Crime, Criminals and Criminal Justice Reform

Mark - Spring Arbor, Michigan
Entered on May 13, 2008
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: injustice
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This I believe – Through the ages there have been numerous theorist that have inspired me – each have attempted to solve the problem of crime but have failed. Prisons are overcrowded and the recidivism rate remains constant. America is the melting pot – we believe in mixing things up. I believe there is no one answer, no one theory that can solve the problems we have with crime, but if we take pieces from a lot of different theories we can create a theory that is fluid and that will change and evolve with society as society changes. My idea may not be the answer to crime reduction, but it is a beginning and I have every confidence that others will come behind me and make meaningful changes that will allow this theory to evolve and that will allow the theory to remain current and relevant. No longer should we debate the issue of punishment vs. rehabilitation – instead we should be doing both simultaneously.

In order to reduce recidivism and overcrowding we need to have two separate entities – Penitentiaries to focus rehabilitation on the offenders that are the most likely to return to society, and Prisons to warehouse individuals serving lengthy sentences. Through a process of elimination we can determine what offenders should be sent to the penitentiary (those in the system because of system blame) and which offenders should be sent to prison (those committing crimes because of individual blame). All offenders should be funneled through the penitentiary before released. Offenders incarcerated because of individual blame can outgrow sociopathic tendencies.

By focusing rehabilitation on those offenders that are the most likely to return to society that are incarcerated because of social blame (lack of schooling, vocational training, etc.) we can reduce the recidivism rate and save the country the cost of incarcerating these individuals. The Dual Prison system is not enough – we have to remove the label of convicted felon for all non-violent offenders that successfully complete parole or probation. We need a conditional expungement of the criminal record. Conditional means the criminal justice will have access to prior records but the general public is shielded. Removing the label will allow these offenders to become law abiding citizens by allowing them access to good paying jobs.

Laws have to be changed to allow for conditional expungement of criminal records. The courts will have to determine at the time of sentencing which facility the offender should be sent too – Penitentiary, or Prison. Probation Officers during the Presentence Investigation can make this determination. Lastly, the prison system needs to be reconfigured to make two distinctly different facilities. Breaking up the prisons will in essence take the teachers (career criminals) away from new offenders which would be incarcerated in the penitentiaries and would provide the new offenders with educational and work skills required in society. The criminal justice system would get the most bang for it’s buck.