Course Reflection

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Ahmed Alnunah
Professor: Aiden Kosciesza
The America Prison System
The prison systems of the countries in the world are supposed to build and
organized in such a way that they should not only punish and deter criminals from
committing more crime. They should also rehabilitate the convicts. However, the prison
system of the United States of America, just like in many other systems in the world, is
unable to strike a balance between retribution or punishment and rehabilitation (Allen,
Clifford and Edward 35). Therefore, the prison system has become an industrial complex in
which people are through and punished without regard to their behavioral changes due to
the prison experience. The American prisons system expose convicts to punitive conditions
through via the design of the infrastructure, conditions such as food and the long sentences
offered by judges. The punitive nature of the prison system leads to more harm than good
due to the high costs, recidivism, and development of prison gangs.
The American prisons have a poor structure that leads to congestion of the prisoners
and therefore suffering and the deprivation of their human rights. The American prison
population is very high. Thus, the American public is stuck with the high costs of
maintaining the very many people who are imprisoned due to the inefficiency of the
system. The preference of punishment over rehabilitation is to blame for the problem.
According to Mecca (58), the American prison system allows for the offenders to be treated
in very inhumane ways by the prison warders. The author says that inmates are forced to
offer some kinds of favors to the wardens and therefore are taken advantage by the prison
system as part of their punishment. According to the author, the gay prisoners are in more
problem inside the prison system because of the discrimination that they face while in the
care of the prison wardens. Therefore, despite the fact the system is supposed to ensure
fairness and high security for the prisoners, the system fails the prisoners and thus ends up
punishing them in unfair ways.
Apart from the infrastructure that is deliberately designed to punish the convicts,
other conditions created by the wardens also contribute to the punitive nature of the
American prison system. While wardens have the role of ensuring reform, they use the
chance to inflict punishment on the prisoners in the prison system. The prisoners are given
food that is not fit for consumption. An article by Fassler and Claire examined the issue of
prison food being too bad for human use. According to the Fassler and Claire, the prisoners
are given good that is “is scant, joyless, and unsavory” (Fassler and Claire). The report
includes an incident when a kitchen employee in one of the American prisons lost his job
because he refused to serve rotten potatoes to the prisoners. The example shows how the
prison administrators make conditions inhumane inside the jails for the inmates and
therefore enforces more punishment rather than seek to correct the inmates (Fassler and
Claire). The prison food has been reported to make the prisoners sick and uncomfortable
while inside the prison system. The issue of bad food as part of the punitive conditions was
confirmed by a study by the Center for Disease Control that happened between 1984 and
2014. According to the study, prisoners at least 6.4 mire times likely to get ill from eating
food than the general American population (Fassler and Claire).
The prison system also holds people for unreasonably long even when one has
reformed. The case of Mumia Abu-Jamal is an example. Long after the prisoner has
reformed and has even started writing books and inspiring people to change their bad ways,
the man is till being held. Sentence he was given has no chance of parole because he
committed murder. The sentence that Mumia was given is a good example of one that does
not prioritize reform. Sentences that are reformative aim at returning the convict to the
society after his behavior has reformed and he or she now fits with the rest of the
community. However, sentences that only end when one dies or sentencing people to death
is seeking retribution rather than benefit the society in general. Other sentences that are
common in the Unites States of America that emphasize on punishment over correction are
the ones that have the mandatory minimum rule (Skarbek, 411). The mandatory minimum
requirement sentences are usually given mostly in drug related charges. In such charges,
people serve a mandatory minimum sentence without parole. In such cases, the intention is
to punish the convicts for the crimes they commit. Such sentences have no rehabilitative
value because they only focus on ensuring that prisoners are imprisoned for long times in
the American prison system.
It is bad to prioritize punishment over rehabilitation for several reasons. First, the
punitive sentences lead to very high prison populations that cost the American tax payers.
According to Skarbek (411), America has among the highest prison populations in the
world. There are about 2.2 million prisoners in the prison system of the United States of
America. The punitive measures such as the mandatory minimum sentences that are
recommended for drug related crimes and others that led to such high rates of
imprisonment. The huge prison population requires feeding, housing and other basic needs
and therefore costs a lot of money. The situation in the American prisons is also caused by
the high rates of recidivism. The prisoners serve their sentences and are released back to the
society without having changed their behavior. The convicts return to their old ways or
even move to bigger crimes due to their long stays in the prison system and their interaction
with other criminals over the long stays. Recidivism is partly to blame for the high
populations in the prisons. The long sentences without rehabilitative measures also lead to
the growth of the ethnic prison gangs that still control the American streets while inside the
prison cells (Skarbek, 411). According to the author, the prison gangs recruit people from
inside the prisons during the long prison stays and turn them into drug traffickers, therefore
increasing the crime rate outside the prison walls. the combination of very long sentences,
gangs in the prisons and recidivism contribute to the high costs of running the prison
system and yet there are less costly alternatives that have better results. For instance,
community service and other alternatives outside prisons are less costly and have more
rehabilitative effects.
