Rigid Rules Influence Prisoners

By · Thursday, March 19th, 2009

One of the reasons prisons rock with violence, gang pressures, and corruption is because the rigid controls extinguish hope. Prisoners live inside the boundaries with a continuous pressure. Granted, most of the prisoners brought that discomfort upon themselves through their criminal convictions. While locked inside the prison boundaries, however, the prisoners adjust to the culture influenced by the infrastructure of the prison setting.

Certainly, administrators who set prison policies must create environments that are safe for both staff and the prisoners. Clearly, controls have a place. In order for corrections to occur, however, administrators would need to augment the oppressive controls with mechanisms through which prisoners may work to redeem themselves. That fundamental flaw of denying prisoners a sense of their own efficacy leads to the type of perpetuating failure Congress described through its passage of The Second Chance Act.

Through that legislation, Congress found that prisons produce recidivism rates that our enlightened society cannot accept. In the Pew Report, research showed that prison expenditures are misspent. My experience of having been locked in prisons of every security level convinces me that administrators can lower operating costs, reduce recidivism rates, and create environments where guards can correct.

M. Browning, a criminal justice major, asked me questions about how I could expect guards to make the leap to correctional officers when security of the institution remained the top priority. My position requires a broader perspective. Those who lead the prison, the top administrators, need to think about more than protecting the institution. As professionals in “corrections,” they have a responsibility to protect society. To me, that means establishing policies that lower recidivism rates. It means creating environments that would help more offenders emerge as law-abiding citizens.

A small portion of prisoners need total control. They have proven themselves unwilling or incapable of living in our society. Administrators have the power and the discretion to isolate those offenders. An overuse of oppressive policies, on the other hand, extinguishes hope among the prisoners who might otherwise be receptive to reform and corrections. My contention is that by implementing prison reforms that would allow prisoners to earn graduating increases in freedom through merit, administrators would create an environment for corrections to take place. In so doing, they would contribute to lower recidivism rates and safer communities.

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