Should prison be a place of punishment, where criminals must suffer a fate as severe as the crime they committed? Such prisons are advocated by those who believe in retribution. Those who do not believe in retribution believe in prisons that are places of rehabilitation, where inmates learn useful skills and are turned from their criminal ways.
The imprisonment of women across the United States has repercussions in every aspect of society, including the huge costs of incarceration at the local and state levels, the splitting of communities and families, the tragic disruption at crucial developmental stages in the lives of thousands of children, and the unchecked deterioration of the physical and mental health of women in prison.
“It’s important, because they’re people still,” said the warden, James Jones. “Of course they committed a crime and they have to do their time, and unfortunately they end up dying while they’re in prison, but they’re still human beings.” In a state known for being tough on criminals, where officials recently eliminated last-meal requests on death row, the Byrd cemetery has been a little-known counterpoint to the mythology of the Texas penal system.
It is painfully hot and dry in the rodeo arena at Louisiana State Penitentiary.. where 70 prisoners are acting out a unique version of "The Life of Jesus Christ"... It is a unique experience to watch prisoners re-enact the ultimate act of forgiveness in a setting where few will be granted parole. At Angola, the 89 men on death row are housed a short walk away, and the last execution by lethal injection was carried out as recently as 2010.
The plight of the mentally ill in prisons was virtually ignored for many years, but in the past decade many prison systems have realized--sometimes with prodding from the courts--that providing mental health care is a necessity, not a luxury, says Fagan... They also provide rehabilitative services that are useful even for prisoners without serious mental illnesses, says Fagan. For example, a psychologist might develop special programs for substance abusers or help prisoners prepare for the transition back to the community.
The Stanford Prison Experiment made news in a big way. It offered the world a videotaped demonstration of how ordinary people middle-class college students can do things they would have never believed they were capable of doing... The experiment has not, however, brought about the changes in prisons or even in guard training programs that he would have liked. In fact, prisons have been radically transformed in the United States in the last 25 years to make them less humane.. Voters have increasingly voted for politicians who take a tough public stance in favor of prisons as places for punishment, rather than for reforming social deviants.
The maximum sentence in Norway, even for murder, is 21 years. Since most inmates will eventually return to society, prisons mimic the outside world as much as possible to prepare them for freedom. At Halden, rooms include en-suite bathrooms with ceramic tiles, mini-fridges and flat-screen TVs. Officials say sleeker televisions afford inmates less space to hide drugs and other contraband.
In recent decades “America has seen prison as a place to throw people away,” says Mr Cate, whereas “Europeans see prison as place people will return from.” Californians, he thinks, have at last begun to reconsider the meaning of “corrections and rehabilitation”, which is what they’ve officially called prisons all along.
Aside from the “get tough” policies already noted, Levine said that prison sentences are driven in large part by fear–citizens are afraid of crime, politicians are afraid to look “soft” on crime, and the parole board is afraid to let someone out who later might commit a heinous crime. At the same time, the United States has an attitude in which “individual responsibility” is a predominant attitude that makes it hard for people to sympathize with prisoners, as many people ignore the societal factors that play a role in crime.
Until the mid-1970s, rehabilitation was a key part of U.S. prison policy. Prisoners were encouraged to develop occupational skills and to resolve psychological problems--such as substance abuse or aggression--that might interfere with their reintegration into society. Indeed, many inmates received court sentences that mandated treatment for such problems. Since then, however, rehabilitation has taken a back seat to a "get tough on crime" approach that sees punishment as prison's main function, says Haney.
Excessive incarceration is an American problem. The country has about 5% of the world’s population but almost 25% of its prisoners, with the world’s largest number of inmates and highest per capita rate of incarceration.