PCP For: Should Prison Funding Be Redirected Towards Social Rehabilitation Programs?

Raeesa Ashique - 2N Electrical
Posted on: June 19, 2016

This is Canada, which means that we do not believe in capital punishment. But does that mean our system is any better? Is incarceration really the best way to deal with criminals?

The purpose of prison should be two-fold: punishment, and rehabilitation. Lawbreakers need to realize the consequences of their actions, and pay the price. The state needs to reinforce the law, making prisoners an example and prison a deterrent for others who may follow in their footsteps. But lawbreakers also need to be rehabilitated. It is all very well to spend some number of months or years locked away, but to re-enter a criminal lifestyle upon release back into society is pointless.

The real question is, what is the end goal? Yes, prison should both punish and rehabilitate, but what is the desired result? The focus should be on creating a system where former inmates can become contributing members of society and will not be re-incarcerated, which is why some portion of funding for prisoners should go towards social rehabilitation programs. There are many downsides to the current prison system, which alternative programs address.

Prisons create dependency and a lack of responsibility. Taxpayer dollars are going towards ensuring that inmates eat on time every day, and that they will have a roof over their head for the remainder of their sentence. When everything is taken care of for you, what are the chances of being able to take care of basic needs yourself after being released?

There tends to be more prisoners from minority groups or lower classes – although the justice system is another discussion for another time – who did not have access to education and may have found it difficult to secure a job in the past. Being in prison only exacerbates these obstacles, leading to further issues later.

Prison cultivates a mindset of bitterness and resentfulness which may become detrimental. There is an attitude of “me versus the world” after being left to rot in prison for years. For petty offenders especially, the violence and corruption of the prison world may cause irreversible damage to those who were not bad people to begin with. A person released back into society with this extremely bitter mindset may be dangerous, but rehabilitation can give people the means and motivation to change, and to be able to live a normal life after serving their sentence.

We have to look at how such programs would be facilitated, and who they are viable for. First of all, rehabilitation should take place in prison. It is only fair that they serve their time for breaking the law; and in addition, these people should stay out of society for a while. However, the focus should be on shorter sentences, which would save a great deal of money, with more effective programs in place.

Rehabilitation is not for everyone: violent offenders, rapists, and child molesters are dangerous and should be locked up for the sake of public safety. Arguably, it is not even possible to rehabilitate such criminals, and there is no saying that they will not repeat their crimes. However, rehabilitation should be an option for nonviolent offenders, to make a real difference and ensure that they can later make something of their lives.

Of course, the only way for rehabilitation to be useful is if the motivation to change comes from within. Although people who are already motivated can change without help, most others would need help and structured programs. The types of rehabilitation that should be looked at are education, vocational training, and drug addiction.

Ignorance leads to crime, and a lack of access to education may be why some people got involved in crime in the first place. Some education and basic training will go a long way to helping people get their lives together, and be able to work a real job after being released.

Prisons also need to take steps to make sure that drugs addicts get the help they need. Their cases should be treated differently than violent offenders, because drug addiction is something for which people can be rehabilitated.

Overall, the cost of rehabilitation programs is much less than the current cost of maintaining prisons. It is a better system because it helps the inmates become contributing members of society upon release, and attempts to break the cycle of crime. Of course, punishment is important and the offender must live with the consequences of breaking the law, but there is also the need to inspire change, which is definitely a better use of taxpayer dollars. Therefore, we need to redirect the money to social rehabilitation which allows for shorter sentences but a more favourable result.