The society treats the ex convicts with unfairness and injustice that they do not deserve. As much as they are responsible for all the deeds they do, the American society is not sorry for this treatment. It is envisaged that the purpose of any prison facility in the world is to correct the deviant behavior in a person in order to prepare the successful re-entry to the society a reformed person. However, this is does not seem to be the case for American ex-convicts in the 21st century. The ex-convict today is the neighborhood next door who we see daily and sometimes we have a relationship.
The realization that one is a convict proves an insurmountable task to the individual to prove that he or she is a reformed person but the laws and policies do not recognize this. The biggest question that begs for an answer is why it is so such a serious matter? What is to be blamed or who is to be held culprit? Do we need a reformation of the current policies concerning life after prison? This research will concern on the reasons why ex-prisoners are not fully integrated back into the society even after prison and the factors lying behind such treatment from the society.
The American Prison Today
The concern lies on whether the prison today is doing the right work to bring the traits and qualities desired in the modern society in convicted persons. In America today, for one to achieve in life, education forms the most counting factor. It therefore means that securing a good job requires higher education while low education only warrants low and often stressful jobs. Prison statistics shows that about 75% of inmates did not complete high school and hence they lack the high school degree.
In addition, there is an increase in the number of inmates who do not have high school diploma which means that an increase in crime is related to low education. This information means that for such convicts to be suited well in the society, one of the requirements in the prison is to offer education as the rehabilitative program. This ensures that recidivism is reduced by providing the required solution. Nevertheless, the prisons strategies of correcting the convict are different and emphasize on harsh and negative treatment.
This deviates from the main purpose of prison. The Prison Commission on Confronting Confinement by Gibbons and Katzenbach (2006) report shows that, most of the prisons in America use excessive force in treating the inmates. The big picture is that the prison guards are just brutal enough to cause break of the heart even the hardiest of them. Bearing in mind that most of the inmates are convicted of rape, crime, robbery with violence, murder and drug abuse, the question of brutal and tough treatment does not make sense.
This kind of correcting is opposite the logic of the actual reason of imprisonment. It only leads to a hardened ex-convict who feels that the society is against him or her. In fact, the situation in the prisons worsens the state of affairs. The Prison nightmare by Deparle (2007) clearly shows that the prison is a hell of a place that requires intervention from the state and the public. The life in prison is deplorable; conditions are inhumane, unhealthy, unproductive and violent. This really affects the staff and the inmates themselves due to the unending trauma and stress.
The unfair treatment of inmates discriminating between race and class and the type of offence, makes the prison to be the devil rather than the savior to the community. The community must be protected from rogue persons who are not capable of maintaining the dogmas of the society. It is in this light that the prison must be seen as a failed system in our society. The rehabilitation programs like educational programs, drug rehabilitation and counseling programs were terminated in the twentieth century despite the increase in the population of prisons.
Therefore, the fact is that most of the ex-convicts come back into the society to seek revenge armed wit nothing but hardness, pain, stress, trauma, mental disability and thus do not fit back in the society. The ex-convict life and its challenges It is clear now that the prison facilities are not living to their dreams as set to do by the constitution. The number of ex-convict is high today in comparison to the earlier centuries. The alarming news behind this large number is that they passed through the prison that we have already seen needs to do reforms, from the staff to the policies governing the correction and treatment of convicts.
The persons with prison experience, due to lack of effective corrective measures, pose a threat to the community since they deviate more than the initial stage. In addition, most of the ex-convicts convicted of crime and drug are suffering from HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and other communicable diseases which is an alarm to security due the attitudes of most of these ex- convicts. On the other hand, after prison, life is no better for most of them due to low education, drugs and restrictive laws and policies. The society does not really accept them back and thus re-entry and acceptance makes life hard.
This leads to the rise of recidivism and increased rate of crime from the same ex-prisoners. The first of these injustices is restriction from voting known as felon disenfranchisement. This law date back to the founding years of America claiming the spotlessness of the poll box in 1884 (Manza & Uggen, 2006). The argument was that, felons could use their votes unlawfully to corrupt the ballot box and that since already they have first violated the social contract, then they can also corrupt the franchise responsibility.
