When envisioning a prison, one often conceptualizes a grisly scene of hardened rapists and murderers wandering aimlessly down the darkened halls of Alcatraz, as opposed to a pleasant facility catering to the needs of troubled souls. Prisons have long been a source of punishment for inmates in America and the debate continues as to whether or not an overhaul of the US prison system should occur. Such an overhaul would readjust the focuses of prison to rehabilitation and incarceration of inmates instead of the current focuses of punishment and incarceration. Altering the goal of the entire state and federal prison system for the purpose of rehabilitation is an unrealistic objective, however. Rehabilitation should not be the main purpose of prison because there are outlying factors that negatively affect the success of rehabilitation programs and such programs would be too costly for prisons currently struggling to accommodate additional inmate needs.
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. Rehabilitation is currently the third purpose of prison. Rehabilitation is considered successful when a prisoner does not experience recidivism (the act of recommitting the crime he was imprisoned for) and successfully adapts to mainstream society.
While all three are considered prison’s goals, punishment is most heavily relied on and rehabilitation, when attempted, is often halfheartedly executed to uninterested participants. According to authors Gerald Melnick, et al. in their essay, “Treatment Process in Prison Therapeutic Communities: Motivation, Participation, and Outcome,” the lack of motivation an individual prisoner experiences regarding his success often contributes to his dropping out of an in prison rehabilitation program (634). Such programs are therefore futile because the inmates who would benefit most from the rehabilitation are often the most unmotivated and unwilling to participate.
If an inmate does fulfill the numerous participation requirements for completion of an in prison program, the chances of his continuing treatment are exponentially low. Prisoners often neglect to extend treatment through the use of after-care rehabilitation programs upon release from jail (Melnick, et al. 636). The benefits of rehabilitation are therefore lost because after-care facilities are designed to further reinforce critical...