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Reverse Psychology of Prison

September 7, 2010

This blog entry is a collaboration between my friend, Oliver, and me.

One thing that has been on my mind is whether or not the prison system helps rehabilitate criminals who are sent to it. To be honest, I don’t think it deters criminal activity because the prison population in the United States has actually increased and has the highest per capita of inmates-to-the-general population of all nations.

The prison system, at least the one in the United States, doesn’t seem to be set up to rehabilitate its inmates. If anything, its structure is set up to encourage rather than discourage violence. When inmates are isolated in their cells for 23 out of 24 hours a day, they are paying for the crime they have committed. But is that the solution? Locking up a person doesn’t help him overcome his criminal tendencies. Providing help such as counseling and addressing the root issue seems more productive. After all, some of these inmates are eventually released back into the general population once they have served their time. As a society, I believe we would want someone, who has just been released, to be truly rehabilitated.

Oliver’s friend, who has been in and out of rehab, may provide as a good analogy to why prisons can be encouraging, rather than discouraging criminal activity.

His friend loved rehab because if he lost his job, he had a place in which to turn where he could “sleep a lot,” have his bed made for him, “feed you well,” and “hang out with other druggies and swap stories about where to get awesome drugs and who has what or had what, or how awesome a bender you had once.” Rehab facilities help you find a job and offers a great place to network with others who are experiencing the same ailment as you.

I’ll let Oliver continue on with his analysis:

I think this story has similar consequences to prison. The path dependent and current reliance that people have on prisons, others enjoy the gains they have from prisons; guards make extra money looking the other way from murders and rapes as well smuggling in drugs and selling them to inmates; construction firms make tons of money off of prison construction; security firms make money watching inmates, selling cameras and stuff, and transporting inmates.

Prisoners can run crime groups from prison, make money in prison with drugs or kills. Some criminals get to put themselves in isolation so they won’t get killed, because if they were out of isolation or out of jail they would get killed. I think capitalism loves prisons, it definitely keeps “good” people in line because fearful people can’t imagine prison and don’t get near rocking a boat to ever get close to jail. “Bad” people kinda enjoy some of the aspects of prison, kinda like my drug rehab guy story.

If you took prisons away or grossly modified them. you would mega-upset some people, and I think that few people would really be happy. Most people who are not smart feel that it is out of their control to disagree with the concept of prisons and most people who are smart have a given mentality that they want to be safe, and they see this as an imperfect solution but a solution none the less.

So are prisons truly the answer? For me, I don’t think the way they are set up right now is the true answer. If we really want to rehab criminals in the prison system, so that the population decreases by reasons other than general budget cuts, then we need to think about putting money into actual rehab programs. But maybe Oliver has it correctly. Prisons may be a great place to network with other criminals, hence, enhancing the amount of crime taking place, even if it’s taking place behind locked doors.

For Oliver, the best thing to fight the war on drugs maybe to get rid of the rehabs and prisons because that is were druggies / criminals network, and that might be the place where it all starts. Few people commit crimes in total isolation. There has to be a buyer for stolen goods or drugs. Most criminals work together to commit crimes. Where do these people meet?  Where do they find the time to think all day about there next crime?  Are jails idea factories and networking hubs for the criminal industry?

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One Comment leave one →
  1. xuanie permalink
    September 8, 2010 2:24 pm

    Rehabilitation and not incarceration.

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