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(en) US, Philadelphia, defenestrator* #31 - When Freedom is Outlawed, Only OutlawsWill Be Free!by Rob X - defenestrator prison correspondent

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Fri, 24 Dec 2004 11:44:51 +0100 (CET)

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Rehabilitation: Does it Work? Does it Exist? The concept of
rehabilitation versus punishment has raged within the
American Penal community since its inception. The last
decade has seen the concept of punishment and retribu-
tion all but extinguish the concept of rehabilitation from
prisons in the United States. Department of Corrections
across the country acknowledge that within the last
decade emphasis has been placed on punishing prisoners
for the crimes they committed against society instead of
rehabilitating them so that they can one day rejoin socie-
ty. Ironically, it is not the Department of Corrections
that supported the complete removal of rehabilitation
programs from the prisons. Experienced prison officials
concede that rehabilitation is possible within prisons.

The push for punishment over rehabilitation was pushed
by politicians catering to a public that was frustrated with
rising crime rates and expressed crime as their number
one concern. Politicians, uninterested in addressing the
social problems that bred and contributed to criminal
activity, decided to pursue a simple course that would
create the impression that they were doing something
concrete against rising crime rates. All across the country
state legislatures passed harsh sentencing laws that
increased the punishments for committing certain crimes.

"Three Strikes and You're Out" laws were passed, crimes
eligible for the death sentence were increased and" tr uth
in sentencing" laws were passed making it mandatory
that prisoners serve over 85% of their sentence. The
politicians who gutted rehabilitation programs from the
prison system did not concern themselves with the quali-
ty of prisoner that would be released from prison
because these prisoners wouldn't be returning to the
politicians' neighborhoods. These ex-prisoners would be
returning to the inner city Black and Latino communities.
The consequences of these harsh sentencing guidelines
and laws was more people being imprisoned in an
already overcrowded prisons, teeming with prisoners
from the War on Drugs in the 80's, became even more
overcrowded in the 90's. This rapidly expanding prison
population resulted in states being forced to construct
numerous new prisons to accommodate the expanding
prison population. In Pennsylvania alone the amount of
prisons in the state expanded from 12 in 1991 to 29 in
2003. The prison population increased from 20,000 in 1993
to over 40,000 in 2003. In order to maintain this massive
expansion, the Department of Corrections had to devote a
significant portion of its budget not to rehabilitation but to
security concerns and maintenance of prisons. State legisla-
tures gutted funds slated for rehabilitation to cover the hir-
ing of new guards. Today the motto of the Department of
Corrections is Care, Custody, and Control. Rehabilitation
does not even factor into the D.C.C.'s operation. Prisons
are so overcrowded only bare bones educational and voca-
tional programs are available. Due to the prevailing public
and political climate, emphasizing punishment over rehabil-
itation, it is no longer a question of does rehabilitation
work; it is a question of does rehabilitation have a promi-
nent role in American prisons. Rehabilitation has proven to
be the most effective tool in preventing prisoners from
returning to prison and, while not 100%, it has proven
more successful than other measures. Has the death penalty
prevented more murders? Texas executes more prisoners
than any other state yet Houston, Texas has the 4th highest
murder rate in the nation. Rehabilitation works, it is just
expensive and time consuming, two factors which work
against it in a society dominated by politicians who want
immediate results to gloat over and a public that is accus-
tomed to 15 minute solutions.

Another factor working against the concept of rehabilita-
tion is recidivism. Maintaining a "revolving door" policy is
profitable for the state because it sustains a massive prison
industrial complex. It creates jobs. Another overlooked
aspect of the prison industrial complex is it keeps hun-
dreds of thousands of prisoners and ex-prisoners out of
the job market. The mass imprisonment of people within
America maintains single digit unemployment rates. The
for mer Justice Minister of Ger many put this into a great
perspective. During a 2002 interview she was asked why
Ger many has an unemployment rate of 13% compared to
America's unemployment rate of 6%. She responded by
commenting that if Ger many had 2 million people behind
bars its unemployment rate would also be in the single dig-
its. There was immediate outrage in Washington over
Ger many's Justice Minister's statements but she exposed a
phenomenon that has been relatively overlooked in
America. During times of economic turmoil or recession
the prison industrial complex has been an instrument used
to maintain relatively low unemployment rates. During
times of economic uncertainty the government won't find
or create a job for you but it will find or create a prison cell
for you. Viewing rehabilitation within the American prison
system from this perspective, it is no wonder why rehabili-
tation is an extinct concept. Young Black, Latino, and poor
urban males, and increasingly females, are the capital that
drives and sustains the prison complex. As long as prisons
are for profits, humans will be expendable commodities
whose only purpose within the system is to process
through it like cash being deposited in the bank.
Rehabilitation can work, given the chance prisoners will
change themselves. Unfortunately, in today's prison system
rehabilitation doesn't exist- while prisons exist only to serve
the bottom line.
Robert X. Holbrook #BL-5140

SCI Greene
175 Progress Dr.
Waynesburg, PA 15370
* [Ed. note: The defenestrator is of an
Anarchist/antiauthoritarian perspective]

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