The U.S. Penal System
Prison inmates, are some of the most "maladjusted" people in
society. Most of the inmates have had too little discipline or too
much, come from broken homes, and have no self-esteem. They are very
insecure and are "at war with themselves as well as with society"
(Szumski 20). Most inmates did not learn moral values or learn to
follow everyday norms. Also, when most lawbreakers are labeled
criminals they enter the phase of secondary deviance. They will admit
they are criminals or believe it when they enter the phase of
secondary deviance (Doob 171). Next, some believe that if we want to
rehabilitate criminals we must do more than just send them to prison.
For instance, we could give them a chance to acquire job skills; which
will improve the chances that inmates will become productive citizens
upon release. The programs must aim to change those who want to
change. Those who are taught to produce useful goods and to be
productive are "likely to develop the self-esteem essential to a
normal, integrated personality" (Szumski 21). This kind of program
would provide skills and habits and "replace the sense of
hopelessness" that many inmates have (Szumski 21).
Moreover, another technique used to rehabilitate criminals is
counseling. There is two types of counseling in general, individual
and group counseling. Individual counseling is much more costly than
group counseling. The aim of group counseling is to develop positive
peer pressure that will influence its members. One idea in many
sociology text is that group problem-solving has definite advantages
over individual problem-solving. The idea is that a wider variety of
solutions can be derived by drawing from the experience of several
people with different backgrounds. Also one individuals problem might
have already been solved by another group member and can be suggested.
Often if a peer proposes a solution it carries more weight than if the
counselor were to suggest it (Bennett 20-24).
Further, in sociology, one of the major theories of
delinquency is differential association (Cressey 1955). This means
some people learned their ways from "undesirable" people who they were
forced to be in association with and that this association "warps"
their thinking and social attitudes. "Group counseling, group
interaction, and other kinds of group activities can provide a
corrective, positive experience that might help to offset the earlier
delinquent association" (Bennett 25). However, it is said that group
counseling can do little to destroy the power of labeling (Bennett
26). The differential-association theory emphasizes that a person is
more likely to become a criminal if the people who have the greatest
influence upon them are criminals (Doob 169).
Most of today's correctional institutions lack the ability and
programs to rehabilitate the criminals of America. One can predict
that a prisoner held for two, four, eight or ten years, then released,
still with no educationling, there is disadvantages. For instance,
members of the group might not be as open or show emotion because they
want to appear "tough." Also the members might not express their
opinions openly because the others might see it as "snitching." For
the group to work it takes a dedicated counselor (Bennett 22-23).
Another type of correctional center used for rehabilitation is halfway
houses. Halfway houses are usually located in residential communities
and are aimed to keep offenders in the community. The name comes from
the fact that they are "halfway between the community and the prison"
The "rationale" behind halfway houses is that criminal
activity originates in the community, so the community has a
responsibility to try to correct it. Also, sending a person who has
deviant behavior and who has been associated with criminal influences,
to prison would just make the problem worse (Fox 61). "The best place
for treatment is in the community; this prevents the breaking of all
constructive social ties" (Fox 61). Programs in halfway houses usually
involve work release or study release and group sessions for therapy
and counseling. Most programs vary greatly depending on the
administrator. Generally, the purpose is to "reintegrate" members back
into the community. There are three systems generally used in programs
and in the process: "change by compliance, client-centered change, and
change by credibility in that it 'makes sense." (Fox 73). The
compliance model is designed to make good work habits. The
client-centered model focuses on a high understanding of the person.
The credibility model emphasizes making decisions and getting back
into the community. These programs are made to avoid institutions as
much as possible (Fox 73). On the other hand, many inmates think the
government does not want to rehabilitate criminals. The reason behind
this thinking is that prisons supply thousands of jobs to the economy.
Also the construction of new prisons brings millions of dollars into
the economy each year and if there were no new prisons needed it would
mean the loss of thousands of jobs (Szumski 24-26). Henry Abernathy
and inmate in Texas said "just think what a catastrophe it would cause
if all cons across the country decided never to commit another crime."
Richard Cepulonis, an inmate in Massachusetts said just the title
"Department of Corrections" is a "misnomer" he said "they don't
correct anything." In conclusion, things need to be done to improve
rehabilitation in America. Improvements in job training, counseling,
and halfway houses for rehabilitation must be brought to the forefront
by citizens. If we do not get involved and try to make changes, our
crime problem could worsen beyond control.
Szumski, Bonnie. America's Prisons Opposing Viewpoints. Greenhaven
Press, Inc.: 1985
Doob, Christopher. Sociology: An Introduction. Harcourt Brace &
Company, United States: 1994
Bennett, Lawrence. Counseling in Correctional Environments. New York:
New York, 1978
Fox, Vernon. Community-Based Corrections. Englewood Cliffs: New