Empathy is one of the most essential components to the healing of someone who is ailing, according to a humanistic approach to psychology. Therefore, it’s unfortunate that the minds behind the U.S. prison system don’t consider empathy a crucial aspect of rehabilitation.
Today, U.S. prisons better resemble scenes from modern horror flicks than institutions designed to transform the unruly into productive members of society. But perhaps it would be in bad faith to assume that this is actuality unintentional.
American culture’s obsessions with justice and harshly punishing those who violate the law overpower any consequentialists and results-orientated approaches that promote peaceful rehabilitation and therapy for those who falter.
It would be in society’s best interest to cease viewing criminals as barbarians who deserve penalty and adopt a perspective that regards criminals as misguided and troubled individuals who need help, not punishment.
Sadly, such noble principles as rehabilitation and healing are impossible idealities in our current prison system.
According to the U.S. Justice Department, about 217,000 inmates are raped in prison every year. How could people from such an abhorrent environment be discharged and expected to have improved and abandoned their path of crime?
If anything, we should anticipate regression, or at the least no improvement in behavior. Perhaps this standard explains the country’s embarrassing and inexcusable 60 percent repeat offense rate, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
To endorse a prison system that emphasizes punishment and constructs a climate of violence is actually counterproductive to the welfare of law-abiding citizens and criminals alike. If violence begets violence, is it wise to release back into society prisoners who have just suffered through what may have been years of maltreatment in a breeding ground of disorder?
Instead of getting overly entangled in the principles of justice, consequences and results should serve as the primary criteria for formulating a blueprint on how to deal with the dilemma of crime and those who disregard the law.
Norway has taken such an approach by embracing a much more humanitarian and rational method to solving this issue.
In Halden Prison in Norway, guards do not carry guns, prisoners are offered classes and cells contain living rooms and kitchens. Critics often claim violent criminals don’t deserve to be treated so humanely, but one must consider the actual results of this mentality.
According to the Pell Center for International Relations and Public Policy, Norway’s rate of repeated offense is a respectable and commendable 20 percent. If less crime is equated with a better quality of life for all, isn’t Norway’s approach the most beneficial?
The question one must ask is whether Americans are ready to forgo their aversion to criminals and undertake a more sensible approach to prison or whether Americans are going to stubbornly cling to the counterproductive ideals of justice as punishment.