There are a variety of crimes committed in the United States daily. Felonies and misdemeanors are examples of crimes committed. “Felonies, such as murder and armed robbery, are punishable by death or prison terms longer than one year. Misdemeanors are lesser offenses, such as too many unpaid parking tickets, and are punishable by fines, jail terms of less than a year, and/or community service” (Blue/Naden, 2001, p. 13). When people commit crimes, they are labeled criminals. If caught committing a crime, the criminal is placed in prison.
The length of time the criminal spends in prison depends on the type of crime committed and the severity of the crime. The debate over the number of prisons, the length of prison terms and even the need for prison has become a hot topic in the past few years. Yet, no matter the issues facing prisons and prisoners today, placing criminals in prison benefits society as a whole. Placing criminals in prison teaches personal responsibility. Each person is responsible for any actions committed on their part.
Individuals who commit crimes and then pay for those crimes learn that there is a price to pay for not following the rules set by society. “…the whole governmental structure of force and threat – police, judges, and prisons – is a key means by which society restrains aggression and crime” (Bender/ Leone, 1995, p. 71). Society laws are in place for the protection of all people living in that society. Paying for crimes committed by going to prison leads to a personal realization that no one is above the law.
Of course, most people are born with personal responsibility. “…it is the internal inhibition that society builds into each person’s character, the inner voice (call it reason, conscience, superego, what you will) that makes the social contract an integral part of our deepest selves…” (Bender/Leone, 1995, p. 71). When individuals lose that internal inhibition is when places, like prison, become necessary. Some critics have called prison “government sanctioned oppression” (Bender/Leone, 1995 p. 69).
Prisons are used against those who exercise their rights as members of a democratic society. They are used to punish the less desirable members of society, teaching individuals who do not conform to regret decisions based on the freedoms of this country. In other words, people should be able to do whatever they want to whomever they choose with no consequences. When personal responsibility is not present the result is anarchy. A democratic society cannot exist without some balance and some laws to govern behavior.
“Crime is always a challenge to the prevailing normative order and a test of the values and commitments of law-abiding people” (Blue/Naden, 2001, p. 8) Placing criminals in prison benefits society by making communities safer. Depending on the community, the amount and type of crime differs. Poor areas experience more crimes, statistically, but no community is safe from criminals. No matter where the crime occurs the people living in that community are affected. To know that where you live and raise your children is not safe, affects every part of daily living.
Victims of crimes are affected emotionally and in some cases physically. Knowing that the criminal is behind bars makes the victims, families, friends and the community feel safer. They can walk through their neighborhoods and sleep in their homes without fear of some stranger attacking them. A safer community equals overall peace and tranquility. The only way communities can stay safe is to put criminals behind bars. It has been proven that prisons make a difference for one importance reason: while in prison, criminals are not committing crimes.
“The best way to reduce crime is to identify, prosecute, and incarcerate hard-core criminals. Study after study shows that a relatively small portion of the population is responsible for the lion’s share of criminal violence in this country. For example, one California study found that 3. 8 percent of a group of more than 236,000 men born in 1956 were responsible for 55. 5 percent of all serious felonies committed by the study group” (Bender/Leone, 1995, p. 100). Incarceration or prison is the answer to safer communities and a safer country.
It has been argued that criminals are born in poor and violent communities. People commit crimes because they have no other viable choices. They break laws to feed themselves and their families; they break laws because they have been taught that they are worthless. Criminals have argued that they had no choice. This argument is not rational. The number of law abiding citizens living in poor and violent communities outweigh those who commit crimes. Criminals use their environment as an excuse to do what they want to do when they want to do it.
Individuals blame society for their crimes and/or the victim so they can indulge their whims and seek further opportunities to commit crimes (Bender/Leone, 1995, p. 44). There is no excuse for breaking the law. Criminals choose to break the law and choose to blame their situations on others because of their choices. Another benefit of prison is the prison work programs. The prison work program gives jobs to prisoners and supports the economy. Prisons can help pay for their upkeep through their work programs, thus removing some of the burden of prison cost from taxpayers (Wagner, 2001, p.
28). Working will give prisoners something industrious to do and will influence good behavior. There must be a concentrated effort on the part of prisons and those outside prison walls to make prison work programs more effective. The effort will result in productive prisoners and more manageable prisoners who gain skills necessary for life after prison (Wagner, 2001, p. 29). Prison work programs have not been effectively established because of the negative images of prisoners. Prisoners are criminals who have committed crimes and are not fit to live in society.
People outside prison walls do want to use prison made products and/or don’t believe prisoners deserve to create items for mass use. Yet, the cost to run prisons is increasing and the number of prisons being built around the United States is increasing yearly. In order to meet the need and make prisons productive, work programs are a practical option. “If one in four prisoners could be put to work for private enterprise…taxpayer costs would fall by $2. 4 billon per year” (Wagner, 2001, p. 28). The economy and citizens would benefit from a prison system that has limited self-support.
The prison rehabilitation program is another benefit of placing criminals behind bars. Unfortunately, there is always going to be someone who feels they can live outside the limits of the law. For this reason, prisons will always be in use. The rehabilitation program teaches prisoners skills and gives them other options instead of crime. “People in the United States were optimistic that rehabilitation would be the answer to the rising crime rate. Work programs, in-jail therapy sessions, indeterminate sentences and halfway houses eased the return to a law-abiding life” (Blue/Naden, 2001, p.
20). Once released from prison, the criminal has an opportunity to become a productive member of society and find a job. The ability to support self and family will instill a sense of self-worth. The goal of prison rehabilitation is to promote a change in prisoners and instill a desire to become a productive member of society. Since a crime-free society is a thing of dreams, reality must involve solutions to the crime problem. Critics of rehabilitation programs have caused the support of such programs to decrease but it has been proven that rehabilitation works (Blue/Naden, 2001, p.
39). Every criminal is different, their personal history and situation is different and the circumstance surrounding their crime is different but with the right incentive, the right support and the right rehabilitation, success is possible. The most important benefit of placing criminals in prison is justice for the victim. When a person is a victim of a crime, they are violated. It doesn’t matter if the crime falls into the category of a felony or a misdemeanor, victims have been dishonored. Once justice has been served, victims are vindicated.
They know that the criminal is paying a price for the harm done to them and that has been set right. Victims deserve to have their case heard and then hear a verdict that is fair and right, giving them a chance to rise above what has been done to them. Justice does not erase the crime but it makes living with the results a lot easier. Prisons are necessary and beneficial to the U. S. Prisons are needed in a society where crime is rising and thoughtless acts of violence are becoming second nature.
Individuals who commit crimes cannot continue to live in society, running amuck and destroying lives of law-abiding citizens. Prisons benefit society as a whole by instilling personal responsibility in criminals, making communities safe, impacting the economy favorably, creating a work ethic through the prison work and rehabilitation programs and providing justice for the victims. Prison were created to house law breakers but in turn, criminals can learn to better themselves, change their lives for the better and make a lasting difference for themselves and their families while society is protected.
Prisons are here to the advantage of law-abiding citizens and law breakers. Overall, both sides benefit in a win-win situation. REFERENCES Bender, David and Leone, Bruno, Editors. (1995). Crime and Criminals: Opposing Viewpoints. California: Greenhaven Press, Inc. Blue, Rose and Naden, Corrine J. (2001). Punishment and Rehabilitation. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers. Wagner, Michele, Editor. (2001). How Should Prisons Treat Inmates. California: Greenhaven Press, Inc.