Imagine a young student who attends an inner-city school. He is merely days from graduating, and is one of the few in his class ready to graduate. His future looks bright. However, one stupid decision will ruin his life forever. This young student unknowingly brought a large stash of marijuana to school the day of a random search. This resulted in a felony drug charge, a prison sentence of two years, and a fine of $100,000. Instead of becoming a bright young prospect from the inner city, he has become another disappointing statistic. Once this young man serves his time, he will have missed out on two years of his life due to one mistake. There were no second-chances, and there was little assistance after this young man left. It would be impossible for this man to attend college and repay his fine, so he is forced to work jobs willing to hire someone recently out of jail and without a college degree. This man is forced to live his life in debt, or attempt risky, and likely illegal, procedures to put him into a livable wage. One mistake ruined this man’s life due to the broken system the U.S. penal system is based on.
The US penal system has infamously remained nearly unchanged in the past 50 years, with an emphasis on punishing criminals’ misdeeds, rather than rehabilitate them. This has resulted with the U.S. prison population on the rise with an already overcrowded system. This mass incarceration in the past few decades has resulted in an inescapable prison and fine system that forces former convicts further into a vicious cycle of debt. Little change to a broken system has resulted in an obvious outcome: little improvement. In reality, prisoners are returning to prison more than ever. Although U.S. prison system has not succeeded in reducing the amount of criminals, there is a solution; instead of focusing only on punishing criminals, the system should be there to attempt to rehabilitate the criminals with the intentions to reintroduce them into the real world.
The current U.S. penal system runs on a punishment based system. The idea is to punish those who commit crimes, and scare those who haven’t committed a crime into never doing so. However, this system is not working. A statistic taken by The PEW Center of States, a nonprofit organization that works to improve public policy, shows that the recidivism, or retention, rate has shown only a nationwide two percent improvement in the past decade despite large increases in funding (“State of Recidivism”). The recidivism rate has not improved as there is little being done assist criminals once they are released.
Although the nationwide recidivism rate hasn’t improved overall in the past decade, specific states are a different story. Both Oregon and Michigan have improved their respective recidivism rates through improved reentry and parole programs. Michigan specifically improved through the creation of the Michigan Prisoner Reentry Initiative tasked with addressing an individual criminal...