Essay about Prison Reform

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More people are incarcerated today than ever before. There are several different types of prisons or institutions in the United States that include state prisons, county jails, and federal prisons. The United States currently has over 2 million people in prison. That accounts for approximately 25% of the worlds imprisoned population (Forman, 2011). How can the prison system help reduce the recidivism rate? Some of the programs that have been developed to help the recidivism rate include drug and alcohol treatment programs, education and training programs, and mental health programs. These programs are aimed at educating the person on how to handle the pressures of being released back into the world.

Education and Training Programs

Most prisoners that are incarcerated lack the educational ability to understand how to succeed in life. Many incarcerated subjects lack a high school diploma. Studies show that there is a direct link between the lack of education and chance or probability that the person will be incarcerated (Colgan, 2006). Because the prisoners are being released with the same educational level, they came with greatly increases the recidivism rate. That’s why educational programs are such a heavy topic in the prison reform talks.

Programs like vocational, General Equivalency Diploma (GED), and post-secondary education could give the prisoner the tools needed to have a successful re-entry into society. Having vocational training could help the prisoner find a field of work outside the prison and give him the tool set for a variety of jobs. Employment of the prisoner after he is released beneficial to his success of staying out of prison. A former prisoner that is un-employed is around 33% (Burt, 2010). A former prisoner that can find stable work is much more likely to succeed on the outside, than that of someone who can’t find work. Without a steady income a former inmate is more likely to commit a crime to get money and eventually end back up behind bars. That is why vocational training is so important. If an ex-prisoner lacks the ability and skills to hold down a job, they are much more likely to slide back into a life of crime (Nathan, 2008).

Drug and Alcohol Treatment Programs

One of the most important programs that could be implement with the prison system is drug and alcohol treatment programs. Approximately 30% of people that are incarcerated admitted to having a substance abuse problem when they committed their crime (Colgan, 2006). If the prison system could provide these substance abuse programs it could have an instrumental affect on the prison population. One of the main short falls is putting someone in prison that has a drug of alcohol problem and believing that just because they have no access to it the problem is solved. Without a treatment program that is tailored to the addict they will have a greater chance to return to drugs after they are released.

Mental Health Services

Mental health is a topic that expands the prison walls to the general public. Estimates show that a person that is incarcerated is 2 to 4 times more likely to be suffering from a mental illness than someone in the general public (Colgan, 2006). One of the biggest obstacles for someone in prison to receive adequate mental illness help is because the lack of medication that is available, and the lack staffing the prison system has. The ratio of inmates to corrections staff is way out numbered. A lot of times when an inmate acts out, has fits of rage or violence, or tries to harm themselves they are suffering from some type of mental illness.

For an inmate to go untreated for any amount of time can be like a ticking timebomb. The lack of mental illness help can also have a harmful effect on the other inmates too. Having someone in your cell block that is suffering from a mental illness and has fits of rage can become a risk to the other inmates in the same cell block. After an inmate has these outbursts, they are sometimes segregated from the other prison population, which has an adverse reaction. Most health professionals say this course of action often worsens the problem for the person suffering from a mental illness.

Another problem that the prison system sees is the release of the inmate that still suffers from the mental illness and has no ways of dealing with the situation. When an inmate re-enters society with a condition that has went untreated, they will have a harder time with their transition. This will make them more susceptible to breaking the law and going back to jail.


Approximately 650,000 people are released from prison each year to return to society (Pinard, 2006). Some of these individuals may live on your street or maybe next door. The better help that they can receive will not only help them but may help you. When a person gets released from prison it is often a very stressful and intimidating time, often with only the clothes on their back with no money, no mode of transportation, or anywhere to go. While in prison if they can be provided with the skills and knowledge of how to cope with obstacles they may face once they are free, the transition of those skills will make it easier for life on the outside and society as a whole. When they were incarcerated, they had a schedule and set of rules they had to follow. Now that they are free, they need to know how to move forward and function as a normal person would. A lot of law makers look at prison reform as being soft on crime, but in the end most of the people going to prison will one day be out walking the streets again. The theory of prison reform is to change the character, attitude, and behavior of the offenders and to strengthen their acknowledgement of their unwanted behavior (Kennard, 1989). That was just a handful of reform options that could help keep people from being return customers in the prison system. There is a vast majority of other issues that would also help the recidivism rate, but these programs are not cheap. The real uphill battle is getting the funding to start some of these programs, convincing the public that someone that just committed a serious crime deserves some type of help is hard to do. If we can focus our efforts on some of the more prevalent issues like, mental health, educational and vocational programs, and drug and alcohol programs the country could possibly end of saving money because of the lack of recidivism. Of the nearly two million people that are incarcerated in the United Stated approximately 96% will be released at some point (Colgan, 2006). That is staggering numbers, and we as a society must figure out a solution to keep people imprisoned or to get them ready to reenter society.      

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Essay About Prison Reform. (2021, Jun 30). Retrieved November 30, 2023 , from

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