Are We Too Punitive Rather Than Reformative?: Rethinking How Prisons Function

Even at an early age, we are taught to follow rules. Much of our behavior within society is regulated by rules and laws. We are taught how to behave at the dinner table, what time we’re supposed to sleep, and that we should recognize and follow authority figures. After all, laws are what bind society together and establish order in what would otherwise be a chaotic world. The law is what ensures that we are able to exercise our rights as free people without depriving other people of their rights.

But what happens when there are people who are unable to conform to these societal standards? Lessons about this are also taught to us at a very young age. Misbehaviors may be met with a good scolding or time out in a corner of the room. As we get older, we may get a speeding ticket when we drive over the speed limit.

Sanctions are meant to discourage deviant behavior, which is good on principle but it forgets a vital step: allowing an individual to reform and to reintegrate into society as a functional and contributory member. If we didn’t intend to reform criminals and deviants, we’d simply kill them.

Too Punishment-Focused

As previously mentioned, people charged with crimes often end up in jail or worse, in prison. When people become a danger to others, we have to restrain them, regardless of who they are. We isolate them, and we give them time to reflect on their crime by having them serve time in a prison. This is ineffective for many reasons, but the most glaring one is that it does not serve the purpose of deterring future offences. In fact, it might even encourage crime, especially when the conditions within prison are better than conditions in their own neighborhood.

Failure To Reintegrate Into Society

Another problem with the penal systems lies in how society treats ex convicts. This has long been illustrated through the ages, and is portrayed eloquently, in Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. The story begins as we see Jean Valjean rejected many times by society, even after he has served his time for a petty theft.

That scenario still rings true to this day, which begins with employers and lenders conducting background checks on applicants. To protect their future opportunities, ex-felons may seek legal services such as record sealing to ensure that information such as criminal charges, convictions, and arrests of an ex-convict are sealed from scrutiny. You can find more information from Adras & Altig, Attorneys at Law.

Because we don’t create enough ways for ex-convicts to reintegrate into society, they relapse into deviant behavior. While it’s important to ensure that they undergo corrective measures in order to keep them from committing the same mistakes later on, we also need to be able to help them integrate into society much more easily without worry of a relapse in behavior.

Is Stricter Punishment The Solution?

While it’s easy to fall into the trap of resorting to harsher punishment in order to deter crime, we should consider that it is the guarantee of punishment rather than its severity that truly deters criminal behavior. If people knew that there was no way they were going to get away with a crime, they’re going to be much less likely to commit it in the first place.

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