Although prisons have a few positive aspects such as keeping felons off the streets and being less final than the death penalty, they have many negative aspects as well such as tearing families apart, causing severe psychological harm to the children of inmates, costing 47,102 dollars a year in California alone (California Judicial website), and causing many problems for the inmates in the long run. Fundamentally the use of incarceration is intended to reform and rehabilitate offenders of society’s laws; however, America’s prison system usually makes matters much worse for the offender, his or her family, and society as a whole. The illustrations below show that there is a severe need for reform in the penal system.
There are several fundamental problems within America’s penal system. First, the name “penal” system indicates that the main focus is punishment. Punishment is meant to “teach them a lesson,” i.e. deter the convicts from future crime. Reasonable or unreasonable, punishment often results in the punished resenting and holding negative feelings for the punisher. If society is the punisher, inmates will not be motivated to go back into the general populace as a valued and productive member of society. Furthermore, prison has been commonly known to be both a training ground for more sophisticated crime as well as psychologically hardening nonviolent or innocent inmates that were falsely accused.
While there are many problems with the judicial system, there are two major positive aspects that the penal system does well. It does keep serious and violent criminals off the streets for a period of time, and it is less final than the death penalty. Capital punishment is opposed by the United Methodist Church, the largest mainstream denomination of Christianity (The United Methodist Book of Social Principles-2004 120-121). The death penalty robs people of the chance to redeem themselves, especially if the convicted person did not commit the crime in the first place. After all, nothing is more final than death, and if more evidence comes forward that proves the innocence of the convict he or she cannot be brought back to life. Even if prisons act as a boot camp for criminals, while in prison the inmates cannot commit crimes against the wider populace.
Incarceration is usually used for punishment as main motives of society’s acceptance or desire for offenders to be “thrown in jail. If the punishment exceeds a reasonable correlation to the offense (i.e. punishment fits the crime) then the punished will resent the punishment and will hold ill will toward the punisher. With negative attitudes and feelings of bitterness, the incarcerated are not likely to learn their lesson, repent or go and sin no more. They are more likely to learn more efficient ways to break society’s laws from other convicts. Incarcerations as retribution tend to create a polarization between “us” (outlaws, outsiders) and them (those in power, the insiders). A high proportion of...