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Halfway Houses: And Other Prison Alternatives

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Halfway Houses: And Other Prison Alternatives

Halfway Houses: And Other Prison Alternatives

For as long as there have been people, there have been violations of societal norms. With these violations comes the question, how do we solve these problems or violations? There have been many attempts to solve these problems, for example, in many cases from the beginning of time retribution has been the answer. Another form of punishment was eventually invented that would isolate offenders from the rest of the community. This punishment called incarceration, or prison, takes the violator out of the society in an effort to stop any future misdoings.

From their inception, prisons have attempted to act as both a deterrent and a rehabilitator. However, in certain times one of these is more stressed than the other. In the case of drug offenders the rehabilitation aspect would is more important. But, overall prisons encounter many different situations and must be very adaptive to all kinds of offenders and types of reform. The prison system today is a very important part of our society and will probably always remain that way.

With all this in mind it seems that the prison systems of today would be able to handle the criminal acts that happen every day. However, despite much funding and hard work from all those involved, the prison system seems to have many problems. Is it possible to solve these problems and make the system work more efficiently?

I feel that the answer to this question is yes. I say this because there are many ways that the prison system reform can start. Many areas can be looked at and worked on without affecting the system as a whole, or making rash decisions like up heaving the entire system.

The current trends and success rates of today's prisons must be evaluated. One important idea to keep in mind is the rate at which offenders repeat crimes, this is known as the recidivism rate. If a prison is to be seen as successful, it must have a low recidivism rate. On the other hand, if the recidivism rate is very high it is possible to hypothesize that there are major problems within the prison system.

With all this in mind it becomes more possible to see what is being done and if it is truly working to the best level possible. Once you understand this you can begin to look at things in a more deep and a much closer look

Also, keep in mind that it is a fact of life that attitudes and approaches regarding the corrections system are often driven not only by financial considerations, but the political views of those in charge at the time. (Greenburg; Peguese)

However, what is clear from the data coming, not only from today's headlines, but more importantly, studies from corrections publications, is that the system as it currently exists is not meeting the needs of society or those of the inmates. While the system is not in danger of collapse, a number of significant issues need to be addressed now, in the short term. Moreover, in considering the various problem issues, changes to the system can be made that will benefit society and the well being of the inmates. These changes will not necessarily be cost-prohibitive, and they will likely reduce recidivism rates.

Consider the following:

What social issues contribute to incarceration? The United States has the highest per-capita incarceration rate in the world. Why? In 1994, the US Government and individual states, operated 840 prisons, holding a total of approximately 700, 000 inmates; compared to Canada where there where 40 prisons holding 31, 000 inmates. (World Book Encyclopedia, Vol. 15, p. 805) The US incarceration rate more than doubled between 1980 and 2000, with one out of every 32 Americans adults under correctional supervision at the end of that period. (Allen, Simonsen, Latessa; Pages 168-169) Though some of these issues do not fall within the realm of the correctional system itself, they merit consideration. We must look at least ask ourselves what we as a society can do to prevent crime before it becomes a correctional issue.

It may be appropriate at this time, to rethink how we punish substance abusers. A 1993 study by Spohn and Holleran found, "No evidence that imprisonment reduces the likelihood of recidivism. Indeed, we find compelling evidence that offenders who are sentenced to prison have higher rates of recidivism and recidivate more quickly than do offenders placed on probation. "They also found "persuasive" evidence that imprisonment has a more pronounced criminogenic effect on drug offenders than on other types of offenders". Therefore, evidence exists that incarceration may not only not work for drug offenders, but may actually make them more likely to commit crimes in the future.


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