectiveness of the current justice system. The favorable living, working, and learning conditions for the inmates both inside and outside of prison should be contemplated and implemented. Public safety and the adaptation of those engaged in the criminal act should be guaranteed, as well. Returning to society, individuals face social and practical challenges. For many of them, it becomes a challenge to find a job due to the lack of education and practical skills. The current system has to be changed if the American people want to build an effective justice system that can guarantee public safety while respecting human dignity. As society evolves and develops, the integration and implementation of effective prison reforms are necessary to prevent reoffending, successful rehabilitation, and manage the diverse institutional factors.

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Prison reform: A bitter pill

Overview: Current situation, statistics, definitions

Up until this day, the detention facilities remain the restricting measure common for each State. With over 600 inmates for every 100,000 of the general population, the U.S. remains one of the most imprisoning countries (Jewkes, p. 846). In comparison, Germany rates 77 inmates, England, and Wales – 146 (Jewkes, p. 846). Currently, the penitentiaries are designed to restrain and rehabilitate those engaged in criminal acts (Hillner, p. 47). To be precise, prison refers to “a place of containment to which people have been legally committed as punishment for the particular crime(s),” and where the “compliance with routines is enforced to maintain security and order” (Kelly, p. 2). Although, before the nineteenth century, the concept of punishment, now associated with incarceration was, instead, associated with the

“spectacle.” The offenders faced such sanctions as the lash, amputations, the stocks, and many more (Kelly, p. 3). With the conception currently established, the inmate in the past will eventually become a citizen in the future and, thus, the penitentiary system faces the necessity to deliver proper correctional systems.

The importance of the prison reforms: possibilities and challenges

The correctional systems performed as a part of prison reforms are to enhance the inmates’ rehabilitation, rather than inflict harm. The public demands the offenders to be punished and maintained in a specialized institution, as far as possible, form the general population (Jewkes, p. 847). However, these measures along may hardly provide a rehabilitation necessary for the future adaptation of an inmate. ‘Principles of effective intervention’ – risk, need, responsivity (RNR) – and the cognitive behavioral therapy are to be performed to provide the individuals with timely and effective psychological support and correction if necessary (Bullock, p. 4). The normalization process of the prisoners demands the recognition of an individual as a social being, not an inmate, and offering services similar to the ones ‘on the outside’ (Gottschalk, p. 82). The adjustment of the working processes close to the societal ones should be performed as well (Gottschalk, p. 82). The cognitive-behavioral therapy implementation coupled with the integration of the normalization principles may establish the proper environment for the inmates’ rehabilitation.

Although, at times, the rehabilitation or further adjustment is scarcely possible for each individual. That is to say, although the degree of deviation is inevitably present, the correctional programs have to be realized in accordance with one’s personality along with the gravity of the offense and the psychological State (Bullock, p. 6). Still, the deviation degree and the psychological abnormalities may be so strong that the adaptation to the society and its rules can hardly be implemented (Haber, p. 415). More than that, the gravity of a crime has to be considered since the individuals who engaged in such a crime might not be able to adjust to the social norms after being released. The prison reforms, thus, are to be considered in accordance with one’s deviation degree and the psychological State.

If the rehabilitation programs include learning practical skills and gaining knowledge to adjust to the community life are realized within the penitentiaries, the reoffending of inmates may lower. According to Rudes, “more than two-thirds of the U.S. inmates released from prison are rearrested… in the three years after their release” (p. 499). Once free, the individual faces the lack of practical skills, reluctance to adapt to the new norms and rules and, most often, deficiency of clothing, lodging, and job (Carlton, p. 22). To attain the decrease in the reentry degree, it is also necessary to integrate the workers’ training, apart from the cognitive behavioral therapy and the RNR, mentioned before. The integration of the training may include the scholarship, education programs, or other incentives that could involve the staff members in reconsidering the inmates’ rehabilitation process (p. 498). The correctional programs may include learning practical skills or occupations, coupled with basic or advanced education for further employment.

Although the alteration of the defined inner ecosystem of prison may be complicated. First, the inmates engaged in substance abuse or dependence or those suffering the disorders may find it difficult to learn new skills due, as a minimum, to another lifestyle, physical and psychological conditions (Comai, p. 124). The antisocial disorder makes it difficult for one to be willing to involve in such an activity (Mallick, p. 30). Second, to shape staff’s perception of inmates and workplace behaviors, the various studies may be necessary to identify the factors – differences, race, age, education – which may motivate them to reconsider their perspectives (Rudes, p. 500). The elaboration of effective staff training may take too much time – the current studies show that roughly 30% of the correctional officers (CO) engage in resolving behavior (Rudes, p. 504). The latter involves active listening, responding to the inmates, and interacting in a helpful manner. That is to say, attaining and implementation of the effective correctional programs performance might take much time with no result.

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To ensure the public’s safety, each State resort to the penitentiary institutions. The prison, however, may be not a simple penalty and restriction of liberty, but rather, the way to make corrections in one’s deficiencies. Nowadays, the U.S., along with Australia, remains one of the most imprisoning countries. The prison reforms regarding both outside and inside aspects of an inmate’s life may change the situation if appropriately implemented and contemplated. The ones of the inside programs may include therapy and a workers’ training for an appropriate perception and behavior. The ones for the external programs may include learning practical skills for future employment and enhancing general knowledge. To attain the positive results of the correctional programs may, nonetheless, be difficult due to the lack of motivation and understanding on behalf of the prison workers and the psychological and behavioral difficulties of the inmates.

Works Cited

  1. Bullock, Bunce, et al. “The Mechanics of reform: Implementing Correctional Programmes in English Prisons.” The Howard Journal of Crime and Justice, vol. 57, no. 1, 2018, pp: 3-20.
  2. Carlton, Bree. “Penal reform, Anti-Carceral Feminist Campaigns and The Politics of Change in Womens Prisons, Victoria, Australia.” Punishment & Society, vol. 20, no. 3, 2016, pp: 1-25,
  3. Comai, Bertazzo, et al. “Trace Elements among a Sample of Prisoners with Mental and Personality Disorders and Aggression: Correlation with Impulsivity and ADHD indices.” Journal of trace elements in Medicine and Biology, vol. 10, no. 51, 2019, pp: 123-129.
  4. Gottschalk, Marie. “What Second Chance? Reentry and Penal Reform.” Caught (The Prison State and the Lockdown of American Politics), Princeton University Press, 2016, pp: 79-97.
  5. Haber, Naomi. “When Reform Falls Short: Eradicating the Prison Plague.” Dialectical Anthropology, vol. 40, no. 12, 2016, pp: 411-418.
  6. Hillner, Julia. “Punishment and Reform in Early Imperial Legal Thought.” Prison, punishment and penance in Late Antiquity, Cambridge University Press, 2015, pp: 45-63.
  7. Jewkes, Yvonne. “Prison Design and the Need for Reform.” Nature Human Behaviour, vol. 1, no. 12, 2017, pp: 846-848.
  8. Kelly, Dominic. “Prison Reform.” The Encyclopedia of Crime and Punishment, edited by Jennings, Wesley G., John Wiley & Sons, 2016, pp: 2-3.
  9. Mallick, Anupriyo, and Pan, David. “Case Study of a Prisoner with Antisocial Personality Disorder in a Jail of West Bengal.” European Psychiatry, vol. 30, no. 3, 2015, pp: 28-31.
  10. Rudes, Viglione, et al. “Gendered adherence: Correctional Officers and Therapeutic Reform in A Reentry Facility.” The Prison Journal, vol. 97, no. 9, 2017, pp: 497-519,

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