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The United States 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).
 Despite all the advantages of group counse»_@rial 
 
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 education or
vocational skills will likely return to a life of crime.
Often their life in crime will resume in weeks after their
release. Although the best prisons and programs in the
world will not cure the problem totally, improvements still
must be made (Szumski 20). 

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" (Fox 60). 
 
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. 
 
Bibliography
 
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 Jersey, 1977.
 



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