Our system of Jail is meant to punish people for wrong doing. I think everyone would agree on that. This punishment is also meant to be a deterrent. However, I think what the Jail system really is trying to solve for is responsible people. In our society, we need people to behave. Otherwise, getting along and living would be quite difficult. We need people to behave, to be responsible.
However, I don’t think Jail creates responsibility. It just punishes. However, I think it punishes more than just the offender. In fact, I think it does just the opposite of creating responsible people. Let me illustrate how our Jail system creates irresponsibility.
1. Once an individual is convicted, they no longer have to pay a mortgage, rent, or make money of any kind. They are prevented from taking part in society.
2. Clothes are provided to them.
3. Food is provided to them.
4. Shelter is provided to them.
5. Medical care is provided to them.
They are not responsible to provide any of these things. They are not even held responsible in any restitutional way to anyone who they wronged. (Sometimes, people do pay restitution…it depends on the crime.)
The message this sends is that they are no longer responsible. This is a big point. This is an ongoing operating mechanism that drills into their heads that they don’t have to be productive and provide value to our society.
Once their time is completed, there is a huge transition back to responsibility…having to pay rent/mortgage, make money, provide themselves food and medical care, etc. This creates a strain further as they now need to be “integrated” back into society.
What we need is a system that is focused on producing responsible people. I don’t think Jail cuts the mustard. What we need is a program where convicts are put into an environment that requires responsibility. Dollar figures could be put to crimes where people would be indebted to the entity(s) they wronged. (This would have to be done through work productivity and could not be paid in advance to prevent wealthy flagrance.)
Any expert comments?