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Prisons have for long played a primary responsibility of addressing issues of misconduct amongst individuals in the society. They are part of the fundamental institutions in the community endowed with noteworthy relationships to public and social welfare systems. Detaining an individual in prison does provide an opportunity to identify the different social needs of the arrestees and especially during the incarceration process. Programs aimed at addressing the issues of prisons and prisoners are of paramount importance to help find a lasting solution to the issues culminating from the high criminal offences in our societies. Poor planning of transition from prisons and back into the society has facilitated greatly the increase in recidivism rate (McKean & Ransford, 2004). Jails do have the minimum standard of care which is a constitutional obligation but the preparation of these standards is poorly defined.  

The United States has found itself in the center of a crisis with regards to criminal recidivism. There has been an increase in the number of individuals incarcerated in state and federal prisons and others placed under the criminal justice form of supervision. In 2007, close to 7.3 million individuals were in prison which represents close to 3.2 percent of the adult population in the United States (Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS). At midyear 2008, there were more than 1.6 million federal and state prisoners; more than 201,142 of the prisoners were in federal jurisdiction and 1.4 million in state jurisdiction.

Drug abuse and alcohol is a major contributor to the problem of incarceration. Majority (56%) of the US the state prisoners used drugs in the time of the offence while a third (32%) of the inmates commit their offence while under the influence of drugs “Survey of Inmates in State and Federal Correctional Facilities,” released in October 2006).

Rapid transformation in the United States correctional population presents solemn questions on the ability of the criminal justice system to discipline (Donzeiger, 1997). Prison is designed with punishment, correction and rehabilitation to the community in mind.

An analysis of the purposes for prisons in the US justice system

The ultimate goal of the judicial system in the United States is to provide a platform that corrects, empowers and educates people as well as addressing the policies present in the administration of justice in the United States. The high rates of crime registered in the US have made the judicial system stiffen its rules and policies governing acts of crime within the United States. The Judicial System has been the American correctional system which has an overall aim of managing its societal institutions.

Prisons forms a vital organ in the American society and have the sole purpose of giving protection to society from the criminals who might have the intention to harm innocent civilians (Zimmerman & Stringer, 2004). The US judicial system requires that prisons be set to protect and to rehabilitate citizens who require skillfulness to become upright society members and also providing a way for punishing criminals who defy the rules set.

An examination of current conditions in US prisons.

American prisons and jails house approximately two million inmates (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2002), almost twice as many as in the year 1990 and more so in terms of per capita than any of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)countries (OECD, 2001). Present and former convicts comprise a progressively large U.S. share in population, yet very little is known regarding the impacts that prison and imprisonment conditions have on the consequent inmates lives. This oversight is ill-fated; every year, people who are released from incarceration are approximately six hundred thousand (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2002), and nearly two-thirds of the inmates released will again be re-incarcerated within the first three years (McKean & Ransford, 2004).  This is regarded as recidivism and it poses a big problem especially in the US and it affects families, communities and the public safety at large.  

Many of the prison systems are often crowded with the inmates confined in areas designed for recreational and program use. Not only does the overcrowding of prisons lead to violence in prisons but also may terminate measures geared to providing the criminals with educational, vocational and other treatment services. A noteworthy number of population of the inmates do not receive the basic vocational and educational services that would help the inmates enhance their skill to securing better employment once they are released from prison. Furthermore, a large US population that has undergone diagnosis of infection of life threatening diseases are undergoing through the nations prison systems every year and worse more without any treatment while being incarcerated or the after release. Transition from life in prison and back in to the society is not simple as it seems. Due to this matter, former inmate’s crimes do account for a significant share of present and future crimes. Additionally, unlike numerous crime determinants, conditions in prison are already under the control of criminal justice system and the policy makers. Understanding whether the conditions of confinement do affect post-release crime may consequently be fundamental to an effectively control crime.

