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Ideas to Reform the Penal System for Economic Gain

 
 
PaulG
 
  1  
Reply Wed 2 Jul, 2008 04:23 pm
@Didymos Thomas,
I think you've hit the nail on the head Didymos. The public don't really want offenders rehabilitated, they just want them punished. When presented with the facts, most members of the public won't accept that drugs like tobacco and alcohol are far worse killers than so called illicit drugs. Also, look at the figures for rates of heroin use compared to cannabis, but heroin is still seen as being the greatest evil that has ever existed (in terms of drugs that is).

Getting back to the OP's points about rehabilitation, I still get frustrated when I speak to people who have no concept of prisons who go on about inmates getting it too easy. The scary thing for me is that I've dealt with prisoners who would rather be in prison because they just don't have the skills to exist in "normal" society. Combine that with laws that effectively target certain groups, societies apparently inate xenophobia and governments that don't have the courage to make the hard choices, and we have an absolute disaster that we will be paying for for years to come. Australia, so far, doesn't have anything like the incarceration rates that the US has at the moment, but I have no doubt that it could get that high. I recall a very high-ranking person in corrections saying once that he hoped the state's prisoner numbers would exceed 9,000, because that would provide a significant increase in his budget. Not what I'd call a very responsible position.


PaulG.
Didymos Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Wed 2 Jul, 2008 07:43 pm
@PaulG,
Quote:
The public don't really want offenders rehabilitated, they just want them punished. When presented with the facts, most members of the public won't accept that drugs like tobacco and alcohol are far worse killers than so called illicit drugs.


I guess we have to be careful here. You're right; tobacco and alcohol are, by leaps and bounds, the leading killers, each beating out all illicit drugs combined. But death toll isn't the only factor to consider. The use of intravenous drugs, for example, are huge factors in the spread of disease.

But I completely agree with you. We spend billions trying to stamp out marijuana, meanwhile at age 18 you can start working on some lung cancer. Then on your 21st birthday you can drink yourself to death.

Quote:
Also, look at the figures for rates of heroin use compared to cannabis, but heroin is still seen as being the greatest evil that has ever existed (in terms of drugs that is).


Makes sense. Overdose on cannabis, to my knowledge, has never been documented. When we start to look at the profile of a heroin addict and compare that to the profile of a chronic marijuana user, the two are obviously worlds apart.

Quote:
Getting back to the OP's points about rehabilitation, I still get frustrated when I speak to people who have no concept of prisons who go on about inmates getting it too easy. The scary thing for me is that I've dealt with prisoners who would rather be in prison because they just don't have the skills to exist in "normal" society.


We see the same thing in the US. It's terrifying, but not hard to understand in the light of your point about policies targeting certain groups, xenophobia, that sort of thing. Add to that mix the high incarceration rates in the US, and there's no wonder certain portions of society expect to spend time in the criminal justice system. Some of these people only know the corrections world. You lock a kid up at age 14 and have him incarcerated for the majority of his life from that point on, you've created a prison inmate.

Quote:
Australia, so far, doesn't have anything like the incarceration rates that the US has at the moment, but I have no doubt that it could get that high. I recall a very high-ranking person in corrections saying once that he hoped the state's prisoner numbers would exceed 9,000, because that would provide a significant increase in his budget. Not what I'd call a very responsible position.


That's bad enough; in the US some of those corrections facilities are privately owned, so instead of some government official it's a business man plotting to increase his numbers. And these are huge corporations.
PaulG
 
  1  
Reply Thu 3 Jul, 2008 03:34 am
@Didymos Thomas,
I've known a few who started their institutional lives before reaching the age of 10. what hope do they have if they aren't taught better ways of coping in society.

I'm of the opinion that, generally, it's not the drugs that cause the problem, but the lifestyle involved. If you have a $1000.00/day heroin or coke habit, you have to commit crime to pay for it. IV use can spread disease, but Australia and a few other countries have had pretty good success with needle exchange programs.

We have private prisons in Australia too, but they have been limited in use. In NSW, there's only 1 private prison and it has had some good influences, in terms of prisoner program and employment delivery. Big problem is, however, that the threat of privatisation is used by the government whenever the current system resists any form of change. Management by fear, Machiavelli would be proud of them lol.

