Prison Reform through Alternative Methods of Rehabilitation

Over the past decade, policymakers have painstakingly worked to improve the prison environment by clamoring for the creation of an effective penal system to manage offenders. Their efforts were primarily occasioned by the high recidivism rate observed particularly in the United States and overcrowding experienced in federal penitentiaries.  This was further exacerbated by the fact that the United States has one of the highest recidivism rates globally and currently incarcerates 657 prisoners per every 100,000 residents (Prison Policy Initiative, 2019).   Prison reform, therefore, seeks to remedy this situation by focusing on the introduction of alternative methods of rehabilitation for offenders. Variation in the treatment of different levels of crime may mark the beginning of a new era within the penal system, rehabilitating offenders successfully and ultimately restructuring the entire prison system. Contemporary philosophical theories on punishment have also proposed the introduction of appropriate changes to the punishments handed down by courts. Mentoring, justice reinvestment, intensive corrections orders, restorative justice and electronic monitoring are some of the most effective alternative punishments bound to foster rehabilitation in offenders. This research paper will, thus, provide an in-depth evaluation of prison reform the introduction of alternative methods of rehabilitation.

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Mentoring

            One of the prime reasons why the United States is grappling with rampant repeat offences within the criminal justice system is a result of inadequacy in mentoring programs. Additionally, the effect of serving time in a federal penitentiary has rarely been investigated, eventually resulting in the release of individuals deeply impacted by their experience and without apposite tools to cope in their new environment. Such individuals eventually end up reoffending and serving lengthier prison sentences for their current crime. According to the Pew Center, 44 percent of released prisoners eventually reoffend which eventually accounts for the high recidivism rate within the United States (Pew Research Center, 2018). 

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This has prompted prison reform lobbyists to propose the introduction of effervescent mentoring programs to appropriately rehabilitate ex-convicts to reduce their run-ins with the law. The purpose of a mentoring is to introduce programs focusing on the exact circumstances individuals are in and using the context best suited for transformation.  Additionally, mentoring provides the tools necessary for maneuver in society to ex-offenders after their stint in a federal facility. It begins with matching individuals released from prison with the right individual to begin this arduous journey. Mentors may range from social workers, ex-felons, church ministers to community activists. The process also entails building trust to ensure that the individual in question readily accepts the advice provided and, ultimately ask for assistance whenever faced with emerging life challenges. This increases the chances of having a successful outcome where former criminals are rehabilitated fully and able to acclimatize in their new life. Mentors are tasked with educating former prisoners on the importance of obtaining life skills, particularly necessary when facing trials. The strong relationship forged between both the mentor and mentee results in the development of strong adaptive support networks for former prisoners. This is particularly important in half-way houses where ex-prisoners can be accessed easily and most-likely to respond to the suggestions offered.

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Justice Reinvestment

            The ineffectiveness of a majority of prison reform efforts has forced policymakers to reevaluate the strategies employed to guarantee positive future outcomes. Justice reinvestment now features high among the list of prison reform strategies that aim to rehabilitate former prisoners. It entails channeling funds that would ordinarily be spent on incarcerating individuals to more productive aspects of society which would eventually provide a support system to such individuals. For instance, funds may be directed towards identifying barriers to integrating into society and challenges that ultimately result in the development of criminal behavior.  The local government essentially redirects funding to initiatives that are bound to crate safer communities by addressing antisocial behavior. Justice reinvestment also involves the collection of data and evaluation of areas with a high crime rate to make an informed assessment of the major reasons why recidivism is on the rise. Preventive remedies are crucial in averting the development of criminalistics tendencies among community members. They pinpoint areas where ex-prisoners need to improve on within society to make sure they become significant members of society after release. Life outcomes are, therefore, bound to improve within this particular situation since ex-felons are less likely to engage in activities that may result in their internment. Justice reinvestment further entails the development of a concise framework informed by experts in criminal justice. They then proceed to consult with major actors within the jurisdiction to develop and support workable solutions for individuals released from prison and how best enforce policies offering an alternative method of rehabilitation. This may also involve identifying neighborhoods with a record number of individuals under criminal justice supervision while relying on state-specific information to direct spending to efforts bound to improve public safety. Furthermore, it also entails identifying reinvestment strategies that work effectively and introduce new strategies bound to introduce positive outcomes. Measuring performance will also make certain that the impact of the strategies employed is evaluated to track indicators of change.

