White Paper-manipulator

—1. Working Hypothesis 1

Treating prisoners with more respect and providing them with helpful resources rather than harsher punishments would lower the number of repeat offenders. 

—1a. Working Hypothesis 2

Rehabilitation programs implemented in the prison system are all hopeless due to prison being an environment in which inherently no program could succeed.

-Practice Opening

We wouldn’t be inclined to send a sick family member to a hospital if there 40% chance of them quickly returning for the same illness, yet governments are more than happy to send citizens to prisons where a similar statistic rings true. Prison rehabilitation services have been more widespread than ever in the past few years, but recidivism rates seem to never drop as a response. Many would want to blame the millions of individual different people from all over the world with wildly different cases for this outcome, when the common factor in all failed prison rehabilitation programs is in the prison itself. A prison environment could never foster successful rehabilitation and actively regresses the prisoner’s recovery process. 

—2. Five Academic Sources

Bullock, K., & Bunce, A. (2020). “‘The prison doesn’t talk to you about getting out of prison’: On why prisons in England and Wales fail to rehabilitate prisoners.Criminology & Criminal Justice, 20(1), 111–127.

Due to political and ideological differences rehabilitation has never been a stable practice. Many believe the 20th century was one that lost the support for “ideal rehabilitation” in favor of harsher punishment. At the start of the 2000s, there has been an effort to revitalize these programs that targeted lack of education, employment, substance abuse as well as more general like family ties and being happy with life.  “The prison don’t talk to you about getting out of prison” from British Society of Criminology explores the difficulties of rehabilitation in prison through a series of 27 in-depth interviews of English prisoners in 2016. Major issues have occurred in the process that lay on the institution as a whole, including short staff and overcrowding of inmates. In settings like this, it can also be usually difficult to make real trusting relationships with those like therapists due to their connection to the rest of the facility. Staff and prisoner relationships as a whole can undermine the entire system, and negative attitudes toward prisoners create a much harder environment for those attempting to go through rehabilitation. Staff may also suffer from routine, not wanting to break out of it when individual needs must be met. A major conclusion taken from all the accounts put together is that prisoners “…believed that the institution took little responsibility for rehabilitation.”. It was up to the individual to constantly pursue it, a requirement many might not be up to do. Some believed the support was too little, while others believed it was none at all. It was criticized that the staff did not want to help, and were only there because it was a job. That they are only looking to tick boxes rather than change any lives. There were some who thought officers were antagonistic at times. This overall has a damaging effect on the prisoner’s perspective on the process. Some praised Officer Management Programs as one that brought in a positive relationship, while others felt a lack of depth and that there was an overwhelming forceful nature to it. Underlying problems were not a targeted factor in the eyes of the prisoners. Programs that centered around work did not prepare prisoners mentally or emotionally, and many believed the tasks they were required to do were not meaningful or of much use. Not being happy with something like a job is not something most care about or consider when it comes to prisoners, but unsurprisingly they do. The researchers involved in these interviews came to the conclusion that the challenges in the environment of prison are a crucial hurdle in the overall rehabilitation process. 

Vacca, J. S. (2004). Educated Prisoners Are Less Likely to Return to Prison. Journal of Correctional Education, 55(4), 297–305. http://www.jstor.org/stable/23292095

Having an education seems like it would be a step in the right direction when it comes to landing in prison, and it is. James S. Vacca states this clearly in the title of his piece “Educated Prisoners Are Less Likely to Return to Prison”. Vacca proves this by going through a multitude of studies from the 90s that all show similar results. One study in Ohio showed the recidivism rate for inmates enrolled in college programs was 18 percent, while another form in Oklahoma that only 25 percent off a 77 percent overall recidivism rate was for those who entered vocational programs while incarcerated. Vacca connects this with his first-hand experience in the subject as a teacher. He found that most prisoners who graduated from his program did not return to prison once they were released. He also cites studies that claim the best programs not only help with education, but with socialization and emotional communication. With this, those in authority positions must have positive attitudes toward the programs and the inmates for them to succeed. This includes not only those running programs but correctional officers as well. This makes an environment where prisoners feel more inclined to participate. Supplies and equipment also play an important role, as well as the damage of overcrowding. Without the proper funding and implementation of programs, they will be crippled from the start. Other challenges still face these programs, such as learning styles that address specific needs. Many prisoners lack the confidence they need, or have a bad relationship with education from the past. This with the environment of prison must be taken into account. 


