Imprisonment in the U.S
Throughout his novel, Texas Tough: The Rise of America’s Prison Empire, author and professor Robert Perkinson outlines the three current dominant purposes of prison. The first, punishment, is the act of disciplining offenders in an effort to prevent them from recommitting a particular crime. Harsh punishment encourages prisoners to behave because many will not want to face the consequences of further incarceration. While the purpose of punishment is often denounced, many do agree that prison should continue to be used as a means of protecting law-abiding citizens from violent offenders. The isolation of inmates, prison’s second purpose, exists to protect the public. ...view middle of the document...
The benefits of rehabilitation are therefore lost because after-care facilities are designed to further reinforce critical values gained by prisoners during prior
This means that even if a prison were to offer inmates the most innovative forms of rehabilitation, the programs would be in vain due to the overwhelming majority of prisoners who would not willingly partake in treatment. If a prisoner manages to acquire a job upon release, his rehabilitation may still be successful (Melnick. 635). Unfortunately, many employers do not hire criminals. Thus, prisoners are ejected into the dysfunctional, often impoverished environment from which they came with no recollection of skills learned in rehabilitation.
Just as the environment a prisoner hails from contributes to his incarceration, his past offenses contribute to his success with rehabilitation. No two prisoners are alike and prisons often hold offenders of differing ages, races and genders who have committed a multitude of various crimes. Rehabilitation programs, however, commonly focus solely on drug addiction, consequently alienating those who need rehabilitation for mental illness, sex offense, robbery or other damaging crimes.
As evidenced by the lack of existing and thriving rehabilitation programs, it is highly difficult to design a facility that adequately caters to prisoners with varying degrees of offense, recidivism and need. According to the Sentencing Guidelines Commission of the state of Washington, drug offenders had a 62.7% recidivism rate among adult felons in the state during the year 2007 (2). The alarming correlation between drug use and imprisonment is found throughout the country, and a myriad of rehabilitation programs have been proposed in an attempt to minimize recidivism rates associated with drug crimes.
One such program and its results were reported by authors William M. Burdon, Jef St. De Lore and Michael L. Prendergast in their essay, “Developing and Implementing a Positive Behavioral Reinforcement Intervention in Prison-Based Drug Treatment: Project BRITE.” The focus of Project BRITE was to positively reinforce the behavior of prisoners who did well within their drug rehabilitation as opposed to punishing them for undesirable behavior . The report mentions, however, that prisoners oftentimes did not receive the volume of positive reinforcement required to render the operant conditioning effective . The lack of rewards discouraged inmates, causing them to lose focus within the program. Exhausting prison resources in an attempt to continuously reward inmates would not be an efficient method of providing to them rehabilitation.
A further complication regarding positive operant conditioning ensues when a prison system encounters an inmate unwilling to participate in rehabilitation. Despite Project BRITE’s foundation lying in the goal...