The concept of rehabilitation in America's prisons was pretty much abandoned from the seventies on, though it started to decay much earlier (I'll
come back to this) it just wasn't working well enough to justify costs associated with the methodology (and it contributed to recidivism to a lesser
extent, which failed to achieve the cyclical nature so important to a sustainable system). Insitutions are subject to the same laws as organisms,
they develop survival instincts as a necessary function of their operation.
It's actually quite feasible to 'break' the minds of men, and reform them to the desired shape, the problem is, as soon as you let them out back
into their environment, the pressures of that environment begin reshaping them back to their former, sucessful form, and without the continued
pressure from the other direction, these people simply won't 'keep their shape.'
If you don't believe what I've said above, just look at cults. They specialize in changing perceptions and modifying behaviors. In order to change
the 'mark', that person must be removed from their environment and all countering influences (friends and family). Pressure is exerted by various
methods, and a new paradigm is enforced. Conversely, if you want to deprogram a cult member, one has to get them away from the cultists and expose
them to the influence of the other group, to reshape their perceptions and achieve the desired behavioral modification. The techniques of
programming/deprogramming are tried and true. I'm sure a web search will uncover a veritable treasure trove of information, and the services of
professional deprogrammers are still advertised despite the questionable legality of their operations.
There's another problem that people don't like to talk about, and that's the fact that punishment prisons reinforce the behaviors that got people
locked up in the first place. Any guard will tell you, there is a very strict heirarchy enforced, for obvious reasons. The guards must be in control
of the prisoners, because of their numerical inferiority, so they use techniques to instill fear and artificial respect (respect of violence). This
sort of system works reasonably well to dissuade violence against guards, as long as they are perceived as the Alpha Males, but it does nothing to
'cure' violent behavior. It simply reinforces the behavior that our society deems wrong; that is to say, prisons encourage the mindset that
violence and intimidation are the path to power, respect, and success.
Violent/aggressive tendencies, by and large, are a response to environmental factors (just as gangs are a response to dangerous/impoverished living
conditions - hyenas and chimpanzees operate in gangs, to bolster their survivability while operating in dangerous environments. Take a chimpanzee out
of its environment and apply 'pressure' of various sorts to induce change, and sure enough, change will occur.
There are exceptions, per usual - some people seem to be evolutionary experiments designed to contribute to success - they resist change because
they're strongly influenced by their internal motivators. These behaviors that were so successful in natural history actually contribute to failure
in our contemporary system. In the 'wild' a reactively violent person would have a higher success ratio than a pacifist, because they would not
lose breeding priviledges to larger, more agressive males. However, violent males in our society are at an extreme disadvantage, evolutionarily,
because if they are caught, they get locked up and denied the right to breed for the most part.
Following this thought through, that means we are de-selecting violence (by incarcerating the violent), while at the same time encouraging those
individuals who are both violent and
clever enough to escape incarceration. We're not helping ourselves or our society by affecting this sort
of evolution, and the facts bear that hypothesis out. Just look around, and ask yourself, why are things so bad now?
Anyone ever wonder why men in prison for violent offenses often receive scores of marriage proposals and sexual solicitations? It's because of the
unconscious perception of power we still cling to from our days in the jungle.
So what we've done is set up a system that punishes violence, which runs in direct opposition of the laws of nature which have governed our
development for millenia. It's a pretty obvious recipe for failure. In essence, it's eugenics; the conscious manipulation of the traits of a
population through breeding control. I'm not even going to get into the racial inequality of the prison system, that's a topic too big and too
contentious to get into at any length here without diverting the conversation.
You make a very good point about prison guards. Many are in the business for the wrong reason, they desire power over others. Many are in it for
sexual satisfaction, or to bolster their own self esteem/ego. The incidents of rape and molestation in prisons don't bypass guards, they are
regularly involved in lewd acts with prisoners. Some are in it to satisfy their feelings of powerlessness, or to revel in sadism. Some guards are
just 'day jobbers', men and women in need of a job, period. Then there are the altruists, but they tend not to last long because of the
hopelessness that environment fosters. Unfortunately altruists often morph into day jobbers, but sadists never change. So we've got a system in a
perpetual state of devolution.