In times when rehabilitation is being doubted, new and alternative methods are being searched out extensively. Not only in the programs themselves but how they should be paid for. Some don’t agree with the government paying to make prisoners’ lives more successful, while others have problems with the current privatization of prisons seen in the United States. Anne C. Jefferson makes the case for rehabilitation contracts in her Public Contract Law Journal piece from 2017. She describes it as a “…a two-step solution to the problems of prison privatization and soaring incarceration and recidivism rates.”. Instead of states contracting privately for prison management, they must contract services and goods that contribute to the rehabilitation process. She condemns the current system, in which the state gives private management the lives of the incarcerated solely for a profit motive, and claims it goes against the criminal justice system as a whole. The lives and liberty of the incarcerated are at conflict with a profit margin, and it conflicts with the goal of rehabilitation itself. After all, it rewards private companies for keeping inmates and prison, the opposite goal of rehabilitation. Some of the required programs in this plan would include substance abuse treatment, education, life management skills training, and job skills training. There is also an argument that this would in the long term cut the cost for the state because it would ideally lead to fewer inmates and offenders taking up space in the system. Jefferson believes that this could work by use of contract schedules to produce goods and services required, even if that means the state sharing some of the burdens. Using contracting in this way is an interesting idea, though it of course relies on the success of the programs themselves. 

Dragana Derlic.A Systematic Review of Literature: Alternative Offender Rehabilitation—Prison Yoga, Mindfulness, and Meditation.Journal of Correctional Health Care.Oct 2020.361-375.http://doi.org.ezproxy.rowan.edu/10.1177/1078345820953837 

Usually when someone thinks of rehabilitation for the incarcerated they think of drug programs and therapy, not yoga. Though Dragana Derlic’s piece from the Journal of Correctional Healthcare makes it seem like it should be the norm. Derelict advocated for many alternative forms of programs for prisoners including  “…Creative Writing, English as a Second Language, Reading for Success, Faith-Based, Pet Therapy, Dogs 101,…”.More than just the physical concerns, Derlic wants to address more internal problems including emotional feedback and social stimulation. Without them, the environment becomes more aggressive, a trait already seen in prisons without this belief. Yoga can be used more for relaxation, but for reducing feelings of anxiety and anger. The improved mood of prisoners would in turn lead to a more smooth process of rehabilitation. Derelict sites study significant improvement in depression and anxiety of prisoners that went through yoga-based therapy. Though the lack of specificity when it comes to the type of yoga that was practiced along with how it was taught is a point of weakness in these tests. As mentioned in previous works, the relationship between the staff and the prisoner is of extreme importance and must be taken into account, even in yoga. Derlic also admits to a lack in “…methodology, tools of measurement, length of study time, and length of follow-ups.”. Many are very critical in proving a study. With that, it seems like the jury is still out on the necessity of yoga therapy in prisons. 

Cheah, P. K., Unnithan, N. P., & Raran, A. M. S. (2020). “Rehabilitation Programs for Incarcerated Drug Offenders in Malaysia: Experience-Based Perspectives on Reintegration and Recidivism.” The Prison Journal, 100(2), 201–223.

The Prison Journal article “Rehabilitation Programs for Incarcerated Drug Offenders in Malaysia: Experience-Based Perspectives on Reintegration and Recidivism” makes conclusions from a study looking to get the perspective of those who’ve been through the rehabilitation process. This came in the form of interviews with 12 current inmates second-time drug offenders, and 2 being held at a rehabilitation center in Malaysia. The study found multiple common themes in the reasons for recidivism and rehabilitation needs. The first was a failure to re-enter society. The isolation of prison vastly changed many and making relationships after was not an easy task. The only familiarity was in those who were also addicts, or former prisoners. The next theme was that most felt a feeling of hopelessness and powerlessness. Feeling like this was a sure way to falling into a drug problem, especially if you already had one. Theme three was that most felt they had to sell drugs to make ends meet. This does not need much explanation. Someone with very little money and no work does not have much to lose, so the risk becomes worth taking. Not only did some find it easier than the average job, many felt they lacked the education and skill to accomplish finding one. In terms of rehabilitation needs, the first common theme was that programs must teach prisoners to reintegrate into society through socialization and communication. Prisoners face the harsh reality of rejection after being released, and many are not ready for it. Having to cope with this was a common reason for recidivism. Being educated on this reality along with other common social norms is a necessity. The next theme was that rehabilitation must help prisoners learn to find a purpose in life. This comes in helping prisoners feel more confident and ambitious, rather than helpless. The last theme was the programs must cover basic skills and education training to improve the chances of finding jobs. It can be easy to feel lost when leaving prison, and a job can help with that. Though without much skill or knowledge this can be very hard. Not only do these jobs provide money, but the respect that can come with it was very important to those interviewed. Overall, those involved in making the study felt Malaysia’s rehabilitation programs were lacking, mostly due to the environment and lack of programs focused on socialization and communication. 