The prisoner’s huge influx that began in the late 1970s and early 1980s in the US produced a growth rate in the population of prisons that legal commentators and scholars have over time regarded as “unprecedented”.  Amongst other things, this unprecedented growth in prison intended that systems were seriously overcrowded everywhere and many still in recent times (Roulet, 2004).  Indeed, there was a quick growth in some of the prison systems and it became difficult for officials in prison to keep track of the locations and names of every facility in their system, let alone to oversee and supervise the prisons (Merlo & Benekos, 2005).  Two of the largest prisons in the US – California and Texas- have experienced remarkable and comparable rapid growth rates. Over the last 30 years, the population of prisoners in California has expanded eightfold (from approximately 20000 during the early 1970s to its current prisoner’s population of roughly 160000 prisoners). In Texas, the population of prisoners has been on the rise and has nearly doubled; this results from the additional number of prisoners to the prison rolls. In fact, in the mid-1990s, it registered one of the highest incarceration rates nationally, and for the United States to accommodate expansion in its already sizeable population of prisoners, it operates more than 80 prisons.

Programs aimed at reducing recidivism

Various programs have been proposed to be applied in prisons in the United States all aimed at reducing the rate of criminal offences and especially the issue of recidivism. But one that stands out clear is the educational programs in prisons. Prison education has profound roots within the American correctional system. Educational programming of the inmates has been part of the criminal corrections systems for over 200years (Frolander & Yates, 2005). Inmates in the US prisons of present are required to participate in literacy programs until the time they acquire a General Education Development (GED) certificate. Conversely, these programs completion and participation is entirely voluntary.

            Education within the prisons forms the means to succeeding in a society that is free for the uneducated prisoners (Kethineni & Falcone, 2007). Education gives them the skills to help them succeed in the world outside and more so providing to the prison population a vital service which in turn helps them attain the necessary competence to make a life out of the prison walls. Programs of correctional education have proven to reduce the rate of recidivism and we cannot disregard solutions that are viable to the increasing and overcrowding of prison populations. These educational programs present an opportunity to the correctional system to save money and reduce crime consequently.

Rehabilitative programs in the US prisons

The measures to apply on the positively rehabilitating the prison inmates are mainly focused on reducing the idleness of the prisoners and thereby enhancing a continued correction commitment. They focus to reduce the chances of the inmate’s re-offence and address the issues that are brought about in the areas of education, social, psychological and vocational aspects. The programs applied differ from one offence to another and the extent to which one had been done. Some of those measures that have a greater magnitude of enabling change amongst these prisoners are outlined below:

Training and education programs for prisoners- it’s the widely used program in the US prisons and has no doubt been the most prevalent. They reflect the strong belief that good habits are learned, and better work skills acquired. They are vital to secure employment after their term is over and deter them from going back to criminal actions and maintain a good and productive citizenship.  However, the program is not indisputable, but the already applied programs indicate that there has been a resultant decrease in recidivism after release. Its effectiveness has been well observed on target criminals who have low skills in life. A survey conducted in 1995, in state and federal prisons showed that 25% of inmates were enrolled to such kind of program. Basic adult education had more than fifty thousand enrollment in such disciplines as language arts, literature, mathematics, social sciences and pure sciences and life skills training. Some basic life skills like how to manage ones money, apply for jobs, healthy living, etc are taught. The basic assumption is that once the inmates are released these skills will be translated to steady employment.

Programs of cognitive skills- this is often based on the assumption that most of the bad behaviors in society are as a result of inadequate thinking. This effect can only be effectively dealt with by the effort of instilling cognitive skills to the inmate; this reduces the chances of recidivism. When these skills are focused on offence related factors, they produce a problem solving mechanism that manage and avoid offence related situations on the side of the subject.

Programs of anger management- is based on the assumption that the chances of re-doing an offence can be reduced if an inmate is equipped with skills of anger management and especially when its tailor made to meet the criminological needs.

Programs of drugs and alcohol- research has shown that substance abuse and crime has a high degree of correlation, therefore, the effort to cope with major criminal activities has to begin with fighting the combined drugs-crime offences.

