Editorial: Negative attitude towards prisoners hurts rehabilitation efforts
Published: Tuesday, September 17, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, September 17, 2013 23:09
Recently, Eric Bolling of “The Five,” a Fox News program, was under well-deserved attack by the illustrious Stephen Colbert for the former’s comments regarding the suicide of Ariel Castro, convicted for 937 criminal charges among which included rape, kidnapping, and aggravated murder. While this article isn’t quite a defense of Castro, it is an attack on Bolling’s statements which posited that taxpayers saved $780,000 by his suicide. Bolling’s argument here is insensitive, even when one considers the magnitude of Castro’s crimes, and is indicative of the negative attitude towards criminals and their opportunity for reform. America wholly believes once a criminal always a criminal, and this social stigma prevents them from re-entering society successfully.
With this in mind, it’s clear why recidivism, or the term to describe former felons re-entering prisons or re-arrested for similar previously committed crimes, is so high in this country and why rehabilitation programs struggle to take effect. When one in thirty-two Americans is on probation, parole or in prison and America has that largest population of criminals (you know, that popular statistic, 5 percent of the global population, 25 percent of its prisoners), one would think that the public attitude towards criminals would be more supportive. Instead, America has collectively decided to abandon these people with the idea that they are a lost cause and deserve the barest of dregs we can throw at them, leaving them to struggle both in and out of the prison system.
The general neglect towards prisoners propagates the idea that they don’t deserve any further rehabilitation. While it is dismaying to hear that states are spending nearly four times as much on prisoners than education, the only way to stop it is to put more money into rehabilitation and re-entry programs. Prison reform is such a necessary measure that is often overlooked because no one will argue for felons. Society as a whole neglects the very real human component to prisoners and doesn’t consider their betterment to be worthy of the proper funds to achieve it. For example, an estimated one-in-five people in prison have a mental illness, but proper therapy and attention is often not provided to resolve these issues. If anything, the conditions and policies of the prison, such as solitary confinement or gang violence, proliferate mental illness even further.
American society must halt their belittling treatment towards this large portion of the population. With the rate of incarceration as it is and the prison budget continuously inflating, we must pause to consider that perhaps another method is in order. Rehabilitation and better re-entry services are needed to keep recidivism down in this country, but we won’t get there if we refuse to see those incarcerated as human beings worth of our forgiveness and respect. It is time we change the conversation regarding prisoners, and it’s time we condemn the Eric Bolling’s attitude towards them.