Recently, U.S. lawmakers from both political parties have emphasized how incredibly expensive it is to maintain their state prison systems. Many seem to be agreeing on a few common solutions, including a focus on incarcerated individuals who need addiction treatment.
Last week, Nathan Deal, Georgia’s governor, talked about the troubles of his state’s system, reported the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He emphasized that imprisoning nonviolent offenders with drug problems is a waste of state resources. Randall Shepard, Indiana’s chief justice, described how judges and parole officers can use a risk assessment tool to determine which offenders need community-based treatment, according to the Indianapolis Star.
Students who are interested in law enforcement may utilize their criminal justice degrees to enter the world of probation and correctional treatment. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), probation officers are tasked with deciding which convicted individuals should, in fact, be imprisoned. Correction treatment specialists deal directly with the incarcerated. They may rise through their prison’s ranks to manage other officials and even become a jail warden, according to the BLS.
Warden are in a unique position to enact change. Some transform their jails into models of efficiency. One such example is warden John Wetzel, who worked to reform the Franklin County jail in Pennsylvania during his tenure, the Herald-Mail reports. Wetzel made his prison safer and saved his state money by implementing a Day Reporting Center, where nonviolent offenders receive counseling along with substance abuse treatment. The news outlet noted that the center’s clients have a recidivism rate of 18.2 percent, which is drastically lower than the national average.
For years, social workers have raised awareness of similar support networks. In receiving substance abuse treatment, a clean, sober offender has a better chance at coping with his issues in a healthy fashion. Employment and skill programs are set up within many prisons to help inmates transition back into society. In some prisons that have partnered with local colleges, inmates can even earn a bachelor’s degree.
College students may consider contributing to prison reform by advocating for training inmates in life skills or providing the training themselves. They could help offenders undo deep-seated behaviors and reduce the allure of a life of crime.