The American corrections system is failing in its effectiveness on re-habilitation of the prison and jail populations. The rate of re-arrest for American convicts are astoundingly high and continually growing. Inmates have a little less than a fifty-fifty chance of a successful probation period upon discharge from a prison or jail (The Washington Post)1. At this point, it seems the only light at the end of this dark tunnel may be the hope inmates have in prisons and jails educational programs to reduce their rate of recidivism in the United States. This paper will provide the cold hard facts as to the rates of recidivism among ex-inmates and what can be done to deal with this problem, mainly focusing on the educational programs available in the correctional system to boost the rehabilitation rates for success among former inmates. The two article used in the assessment of the effectiveness of prisons and jails to rehabilitate inmates are as follows: (1) Mangino, Mathew T. “Doing Time…; And Doing it Time and Time Again.” The Washington Post. (19 Dec. 2004): B 02. ProQuest Newspaper Database. UMUC Library System, MD. 02 Dec. 2006. http://www.ezproxy.umuc.edu>. (2) Lewin, Tamar. “Inmate Education is Found to Lower Risk of New Arrest.” The New York Times (16 Nov. 2001) A 22. ProQuest Newspaper Database. UMUC Library System, MD. 02 Dec. 2006. http://www.ezproxy.umuc.edu>.
Article number one written by Mathew T. Mangino of The Washington Post, discusses the current situation in prisons and jails due to the high rate of recidivism among parolees in the American corrections system. It also points out the failures of corrections in prisons and jails because of lack of rehabilitation programs available to inmates. This shortage is illustrated by the statement: “In 1991- one in four state prison inmates receive treatment for drug addiction… In 1997, one in ten receive treatment” (The Washington Post)2. Rehabilitation programs such as the ones used by more “progressive counties” to help their parolees “re- integrate” back into society. Drug, Mental health, and educational programs are among those mentioned in the article and have been proven useful to reduce a former inmate’s chance of re- arrest. For example, according to Mathew T. Mangino, of The Washington Post, “Inmates in federal prison who receive residential drug treatment are seventy- three percent less likely to be re- arrested” (The Washington Post)3. This article also highlights the simple fact of money that could ideally be spent on rehabilitation programs is being dumped into “tough on crime” laws, in essence allowing parolees/former inmates to be “dumped on the street to fend for themselves” (The Washington Post)4, which is one of the main reasons for such sad numbers when it comes to the success rate among parolees. Mangino sites that as of “2003 fewer than fourty- seven percent were making it through their parole period, according to national averages for state prisons… (In addition), those who violate their parole and are re- incarcerated account for thirty- five percent of all prison admissions- the fastest growing area of incarceration” (The Washington Post)5.
The second article written by Tamar Lewin, of The New York Times provides information and several studies that show that education programs in prisons and jails help reduce the rate of recidivism. “Inmates who receive schooling- through vocational training or classes at the high school or college level are far less likely to return within three years of their release, according to a study for the Department of Education” (The New York Times)6. The article also shows that schooling aids in public safety by getting more parolees to be active and healthy members of society. In addition a source for The New York Times, Stephen J. Steurer, says: “We found that for every dollar you spend on education, you save a dollar by avoiding the cost of re- incarceration” (The New York Times)7. However, the article is quick to note that even though it has been proven cheaper to educate and rehabilitate than to consistently re- incarcerate former prison and jail inmates “… it remains difficult to get public financing for such classes” (The New York Times)8. Lastly, the article touches on the sad state of affairs of the “educational opportunities” given. Describing the situation as: “…Varying widely by state, with half or fewer prisoners getting some form of education in most states, and, increasingly, waiting list of others who want classes” (The New York Times)9.
In comparing the two articles, the general information given concerning rehabilitation and education programs in prisons and jails and recidivism seems to come out the same. Both articles agree on the fact that rehabilitative programs, be it, drug, mental health or educational, has a significant effect on whether the parolee will be successful upon release. The New York Times article is less informative about the exact numbers or success rates among educated former inmates, although it does reference two studies with the numbers needed, while The Washington Post article elaborates on the numbers, costs, and other programs in question. However, despite the differences in the styles of the two articles, both seem to reach the same conclusion: rehabilitation and educational programs are effective in reducing the rate of recidivism, unfortunately, both articles also agree that not enough resources or money is set aside for these programs to be used effectively in society.
After reading and examining the information highlighted in each of the two articles and carefully thinking over the issue of “assess(ing) the effectiveness of prisons and jails to rehabilitate inmates,” I have come to the conclusion that prisons and jails are not doing an acceptable job of rehabilitating their inmates. I feel that while the American corrections system has the information, facts, and means necessary to complete an effective rehabilitation of its inmates; the system is not using those tools to the best of their ability and is thus failing the inmates and society itself. However, if the funds were given to the corrections system to implement a prober educational or rehabilitative program, based on the information in the articles and the studies cited in The New York Times, I believe prisons and jails would have a successful turn-around in lowering their rates of recidivism
1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Mangino, Mathew T. “Doing Time…; And Doing it Time and Time Again.” The Washington Post. (19 Dec. 2004): B 02. ProQuest Newspapers Database. UMUC Library System, MD. 02 Dec. 2006. http://www.ezproxy.umuc.edu>.
6, 7, 8, 9. Lewin, Tamar. “Inmate Education is Found to Lower Risk of New Arrest.” The New York Times (16 Nov. 2001) A 22. ProQuest Newspaper Database. UMUC Library System, MD. 02 Dec. 2006. http://www.ezproxy.umuc.edu>.