A Better Way
“A NATION THAT CANNOT APPLY NEW REMEDIES MUST EXPECT NEW EVILS” – Sir Francis Bacon
Can prisons be abolished? Not yet. There are still offenders in our prison system that cannot, and should not be free in our society. What can be abolished? Is the archaic tradition o sending men/woman to prison the answer? Could the offenders be rehabilitated by other means?
Americans are slowly awakening to the failure of our prison systems. Still countless experts agree that at least half of today’s inmates would do far better outside prison; advocating a greater shift to Community based correction centers in which prisons would be a last resort, preceded by many interim options designed to keep an offender as close as possible to his/her family, job and normal life and not caged and losing all self—dependence.
Stanley Bass, a lawyer for the NAACP LEGAL DEFENSE and EDUCATION FUND, stated: “There is too much irresponsibility all around from
judges, prison officials, and right on down the line.”
Milton Rector, president o the Nonprofit National Council on Crime and Delinquency, a research organization, stated: “Studies show only 5 to 15 per cent of the prison population in the United States is dangerous enough to be behind bars. The other 85 per cent of the prison community could be out with no danger at all to society”
Not long ago officials in Pontac Michigan, made a three year project to show interested parties in the community what could be done to reduce prison population. These officials took a group of felon offenders, with two or more convictions, and divided them into three groups. Group one was placed in rooming housed and private homes0 Intense supervision was implemented but they were allowed to work and. socialize in and around the community. Group two was placed on probation; however, only 75 men were assigned to one probation officer as contrasted to the present day case—loads of from 200 to 300 men. The third group remained in prison.
The results were amazing. Out of the third group which remained in prison, 40 per cent returned to crime after release. The group of probationers earned a 93 per cent rate of success. Those placed in private homes showed a 92 per cent rate of success.
These figures clearly show there is a better way to rehabilitate men/woman offenders, other than sending them to a prison.
Funds from the Federal Law Enforcement Assistance Administration in the neighborhood of 5 billion are about to go into prison construction across the country, (most prisons have received this money, as of this date.) Will this money be properly put to good use? will prisons throughout the country use their share of’ this money wisely?
Recidivism could sharply decline if the American prison systems invested this money in the revamping and expansion of Corrctiona1 Community Centers, Resident Home Placement, and other outside programs.
Correctional community centers work generally in the following pattern: An offender is convicted and sentenced to prison for lets say, from 2 to 10 years. After serving the greatest part of this sentence, with a remainder of around 6 months left to go, the offender is eligible to be sent tea a Correctional community center, in his/her home town.
The program allows the offender to live and work under supervision in a large building, maintained by the states prison system. The offenders time is mostly taken up with their jobs and center rehabilitation projects. Curfews, which are often imposed, generally vary from center to center. There is time, however, for the offender to socialize with family and friends, this time being worked in by the offender and center counselor.
The program is a vast step in the prevention of recidivism, for it aids an offender who has just experienced a terrible ordeal in prison living a chance to slowly low his/her way back into society.
The question here though, is why must an offender be first sent to a prison environment of filth and degredation? Why must offenders be sent to a place where they will without trying, hear and thus learn wads o how to crack a safe; how to write bad checks and get away with it, or how to short—change an unsuspecting department store cashier, etc?
There is a better way. Why not send an offender directly from the court room to one o these community centers? This way they still balance out the scales of justice by having their freedom partially taken away from them, and what freedom they do have is supervised by professional men in this area of rehabilitation. This would release the heavy burden of money spent each year on men/woman in prisons, by taxpayers, through deductions from their work pass earnings. If married both men and woman would help reduce the high ADC, (Aid to dependant children, which most states in America have) statistics, by supporting their families while serving out their sentences.
A few years ago Michigan correction centers created an extension to their program, called, Resident Home Placement. Here the basic fundamentals are the same. An offender may spend the last few months of his/her sentence away from the hard-core life of a prison environment; the only difference is they are placed in private homes in their community instead of a center.
Again this is a constructive step in curbing men/woman from going back into crime; however, I repeat, why must offenders first go to prison, and than into one of these programs?
A new program for rehabilitation of offenders, and in this writers opinion, the most successfully advanced, is a three staged ‘Rehab” program, housed in the Kalamazoo County Jail, in Kalamazoo Michigan.
The program’s main theme is based on Dr. Robert R. Qarkuff’s “The Art 0f Helping”, a series 0f disciplined steps to develop and communicate a technology of human resource development. Dr. Oarkhuff is an internationally known authority on human and community resource development. The program instructors take an offender thoroughly through three areas most essential to constructive living in a modern society. They help the offender develop skills in the physical area through physical training programs. They help the offender develop skills in the intellectual area, through the trained guidance of academic instructors. They help the offender develop emotional and inner personal skills to make it possible for them to be spontanious and creative. The instructors train offenders for anew life.
The value of’ this program other than what has already been stated, is that it works directly out of a county jail, enabling not only offenders going through court proceedings on a felony charge to benefit them before before being sent to prison, if the outcome of their charge goes in his direction. Here offenders, prison bound, can carry with them the invaluable skills taught in this program and without much doubt stay attunded to rehabilitation.
In dealing with the various programs to rehabilitate offenders, there are of course different schools of thought among the professional men directing these programs. Many disagree as to just what method is the most successful.
This writer responds to this with the following:
In essence, the three programs this writer has elaborated on could well join together in the fight against repeated crime, using the Carkhuff taught skills as the guts to this three level type program. For in the long run how effective is work pass or resident home placement, if offenders do not have the ability in skills that will make it possible for them to emerge and grow by helping themselves and in turn help their community at large?
Hopefully, someday legislators, correctional officials, and, judges will recognize that there is a better way to deal with the offenders, than sending him/her to prison.
If professionals in a position to adhere to better ways, fail to take the bull by its horns, then it is going to be up to an interested public.
There are hundreds of men and women behind prison bars who do not belong there. It seems if so many professionals realize there are better ways, then for the sake of the next generation, why don’t persons in the position to do something create and utilize these better ways?
“THROUGH A BETTER WAY, WHAT I WAS YESTERDAY, I AM NOT TODAY, AS I WON’T BE TOMORROW.”