In conclusion, the American prison system is characterized by several weaknesses
that emanate from the imbalance between punishment and rehabilitation. The prison system
seeks to punish people rather than rehabilitate them. Therefore, instead of causing positive
change to the prisoners, it encourages the inhumane treatment and the stigmatization of the
people who have been convicted. The system does not have a way of determining who
should be released because of their changed behavior. Instead, people remain in the jails at
the expense of the American taxpayers.
Works Cited
Allen, Harry E., Clifford E. Simonsen, and Edward J. Latessa. Corrections in America: an
introduction. Prentice Hall, 2015.
Fassler, Joe and Claire Brown. “Prison Food Is Making U.S. Inmates Disproportionately
Sick.” Government Executive, 28 Dec. 2017, p. 1. EBSCOhost,
Goddard College. “Mumia Abu-Jamal to Give Commencement Speech at Goddard
College.” Goddard College, 23 Dec. 2014,
Mecca, Tommi A. Captive Genders: Trans embodiment and the prison industrial complex.
AK Press, 2015.
Skarbek, David. “Prisonomics: Lessons from America’s Mass Incarceration.” Economic
Affairs”, vol. 34, no. 3, Oct. 2014, pp. 411-421. EBSCOhost,
ENGL 102
Instructor: Aiden James Kosciesza
Paper #1 Assignment Sheet
English 102 Paper #1: What Is Prison Good For?
Many of us are eager to critique the prison system, but before doing so, we should consider the
functions that prison was designed to perform. What useful purpose (or purposes) could the
prison system serve? Ideally, what benefits could a prison system provide for society?
Some possible functions of prison include punishment, rehabilitation, deterrence, retribution, or
ensuring the safety of the rest of society. However, these aren’t the only possible functions.
Should prisons, for example, generate a profit as recompense for the justice system’s time and
effort? Should they serve as a model of our nation’s values and an example for other societies?
Assignment: Write a 3-5 page paper that articulates your stance on the purpose of
imprisonment. You must support your argument with source material. You must use at least one
quote from our class reading and at least one quote from a credible outside source. Your paper
MUST include MLA-style citations for all sources you use (both in-text and a Works Cited
Remember, this is an argument. It is not enough to declare that the prison system should punish
inmates and deter crime – you must explain why punishment and deterrence should be the
primary functions of prison. If you would like to argue that the prison system serves NO useful
purpose, and that imprisonment should not be used as a response to crime, you may do so – but
this is a much harder argument to support, and you should come see me for guidance.
Common errors to avoid:
? DO NOT write a history of the prison system. Your paper is an argument, not a report.
? DO NOT write a critique of the problems with America’s prison system, or the ways in
which it fails to live up to its purpose. That’s what we’ll do in Paper #2.
? DO NOT propose solutions that would align current American prisons with your ideal
vision of prison. You’ll have that opportunity in Paper #3.
To be successful, you must:
? Follow the assignment formatting requirements (see Files > Syllabus and Important
Documents > 2. Assignment Formatting Requirements)
? Write a minimum of three full pages (not counting Works Cited sheet)
? Clearly articulate your view with a strong thesis statement
? Keep your paper focused and organized by writing strong topic sentences for every
? Include at least one quote from our class reading and one quote from an outside source
? Use signal phrases to integrate quotations into your writing
? Cite the sources you used in MLA format, both in-text and on a Works Cited sheet
? Proofread your work for grammar and spelling errors (visit the Learning Lab if you need
help with proofreading)
Alnunah 1
Ahmed Alnunah
Professor: Aiden Kosciesza
Punishment Rather than Rehabilitation in the American Prisons
The United States spends more money on incarcerating its citizens than educating them. It is an
ironic situation because the impact of the emphasis on harsh prison sentences has not resulted in
the loss of the country‘s position as the leading economy in the world (Reiman and Leighton
102). Some analysts claim it is part of the reasons why the country has not achieved its full
potentials, as well as one of the sources of the many social problems that make the quality of
living lower than many Nordic countries with a better criminal justice system. Therefore, an
immediate question from the examination of the link between incarceration rate and economic
development is that is the trend responsible for the budget deficit and low completion rate of
students from ethnic minority groups in the country. If America decongests its prisons and adopt
other punitive measures for crimes and criminal activities, would the country be safer? While the
answers to these questions are obvious and might be a subject of debate sessions for several
years on the agenda of the participants, the reality is that the United States needs to reform its
overall criminal justice system, especially the correctional facility element. The United States
can resolve many of the problems associated with its prison system when the criminal justice
policy of the government is designed to emphasize rehabilitation rather than punishment.
American prisons are unpleasant places for inmates whether convicted or awaiting trials
because of the combination of several factors that result in congestion, unhealthy and unsafe
Alnunah 2
environments, and potential for returning to the place. Although prisons are meant to be centers
where inmates enjoy the luxury and freedom associated with their pre-criminal lives, the
conditions of these places increase the potential for inmates to return to crime. Seigafo stated that
before the mid-1970s, the policy focus of the criminal justice system of the United States was
rehabilitation-based because inmates were exposed to programs that allow them to acquire
occupational skills (187). Also, prisoners that suffered from psychological problems that
contributed to the commission of their crimes were issued sentences that included mandatory
treatments for disorders or conditions that could prevent their integration into the society. For
example, substance abuse and anger management programs were major determinants of the
funding policy for most federal prisons in the country by the Department of Justice.
