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The state of the Criminal Justice System is a topic which is commonly debated throughout the United States. According to Elizabeth Truss, a Secretary of State for Justice who has written many publications on prison reform, “…the prison system does not have clear objectives set out in law by Parliament” (Truss 14). Due to its vague nature, debates have surfaced about the purpose of the prison system and if that purpose is being accomplished. The initial reason for the development of the prison system was to correct and reform criminals who have wronged society. However, supporters and opponents of the current prison system pose a common question: should prison systems emphasize punishment or rehabilitation?  As stated by Bob Cameron, PhD in Human Services Administration, and professor of criminology, “There are essentially five goals of sentencing: retribution, incapacitation, deterrence, restoration, and rehabilitation” (Cameron). However, in the US, retribution and incapacitation are highly prioritized over rehabilitation and restoration. This point is reiterated by Christina Sterbenz, a reporter and editor for Business Insider, when she states that prison systems in the US “…want their prisoners punished first and rehabilitated second” (Sterbenz). Because the policies set by the criminal justice system concerning prison systems are so unclear, debates have arisen concerning the effectiveness of its punitive nature. Given that, “…crime rates have been decreasing since the 1990s, yet rates of imprisonment are at historic highs,” there must be another reason for these high incarceration rates that aren’t linked to the rates of crime (Lichtenberg). Although it is meant to be a correctional facility where inmates are forced to reform their behavior and prevent further incarceration, the Prison System in its current form has caused people to question the effectiveness, ethicality, and humaneness of current policies that are implemented. In response to these apparent flaws, opponents of the US prison system state that the way the correctional facilities are structured is inhumane because they are punitive in nature, rather than rehabilitative. Supporters justify this punitive structure through the moral theory of retribution. Immanuel Kant, a philosopher who holds this retributive theory claims,”…punishment rights the scales of justice that the criminal has tilted, criminals deserve to suffer for what they have done…not to punish them is intrinsically wrong” (Rauscher) Because the core of the incarceration system is retribution, the act of punishment is indistinguishable from revenge (Martinot). According to Steve Martinot, a professor of interdisciplinary programs at Temple University and writer of several books on the structures of racialization,”…a revenge ethic cannot be used to respond to or diminish the violence in a society because it is itself an act of violence” (Martinot). Therefore, the theory of retribution is counterproductive as it does nothing to put a stop to violence, rather, encourages it. As Michael Neminski puts it, “The main goal of the correctional system is to reform prisoners, to help them realize what they did was wrong and that to do it again would be a mistake” (Neminski 83). He makes the valid point that prisons weren’t created merely to punish wrongdoers, but to prevent them from doing what imprisoned them in the first place. This brings us to the obvious conclusion, rehabilitation. As stated by Etienne Benson, PhD in history and postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University, “Until the mid-1970s, rehabilitation was a key part of prison policy. Right now most criminal justice or correctional systems are punitive in nature” (Benson). Since correctional facilities in the US took a punitive turn, incarceration rates have skyrocketed. This brings us to the conclusion that prison systems in the US should focus on repairing the harm caused by crime rather than merely punishing people. This idea is the basis for a common theory of justice called Restorative Justice, which “…focuses on repairing the harm caused by crime and reducing future harm through crime prevention.” It also requires criminals to take responsibility for the harm they have caused and in turn, forces them to reform their behavior. (LW)  Not only are policies set by the criminal justice system inhumane, they are unethical because they don’t take into account the needs of an individual. One of the biggest controversies surrounding the criminal justice systems is the policy of solitary confinement. Solitary confinement is defined by a UN Special Rapporteur as “the physical and social isolation of individuals who are confined to their cells for 22 to 24 hours a day” (“Why promote”). Solitary confinement cells are used commonly throughout the United States. However, most states do not publish or collect that data; therefore, it is difficult to determine how many are being held in these prisons (“Ethical considerations”; Benson). A common form of solitary confinement is the government’s use of Supermaximum Prisons. According to Lorna Rhodes, PhD in Anthropology and professor at the University of Washington, “This extreme form of confinement goes beyond  incapacitation that has always been a necessary aspect of imprisonment (Rhodes). Although people believe that solitary confinement is necessary for high-risk criminals and those who threaten the general safety of the public, the majority of those held in Super Maximum prisons aren’t mentally stable. “…the deinstitutionalization of psychiatric hospitals has resulted in increasing numbers of incarcerated individuals with serious mental illness…In 1998, more than 179,000 offenders in state prisons…and almost 548,000 probationers were identified as mentally ill (“Ethical Considerations”). Although the numbers sound outdated, a recent study by the U.S. Department of Justice shows that around 20 percent of people in prisons today are mentally ill, and that number is even higher for super maximum prisons (Benson). The most common illnesses being anxiety disorders and major depression, hundreds of thousands are suffering through them while also dealing with extreme isolation. Due to these isolation policies, healthy prisoners are also driven to develop mental illnesses. A man who had been in and out of these supermaximum units described it as, “Sometimes I see things on the wall…sometimes I hear voices…there is nobody to talk to…as a result, sometimes I am violent. Pound on the walls. Yell and scream” (Rhodes).  Therefore, policies involving isolation and solitary confinement have heavy pathological effects on an inmate after their release and therefore, do more harm than good.  The high rates of reincarceration have caused people throughout the United States to question whether or not current policies are efficient. Most people have come to the conclusion that correctional facilities in the United States are inoperative because criminals do not stay out of jail once they are released. Once people are released from jail around 78% return to jail within a 5 year period, because criminals just go back to jail, correctional facilities are no longer “correctional.” (Neminski 36; Cooper) This growing epidemic is often referred to as recidivism. According to the National Institute of Justice, “…it refers to a person’s relapse into criminal behavior, often after the person receives sanctions or undergoes intervention for a previous crime.”  Because of recidivism, incarceration rates keep growing and therefore, the prison system isn’t actually helping to reduce crime rates. Recidivism is caused by the lack of reintegration into society, because former inmates aren’t reintegrated, they end up going back (Davis). Michael Neminski, a Doctor of Law at Boston University reiterates the same point when he claims that, “When prisoners are released, they need support to begin their new life, and the prison system tends to send them right back to the conditions they were previously in” (Neminski 86). Not only are prisoners struggling to reintegrate socially, they are also being denied basic rights due to their criminal records. How can ex-convicts reintegrate into society while still being denied jobs and places to live? When they apply for a job, they are denied due to their record and limited experience. When they apply to rent a house, they are denied because they are felons and do not have a stable income (Neminski; Myers). According to Lois M. Davis, PhD in public health and researcher at The RAND Corporation, “Researchers found that participation in education programs reduces an inmate’s risk of recidivism…prisoners who take advantage of education programs have a reincarceration rate 13 percentage points lower than those who do not” (Davis). As a result of vocational training and education programs, prisoners will gain first-hand experience that will prepare them for reintegration upon release.  The Prison System in its current form has proven to be highly ineffective, unethical and inhumane. Due to these apparent flaws, prison policies should be reformed to benefit those in the criminal justice system. If correctional facilities continue the way they are, they will be negatively impacting prisoners who deserve to be treated in an ethical and humane manner. Although the reason the prison system was developed was to correct and reform criminals who have wronged society, the prison system does the opposite. While putting emphasis on punishment rather than rehabilitation, it encourages violence rather than prevent it. Due to the inhumane practices surrounding solitary confinement and the ineffective reintegration programs, a self sustaining cycle also known as the Revolving Door has ensued. Consequently, the five main purposes of correctional facilities are not being fully accomplished and therefore, will create a bad future for prisoners all around the United States. 

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