Crime and Punishment

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?

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20 Responses to Crime and Punishment

  1. Trevor Allen says:

    In a perfect society, there would be no convicts, but that is just not a situation that we are or ever will be in. The next best option would be for the prison system to shift from a more of a “I gotcha” type system to one that allows for reform. Statistically, a system in which there are minimal repeat offenders is a system that is successful if the offenders go and lead better lives. The main problem with convicts is that they feel there is no options except to go back out and commit more crimes because of the lack of people willing to hire convicts. The system that we have now, by design, creates repeat offenders.
    A model country for the reform system is Norway where sentences are rarely longer than 27 years, there is no death penalty, and criminals aren’t held behind bars. The government deems that the loss of freedom is enough, and bars aren’t beneficial for their goals. Now, certain criminal sentences along with the death penalty are highly controversial, and I am not saying that all of the prison system needs to be reformed at once. I propose a gradual shift, creating more opportunities after prison or creating more options while in prison to figure out how to better prepare the convicts for a reformed life.

  2. Jesse Tran says:

    To propose an immediate solution to the reformation of prisons for Mississippi is impossible. While we are not able to make instant improvements, we are capable of gradually leaning our system towards one that restricts repeated incarcerations. Referring to Norway as the handsome, brave Trevor Allen did, they receive around 20% of their inmates back after a few years while the United States receives nearly 80%. This is due to the fact that Norway possess better prison conditions than the United States, containing multiple living areas, workshops, healthcare professionals, and playgrounds that are significantly higher quality. Norway aims to rehabilitate criminals rather than find a place to toss them away from society like the United States. In addition to better prison life, Norway focuses on improving life outside of prison. Unlike the United States, Norway pushes freed inmates to obtain a sustainable job alongside healthcare professionals to assist them financially and mentally with any addictions. It is undeniable that shifting our current prison conditions to ones similar to Norway is far from the near future; however, we can begin now. We can make a change in one of the many issues that face our society today. Anyways, I hope you have a great day, and I wish you the best for your blog posts.

  3. Trey says:

    After looking at the article linked above and specifically the pictures, I now agree with the claims to reform prisons. First, prisons should at least be sanitary. While prisons are places of punishment and should not be luxurious, it should not be a pigsty from lack of funding or care. Second, prisons should be a place where criminals, who committed less severe crimes and would therefore be released while still able to work, can educate themselves. The current system only seems to allow for criminals in jail time to think about how they were caught and how to avoid getting caught next time without allowing them the ability to change for the better. Like stated by Jesse, it seems that most inmates find themselves back behind bars after being released. A new system should allow criminals to learn a skill and use it to live a normal life. The punishment for crime is prison time, not lifelong unemployment because of stereotyping.

  4. Alexandria R Kerr says:

    It is no secret that the United States prison system is highly flawed. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that one of the most impoverished states in the United States, Mississippi, has a horrendous prison system. Firstly, let’s go over some general United States prison statistics. In 2016, the US had an incarceration rate of 698 people out of every 100,000. This number does not mean much to most people because they have nothing to compare it to; so, for comparison sake, Canada in 2015-2016 had an incarceration rate of 139 out of every 100,000. Now one may think that since the US is arresting more “criminals”, they would have less crime, right? Well I did a bit of math based off of some homicide counts in 2018 in both the US and in Canada. In the United States in 2018 the was an approximate rate of 4.96 homicides out of every 100,000 people, while in Canada in 2018 the was an approximate rate of 1.76 homicides out of every 100,000 people. This is plain statistical proof that whatever the US prison system is doing, it is clearly not working. The same sentiment applies to Mississippi. Another factor that plays into the prison reform argument is the likelihood to reoffend. As an article I read here https://www.mspolicy.org/let-the-formerly-incarcerated-work/ states: “As of 2013, the Magnolia State had the nation’s third-highest incarceration rate per capita. What’s more, research suggests that around 95 percent of Mississippi’s enormous prison population will eventually be freed. And, unfortunately, around three quarters of those released will likely reoffend within five years.” This clearly shows that Mississippi’s prisons need work, and they need it now. How is our state expected to get better when we let so many of the population fall behind. We are only as strong as our weakest members. Some ways in which I believe we can fix our prison system include: making all prisons state owned (it is common knowledge at this point that private prisons only exist to make money), aid for former prisoners to try and find work, and more accessible education for prisoners and former prisoners. We also need to attack Mississippi’s problems at its source: poverty. People in poverty are less likely to get the education they deserve, and those that are presented with opportunities are not likely to take them because they are too busy just trying to survive. Years of living in this cycle can cause people to lash out or try to make themselves feel better in unhealthy ways. This is what leads to many impoverished people turning towards gang violence and drugs. These people are uneducated in how they are hurting everyone around them and most of all themselves, and they do not care because their community has abandoned them. It will take a lot to fix Mississippi’s prison systems, and the only true way to do so is by fixing Mississippi itself. Here are some of the sources I used to get my statististics incase you were wondering. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/t1/tbl1/en/tv.action?pid=3510007101, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incarceration_in_Canada, https://www.statista.com/statistics/195331/number-of-murders-in-the-us-by-state/,
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incarceration_in_the_United_States, https://www.google.com/publicdata/explore?ds=z8mqirbqgu9tsm_&met_y=population&idim=country:CA&hl=en&dl=en, https://www.google.com/publicdata/explore?ds=kf7tgg1uo9ude_&met_y=population&idim=country:US&hl=en&dl=en