In spite of the achievements of this policy, the punitive era of the 1980s that was driven
by the drug war resulted in an explosion of the prison population as the get-tough-on-crime
stance of the judges and prosecutors led to harsh punishments for the petty crimes. According to
Ahalt and colleagues, 1 in 142 Americans is either in jail or prison while an additional 4-5million
is on probation or parole. They noted that the implication of this stance by criminal justice
professionals is that U.S residents are more involved in the criminal justice in one way or the
other than their counterparts in other developed societies (11). Statistical information from
several empirical studies including the one conducted by Ahalt et al. showed that the United
States incarcerates more people relative to its population 15 times more than Japan, 7times more
than France, and 10times more than he Netherlands (11). Furthermore, the depth of the problem
in the U.S criminal justice system that contributed to the reputation of the prisons has punitive
centers is the provision of the criminal code.
Alnunah 3
Phelps stated that the country is the only one among the developed nations that imprison
people for non-criminal activities such as prostitution, drug possession, and violation of several
complex regulations that most citizens are either unaware of and lacks their understanding (40).
Also, it is the only developed country in the world where a petty thief can be imprisoned for life
under the “three strikes” rule or a drug user that has never sold or distributed the illicit substance
can be sentenced to ten years in jail under the mandatory minimum rules. While the previous
administration made giant strides in addressing issues through the presidential directives to
federal prosecutors to seek minimum sentences for non-violent offenses, the stance of the current
attorney-general would worsen the current problems in the prisons. The aim-for-the-harshest
punishment of Jeff Sessions is taking the nation back to the 1980s where the crusade against drug
traffickers and dealers was considered a moral and ethical war.
Notwithstanding the issues and problems that are associated with the U.S criminal justice
system, prisons are critical for maintaining the security and safety of the any society. It is a
system that contains institutions that are designed to deter criminals from engaging in crimes
because its absence would result in an unjust environment where the weak becomes victims of
the strong. A burglar would continue to torment residents of a community if he or she knows that
his or her actions would go unpunished. Rapists and juvenile sex offenders would take advantage
of the vulnerability of the young and old to cause emotional and physical pain unabated.
However, a prison system that cost taxpayer an estimated $30,000 per inmate per annum is an
ineffective one that should be reformed with alternative solutions that are less expensive and
contribute to a safer and secure society (Leighton 3). When consideration is given to the fact that
the same amount can be used to educate three low-income students at the tertiary level of the
educational system, which would likely reduce their chances of committing crime, than the depth
Alnunah 4
of the problem with the American correctional system would become apparent. Therefore, the
remained of the research would discuss some of the alternatives to the current approach with
goal of recommending effective measures that can included in the criminal justice policy of the
An analysis of the categories of prisoner in both state and federal correctional facilities
showed that awaiting trial inmates constitute a significant percentage of the population, as well
as a source of the most effective solutions for decongesting the correctional facilities. In this
regard, a new policy that depends on the use of GPS-enabled ankle bracelets remains the most
cost-effective strategy for dealing with the series of direct and indirect impacts of the congested
prison. In a study conducted by Leighton, the researchers found that use of technology-based
monitoring devices are more effective in rehabilitating offenders than incarcerating them in jails
and prisons until they are either convicted or acquitted (1). While some might argue that the
implementation of the proposed solution would create further security issues for criminal justice
practitioners, especially when the vulnerabilities of GPS tracking systems can exploited, the
policy direction remain appropriate. First, the category of awaiting-trial inmates that would be
fitted with the devices is minor offenders that would benefit more continuation of different
aspects of their lives before the commission of the crime. Also, the incentives for adhering to the
rules of the monitoring system are higher than the alternative of incarceration, which would
include maintenance of employment, payment of taxes, and sustenance of the family system.
Tagging is another technology-based solution for reducing the population of the prisons,
improving the conditions of the facilities, and reducing the rate of recidivism among criminals,
especially minors. According to Leighton, it is an effective approach for creating a prison
Alnunah 5
without walls that would monitor most of the current prisoners in the United States without the
associated cost of keeping them in a facility. He cited the outcome of a study in Argentina where
low-risk convicted criminals that were tagged had a lower probability of engaging in criminal
activities that could lead to returning back to prison (3). As the empirical evidence has shown the
provisions of the federal laws and criminal codes of the states are responsible for the prison
because some inmates was serve their punishment through less expensive means such as
community service. Therefore, the use of tagging for early release as part of the proposed policy
proposal should be restricted to minor offenders that would likely become felons if they locked
in cells with career criminals and sociopaths.
The U.S criminal justice system need to be reformed in ways that place greater emphasis
on rehabilitation than punishment since the problems at the prisons is contributing to the crime
rates in the country. The United States is a country that possesses the economic and
technological resources to implement polic …
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