Prison Programs With A Focus On The Neglect Of Lifers And Long-Termers, by Marie, Michaela, Ronald and Sani
The majority of men who enter into the prison system either have minimal employable skills or have dropped out of school. They commonly have not attained basic reading or writing proficiency and do not hold education in high regard. Coupled with these, most inmates are from racially and economically disadvantaged backgrounds and feed into the confirmation bias of their demographic. Many inmates also suffer from some form of mental deficiency and lack the discipline to want to improve their lives. Thus, the time spent in prison for many is not just physically but emotionally devastating. These issues may be the result of circumstances that often includes poverty, drug use and substance abuse. When a person becomes incarcerated, they enroll into programs that teach interpersonal skills and use individual counseling and behavior modification techniques to assist them for their return to society. Programs like these are invaluable because it is believed that “recidivism rates drop when the education programs are designed to help prisoners with their social skills, artistic development and techniques and strategies to help them deal with their emotions.” (Vacca, 299). When inmates are given the opportunity to improve themselves they prove that they have the capability for reform and the institutional barriers that restrict entry to these educational programs only delay their progress.
Unfortunately, while incarcerated there are limited options for inmates when it comes to programs they can get involved in and even when these programs are available, inmates face many restrictions to entry. A majority of the programs offered are strictly for reform and preparation for life after incarceration while others are educational. Thus, as we will discuss later, the targeted demographic is inmates nearing release from prison. There are numerous benefits to providing rehabilitative programming opportunities to inmates, especially those facing longer sentences. Firstly, educational programs that provide training in moral education, critical thinking skills and problem solving skills especially when targeted towards at risk individuals reduces the rate of incarceration (Vacca, 300). Secondly, programs such as career training, substance abuse management and mental health training that help inmates learn how to enter back into society are beneficial because they help inmates upon release to adjust to the qualms of the outside world. Providing classes like the Inside-Out courses helps inmates build “normal” social relationships outside of the people within the compound. because they are interacting with people who are not incarcerated and this interaction could help their stress about their social standing. Thirdly, vocational training programs like carpentry or plumbing help inmates with job preparedness and the feeling of fulfillment. These trade programs should be available to all inmates who are interested in learning said skill. If the three reasons listed above prove unconvincing then the availability of these programs can also reduce problems that can arise when the only thing inmates can do all day is sit around and maybe an hour of yard time. This would keep the inmates busy and less likely to feel constricted and restless. These programs have also been found to be cost effective. In a study done by the RAND corporation, they found that an average program cost $1,400- $1,744 per inmate when reincarceration cost $8,700- $9,700 (RAND). The percentage of prisoners returning to prison after taking vocational or educational programs is 43% less than those who do not. The chart below from the Huffington post article that shows the 6-basic life needs and explains what complete adjustment to life outside of prison can be and what the goal is for most inmates after release. These programs allow that inmates get the best start in the process of re-entering into society.
Programs offered at the institution vary due to institutional differences and funding. Their quality also depends on staff attitudes and administration because these people have to be compassionate and genuinely want to see offenders get themselves together. Corrections has changed drastically in the last 20 years with the control of funding, lack of personnel and the generation of individuals coming inside and working in this system. There is so much focus on the punishment and how we can make the offender pay the price for what he/she did wrong that we don’t have a solution to fixing the preexisting problems that brought them to prison. Programs can help if we have compassionate yet unyielding people willing to train and teach the offenders. Prison education program face many setbacks but the most discriminated against is educational programs,
Due to limitations on space, security risks, and limited funding for necessary supplies, some academic subjects are less likely to be incorporated into prison education curricula than others. For example, courses that require science labs, computers, extensive library research, and/or internet access are more challenging courses to offer based on available space and how that space must be modified for the course to take place. These limitations may impact the ability of students to meet certain degree requirements and may even impact the overall program choices about which majors and concentrations may be implemented in the facility (Foster and Sandford, 602).
Inmates that attempt to meet degree requirements face a plethora of institutional drawbacks. Since educators serving prisons are often working on the institutions time and at their convenience they are often disrupted to the point where inmates are not able to complete their degree. This is one example of the way inmates are restricted entry into these obviously beneficial programs. Another way is the seclusion of lifers and long-termers from these programs. Below, an inmate at the London Ohio Correctional Institution (LOCI) gives an account of this type of discriminatory behavior towards the “older” prison generation and the negative impact it has on them.
By 1996, the history of programming and its benefits to inmates had changed under the new law. New programs entitled “re-entry” were created through a section of the 1994 crime bill signed by President Clinton. The only inmates who benefit from these programs are those sentenced after 1996, except for those convicted for capital crimes and rape. Where inmates were given one good day for completing a program in the past, they now receive anything from one, to five good days a month (good day was a day subtracted from an inmate's sentence). For the record, no inmates under the old law are receiving good days for any programs. However, these “re-entry” programs are a joke. They are nothing but programs with the same curriculum of the past programs. The only thing that changed was the title; for instance, Anger Management was now Cage Your Rage, and cognitive behavior programs were either Thinking for a Change or Mental Technology.
These “reentry” programs also excluded lifers and long-termers from taking them. In the past, the parole board placed programming as one condition for long-termers and lifers to complete to be a good candidate for parole. All lifers and long-term prisoners who had taken programs before 1996, were being instructed by the parole board to take them again. Their reasoning rests on the fact that programs of the past were not “re-entry” programs and the State only recognizes their qualifications as a prerequisite to release. Despite this, lifers and long-termers continued to be excluded from taking these programs. One reason for this neglect is due to the prisoners Nature of Crime, which makes them a poor candidate for re-entry programs. So staff pacify the long-termers by placing them on waiting list, but at the bottom. Correctional policy makers consider lifer and long-termers at the bottom of their list of priorities they believe their needs in terms of release are less immediate than other prisoners with an actual release dates. If these inmates are approved to take these programs they are forced to wait to take them five years within their release dates. Even then they can be withheld from taking said programs. This is a minor disappointment compared to the disappointment when inmates are told, that their parole is denied even though they completed the programs that the parole board instructed them to take.
It has become the norm for the prison administration to exclude long-term prisoners from participating in programs other than correctional industry jobs. Most lifers and long-termers turn to industry jobs to earn money and to use their time in prison productively. Since the correctional agencies see long-termers as a stable, responsible and durable work force, outside businesses such as “Coffee Crafters” and “Yamada” have become a part of the new “Re-entry” program. All rehabilitation efforts towards long-termers have been neglected in order to provide a reliable workforce. Institutional are in place that keep the majority of the prison population from reaping from the benefits of educational programs and the like.
1. “Education and Vocational Training in Prisons Reduces Recidivism, Improves Job Outlook.”RAND Corporation, www.rand.org/news/press/2013/08/22.html
2. Ferner, Matt. “These Programs Are Helping Prisoners Live Again On The Outside.” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 9 Sept. 2015, www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/if-we-want-fewer-prisoners-we-need-more-compassion-when-they-re-enter-society_us_55ad61a5e4b0caf721b39cd1
3. Vacca, James S. “Educated Prisoners Are Less Likely to Return to Prison.” Journal of Correctional Education, vol. 55, no. 4, 2004, pp. 297–305. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/23292095.
4. Foster, Johanna E. and Sanford, Rebecca “Reading, writing, and prison education reform? The tricky and political process of establishing college programs for prisoners: perspectives from program developers”, Equal Opportunities International, Vol 25 Issue:7, pp.599-610, https://doi.org/10.1108/02610150610714411