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Breaking News: Fear and Discouragement Don't Rehabilitate Prisoners

By Christopher Zoukis

American Prisons: A Failure of the Greatest Magnitude

The state and federal prison systems of America are in tatters.  Inmates are being transformed into hardened convicts.  Recidivism rates continue to rise.  And all the while, the concept of prison rehabilitating offenders has become a running joke, ongoing dialogue on prison reform aside.

It’s pathetic, plain and simple.  Inmates are real people that go through real struggles and aren’t provided the tools they require to succeed, but still the American people expect prisoners to be rehabilitated upon their release from custody.  It’s laughable to think that inmates could leave prison without any type of additional education, vocational training, or treatment program and succeed in an unfamiliar and unaccepting world outside prison walls.  American corrections simply provides no structure or protocol to promote recovery, and the significant stigma against former prisoners acts in a way that practically ensues that all will return to a life of crime and recidivate.

The Onion Presents its Case: Prisons Don’t Make People More Employable?

It’s crucial that prison policies, procedures, and governing principles changes to assist former inmates in leading a better, more productive, and law-abiding life after their term of incarceration has concluded.  In fact, the need for reform is so obvious that even “The Onion” — the satirical newspaper — wrote an entire article characterizing the thought process of those who think that prison provides inmates with the tools required to leave prison and not return to a life of crime.

“It just doesn’t seem possible that an inmate could live for a decade and a half in a completely dehumanizing environment in which violent felons were constantly on the verge of attacking or killing him and not emerge an emotionally stable, productive member of society.”

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How Is Prison Realignment Playing Out In California

According to the study reported in this video, California’s Realignment Initiative is resulting in more auto thefts throughout the state.   The study does not suggest building more prisons to house California’s criminals.  Instead, the authors of the study propose finding alternative methods to reduce crime.

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Consequences of California’s Realignment Initiative

By Christopher Petrella and Alex Friedmann

David Harvey, Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Geography at the City University of New York, writes that “capitalism never resolves its problems; it simply rearranges them geographically.” The same can be said of California’s almost three-year-old Public Safety Realignment initiative – legislation designed to reduce the Golden State’s prison population, in part, by transferring thousands of prisoners from state facilities to county jails.

Sadly, Realignment has merely shifted the very forms of human suffering it was originally intended to relieve. This – the paradox of modern penal reform – adds a crucial dimension to discussions about who, why and how we punish offenders. Clearly, shifting a criminal justice crisis isn’t the same as solving one.

The Realignment Initiative

Since at least 2011, the State of California has been the epicenter of contemporary prison reform in the United States. The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics has noted that 70% of the total decrease in state prison populations from 2010 to 2011 was a direct result of California’s Public Safety Realignment initiative.

On May 23, 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld an order by a three-judge federal court requiring the state to reduce its prison population to 137.5% of design capacity within two years to alleviate overcrowding that resulted in unconstitutional medical and mental health care. [See: PLN, June 2011, p.1]. California Governor Jerry Brown had called the court’s order “a blunt instrument that does not recognize the imperatives of public safety, nor the challenges of incarcerating criminals, many of whom are deeply disturbed.”

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