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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@Pope: the disporportionate number of black (and in many parts, hispanic) inmates is a multifaceted problem. Poverty is a contributing factor, but certainly not the only factor. Poverty, drugs, inner city school system failure, single parent homes, (many African American women end us raising their children alone)....but probably mostly is the sentence disparity once a black man or woman is in the criminal justice system.

http://www.naacp.org/pages/criminal-justice-fact-sheet

"many African American women end up raising their children alone" - I have to call BS on this one. The culture will improve only when women start holding themselves and other women accountable.

Many black women voluntarily chose to have their children out-of-wedlock knowing that Govt programs would help them out. Black women are to be held primarily responsible for the collapse of the black family.

There used to be many many blue-collar black working men who were interested in marriage. But, black women prefer to sleep with the thugs and the flashy drug dealers for the sake of tingles between their legs. This caused a withdrawal of honest black men from society and over the years they have refused to marry such women.

In doing so, black women have destroyed the black family and have condemned their own children to a life of poverty and crime.

lucky they caught me because it was highly addictive.

A little off topic but, What did you find addictive about it? I stole a Mars bar when I was about 12 and didn't feel compelled to repeat the experience.

Now to the topic at hand... I'd like to start with a quote from an Australian prison worker, filmed on a documentary I watched:

We don't need to punish prisoners here... Just being here is their punishment

They were referring in particular to the Aboriginal prisoners and the remoteness of the jail relative to where they were from. I think this quote is an excellent place to start. If we make being in the jail, isolated from the outside world, the punishment, then prisoners can focus their energies on rehabilitation, education, and eventually rejoining the outside world.

What about the upright, non-committing, citizens? In Australia we have several ways to go from basic school education to professional. Apprenticeships: earning a minimal wage while learning a trade on the job. Tafe: an adult learning institution aimed at job skills. University: an adult learning institution aimed at academia and higher level professional job skills.

For Apprenticeships, the government supplements your income with welfare payments and assists you to buy tools with a tool allowance. With University, tuition fees are payed for with a "no interest" (it gets increased with inflation, significantly less than a loan from a bank) loan called HECS (or HELP). Ironically, Tafe students are not elligible for anything but the basic welfare, and have to pay their tuition fees upfront. Personally, I think they should have access to HECS/HELP loans too!

RE: A little off topic but, What did you find addictive about it?

To be honest, I got away with a lot more than a mars bar....all free....and I have an addictive personality which doesn't help either, sigh....I learned my lesson.

Now: Matt...to your point...about making incarceration a punishment...I really disagree for your average low level offenders. Many of the people who are teetering between becoming professional cons, and becoming productive members of society get pushed in the direction of more severe criminal behavior once they are behind bars. The very system that is supposed to rehabilitate them, makes them better criminals. This happens because of the very penal system you propose as a way to help them "learn their lesson." There is a strong correlation between a jail/prison's overall atmosphere and violence. The poorer the conditions, the more violence, thus necessitating the need for all inmates to protect themselves, by joining a gang, rioting, getting illegal help from the outside.....the list goes on. But a correctional facility more focused on helping inmates live productive lives and address their substance abuse issues, shows a decreased level of violence, less officer turnover, and overall safety for everyone.

Hi Belle, I think you misunderstood me and/or I didn't say what I was trying to say clearly enough. I didn't mean lower level offences should be punished with jail time... I was just saying that for the offences which demand jail time for punishment: the punishment is being seperated from your family and friends... so life on the inside should be focused on rehabilitation and education to avoid the "career criminal" thing from happening.

Sorry Matt, that's what I get for "skimming". LOL!

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