  5. Felicity B. says:

    The prison system in Mississippi is beyond deplorable, but there is no immediate fix. However, small steps can be made for a gradual improvement of the system, even if Mississippi lawmakers don’t feel it is a priority. Sanitary conditions must be a priority for prison systems because humans cannot be well and of sound mind in an animalistic environment. Prisons are deeply rooted in extreme power-structures where dominance is necessary. A family friend served seven years in a state penitentiary, where he had to fight for his life almost every day to salvage the basic necessities that were deemed luxuries in commissaries. Just two days ago, inmate Gabriel Carmen of Parchman Farm was found hanging in his cell. There have been five other deaths recently at Parchman. Women in prison systems are not being given enough feminine hygiene items for their menstrual cycles and are forced to stay in soiled clothes during their cycles. As it currently stands, the American prison systems do not give inmates chances for reform, even though the basic principle of prisons is to reform criminals. Prisoners aren’t even given conditions in which they are treated as a human being. As said by Trevor Allen, the Norway prison systems are a strong example of what an ideal prison system should be like. I’d like to remain an optimist, but the likelihood of any extreme change anytime soon is unlikely.

  6. Alexandra Magee says:

    Theoretically, prison is a punishment for someone who has shown a disregard for society’s rules. Prison is designed to break the human spirit, so people are usually advised to be good citizens. Reformations should all prisoners to maintain the basic needs of life: clean bed/shower, warmth or fresh air, nutritious food, exercise, and human contact, that’s it. The prisons should teach trade types of education to prisoners. Like laying down hardwood floors, construction, brick laying, welding, custodial responsibilities, heating cooling electric. Just holding them in a sale letting them deteriorate brain and body is not the solution. They need to be taught a skill so that when they get out they can be a productive citizen and maybe take care of themselves take care of their kids. not only that they can encourage their children to get some form of education be it vocational or academic.

  7. Alyssa says:

    As someone that knows multiple convicts, I would say that we should start addressing poverty first. There are many people whose only choice is to turn to the only thing that they know, and that is drugs and gangs. This is directly correlated with poverty. Some older siblings would rather take jail time protecting their family and making money just so their younger siblings can have a better chance of getting out. Those with more money are more likely to not be convicted than those who don’t. Prison is supposed to be a place where someone gets their life straight. But that is hard to do when you go back home to the same bad influences and the only job you can acquire is a job at a restaurant and factories. This is especially hard for those that are from rural places like me, where, before 5 years ago, there was only a few family owned restaurants, two stores and three factories in the vicinity that most people live and can walk to. Those that live on the outskirts of town didn’t have any options previously and the ones in town could obviously only hire so many unless it was a seasonal position.
    I would say that this is the case in many places in Mississippi. If there was a way to partner with people who own smaller businesses who would be willing to give some convicts jobs, especially those who were charged with possession of marijuana. They could take out a small percentage out of these people’s paychecks, if they are decent, and combine that with a small tax increase for the people in Mississippi. This is definitely not going to solve the problem, but I think it would be an interesting way to get to the root of many reoccurring convictions.