I go to work every day hoping that things will change for the better, but I can't see it happening for a while yet. Too many people setting their own agendas and building their own empires. Makes people too scared to make the risky choices.

PaulG.
Didymos Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Thu 3 Jul, 2008 04:16 am
@PaulG,
Quote:
I've known a few who started their institutional lives before reaching the age of 10. what hope do they have if they aren't taught better ways of coping in society.


I can't imagine how they could have a chance having been in the system from age 10.

We have to look at the source of the problems. Poverty seems to be the underlying driving factor. In the US, we had a War on Poverty and a War on Drugs. Somehow along the way, we forgot about dealing with poverty. But the indefinately fundable War on Drugs rages on.

Quote:
I'm of the opinion that, generally, it's not the drugs that cause the problem, but the lifestyle involved. If you have a $1000.00/day heroin or coke habit, you have to commit crime to pay for it. IV use can spread disease, but Australia and a few other countries have had pretty good success with needle exchange programs.


That's why I'm so fond of the system in Holland. They've managed to implemented practical solutions, like providing clean needles.

You're right about the lifestyle, too. Heroin is a big problem over here, and methamphetamine is also a serious threat. Use of either almost guarantees the addict will turn to crime to pay for the drug.

This is why I advocate legalization of some drugs like marijuana. Marijuana use, even chronic marijuana use, can usually be maintained without turning to crime. We obviously need controls on all drugs, just like we need some controls on alcohol and tobacco. The real question is what sort of controls. We can ill afford to lump all illicit drugs together in one block. Unfortunately, the US has been exporting this strategy for thirty years now; Australia is one target of our policy. The US even places diplomatic pressure on Holland to reform their drug laws, despite the fact that the Dutch drug laws are by and large more effective than American policy. It's insanity.

Quote:
We have private prisons in Australia too, but they have been limited in use. In NSW, there's only 1 private prison and it has had some good influences, in terms of prisoner program and employment delivery. Big problem is, however, that the threat of privatisation is used by the government whenever the current system resists any form of change. Management by fear, Machiavelli would be proud of them lol.


Privatization seems inherently dangerous. If we allow corporations to profit when people go to prisons, those corporations will want to increase the number of people in prisons because this translates directly to profits.

Quote:
I go to work every day hoping that things will change for the better, but I can't see it happening for a while yet. Too many people setting their own agendas and building their own empires. Makes people too scared to make the risky choices.


You work in a difficult field. Bless you; I could never work in corrections and someone has to. My psychology professor spent 15 years in corrections here in the US and often drifts into criticizing the way the system is operated, and he was in a government owned and operated facility.
PaulG
 
  1  
Reply Thu 3 Jul, 2008 05:18 pm
@Didymos Thomas,
Fortunately, my role in the criminal justice system (always make me laugh that name, it's certainly criminal, but there's very little justice) doesn't require me to turn keys. I just have to make assessments and recommendations (which also means discussing the full details of offences and backgrounds; perhaps turning keys would be a better option). Getting back to the OP's original point, the idea of encouraging prisoners to gain vocational skills and to develop a "work ethic" may be a positive thing, however, it would need to have a degree of voluntary acceptance enshrined in the legislation allowing it. Prisoners should be paid at award rates if their work is making money for the prison system, whether it be private or government owned. But, the prisoners who are involved in that employment should also expect to be responsible for themselves, ie., pay rent, buy food etc. I could be argued that such a system would provide prisoners with skills that they may not have when they entered the system. In conjunction with therapeutic programs to address factors such as drug abuse, anger management etc., it may be possible to start turning some offenders around.

On the other hand, prison demographics would suggest that most offenders are below something like 45 years of age. It does seem that there is either a maturation effect or some other factor which reduces offending after that age. Recent research (and again, I can't provide an exact referrence) suggests that the brain, in particular the male brain, doesn't mature until approximately 25 years of age plus or minus 5 years. Given that many prisoners had been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder which, according to the old DSM-3 (I haven't seen 4, so won't referrence it), often extinguished at age 25 plust or minus 5 years. Seems to be something of a correlation there.

Of course, coming from a criminal family is a good indicator of criminal behaviour, so implementing programs to address current offending should still go some way towards reducing future offending. Perhaps stopping people falling off the cliff is better than putting them in ambulances at the bottom.


PaulG.
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