I'm highly passionate about this subject. Not only have I worked as a corrections officer behind bars, and seen the same people get locked up over and over like the Hilton hotel to get their 3 squares and a cot, I've known many people personally who have become entrapped in the criminal justice system. I even remember my own experience at 14 of getting caught shoplifting....I was lucky they didn't catch me the first time. But I was also lucky they caught me because it was highly addictive. My point being that under the right circumstances, one or two bad decisions can spiral out of control and lead to a person being locked up for one reason or another...

Some people don't believe in worker re-entry programs such as this one:

http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=_tWJTe75kUk#

I personally believe it's essential to help people get back on there feet. I recently heard on the radio a controversy over providing prisoners with higher education while encarcerated, opening up options to get an associates degree. Some critics say, "it's not fair because I'm an outstanding citizen, and I can't afford to go to school. So do I have to commit a crime to get an education?"

This too is a valid point. I know for myself I have struggled to find options to further my education that don't cost money that will lead to a living wage job. The education of yesterday isn't worth nearly as much as it was 10 years ago.....

So the question: how far is too far? What's the right balance between offering support to reduce recidivism among ex-cons, while not taking away resources that could be helping upright non-committing citizens?

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I, for one, believe that behavior can change over time.  My entire career is based on this well-researched idea.  For me, the purpose of the justice system should be this...to change behavior, not just to punish it.  Don't get me wrong, immediate, contingent punishment can be extremely effective at eliminating a behavior, but for those caught it is rarely immediate or contingent.  We thus rely on rule-governed behavior.  To form effective rules, the consequence must be large and/or likely.  Well a few years in jail might not be that large of a consequence for someone around people who have spent a decade or more in jail, and after years of doing any criminal activity without getting caught, going to jail doesn't seem so likely.  This leaves us with teaching replacement behaviors.  If we could teach these individuals easy, prosocial, legal behaviors to gain money, attention, and access to preferred items/activities, there would be far less recidivism.  Unfortunately, many of the legal, prosocial behaviors are far more costly and effortful than the illegal ones, and they're not the behaviors that get attention in their peer groups.  The trick is not only offering courses to teach skills valued by society, but to also give the individual access to a community that celebrates the person first and chosen skill second. 

I am more than happy to put a portion of my money towards research-based efforts to rehabilitate those in our legal system.  I believe that in the long run we could help more people and improve society in this way.  I don't exactly see how this takes away money from our upright, non-crime-committing citizens who are seeking education - there are many programs, scholarships, and grants out there and these would never be put towards the justice system instead.  Perhaps you could clarify?

But it always comes down to the bottom line - how much do we invest?

It's worth adding that the cost of educational opportunities in prison (or anywhere else) would be less of an issue if not for the low priority assigned to public higher education.

It started with the Higher Education Opportunity Act back in the Nixon and Reagan years and the shift away from free public higher education to loan-based public higher education: "For post-high school programs, the United States is far outspent in public dollars. U.S. taxpayers picked up 36 cents of every dollar spent on college and vocational training programs. Families and private sources picked up the balance. In other OECD nations, it was roughly reversed: The public picked up 68 cents of every dollar in advanced training and private sources picked up the other 32 cents." 

The cuts in public higher education funding over the last six years alone present a sobering picture. The burden of the back of the student keeps increasing and is nearing the point where the "public" in "public higher education" is virtually meaningless. Americans have forgotten that public education beyond high school used to be mostly free.

As an example, consider the City College of New York, the first free public university in the US, which was founded in 1847 with the words: "Open the doors to all… Let the children of the rich and the poor take their seats together and know of no distinction save that of industry, good conduct and intellect." Admissions were based solely on academic merit for 129 years. It started charging tuition in 1976. This marked the beginning of a new age. Public education for the disadvantaged stopped being mostly free and started being mostly student loans which had to be paid back.

If educations were mostly free of charge, I doubt many would complain about offering them to convicted criminals who want to turn their lives around. The cost of an education is cheap compared to the costs of crime and incarceration.

As a former corrections officer I believe rehabilitation can/does work for some felons. Programs to allow prisoners an opportunity to receive their GED are well worth the investment as it provides them an opportunity to hopefully become more easily employed upon their release. It is a requirement for early release (parole). Monies spent on furthering a prisoner's education seem worthwhile. Expecting the taxpayers to fund a more expensive advanced learning degree seems to be asking alot from us. I would expect some sort of compensation upon their release to pay back such expenditures.

On the other hand there are many convicts, and there is a difference between a convict and a prisoner, who have chosen to just serve their time and upon release go right back to their old ways. They are not stupid, just lazy and undisciplined. They have little concern for conforming to society. They are career criminals and will not change. Unfortunately these same convicts prey upon and influence the newly incarcerated members of the prison population. This can make it even more difficult for rehabilitation to take effect. 

