Seven hundred and seven people for every hundred thousand people are behind bars in the United States as of twenty-twelve, compared to Norway, whose prison population is seventy-two out of a hundred thousand people (see fig. 1 and 2). American prison systems need to be updated similar to the Norwegian prison system, via using taxpayer money more towards rehabilitation, retraining prison guards, or even reevaluating the goal of criminal justice, thereby providing healthier ex-convicts that give back to the economy in society.
In order to clearly understand and evaluate prisons systems, a person must comprehend the origin and basis of a prison. According to Coyle, prison is defined as “an institution for the confinement of persons who have been remanded (held) in custody by a judicial authority or who have been deprived of their liberty following [a] conviction for a crime” (1). If prisons are there only to confine people as a form of punishment, prevention, or correctional purpose, then there should be a point of release. When a child breaks a rule, they are put into the timeout, spanked, or a right to an object is taken away.
Going in depth, this child is supposed to think about what they have done during their time out and come to a conclusion that what they did was wrong. Similarly, this is the process, a process the convicted go through, only on a larger scale. English jurist and philosopher Jeremy Bentham endorsed “the concept of the prison as a penitentiary (that is, as a place of punishment and personal reform)” (Coyle 1). This man started with the right idea, but slowly through corruption and ignorance, the aim of the point is contorted.
Prisons in America have lost the concept of “personal reform” throughout years of overwhelming population size and growth. American penitentiaries revolve around elongated sentences and confinement far more than they should. According to Bureau of Justice Statistics, “in 1992, there were 1. 3 million inmates in America’s prisons and jails; by two decades later, a million more had been added…” (Waldman 1). This is a sure sign that something the government is doing with its’ justice system, wrong.
The U. S. opulation didn’t even double, two decades later; meaning that population was not the cause of the increase to the prison populace. In 1990, federal and state governments passed laws that elongated sentences for drug crimes and others (1). Not only that, but the “three strikes and you’re out” law was put in place; it required that after a third felony the convicted would be put in prison for a longer sentence term, 25 years to life (1). All states affirmed it needed to be a violent crime, although California didn’t (1).
In 2012, the people of California voted for the law to follow the other states in requiring the third to be an intemperate conviction (1). After all of this, prison populations skyrocketed; this is due to people spending their entire lives in prison more often. If so many people are involved in a life of crime consistently enough for the government to set up a “three-strike policy,” people would have to realize that as a society they are doing something wrong. The advocacy for this problem is near to zero because no wants to give help and mercy to the sinful.
Obviously, if an ex-convict is ending up in prison more than twice, they are not learning their lesson and need a different method, like personal reform, rather than punishment. Taxpayer money goes to prisons to pay for inmate costs, so the longer a person remains in prison, the more the working class dishes out of their pockets to pay for them. Sociologists say, “prisons are “total institutions” that provide everything necessary for inmates to live there- some for the rest of their lives” (Henrichson 12). This statement would seem fine to any glance, but take another look, is there any word that stands out?
The word necessary is often assumed a comfortable living environment because most people have not lived in a prison. Inmates are provided with the least amount possible. Their food is something just to fill them up and not really a healthy ‘diet. ’ If a person in prison is there because their morals are skewed, do people not think that maybe they need a refocused life without distractions and worries? Taking someone’s freedom from society is enough punishment for any person.
Of the 40 institutions were surveyed, with these two, “ representing more than 1. million inmates (of 1. 4 million total people incarcerated in all 50 state prison systems), the total per-inmate cost averaged $31,286 and ranged from $14,603 in Kentucky to $60,076 in New York” (see fig. 3). The public forgets, “per-inmate costs do not measure how effective spending is; they merely measure spending itself” (Henrichson 9). Meaning, the money could be going to how thick the bars are in the cells. To put this simply, the public’s money easily goes to waste on things that do not better inmates’ person and morality.
Correction starts with the self, not society; prisons should be focusing on helping each convict, one at a time, like Norway, does. Norway has built up a system, within the criminal justice system, that has proven many times, through its successes. The study, “The Social Costs of incarceration” is the largest study of imprisonment and return to a normal life that has ever been conducted in Europe” (Loken 1). There have been smaller unsuccessful studies due to the fact that they didn’t look at a judge’s sentencing for research. Not only that, but they also looked at recidivism (the tendency of a convicted criminal to re-offend) (1).
Norway thought outside the box and looked beyond what most people would. This makes their project far more advanced in reliability than others. Re-conviction doesn’t have to be the criminal’s fault, and the government should always check itself before putting the fault on others. Going in depth, researchers surveyed the percent of inmates rejoin the working force (1). They compared “administrative data sets to data sets from the courts” and found associations with it (1). This was to collate the differences of outcomes from the same crime, but a different sentence from different judges (1).
In the end, Professor Katrien Loken at the Department of Economics, University of Bergen (UiB), who was the leader of the project states, “Norwegian prison model with extensive use of [labor] training while serving time, gives surprisingly good results” (1). So, providing prisoners with the proper system of work and goals for inmates, as well as an opportunity outside of the jail cells, leads to healthier lifestyles. Miss Loken provided Norway with the most effective Prison system seen yet, and America should be following in its footsteps if it even wants a foothold in the door to social progression on handling criminals.
The project’s results show an immense reform of inmates that have gone through the Norwegian prison system. The study shows, that “five years after conviction, there is a 27 [percent] lower risk that convicts who have been in prison have committed new crimes, compared to those who were given more lenient penalties, like probation and community service” (Loken 1). Criminals taken into the prison systems and cared for by the reform process prove to better adapt to society than the criminals, not take care of, and just thrown back out on the street with some requirements.
The decline in criminal activity is larger, “for the 60 [percent] of inmates who had not been employed for the last five years preceding the conviction” (1). Meaning Norwegian staffing and programs have helped these people find a goal within life to work towards, to keep their mind off of temptations and desperate actions. The risk of executing a criminal offense once again is dropped by 46 percent; “in depth, the people who are working is 40 percent higher after five years, contrasted with those who have received more lenient penalties” (1). People who lose their jobs to go to prison cannot find the hope to move forward and get a new one.
All in all, “The group of inmates who lose their jobs because they have gone to prison, have no positive effect of being imprisoned, however, they do not commit more criminal offenses than the other group when they are released” (1). Most people have a set mind on getting a job and progressing through it to become successful; taking that away only provides a desperate grasp at what they use to have. In conclusion, the Norwegians have proved their social advancement in criminal management to America and there needs to be action to take place in order to prove that Americans are not cavemen.
This can be done through the reformation of the criminal justice system, and its set goal in mind. To think “what can the prison do to get these people back into society,” rather than “what can the justice system do to keep criminals locked away for good and kept from society. ” The first step to all of this, is simply advocacy, calling out the government’s mistake and digressed way of handling the convicted, by spreading the word that Norway has beaten America in reducing criminal activity.