There’s a reason that we don’t hear much about proposals for prison reform from candidates from the two major parties or in the mainstream media in the U.S. 

It’s usually difficult to feel sympathetic towards criminals- after all, they’ve committed crimes, and many of them have committed some very serious crimes. Therefore, proposing allocating further funding for programs which enable convicts to have greater access to education and vocational training is almost never a popular issue, and candidates who propose this know that they are likely to lose votes for even mentioning this.

However, we need to remember that many criminals were once victims of crimes themselves during their childhood, youth and their teen years, many of them were victims of abuse, and many of them (though not all) grew up in extreme poverty- that’s often how they begin to learn to commit crimes at a relatively early age. 

Allowing them greater access to educational programs and to vocational training does not condone the acts that they’d committed; rather it’s the best means of giving them a chance to examine their own lives, to rehabilitate themselves and to become productive members of society after they’ve completed their sentences, thus contributing to ending the repeating cycle of violence. 

When prisons lack education and vocational training programs, they end up becoming little more than warehouses, and then in the absence of access to educational and vocational training programs, inmates often end up teaching each other skills which enable them to become more efficient criminals after they’ve completed their sentences.

We also need to bear in mind that in the U.S., we do still have a significant number of people who are in prisons throughout the U.S. who were wrongfully convicted for crimes which they had no involvement in, as I discussed in the article which I wrote in our June 26th, 2016 issue.  

Many of these wrongful convictions are the result of witness misidentification, and a smaller number of wrongful convictions are probably the result of corrupt or incompetent law enforcement officers intentionally blaming innocent people for being involved in crimes which the police themselves may have been involved with(this is pretty rare today, though this does still occur- this used to be a lot more commonplace in the U.S. prior to the mid 1980s, when organized crime had a much stronger grasp on law enforcement agencies throughout the U.S.)  Again, this is an unpopular issue. Candidates don’t like to discuss this issue either, because they know that doing so will ensure that they’ll lose votes.

Scott Benowitz

Scott Benowitz is a staff writer for Afterimage Review. He holds an MSc in Comparative Politics from The London School of Economics & Political Science and a B.A. in International Studies from Reed...