Many people who are anti-social, violent, and abusive, find jobs that allow them to satisfy their urges on the clock. Cops, prison guards,
dominatrixes, etc... I'm not stereotyping all guards and cops and dominatrixes here, please let's be clear about that. However, there is a great
deal of evidence supporting the fact that these lines of work 'call' to a certain segment of people, just as boy scout leader, coach, and camp
counselour are job titles that attract pedophiles.
I don't want to get a lot of crap for this statement, because I'm not interested in rebutting claims that I'm being unfair. It's clear that there
are good people in every segment of society, but for obvious reasons, people tend to gravitate towards those fields that satisfy their desires.
What's even more alarming is this; aggressive guards, sadistic guards, and violent guards are the most encouraged. They show results, and so are
promoted to positions of power.
Profit is the key I think. Once the state discovered prisons could be something more than a drain on resources, the flood gates opened wide. Now the
prison system is largely privatized, highly profitable in many places, and a HUGE source of jobs in this country. People tend not to consider all the
sectors that rely on the business of prison, but the list is an extensive one. There are literally millions of people who would be unemployed or
underemployed if our prison system was a more responsible entity. Of course, in my opinion, a job is nothing more than indentured servitude, and a
responsible society has no need for slaves. Again, that's a topic for another thread.
It's no coincidence that there are more lawyers in law school every year than there are practicing lawyers, this is a case of an artificially induced
demand fueling supply to ridiculous excesses. Lawyers are a huge part of the workforce that rely on the Injustice System, which includes the prisons,
courts, law enforcement apparatus, and all associated contractors.
Then there are the construction crews (developers are rolling in contracts for new prisons, and they take their top cheese off of taxpayer dollars),
the guard's unions, the food service employees/catering companies, the gun manufacturers (and tasers/pepper spray/ballistic shields/restraints etc.
etc.), there's the states that benefit from manufacturing and other services which prisons provide at slave labor cost, there's the middle men
taking profit by arranging deals, there's the lobbyists and liasons, there's teamsters and consultants, uniform suppliers and police officers,
judges and court reporters, parole boards, engineers, accountants, vehicle manufacturers, drug dealers (both legitimate and illegitimate),
psychologists, doctors/nurses, file clerks, DEA, furniture manufacturers, and I'm sure the list doesn't end there. - my point is that all these
industries take huge combined profits every year, due to the inequity of the prison system. They don't necessarily rely on the prison system, but in
times of recession, the prison system is a buoy in the middle of a very big ocean, so we cling to it out of necessity.
See, wherever public money enters and private profit exits, there is going to be rampant inefficiency, graft, and waste. We see it time and time
again with defense contractors and government suppliers. How many $800 toilet seats and $30 screws does it take to convince people the system we have
isn't worthy of support?
Prisons, like schools, should be not-for-profit to preclude abuse and mismanagement - you're absolutely right on this boogyman.
I assure you, the prison system is not geared towards rehabilitation. As I've said, it was once the primary goal of the American prison, but not
anymore. Now, the goal is incarceration and punishment (or attonement if you prefer). The idea of prison in America started off as an effort to
reform criminals, it was designed to teach, treat, and eventually return offenders to society. That concept changed when the prison system split into
two separate schools of thought, two takes on a (then) recently coined 'science'; penology. The turning point was the construction of the first
Ever since, debate has raged, but the idea of incarceration and punishment has won out every time because of the influence of moneyed politicians and
private businessmen, and of course the religious consituency who feel it is their moral duty to punish 'sinners' despite the bible's blatant text
pointing to the opposite. That was in Pennsylvania incidentally where the first American penitentiary was built, PA was a bastion of 'morality' in
the formative years of American Justice. Here's a good read on the subject.
Our institutions are organisms. They have survival instincts like any other creature, and they have a predatory nature - a parasitic existence. Why
can't politicians keep their promises? Because if they did, it would guarantee their extinction. Why can't prisons cure offenders? Because it
would guarantee their uselessness. :shrug: We expect too much from simple creatures, in my opinion.