Counseling and psychological programs – these are programs developed in an attempt to equip the inmates with social skills and try to alter the underlying problems that might have caused the offenders criminality. Most likely social upheavals are the use of drugs since there is statistical evidence that shows at least half of the inmates had previously abused drugs. It was estimated that inmate proportion on who took part in drug treatment program increased from 4.4 to 32.7 percent. There are some institutions with programs called therapeutic communities that only deal with drug-addicted inmates. The correct programs are aimed at ensuring that the inmates forfeit their acts of crime, they target the attitude of crime and their ways of thoughts that usually foster these illegal behaviors.

Community-based treatment

These are some programs to be adopted and be implemented by the community, in collaboration with the prisons probation officer. It a situation applied when offenders are supervised even after they complete their jail term. Those released to the community should be placed on mandatory supervision by the parole officer; who have the role of surveillance and detecting symptoms of further criminality and provide for treatment. Some of the community related treatments are;

Society victim awareness- this seeks to improve the society’s victim awareness.  It best applies to domestic-related offences where, after the offender is released, he/she goes back to the society and finds the same folks whom they offended. There should be established a proper healing system on all parties in order to avoid recurrence of the past.

Volunteer probation- this method when an individual member of the society volunteers to give material assistance to them. These probation aides may choose to be visiting the client at home or in the workplace.

Strategic family therapy- this is a family related intervention aimed to prevent youth behavior problems. Teenagers with behavior problems like substance abuse and delinquency are the major target of this program. It has an assumption that interactive and adaptive family plays an ideal role of protecting children against negative influences

Therefore, the community is a very important element in shaping the character of their own offender. They provide an ample support to the efforts of promoting the spiritual growth and high morals of their people.

Approaches to protect public upon the prisoner’s release

The primary concern of the Americans is that they are always in concern over their personal safety, adequate punishment, their own security and measures to prevent recidivism and foster the required rehabilitation. The nation’s policy on the public is to enhance a good criminal justice system and reduce the prisoner reentry issues, such approaches are;

In- prison programs- meant to reduce recidivism which has been a major problem. There has been measures put in place to prepare the inmates for a successful return to the community, it also prevent them to be convicted with another felony on short notice.

Address of post-release problems- many prisoners have faced unsociable and unfamiliar environment after release. Many have suffered and even did without life’s basic requirements as there comes nobody who can offer a helping hand. Family relationships have been held at stake and their past support network cut short, the prospective employers have always been reluctant to accept them back to their workplace, and not forgetting housing problems. To reduce this, prisons offer a stipend that serves as fare back home and dinning fee for the short period before they reestablish themselves.

Transition Planning and Services this is meant to assist incarcerated persons to be community assets but not public liabilities, the transition practice, begins with a complete assessment and plan that is developed at the first that person  arrives at a rehabilitation center.

To ensure that a prisoner is not convicted of another felony after release, the measures stated above should be put in full practice together with others below;

There should be appointed transitional coordinators at every institution who has the responsibility to work in collaboration with the incarcerated persons in implementing their development plans and projects (Zimmerman & Stringer, 2004). This should be in collaboration with the community where the prisoners are to return.

Continual mental health treatment for those discovered to have the problems; it should not be denied to incarcerated persons whose illness contributed greatly to their offenses. If this does not take effect, it may defeat their successful reintegration.  The treatment should have to continue within the community after release. The policies that are outlined in the probation acts should be applied practically in order to meet the person’s needs for rehabilitation and social re-acceptance in the community. Therefore, the government should fund these programs to the fullest in order to have these post release change mechanisms succeed.

Conclusion

Though the recidivism measurement may lack clarity, it is evident that the high recidivism rate does escalate expenditures and jeopardize public safety on criminal justice and law enforcement.  The growing population in American prisons and the high rates of recidivism results in huge individual, economic and social costs. Prisons are gradually being expected not only to address the law offenders, but also to making positive contributions in transforming the criminals into law abiding citizens. Various approaches arise from these expectations which in turn have the potential to transform the prisons. Three major program elements help successfully reduce recidivism; education which provides the necessary skills for the inmates to obtain the type of jobs that earns more successful income; treatment for mental illness or substance abuse which helps the inmates in getting rid of integration and employment obstacles. Increasing prison and parole personnel accountability for recidivism and rehabilitation is also an approach that helps increase the effectiveness and efficiency of government expenditure on its various programs.

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