Does the prison system fail? How does a prison actually fail?
For years, I have been looking for a prison system that is successful. I have been seeking a country that has found a way to deter crime, to rehabilitate offenders, and does all of that in a kind and emotionally caring way. A prison system that is never crowded, one where all the meals are fantastic, and where all of the inmates are happy. When everyone leaves that prison, and of course they all do, they leave with a full understanding of what they have done, they gain acceptance and take full responsibility for their actions, and they agree never to re-offend. They are in every aspect, rehabilitated and socially responsible, educated because they all want that. They don't even have to do any work. The system just does it for them.
The reason you can't find such a system is that no such system exists. Nobody is keeping it a secret from the rest of us. The Germans don't have it, the French don't have it, nor do the Netherlands despite their socially acceptable practices and permissive lifestyles with regard to prostitution and drug use. The key to solving this mystery lies within the word, fails. I am reminded of an old story of mine, back when I was a music teacher. A very good one.
I used to own a few pigs and thought it would be wonderful if those pigs could learn how to sing. I'd love to have a good singing pig, or perhaps a trio or quartet out in the pig sty, but try as I might-I simply couldn't get those pigs to carry a tune. It didn't matter what method I tried those pigs just could not or would not sing. My neighbor thought the pigs were getting irritated with me. So late one day, he explained to me that pigs just can't sing and that somehow I should accept that as fact or reality. I wanted to try some different tactics but we had a long chat and ultimately he convinced me that it was a waste of time. He told me that I should just accept the reasoning that pigs just can't sing, anywhere, and that they never would despite my best efforts as a music teacher and singing coach.
Months later, I was telling my neighbor just how disappointed I was with my pigs and the whole singing experiment. I told him how much time I had wasted trying to get ol' Bruno (my biggest pig) to sing like Pavarotti. I was feeling foolish. My neighbor told me that the experiment had not failed. He said that there were certain things that pigs cannot do. He said that singing was one of those limitations. That didn't mean anything "failed." Failure he said, might have occurred if they had actually learned to sing once, but then refused to ever sing again. I pondered what he meant by that.
How could something fail if in fact, it never worked to begin with?
I've applied that sense of logic to many things in my life. I don't waste a lot of time looking for a prison system that succeeds or one that doesn't fail. I don't have any illusions of changing a system that by it's very nature, anywhere in the world, cannot do what we ask of it. That doesn't mean it "fails." That's just the way it is and no matter how hard you try or complain, the pigs just can't carry a tune.