The view of this time was the excellent government meaning that all issues that seemed or were perceived to avert such causes, all measures would be placed to avoid that (Manza & Uggen, 2006). For the past years, this issue has not been much debated upon or given enough light until the twentieth century when it caused a major stir in 1998. Human rights watch revealed that 4 million people were locked out of voting and they were concerned that this could affect any election. Close monitoring by Uggen and Manza (2006) reveals a note of origination in discriminating against the blacks.
The notion that blacks were the most felony convicted race due to poverty hence the likelihood was that they committed most crimes. This is strongly supported by the discrimination of the black man up to the twentieth century. The lack of access to employment is another major challenge that ex-convicts face in their journey towards re-entry and full rehabilitation into the society. Hull and Conyers Jr. in their book say that, two thirds of ex-convicts end up behind bars again within three years of release. The employers are keen on background checks meant to lock out the job seekers with felony conviction.
There is no law that expressly prohibits ex-convicts from getting employment but the many bans across the board violate the civil rights act of 1964 as indicated by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. This reveals that, to solve this problem, one has to seek redress from the state law. Major tribunals have allowed employers to disqualify job seekers with felony conviction if it is related to the job being sought. Where corruption seems plausible, the background check proves crucial, and therefore any record of conviction disqualifies the person.
Restrictions on occupational licensing is a major setback to the ex convicts life after prison. The fact that even setting up an own work is prohibited means that the government wastes money for the upkeep of prisoners in jail. It negates the logic why a person from a correction and rehabilitation center does not fit into the society. The lack of employment and the despair from job turning down by prospective employer causes recidivism (Hull & Conyers, 2006). This opposes the principles of fairness and justice if people cannot be treated fairly in matters of public or private.
The democracy of a people involves giving equal chances to all without any prejudice. This is not the case for the ex-convict when it comes to search of funds for higher education when compared to other students. The Higher Education Act of 1965 is meant to aid needy and poor students with funds to acquire college education. However, the amendment by Congress in 1998 denies ex-convict of drug abuse the right to seek these funds for college education. In addition, under federal law, drug convict means that one cannot qualify for Hope Credit leading to high number of students denied access to financial aid (Hull et al., 2006). Helping the ex-convicts find back their lives and enjoy the full benefits of a citizen needs changing the status quo especially in the laws. The social welfare challenge is also another part that requires check up to give the ex-convicts a sense of belonging and their importance to the society. According to Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1956, ex-convicts who had been charged with drug possession are entitled to no temporary assistance for needy families, social safekeeping, Medicare, food aid and other health benefits. This infringes on the ex-convicts efforts to be best fit in the society.
Ex-convicts feel that the social welfare part of their lives is curtailed which is equivalent to punishment which goes to great pains since it takes long to be paroled. The question whether ex-convicts can hold public office lies greatly to state and constitutional law. The constitutional law doe not bar ex-convict from holding a public office because of the malice that can arise if a president does not need a challenge from and opposing team. Despite this, the state law on the other hand bars a felony convict from holding or running for a public office.
The fact is that the restriction of the ex-convict from holding public offices is much humiliating especially for people who are convicted while serving in public offices. Furthermore, most of the information about conviction is readily available to the public today especially on the internet. This is very restrictive and poses as a challenge to most of the ex convicts who are charged with minor felony. This also applies to ex-convicts who have not despaired and are determined to reclaim their lives back in the society after imprisonment.
It is therefore stressful for them to find that their efforts are interrupted by the laws of the country and thus they question the principle of democracy. In this light, the function of the prison as a corrective and rehabilitative facility is questioned and the government spending on prison is ridiculed. Aside from ex-offenders being barred from holding public office, parenthood forms an insurmountable challenge to them. Besides family reunion being eventful and complicated, the 1997 Adoption and Safe Families Act require that parents abdicate parenthood if they do not spend 15 months with them.
