Prologue: A History & Statement of Need

For centuries humanity has engaged in the great social experiment of trying to prevent or diminish crime. It has been labeled evil, and laws have been established to help protect society. When laws are broken, society retaliates with a moral and legal perspective dubbed "justice and punishment". This moral/legal view of punishment does not answer the question: "How can we learn the causes of and prevent crime"? In our society the emphasis is more on punishment, rather than rehabilitation and prevention.

   Although we might say that if a person chooses to commit a crime and gets caught, that's his problem. Unfortunately, the problem ultimately belongs to the whole community and many others suffer as a result of one persons actions.

   Mother, father, wife, children, and family all suffer the same, and sometimes more than the one who commits the crime. Around 2 million children have a parent or close relative in jail or prison on any given day. 5 million more children have a parent or close relative who are currently on probation or parole. In 93% of these cases, the father is the parent in this situation. Even though they may be the one in jail, it's their children that suffer, because the more kids are exposed to prison, the more normal it starts to seem to them, so prison eventually loses its stigma. Children who see a parent arrested, handcuffed, or frisked feel contemptuous toward law enforcement. If a parent is in jail, the child sees it as just another part of life and they don't see anything offensive about it. As a matter of fact, 50% of all juveniles in custody have a father, mother, or close relative that have been to jail or prison. So as you can see, incarceration and crime affect the lives of many more people than just the prisoner, and unless we change our views and move away from strictly punishment and instead towards rehabilitation, as the statistics above show, this cycle will simply continue.

   Now the question becomes "what do we do in order to help those incarcerated"? The three biggest problems in a prisoners life is: drug & alcohol addiction, problems of power,control,and anger management, and lack of life skills and economic stability. In considering the problem of drugs & alcohol, of the 22 million americans addicted, over 6 million are either incacerated or on probation or parole on any given day. It is therefore in these areas that the emphasis is needed and in which effective long term rehabilitation programs must be established.

   If society hopes for a true drop in crime, whatever its causes, it must now confront the fact that imprisonment creates a huge population of ex-convicts. About 600,000 hit the streets each year with no place to live and few family connections. These former offenders are almost ruled out for consideration for decent jobs and are further marginalized by laws that bar them from getting student loans, a drivers license, or voting, and from becoming tenants in public housing developments. Many revert to lawlessness out of desperation and end up back in prison. 

   As a community, we need to change our attitude about prisoners before we can reincorporate the thousands of offenders who stand at the margins of society with no clear way into the mainstream.