Addicted to Incarceration
In his book, (Pratt, 2009 p.15) explains about the justice system in the United States; whilst at the same time criticizing it. In his view, the justice system in the country is in motion towards the wrong direction, and that now is the right time that the federal government should critically view it like he does and take the necessary steps before it is too late. This paper shall decipher insights about this book, but will concentrate more on giving analysis on the sixth chapter of the book.
This chapter critically gives Travis’ views on the social impact of incarceration. He establishes that the country’s policies on this issue are all wrong. Due to the fact that the prison spaces have been expanded in the recent years, the number of people being imprisoned has increased significantly. He clearly points out that initially, petty offenders were punished through other means that included among others, being on probation and paying of fines. However, in the recent years, the situation has changed drastically. Many first time offenders, mentally ill and women found and arrested in houses belonging to their drug addict boyfriends are sentenced harshly. He points out that this has not effectively reduced cases of crime in the country. In fact, this increases the likelihood of the imprisoned committing the same crimes in the future as it shall be explained in this document.
As the first time offenders are taken into prison, according to various researches done including Pratt, (2009 p.63), their lives take a new twist. He explains that there is a lot of mistreatment in the prisons. The fellow inmates, prison wardens and the prison staff, for example the cooks mistreat the first time offenders before they get used to the prison life. He points out that most of the offenses in the prison are committed by the long term serving prisoners.
It is known that these prisoners have formed gangs inside the prisons with some form of informal organization. These groups have their leaders who make decisions for the entire group and no one is supposed to go against them. Since the first timers are new, they do not have any group and hence they are susceptible to mistreatment by any of the groups in the prison. Furthermore, some of these informal organizations inside the prisons have incorporated some staff in them. Therefore, the first timers’ life is very hard.
With time, according to (Pratt, 2009 p.65), the prisoners become used to life in prison and serve their sentences to the end. However, when they are released, the society may not be willing to accept them even though they have transformed their initial inequities. They are likely to face rejection from their family members, close friends, the church just to mention but a few. Furthermore, their criminal records are tainted which results in them not securing employment even though they clearly need it in order to survive. With this stigmatization, (Pratt, 2009 p.75) explains that it becomes very difficult for the now transformed offenders to get their lives back. This slowly pushes them to criminal activity and more often than not, they do not care whether they are arrested again or not. Thus, the integration of the offenders and the society becomes difficult even though it is possible.
The chapter also highlights the cost of incarceration to the community at large. First, with the increase of correction facilities in the country, the society is largely taxed to cater for the cost. These huge amounts of money could very well be used to cater for other more important uses like healthcare and welfare. Moreover, with the difficult integration of the released offenders with the society, many homes are broken and this is evidenced by increased divorce cases in the country. This also robs off the country productive labor. This is because many people who would have otherwise transformed their behaviors through other means, are being forced into prison life. The book also establishes that incarceration has led to increased crime in the country. This he attributes to the difficulty of the offenders to integrate with the community easily.
The book tries to explain the question of racism in prisons. It observes that the number of the black community in the prisons is almost four times that of the Caucasian counterparts. It is understood by various researchers, including (Boothe, 2007 p.55), that even though there are elements of racism in issuing judgments, the black community more often than not are involved in more serious crimes and hence warrant longer sentences in jails. Travis explains that this can be changed if other measures are taken.
On health issues, (Travis, 2009 p.84) observes that through the mistreatments in the prisons by other inmates, serious diseases have thrived in prisons. He explains further that this has led to the spread of diseases like HIV/AIDS. Thus, the sick when released further spread the disease to the communities they live in.
Travis’ idea that stipulates petty offenders to be corrected through other avenues becomes a question for the policy makers to answer. Many would agree that it is a good idea and it is workable. The recommendation is to try it because it is likely to be effective. Having many people in prison facilities is doing the United States a disservice. Striving to effectively deal with the problem of crime is a better option.
Boothe, D. (2007). Why are so many black men in prison. United States: Full Surface Pub
Pratt, T. (2009). Addicted to incarceration : corrections policy and the politics of misinformation in the United States. Los Angeles: Sage