Crewe B. “Soft power in prison: Implications for staff–prisoner relationships, liberty and legitimacy.” European journal of criminology. 2011;8(6):455-468. doi:10.1177/1477370811413805 

In factors outside of rehabilitation that can directly affect it, the relationship between officers and prisoners is one of the most important. The term “soft-power” is used by Ben Crewe in his essay Soft power in prison: Implications for staff– prisoner relationships, liberty and legitimacy to express this power dynamic. The term is a representation of the undeniable power officers have over prisoners, even if it is not explicit in rule. This can range from small favors to daily interaction that can make prisoners’ lives that much better or worse. Crewe talks to prisoners in the U.K about this occurrence, and their anger with it. Needing to put on a fake facade of kindness from both sides only feels hypocritical, as if officers are just trying to “… ‘play mind games with you.’” This psychological threat like feeling only hurts the prisoners and with that their attempt of rehabilitation. Distrust in those who claim they want to help you creates a hurdle in the process before it can even begin. Crewe even found that some prisoners rejected favors and privileges given to them in order to keep themselves independent from this “soft-power” dynamic. Some prisoners felt they were viewed differently by their peers for having positive relationships with staff. Some find problems with the officers’ true lack of supporting them, believing they only accommodate “hotel functions” such as phone calls to other resources even when there is a stronger relationship between the two. For rehabilitation to succeed prisoners must be able to not feel like they have to put on an act around everyone claiming to aid them, and emphasis must be placed on the humans acting in these positions of power, not only the “program” we guide prisoners through. 

Newbold, G. (2006) “Criminal Reoffending and the Failure of Corrections: Rehabilitating Criminals Ain’t That Easy.”

Greg Newbold questions the idea of prisoner rehabilitation and thoes fighting for it in his piece Criminal Reoffending and the Failure of Corrections: Rehabilitating Criminals Ain’t That Easy. His argument starts by stating studies in which rehabilitation failed to make a difference, such as Robert Martinson’s assessment of 234 rehabilitation programs from around the world, which he reported they “… ‘have had no appreciable effect on recidivism’.” Though intense backlash from this “nothing works” mindset led to Martison recanting his opinion. Newbold believes that only studies that want to find better conclusions supporting rehabilitation end up doing so. He breaks down the needs of a program to work: identifying the specific needs of each offender, tailor making the program to their needs, be delivered by staff who are properly trained and committed, and be properly  funded. Even a lack of one of these needs can result in a totally falling program. Newblold points to a psycho-therapeutic approach called Integrated Offender Management that was believed to be able to reduce the number of re offenders by up to 15% over two years. Though due to never being implemented properly, the results never came. It was too complicated and time consuming, and resources were lacking. Newbold gives two main reasons for why corrections fail. The first being that he believes in many cases criminals don’t get caught, in turn rewarding them rather than punishing. The second being that humans thinking rationally “…isn’t really a common human trait anyhow.” It is not as much as what someone might gain, but the pure thrill of the act that causes one to do it. Newbold is convinced that changing someone is near impossible due to the impact of their upbringing. He claims re-offenders do not like prison, but are used to it and believes it can offer a number of attractions such as meals or “…Friendship and status within a tightly-knit primary group.” He concludes that most who want prison reform programs don’t understand the people attempting to help, or underestimate the task. That a life of hard honest work does not appeal to a criminal and that eventually they will revert back to their old ways.

Couloute, L. (2018, October). “Getting Back on Course: Educational exclusion and attainment among formerly incarcerated people.Prison Policy Initiative

Lucius Coloute takes an analytical look at education and the incarcerated in the Prison Policy Initiative article “Getting Back on Course: Educational exclusion and attainment among formerly incarcerated people.” Although prison can offer an opportunity to earn a GED, incarcerated people are usually given the lowest quality. Most only hold a high school diploma or equivalent, while others have no credentials. This makes it exponentially hard to enter or return to the workforce. Formerly incarcerated are 8 times less likely to complete higher education, with most not receiving any experience in it at all. Not only do they lose the educational material, but they also have to make up for the lost experiences, networking, and career guidance offered to the general public. Only 27% of the formerly incarcerated received their GED through prison programs, and that credential does not hold the same weight as a GED earned outside of prison. In short the programs can’t fulfill their jobs: Make up for lost educational opportunities. 

Fazel, Seena, and Achim Wolf. “A Systematic Review of Criminal Recidivism Rates Worldwide: Current Difficulties and Recommendations for Best Practice.” PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science,

The piece “A Systematic Review of Criminal Recidivism Rates Worldwide: Current Difficulties and Recommendations for Best Practice” taken from PLOS ONE analyzes recidivism rates around the world. Using multiple target searches the group found the 20 countries with the highest recidivism rates. They make comments on the availability of this information, recommending the Justice Department to consider using new guidelines to report their data. Recidivism rates have reached up to 50% in some jurisdictions, and have not gone down in recent years. They found some difficulty in comparing different countries due to their individual ways of recording and releasing data on the topic. In the future they hope to make a more detailed report that includes findings such as sentencing length. This will offer a report that is more informative and accurate that can be used for a worldwide examination.

