There are a number of reasons our prison system is failing to do its job.
Having been a prisoner for a full year, I saw it first hand. I was a guest of the well known Sheriff Joe’s Tent City in Arizona. The crime was minor.
There is no rehab. You get to do jail work for eight hours then free time. Free time consists of playing cards, watching TV, or just talking. This is a bad thing. All the more seasoned inmates explain to the younger ones how not to get caught. They boast of all the crimes they have committed at one time or another. Most of the inmates belong to some group or gang. This leads to group bullying. In this hierarchy there are one or two leaders per group. When a group member is apart or away from their group/leader, he is lost, it’s like a co-dependency. Actually this manor of treating inmates is the college of crime. The few leaders are the professors and all the rest are students. This is the reason so many return to jail.
I have one story that will explain it all. A young boy in my tent was on work furlough, he could go to his job and return after quitting time. He was soon to get out. With only a few days to go he was caught trying to smuggle in a small bottle of whisky. This led to another six months added to his sentence. When I asked why he did such a stupid act his reply was, “I have a lot of friends here, I get meals and I feel safe.” Also, many inmates get released only to return within a month. These kids have no idea how to work or earn money. Their world is hanging out on some corner and dreaming up their next crime so to have money.
I have no answers to solve this, but I do have some ideas. High school classes inside, a mentor or counselor (non-inmate), and cut down on free time to interact with other inmates.
When someone is released, picture this: He may or may not have family near by; if he does I am sure the parents do not want this influence on the other children or an extra mouth to feed. He has no car, no job, no home and it is unlikely that he can get these without committing another crime.
Probation and parole officers are not helping these inmates. The jails and prisons only make it worse. Sheriff Joe has it right! It should be uncomfortable in jail and the food should be tasteless beans. We don’t want you back! Maybe with each return all conditions get worse and worse.
The present social standards are what made the prisons so plush. These standards need to change! Jails and prisons should be hard time, not a social gathering of old friends. I was 50 years old at the time of my unfortunate incarceration, but as a veteran of the military for eight years, I lived in worse conditions.