|Work and Crime Are Opposites|
|By John Dewar Gleissner, Esq|
We are spectacularly ineffective at rehabilitating felons who spend time in prison. Almost 200 years ago, they invented the "penitentiary" so that offenders would feel penitent and reform their ways. The architectural pattern for these large-scale prisons was copied all over the world, more than 300 times. The methods used in prison did not reform prisoners. Prisoners committed as many if not more crimes than they did before their first stay in prison. Many paroled prisoners committed horrendous crimes. More likely than not, ex-cons return to prison. In 1984, the federal government threw up its hands, found rehabilitation was a failure, and abolished parole in the federal system. The U.S. government now takes no chances with felons serving time; they serve their entire sentences without hope of parole.
A large percentage of offenders have never held a job. Many inmates do not know the most necessary job skill: showing up for work on time. Prisoners lack education; many are barely literate. Jobs for uneducated and illiterate workers have become few and far between. Young men at high risk of incarceration cannot easily find work.
The main reason prisons do not rehabilitate much is because prisoners do not learn to work hard in prison. One hundred years ago, prison experts said that prisoners have to learn to work so that they can support themselves when released. Work in prison keeps prisoners from learning more criminal methods, participating in gang activities, getting bored or otherwise rotting away. But our laws severely restrict prison industries and labor. Most prison industries can only make products for the state. We handicapped prison industries long before the federal government gave up on rehabilitation.
Criminals stay up late; workers go to bed early. Criminals get high; workers must remain sober on the job. Workers support themselves through useful work; criminals support themselves by taking from or harming others. A life of crime rarely ends well. A life of hard work often provides abundance or meets needs throughout the years. Work is the opposite of crime. To drive young people from a life of crime, the best thing to do is put them to honest work. They must learn basic job skills, including timeliness, cleanliness, strenuous effort, manners and the ability to work with others. The more education they possess, the better their job prospects.
We too often think of crime in vague terms, as the product of poverty, abuse, ignorance, mental illness and violence. The abolition of racism, oppression, injustice and poverty is called for... but those lofty goals are nebulous and nobody knows how to obtain them. We know how to put people to work. Work is usually more productive if performed in the private sector. The best thing we can do to rehabilitate convicted felons is to change our laws and penal procedures to permit and encourage hard labor in prison industries run by the private sector.
Editor's note: Corrections.com author John Dewar Gleissner, Esq. graduated from Auburn University (B.A. with Honor, 1973) and Vanderbilt University School of Law (1977), where he won the Editor's Award and participated in the Men's Penitentiary Project. In addition to practicing law in Alabama for the last 33 years, Mr. Gleissner is the author of the new book "Prison and Slavery - A Surprising Comparison"
Reprinted with permission from ezinearticles.com.
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