  8. Jordan Thompson says:

    There is no way for the prisons in Mississippi to turn around and make an immediate change. However, it is unacceptable what is going on in Parchman. There are prisoners being pitted against each other by guards. They are not getting fed properly. There is gang violence running rampant. There have been eight deaths at the prison this year. That is only 23 days. This is also a race issue. Parchman was originally made as a prison for African Americans. There is still larger percentage of African Americans in this prison than any other race. I understand that these are prisoners, but they are still people too. The guards need to be fired and the prisoners need to be relocated. It is ridiculous. Feels like I’m watching the horror version of Orange is the New Black.

  9. Ayden Dusek says:

    I think people expect that incarceration will make a convict not want to commit a crime again, but the statistics for returning inmates is staggering. There is a small percentage of inmates that are released from prison and do not return to prison. This shows clearly that something in the criminal justice system needs to change. I do admit that some people need to reflect on the possible bad decisions that they have made, but there comes a point when one begins to wonder whether the established system is really helping people.

  10. Santayzia Anthony says:

    The prison systems should drastically change. Many convicts are convinced that they must do what they have already done to survive because for one once you are a convict, you are forever a convict. I feel more opportunities and chances should be given to these prisoners because once they are released from prison that first time, they should be able to have learned from that mistake. They should then be able to move on as a regular human being, but as of today, that is not possible because jobs don’t hire convicts and living after prison gets hard.

  11. Bryonie Mandal says:

    The criminal system needs to change and if they stay the way they are, it’s going to get more corrupt. Criminals who get out after their sentences tend to not get adjusted in their life and they go back to the way they were. This starts the cycle all over and the mistakes they took the punishment for means nothing anymore. These people need some kind of support system and opportunities that allow them to grow and not go back into the cycle the criminal system has created. However, because of people’s mindset and jobs wanting to know every criminal activity is understandable, but it also lowers the value of the criminal making them go back to being the criminal they were because no one gave them the chance to become the person they could be.

  12. David says:

    Our prison systems in America should drastically change. While restitution is something a lot of crime victims seek, it is not necessarily what’s best for criminals and our society. Currently, we have a broken system based on punishment that only brings suffering and more crime. The point of prison should be rehabilitation. We should be showing criminals, through more positive forms of reinforcement, that if they behave well and serve their time properly, they will have another chance at life and be better members of society. It has been proven that there is a link between decreases in the rate of recidivism and the humanity of the prisons in which inmates are housed. In Norway, prisons are built off of the idea of rehabilitation. Inmates live more comfortably in these prisons than the average American prison. In addition, the prisons teach inmates vocational skills, offer educational classes, programs for addicts, etc. It is this act of humanity that helps inmates learn that they can be forgiven for their wrongdoings, and they can have another shot at life. It is for this reason that Norway has the lowest rate of repeat offenders than any other country in the world. It should be this that we model in order to better our society and our prison system. A little bit of humanity goes a long way.

  13. Ethan Hill says:

    I feel like the goal right now for prisons is to deter people from committing crimes. As I learned in my Econ class (thanks Dr. Hester), criminals obviously consider the outcome of the crime to be worth more than the risk of possibly going to prison. Now I feel like the prison system is going with the right idea, punishing for bad behavior. It’s not like we can reward everyone for doing good, “Here’s a cookie for not killing someone.” Its just not effective or practical. How we deal with those in the prison system is something we can change, however. I feel that those in prisons should not live a comfortable life, but they should not be treated like dirt. They gave up comfortability when they took away from the comfortability from someone else who they committed the crime against. Like i said, however, they shouldn’t be treated like dirt. Overall, prisons should be used to incentivize people to not commit crimes, therefore, it should not be a leisure place, and should actually be quite uncomfortable, but not inhumane.