Intensive Corrections Orders (ICOs)

            Intensive Corrections Orders (ICOs) can also function as an operational method of rehabilitation for former prisoners. Typically, ICOs entail the application of an alternative sentence which is to be served within the confines of the community from which the individual is from under the strict administration of Community Corrections. This method ensures that the offender becomes aware of their criminal behavior in the past and its effects on the community. Systems of accountability are then developed where offenders realize the community is cognizant of their past offences and, therefore, work to transform their destructive tendencies for posterity. ICOs can also improve security within communities plagued by crime and reduces instances of serious offence being committed (Brennan, 2017). The implementation of this policy is viewed as a lenient alternative to incarceration in a federal penitentiary. It is also only accorded to deserving offenders based on the level of crime committed. Those convicted for voluntary manslaughter, sexual offences and terrorism are deemed to be automatically ineligible and forced to serve the remainder of their sentences in prison facilities. This system, thus, results in an overall reduction the risk of individuals engaging in serious crime. It also aids in the rehabilitation of former offenders who gain an unadulterated angle on the consequences of crime and how best to avoid such an eventuality. The terms attached to ICOs are also regarded as an effective tool when seeking to rehabilitate former prisoners. Failing to comply with ICO conditions may prompt Community Corrections to report the breach to the Parole Authority, ultimately resulting in stiffer measures being imposed. This model has also been a useful tool in reducing overcrowding in federal prisons. Serving close to 2 years of a sentence in the community relieves the population pressure common in prisons as a result of the incarceration of low-level offenders. The community from which individual offenders are from also provides a fitting environment for rehabilitation by addressing key behaviors that often result in recidivism.

Restorative Justice

            Mediation between an offender and aggrieved parties is a novel strategy within the criminal justice system.  Referred to as restorative justice, it seeks to reduce tensions between offenders and the community as an effective method of rehabilitation. It heals broken relationships and creates a new sense of awareness in offenders who come to terms with the impact of their behavior on their victims and the community. It also influences them to participate actively in rehabilitative efforts seeking to transform their behavior. Restorative justice also fosters a high level of collaboration by major players within this intricate scheme to ultimately assure stakeholders of positive outcome. The aspect of reconciliation that is introduced by restorative justice is significant within this particular context for it forces offenders to reflect on their behavior and implement strategies to promote rehabilitation. Harms committed in the past are presented concisely in a bid to address their effect on the community and the offender’s obligation thenceforth.

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Additionally, it provides offenders with a unique opportunity to experience a form of clemency which will eventually remain as a firm reminder of the harsh punitive measures that could have been implemented by the criminal justice system. Mediation, victim-offender conferences and family treatment are major tools harnessed when applying restorative justice (Kahan, 2019).

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These methods create an environment where an offender can interact freely with persons who were directly affected by their actions or poor choices.  Both parties come face-to-face in a controlled environment where all the facts related to the case are presented together with accompanying consequences. This type of interaction allows offenders to come to grips with the reality of the issue being presented, allowing the aggrieved party to allocate responsibility. It is through this form of blatant integrity that the healing process can finally begin and a moment of realization for offenders. This understanding is effective in solving long-standing disputes, allowing offenders to make honest presentations, admit wrongdoing and adopt new strategies to support full rehabilitation.

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Electronic Monitoring (EM)

            The ever-growing prison population has emerged as a major problem that now impedes operations within such facilities. Imprisonment has been proven to be largely ineffective in managing crime and rehabilitating inmates who ultimately become repeat offenders. Electronic monitoring (EM) is a relatively recent alternative to imprisonment by relaying signals important signals to parole authorities. Authorities assess the movements of offenders to determine whether they are adhering to the terms imposed. Since EMs are constructed using tamperproof materials, offenders have no other choice than to respect and abide by these conditions, paving the way for rehabilitation.  EMs also endeavors to protect the public by incapacitating offenders while providing an environment where the process of rehabilitation can begin. The implementation of EMs also has deters offenders from engaging in criminal behavior for fear of being subjected to harsh sanctions for failing to uphold their end of the bargain (Bennett, 2019, p. 43).

In addition, EM also results in better rehabilitative outcomes in comparison with incarceration. It is also from this point that offenders making better choice such as improving their level of education and engage in activities that will eventually result in regular employment. They are also more likely to interact with persons capable of impacting their lives positively, resulting in progressive rehabilitation. The independence and autonomy introduced by EMs also allows offenders to develop superior decision-making capabilities which allow them to embrace rehabilitation fully.  Self-accountability also results in improved relations with family and the community who also support the offender in their journey towards becoming respectable members of society. Offenders also develop clear goals for the future and develop strategies to bolster their plans for the future. They also experience an improvement in their general wellbeing and mental health which are important components to address if rehabilitation is to succeed.

Conclusion

Prison reform has recently dominated discourse among policymakers in the United States. The ineffectiveness of incarceration prompted experts to suggest new alternative techniques that would reduce recidivism rates and promote rehabilitation. Alternatives to rehabilitation are now regarded as crucial within the criminal justice system to aid former offenders to reintegrate into society. Mentoring, justice reinvestment, intensive corrections orders, restorative justice and electronic monitoring are some of the most operative alternative punishments promoting rehabilitation in offenders. Thus, it is the duty of the justice system to support such strategies that aim to transform the behavior of individuals with a criminal past.

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