Why Don’t More Prisoners Take Advantage of Improvement Programs?

By · Tuesday, October 14th, 2008

America is a magnificent country because it inspires hope in all of its citizens. Anyone who applies effort and works toward excellence can succeed. Every American has the power within to reach meaningful goals. Those who live in prison, on the other hand, struggle through constraints that are much more like communism than the society that most Americans take for granted.

In prison, everyone receives the same treatment. Instead of serving the state, as in most communist systems, prisoners serve the institution. The institution provides each prisoner with clothing, food, and shelter. The institution assigns jobs according to institutional need. Although many opportunities exist for a prisoner to create more problems for himself, the system does not provide a mechanism that allows or encourages the prisoner to distinguish himself in a positive way. Prisons extinguish hope. That is why so few prisoners take advantage of improvement programs.

During the more than 21 years that I have served in prisons of every security level, I have worked hard to prepare for a law abiding life upon release. I have educated myself, earning an undergraduate degree from Mercer University and a graduate degree from Hofstra University I have published several books that describe prisons, the people they hold, and strategies for growing through confinement.

Some might reason that the prison system has encouraged my growth. Yet that has not been the case. Prison administrators have obstructed my efforts to prepare for a law abiding life upon release. For example, a warden blocked me from completing a program at the University of Connecticut that would have resulted in a Ph.D. Wardens have denied professors and other mentors from coming to visit me. Administrators have blocked my access to interact with the media and other groups that would expand my network of support. Instead of feeling as though I have a resource in the system of corrections, I feel as if I have an adversary that suppresses efforts I make to prepare for the challenges that will await my release.

Prison administrators would serve taxpayers much more effectively if they governed prisons through the use of incentives. Instead of extinguishing hope and relying on only punitive measures, they ought to establish policies that will encourage inmates to work toward earning freedom. As policies currently stand, the inmate who spends his time hustling or watching television or playing table games is categorized the same as the prisoner who works every day to reconcile with society. As a consequence of such myopic policies, recidivism rates exceed 60 percent, and prison budgets exceed $60 billion each year.

Rather than modeling prisons after the failed policies of communism, administrators and legislators ought to inspire hope and encourage prisoners to work toward excellence. Since they control the infrastructure of the prison, they ought to use incentives to persuade offenders to participate in programs that will help them emerge as law-abiding and contributing citizens.

Be Sociable, Share!

One Response to “Why Don’t More Prisoners Take Advantage of Improvement Programs?”

  1. D Smith says:

    Michael, I recently read your book “Inside” and I have to say that I believe most of what you wrote is true. I also agree with some of your points that you state about the current condition of our prison system. I don’t know the exact circumstances of your case,but if its true that all you were involved in was selling drugs and you have already served over 20 years is unbelievable. IT’S A COMPLETE JOKE!!!!!!! I know for a fact that convicted murderers have served less than 10 years also along with convicted rapists serving less time than you.One problem I do have is in your book you really don’t mention anything about the victims of these serious crimes.These are very dangerous offenders that need to be dealt with. I agree there will always be exceptions to the rules,but lets also agree you are only seeing it from one view point.There is a segment of society that was never taught right from wrong from birth.They are not willing to obey the simplest of rules on the outside, so how to we deal with them in a prison situation.I don”t have the answers but if the government is involved you can bet alot wasteful spending and know nothings involved. How about privatize prisons? Thank You