  14. Vincent Chung says:

    Prison systems in America, as a whole need to be revised! These prisons are supposed to be correctional facilities that reconstruct prisoners and allow them to return as members of society. In Norway, the incarceration rate is 75/100,000 compared to the U.S. which is approximately 10x more. They offer many vocational and activities and even diploma options! In an interview with BBC News, inmate Fredrik states, “If you don’t have opportunities and you are just locked in a cage, you don’t become a good citizen. Here there are good opportunities, you can have a diploma and when you come out, you can maybe get a stable job and that’s important.” Excuse the belittlement, but if an inmate can understand this concept why can’t the U.S. government?

  15. Alden Wiygul says:

    I think reform in the physical state of prisons, Parchman in particular, is a good start to treating offenders more humanely. This can be especially important in states like Mississippi where marijuana is illegal and arrests from it make up a good chunk of the prisoner population. The most important thing that we can do, however, is create a system that reduces criminal sentences by requiring prisoners to have a job once they are released. This would give them motivation to stay out of prison and it would help by requiring the government to give incentive for businesses to hire ex-prisoners to help reform them.

  16. Cecile Roberts says:

    Alyssa said it best when she addressed one of the biggest issues that cause most of the crime in Mississippi. I agree with many of these opinions. The reform that prisons need has to be gradual, but something does need to happen. Therapy should be a huge part of this reform. One of the biggest problems in prison is mental health. These people still are human beings, and they deserve to have someone to talk to. The state can also promote, support, and create businesses that hire ex-convicts. Learning a trade in prison is good and all, but if no one will will hire them then we’re in a pickle. Jobs to fight poverty!!!!!

  17. Alisha Burch says:

    The whole prison system needs to be reformed. In other countries they are shutting prisons down because they don’t have enough inmates to keep them full. Why are they so different? They’re different because they treat inmates like human beings and they have programs to help them find work after prison. I think everyone needs to vote for candidates who are for prison reform, and the people who has served their time should have their voting rights restored too. Prisoners have constitutional and human rights no matter their time or crime.

  18. Piper Britt says:

    The purpose of prison is not to punish someone for what they did wrong by treating them like a wild animal; but rather by showing them what they did wrong and how they can fix it so that they ultimately become a productive member of society. The fact that we do not teach them about job opportunities, help them continue or further their education, and force them to live in deplorable conditions instead of helping them see how good life can be, is the reason that we have so many re-offenders. I think that the first step to prison reform is making the politicians spend a week in the prisons to see what they are putting the inmates through. I believe that after they spend that week in prison they will be more than ready to raise taxes and make a change. And if they still are not ready, then we make them stay longer, we protest, we fight back. because that is the only way that something is going to be done. If we want to cut down on Mississippi’s crime rate we have to start at the root; the prison’s themselves.

  19. Andrew says:

    I believe that the U.S. Prison system is severely flawed, and it must be fixed immediately. Alexandria gives us some nice statistics here, “In 2016, the US had an incarceration rate of 698 people out of every 100,000. This number does not mean much to most people because they have nothing to compare it to; so, for comparison sake, Canada in 2015-2016 had an incarceration rate of 139 out of every 100,000. Now one may think that since the US is arresting more “criminals”, they would have less crime, right? Well I did a bit of math based off of some homicide counts in 2018 in both the US and in Canada. In the United States in 2018 the was an approximate rate of 4.96 homicides out of every 100,000 people, while in Canada in 2018 the was an approximate rate of 1.76 homicides out of every 100,000 people. This is plain statistical proof that whatever the US prison system is doing, it is clearly not working.” She is completely correct in stating that whatever we are doing, it is clearly not working.

  20. Andrew says:

    At a time when talk of justice reform has become mainstream but risks becoming hollow, and phrases like “progressive prosecutor” contribute to the deception that we are, in fact, making progress, Karakatsanis is clear-eyed about the bigger picture. But while “Usual Cruelty” is ultimately an abolitionist book that calls on people to imagine a world with fewer laws and in which jails and prisons aren’t the default response to all social problems, Karakatsanis is also keenly aware of how lawyers can use the law’s tools to fight the law’s harm. At Civil Rights Corps, the nonprofit he founded, Karakatsanis takes on cases challenging systemic injustices in the legal system — like cash bail and the systems of fines and fees that keep poor people in jail — which he says have become so “normalized and entrenched” they barely give us pause.

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