Belle,

Just one of many different job opportunities I have ventured into over the years. Corrections work is not for most people, hence the high turnover rate. The atmosphere is very negative and it can drain a person when you have to be on your guard all the time.

Rose, you're missing a key point. Criminals are not automatons who commit crime because of external inputs (lack of education, jobs, poverty etc). Humans do have the ability to exercise impulse control.

Criminals often commit crimes and become recidivists because they rationalize their actions by imagining themselves as victims of an oppressive society. The best way to prevent recidivism is by killing their hamster and forcing them to confront their guilt.

I know you're left-wing, but if possible try to keep an open mind and read these chapters from Dalrymple's 'Life at the Bottom':

http://www.city-journal.org/article01.php?aid=1371

http://www.city-journal.org/html/7_3_oh_to_be.html

http://www.city-journal.org/html/8_2_oh_to_be.html

http://www.city-journal.org/html/9_2_oh_to_be.html

http://www.city-journal.org/html/9_4_oh_to_be.html

Rose, you're missing a key point. Criminals are not automatons who commit crime because of external inputs (lack of education, jobs, poverty etc). Humans do have the ability to exercise impulse control.

Except that a lot of the time proper education, a job that keeps them out of poverty would help too. I am going to go out on a limb and assume that you were never poor or knew anyone who was.

Criminals often commit crimes and become recidivists because they rationalize their actions by imagining themselves as victims of an oppressive society. The best way to prevent recidivism is by killing their hamster and forcing them to confront their guilt.

Sure.

I know you're left-wing, but if possible try to keep an open mind...

Oh, that's just adorable; the guy regurgitating the same 3 paragraphs over and over is here telling someone who has changed her mind many times, on this website, to be "open minded".

Her political position has nothing to do with it, pal. It is common sense. Criminals are criminals for many reasons, but to paint them all with your brush would be a crime in and of itself.

I apologize for the "left-wing bias" remark. That was unnecessary.

Correlations between education and levels of crime break down across societies. India and China have higher levels of illiteracy, higher levels of poverty and significantly lower levels of violent crime compared to the US. So, while correlations do exist between education levels and crime, neither illiteracy nor poverty is the key contributors to crime. The key is the culture.

Marxist culture works on the oppressor-oppressed model. Marxist Feminist Patriarchy theory and Marxist Critical Race theory both employ the same model. The problem with this model is that the "oppressed" will internalize this model and this changes their worldview, making them hostile. Those who have internalized this worldview exhibit a external locus of control which leads to reduced motivation and personal accountability.

Non-judgmentalism combined with Marxist culture allows for an environment in which the oppressed minorities no longer have to hold themselves accountable. This comes through in the language they use, exhibiting a remarkable shift from active to passive voice. Criminals often use language that limits their accountability, such as "the knife went in" or "he/ she had it coming" etc. Because they belong to the minority segments as defined by Marxist Oppressor-Oppressed model, they are often held to lower standards of accountability than the rest of society.

The key to true redemption is to make them hold themselves accountable. The only way to do this is to destroy their ability to rationalize their own guilt, so that they no longer view themselves as 'oppressed victims' but rather as humans with intrinsic agency who have committed mistakes.

The key to true redemption is to make them hold themselves accountable. The only way to do this is to destroy their ability to rationalize their own guilt, so that they no longer view themselves as 'oppressed victims' but rather as humans with intrinsic agency who have committed mistakes.

It's funny that we were just talking about this in class yesterday. Our oppressed minorities first had to get white folk to outlaw collusions like segregated drinking fountains, restrooms, restaurants, other venues, and neighborhood redlining. Even now, minority cultures are oppressed by terrible living conditions, and the kids of such neighborhoods cannot be blamed for not having early and viable opportunities for good family and educational experiences that most of the rest of us have grown up with and taken for granted.

In the 50s, the era of segregation which you describe, blacks were more functional than whites. They had lower unemployment and lower rates of out of wedlock births than whites. Blacks were beginning to merge with the middle class successfully and were generally positive and upbeat about their future.

The Great Society programs, the cultural shift during the 70s changed all of that. It is because of these cultural shifts and welfare dependency (which incentivizes out of wedlock birth) that caused the social collapse.

Blatant segregation went on into the 60s. Slavery was more "functional", by your definition.

Is MLK one of your bad guys, too, because he stirred things up?

Humans do have the ability to exercise impulse control.

Sure, but "impulse" is a pretty minor driver of behavior, unless maybe you're thinking of those spending urges and surges when at Tiffany's. Behavior depends a lot more on what opportunity/choices are available to each person. Imagine having to choose between feeding yourself, or your children.

"Imagine having to choose between feeding yourself, or your children." - Criminals don't commit acts of violence because of materialistic poverty. They do it out of anger towards the society at large. They manage to rationalize their actions to themselves by believing that they are victims of an oppressive culture and are therefore exempt from the normal rules of civilized conduct.

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