For years, psychologists have discouraged parents from using corporal punishment to discipline children. The risks, according to the American Psychological Association, range from increased aggression and antisocial behavior to lifelong mental health issues. Ideally, the APA suggests, parents should punish not out of anger but with the goal of correcting unwanted behavior and encouraging the behavior parents prefer.
With that in mind, the corrections system in Mississippi needs a complete overhaul. If we truly wish for convicts to improve themselves, we cannot send them to prisons where their mere presence is a form of corporal punishment. The inmates of Mississippi’s animal shelters live in better conditions than some human inmates of the MDOC. Look at the pictures from Parchman. Judge for yourself.
People duly convicted of crimes must be punished by the state. In the big picture, though, turning convicts into productive citizens is the best possible outcome of a prison sentence.
It will take years to bring Mississippi’s state prisons in line with federal guidelines. The crisis is so dire that I don’t even know where to begin. If the Mississippi legislature won’t raise taxes to provide for an adequate education or maintain roads and bridges, it seems unlikely they’ll do so for people in prison who are unlikely to vote ever again. Understanding in advance that levels of funding will be low, and that many constituents utterly lack sympathy for inmates, how should we reform prisons in Mississippi? What do we want incarceration to accomplish?