As a man with a numerical death sentence, I have found it nearly impossible to further my education. No that is wrong, I have found it impossible to find instruction and guidance in furthering my education. I have been able, through self discipline and the library, to educate myself. I know that I have touched on this subject briefly before. Now I wish to expand on it as I truly feel knowledge and education are the only viable tools to fight America's crime and prison problems. I feel that the current prison system is a complete failure as a means to not only rehabilitate its wards but as a deterrent. It seems there is no deterrent out there that has ever worked in any society, to successfully eliminate crime. Even in the face of torture on the rack or hanging in the town square, crime has always been a plague upon society. If it stems from genetics, economics or family upbringing...that is beyond my scope. What I do know is our current form of incarceration, in the name of rehabilitation, is incredibly out of balance. Our focus has moved from creating men to re-enter society to purely incarceration (warehousing). Our sentences have grown longer and while our sentences have grown longer, our rehabilitative programs have shrunk. I believe serious consideration needs to be given to what works and how long it takes to successfully rehabilitate the average offender for each crime. Then you can design the sentences around that time line and create a program with incentives to comply.
Let us take, as an example, "Joe Smith" who committed a burglary and was found guilty. Now the judge can look at his history which, for arguments sake, states that "Joe" has no prior criminal history, is a high school graduate but has a drug addiction. The judge sentences him to 4 years (from a choice of 2-6), the middle ground. This sentence of 4 years should be a worst case scenario for "Joe". He should only do the four years if he fails to complete his programs. Some of what was just described is already in place but not always executed. Where my idea strays from the current system is in what comes next in "Joe's"life. He arrives at the diagnostic center (Department of Corrections Diagnostic), where he is evaluated again and given his list of programs that he is required to complete in order to earn time off of his sentence. These programs should include victim impact, drug rehabilitation and other programs related to his crime. In addition to this "Joe "
has to choose one of the trade (vocational) programs offered, which has its own training program and time credits for each completed step in his training. "Joe" has a choice, he can do nothing, learn nothing and do all four years OR "Joe" can enter into his classes and trade, fill his day with activity and cut his time down with each completed program.
The key to this is the time cuts must be EARNED while teaching him to deal with his addiction. "Joe" would also get a valuable tool (the trade he learned) which would help him start a successful career upon his release. This is a very basic model but it is an outline for what I see would be easiest to attain under our modern justice system. We use prison only as a means of punishment. That is only half of its function. The other half is rehabilitation. Which brings me to my final point. In any crowd utter the words "death penalty" and you will hear the majority of people say it is only suitable in extreme cases. But make a small play on words and call it "life" and all of a sudden state sanctioned death is all right. While a man may not be bad enough to warrant society putting a needle in his arm, he is not given the chance to redeem himself. Instead he shall suffer decades caged and eventually loose his life to the state in the states care. Is that justice? Do we have the right to a man's life? Jonny
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