There is a difference between the term how and the term why. The term how implies reporting the facts and numbers. How is reporting the details and events as they unfold. Why describes the underlying causes and reasons behind the actions. Both are important if we are to make progress in remedying a situation. Now let's focus on how the US prisons are failing.
~ United States Prisons fail because they fail to use money wisely
The average cost of housing a prisoner is $58.00 per day. This is just for housing. Think about it as renting one bedroom out of a home. That would be about $1780 in rent the home owner could collect. This number does not include food and guards. It the utilities and space. There has to be a more efficient cost.
Many prisons do have gardens to help offset the price of food. This is a great idea. However, one prison grew fields of onions only, that then rotted in the fields, because only so many onions can feed hungry prisoners. So the money for the seed wasn't used wisely. They should have diversified or at the very least shared with other prisons.
~ United States Prisons fail because they fail to use resources wisely
Staff is a great resource. There seems to be no cross-training and sharing of duties. For example, the mail clerk while checking mail could monitor the screens from the visiting. It would take some multitasking skills, but it can be done. There are volunteers that will do prison work. Once the back ground check is done these resources can be very valuable. Use these resources often.
~ United States Prisons fail because they don't understand the minds of habitual criminals
The goal is to return productive, reformed citizens back into society. The rate of recidivism (tendency to relapse into a previous condition) in the United State Federal Prison System is 67.7% That means we are failing to understand, influence and change these inmates over half the time.
For many criminals prison becomes home. It is an environment that is controlled and predictable. They have friends and develop family relationships there. That is a part of the criminal mind we are not currently treating enough to give them skills to establish these bonds outside of prison walls.
~ United States Prisons fail because the prisoners don't take advantage of the programs offered
Recently when interviewing a 26 year old prisoner he stated. "Why would I want to go take some dumb class when I can play a little poker and earn some extra cans of tuna fish?" Talk about short vision, this is a perfect example. There is no reaching for something beyond the immediate. This was not an inmate who had several years to serve, just six months.
Examining the how if fails, may lead us to the why and perhaps some new options to try.