Problem Solving Strategies
The imprisonment term average is 18 months implicating that family break up is real for those ex-convicts who are jailed for years. These are the challenges that can result to more crimes leading to a cycle of the same which means that recidivism is no near to ending. With this kind of a prison system, it means more problems will be created. On the other hand, the societys reception and treatment of the ex-convict warrants a checkup and change to avoid punishing the ex convict (Thompson, 2008).
Research shows that foster care after family break up leads to high cases of juvenile delinquency which dovetails to crime. This can only be interpreted that the protection of the community by these laws and policies provides an avenue for the next future generation of offenders. The issue of parenting is complicated and hurting when it is disconnected either to the father or mother, it is the most unique experience. Therefore, this law punishes the parents all their lives not to add that most are poor. It is an excusable path to mental anguish, stress and trauma to such ex-convicts citizens in this country.
The issue of acquiring secure housing is just another restrictive issue concerning the affairs of ex-convicts re-entry to the society. The local, federal and the state laws have three categories on barriers upon ex-convicts, the absolute statutory exclusions, denying and termination of housing for substance abuse and one strike you are out. The first concerns those instances that an ex-convict manufactures substance or has been convicted of sex offence. It means that the ex-convict is banned out for life on public houses.
Secondly, if the ex convict is still using substances illegally and the third involves a case where an individual is denied admission due to activity of crime or substance abuse which might lead to disruption of other house occupants just slightly before occupying the house. These laws under PHA are directed by the Housing Opportunity Act destabilize the lives of ex-convicts who have so much to correct for their successful re-entry into the society. The changing wind When ex convicts experience a difficult and often barring life influenced by the laws and policies, they feel frustrated and rejected.
The fact that one is expected to display good conduct to pay for health services, cater for the family despite having no job is overwhelming. These situations places the ex-convicts between a hard place and a rock and thus chances of getting back to crime or illegal substance abuse are imminent. The questions of giving the ex-convicts a second chance have arisen due the increased amount of people with felony records. The political, social and economic consequences related to the re-entry of ex-convicts into the society reveal high costs and disadvantages. The society is exposed to disrupted morals due to drug abuse culture.
The lack of family role models and parents to guide the life of young people is an indication of a falling society. A community where most of the people are ex-convicts and majority fall under the category of those counted poor means that drug abuse, crime, increase in communicable diseases and unemployment can be the order of the day leading to recidivism. Today, this is the question that concerns the countrys change of policies at the twenty-first century. Despite other issues concerning war, terror and relations with other countries, America is faced by internal issues like these.
Other countries like European countries have strategies to make sure that their prisons and justice department balance the whole picture for the benefit of all and maintain the best secure free society (Petersilia, 2000). Today, the stigmatization and citizen resistance to support ex-offenders is waning due to the introduction of productive restorative community justice approach that is meant to bring all people to work together for the benefit of the whole. The re-entry of ex-offenders to the society is a complicated issue that requires serious planning and change of policies.
Looking for possible solutions to reintegration needs a change of the public attitude towards ex-convicts (Levinson, 2002). The message is that, the situation is not hopeless; America has not lost the battle what we need is changing the past and embracing the present for the well being of our future. Religious leaders, some politicians, organizations, radio talk shows and the general public have taken an active role in talking about the issue of prisons and ex convicts lives. The fact that they are citizens just like any other has seen the rise of talks all over for their clearance in the eyes of the public.
Although some of the politicians do not want to hear this, the campaign is rife and is gaining momentum. The century is turning tides to those who still hold bad attitudes towards ex-convicts. To support an ex-convict was a liability before but for today as Delgado puts it, its a launching pad for people with political ambitions. The conditions of deterioration of policies of prison and aggravation of issues pertaining ex-convicts have touched on the politics of the Republican Party hence a win to the Democrats.
The meting out of harsh policies and stiff laws does not offer any solutions; instead it creates more problems to the society. The ex-convicts form a convict bloc that has connections to the high echelons of power and class and they form a formidable force which is capable of swaying the outcome of any election. In addition, the speaking out against corrupt policies held in prisons and courtrooms has brought justice to others who are convicted for fair hearings (Delgado, 2007).
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