Inmate Rehabilitation

What happens once you leave jail? We are taught that people can easily reform, and turn their lives around in movies. In reality, however, it is extremely challenging to join society. After a grueling sentence, approximately 60% of ex-prisoners are unemployed one year after their release. This is because they have to check the box on job applications about being an ex-felon. It becomes challenging for inmates to sustain themselves and become a part of society once more. Jails were originally designed for reform, rather than plain punishment. We have shifted our intentions from reform to punitive action.

An example of this would be solitary confinement. In 1951, researchers paid male students to participate in an experiment where they would stay in small chambers with only a bed. After only seven days, all students lost mental clarity, with several experiencing hallucinations. Prisoners are often kept in solitary confinement for up to 30 days, and in extreme cases, five months! Ex-prisoners report feeling depressed and unable to carry conversations, as they are not accustomed to talking with other people. Instead of assisting people, the strict and toxic prison environment cripples inmates, and hinders their ability to become a working part of society. By doing so, prisoners can neither get jobs, nor get supported by family. They resort to crime, and once again get sent to jail. This vicious cycle has to end, and Norway seems to have figured it out.

In Norway, there are fewer than 4,000 inmates, and the rate of recidivism is at 20%. This is compared to 1.57 million inmates in the US. For every 100,000 people in Norway, only 75 are incarcerated. In the United States, we have 707 convicts for 100,000 people. The reason Norway has such great success with prisoners is because they rely on “restorative justice”, and focus on fixing the harm caused by the crime rather than punishing people. As well as this, they provide classes and workshops for the inmates.

By offering inmates the chance to fix what they have done and to become better people, our prison system will become more effective and useful. In the long run, we have to assist people who need help, and do it in the best way possible. Punishing people like animals and cramming them into dirty facilities has not worked, so why don’t we try something new?

About the Author:

Akshat Alurkar is a fourteen year old from Fremont. He is passionate about music and video games, and enjoys spending his time with his two dogs and parents.