Petersilia, Joan. “Beyond the prison bubble.” The Wilson Quarterly, vol. 35, no. 1, winter 2011, pp. 50+. Gale Academic OneFile, Accessed 20 Nov. 2022.

Joan Petersilia counters the idea that putting more people in prison will help reduce crime in her essay “Beyond the prison bubble.” If there was a correlation between prisoner rate and reduced crime, results would have been seen beginning in the 1990s. In many circles, it is believed that focusing on imprisonment is counterproductive to the crime rate goal. With California spending nearly 50,000 dollars per prisoner for its prison reform in the mid 2000s, it is clear that these lackluster results are not sustainable. Petersilia’s answer to the crime rate question comes in prison programs meant to reform prisoners rather than focusing on arrest. Risk-need-responsivity programs that use assessment tools to size up each person and match them to the right program are some of the modern changes Petersilia advocates for. She condemns those who subscribe to the “nothing works” belief, stating that modern technology and information will allow for improved and effective programs. Though at the end of the piece Petersilia does explain that crime is a problem that may never be solved, though helping incarcerated people who are looking to get back on their feet is not something that should be looked down upon.

Haney, C. (2017). “Madness” and penal confinement: Some observations on mental illness and prison pain.Punishment & Society, 19(3), 310–326. 

There is an ever growing amount of prisoners both in the U.S and abroad that suffer from some form of mental illness. Craig Haney describes his criticism with how the prison system treats these individuals in his piece “‘Madness’ and penal confinement: Some observations on mental illness and prison pain.’” His beliefs lie in the fact that prisons are extremely ill suited in reflecting the physical and psychological needs of these prisoners. Specifically in the U.S, the number of prisoners with mental health issues has reached an estimated 43%. It can be difficult to measure the true prevalence of mental illness, since it can come in different forms for each individual. This also makes it challenging for a very conforming place like prison to respond appropriately to it. Attempting to train officers to act in ways that would be helpful is not ideal, since it would be too difficult. There is a line between interacting with a patient and an inmate that could never realistically be crossed. It is very easy for staff to ignore or not notice signs of worsening mental health, and prisoners can be neglected or pushed into a worse situation. With this, it can also be hard for the individual themselves to recognize their own issues making diagnosing challenging. There is also a stigma that comes with being labeled mentally ill that makes prisoners less inclined to seek help. The use of isolation and solitary confinement can be devastating for an individual, and mental issues are bound to become worse due to them. This treatment of prisoners is correlated to self harm and prison suicides. Haney’s answer to this issue is to work on reducing the number of mentally ill people who are being sentenced to prison. Putting resources into alternative approaches and treatments is necessary to help improve the overall mental health of a society. 

Söring Jens. : “An Expensive Way to Make Bad People Worse: An Essay on Prison Reform from an Insider’s Perspective.” Lantern Books, 2004. 

In the first chapter of Jen Söring’s book  “An Expensive Way to Make Bad People Worse: An Essay on Prison Reform from an Insider’s Perspective,” Söring breaks down some of the myths of the prison system. The first being that there “is no problem.” The U.S spends an absorbent amount of money in the prison system, yet we don’t see the results we expect. This includes lower crime rates and less inmates. So questioning the system becomes a need for Söring. The next myth is that prisons, although expensive, do prevent crime. Outside factors such as substance abuse, mental illness, and lack of education have an impact on crime rate, and prisons don’t do much to address these problems. Youth is also a common factor in crime, and sending them to prison instead of rehabilitation and job training is not helping. In the early 2000s, 625,000 on average were released a year, though 623,750 entered it. This includes first time offenders and recidivists. These numbers show how unsustainable the current system is, and the need to reform it. 

—3. Topics for Smaller Papers (very preliminary)

Relationship between education and incarcerated before and after they enter prison

How prison officers negatively impact prisoners

The stigma of being incarcerated and the lasting effects it has

Ethics of privatization of prisons

—4. Current State of My Research

I feel like most of my research so far has gone the way I thought it would. A lot of it is connecting with each other, but most of these points are very obvious, for example, that education is a key to a successful life when returning to society. One that does stand out is the social problems that are created in prison. It’s already hard for many people to socialize, and coming out from incarceration seems to make it impossible. How are you supposed to succeed when you have already been labeled a failure? Reading through interviews of those who have gone through the process has shown me that others play a factor in prisoners successfully re-entering society almost as much as they do themselves.

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1 Response to White Paper-manipulator

  1. davidbdale says:

    Exhaustive and clearly helpful in crafting your thoughtful opinions on the topic. I appreciate this very thorough summary of the work you did, Manipulator.

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