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Are prisons and jails really effective in lessening crime long term?
Maddison McMillan
Criminal Justice 1010
Tue, Th @ 8:30 a.m.
3/24/15

Clarence Darrow, in, Crime: Its Cause and Treatment, said:


Many writers claim that nearly all crime is caused by economic conditions, or in other
words that poverty is practically the whole cause of crime. Endless statistics have been gathered
on this subject which seem to show conclusively that property crimes are largely the result of the
unequal distribution of wealth. But crime of any class cannot be safely ascribed to a single cause.
Life is too complex, heredity is too variant and imperfect, too many separate things contribute to
human behavior, to make it possible to trace all actions to a single cause.
This is my belief. Crime is everywhere. And it has many causes. An issue with many
causes never has one solution. I believe that prisons and jails are not effective in reducing crime
over a large span of time. Prisons and jails only cover the consequences and actions that come
with the actual crime, and its consequences. Crime is so much more than what is seen on the
news. Many factors go into crime that are not solved in a cell, and if these factors are not
stopped, and acknowledged, then crime will continue, and increase, regardless of how many
people are put behind bars. Aristotle said, in politics, that poverty is the parent of revolution

the parent of revolution and crime He couldnt

be more right.
The next two graphs depict crime.
and crime.
I mentioned
I believe
TheAs
Wrath"
graph earlier,
shows the
more
poverty violent
does correlate
crime,
crimes:with
rape,some
murder,
andbut it is
not the only
factor
that
contributes
it. The
assault.
The
Envy
graphto
shows
all
graph onthefts:
the right
is a depiction
of poverty
in the
stolen
cars, larceny,
burglary,
United States.
Its obvious
that the
areasdont
with the
and robbery.
The three
graphs
most crime
are: California,
Arizona,
completely
correlate,
but theNew
areas
Mexico,with
and many
states
in the are
South
increased
poverty
alsoEast.
the
areas with increased levels of varying
to crime is drugs. On the Bureau of Justice Statistics Website,
said
kinds of they
crime.
It that,
definitely has a
correlation with crime, both violent
from the years 1987 to 2007, 5.1% of all homicides were drug related. Also, in 2004,
and less violent crime.
when they combined State and Federal prisoners, the average percent of prisoners in there for
drugs was twenty five point eight five percent.

Another factor that contributes

One quarter of all Fed. And State prisoners were in there for drugs. That clearly states
to me that drugs have a direct effect on crime rates.
Now lets look at Colorado. In 2014, Colorado began the implementation of Colorado
Amendment 64, which allows the personal use and regulation of marijuana for adults 21 and

over... (Wikipedia, Colorado Amendment 64, 2012). So my question is, how was crime been
effected with this new amendment? Kevin A. Sabet, Ph.D. is a writer for THE BLOG website,
and he did an interesting article regarding this subject.
Crime is tracked through two reporting mechanisms: the National Incident Based
Reporting System (NIBRS), which examines about 35 types of crime, and the FBI Uniform
Crime Reports (UCR). The FBI UCR only captures about 50 percent of all crimes in Denver, so
the NIBRS is generally regarded as more credible. The Denver Police Department (DPD) uses
NIBRS categories to examine an array of crime statistics, since it is the more detailed and
comprehensive source of numbers. The Denver Police statistics show that summing across all
crime types -- about 35 in all -- the crime rate is up almost 7 percent compared with the same
period last year. Interestingly, crimes such as public drunkenness are up 237 percent, and drug
violations are up 20 percent. (Crime Is Up in Colorado, Sabet, 2014)
Crime as a whole has gone up seven percent, drunkenness more than DOUBLED, and
drug violations went up twenty percent. Drugs are making crime rates, go up. And we need to
stop legalizing them, because they are changing our world into an even more dangerous place.

Drug use and poverty correlate with the effectiveness of prisons, because, it doesnt
matter how long an individual is sent to prison or jail. No matter how long they are there, they
will still return home to the conditions that got them there in the first place, and will commit
more crimes, because the reason they commit the crime in the first place is not resolved.
Some people believe that prisons and jails do stop crime long term, and in a way, I agree
with them. Toby Helm and Jamie Doward of The Observer said in their article, Longer Prison
Terms Really Do Cut Crime, Study Shows, that Tougher prison sentences reduce crime,
particularly burglary, according to ground-breaking research. The study, by academics at
Birmingham University, also found that when police detect more offences, crime tends to fall
overallpolice activity and therefore of staffing have a direct impact on criminal activity. I
dont disagree with them. Prisons and jails do cut crime down. They do. They put guilty people
behind bars, and when they are there, regardless of the time served, they cant commit crime.
Prisons and jails are the best short term stopper of crime.
That only solves the immediate problem though. Yes. Sending someone to jail or prison will stop
them from committing crimes, but only while they are behind bars. Anna Leach of the
magazine, Mirror, wrote an article titled, Prison doesnt work 50% of the time, so why do we
keep sending people there? In this article, she shared some grueling facts. 47% of criminals
leaving prison will reoffend within the next year58% of prisoners on short sentences in jail
will reoffendand 70% of under-18s given a prison sentence will reoffend within a year. She
went on with solutions that are effective as well. Community sentences reduce reoffending by
6%...and getting prisoners to meet their victims reduces reoffending by 14%. The most
shocking stat she shared was that not sending offenders to prison reduces reoffending by 9%.

One thing that is important to remember is that, even though some people do commit
crimes for a reason, others are evil people, who just need to be put in prison so that they cant
hurt other people. I do still believe that not all people are this way, and that we can help them.
So how do we fix this? How do we stop the causes of crime? First, we need to fix our
mind sets, not the offenders. The mistake that society makes is sending people to prison based
on the crime alone. What no one takes into account is the psychology behind crime. Choice
theory is most often the way that crime is decided upon in my opinion. Most people are not cold
blooded killers, or thieves. There is inherent good in people, and there is a reason why all
individuals turn away from that good. The circumstances they live in push them over the edge.
They commit crimes, because they dont know how else they can get out of their living
conditions.
Now another question, how do we change the mindset of offenders? How do we help
them use Choice Theory in a positive way? Lets address poverty first. When it comes to
wealth, it is not evenly distributed. This graph shows the distribution (Domhoff, 2005).

This shows on the bottom row how Americans think wealth should be distributed. The
middle graph is the estimation of wealth distribution. The top is the actual distribution. This
says that the top 20% of Americans own 85% of all wealth (Domhoff, 2005). We need to
make wealth distribution more even. We, as Americans, need to take the initiative to even out
our income. That would take care of all poverty.
When it comes to drugs, we need to stop the legalization of it, first off. Also, we
need to send drug offenders to rehab centers, like Alpine Recovery Lodge, in Utah. It has
received national acclaim for its ability to help people recover. They have Aftercare services.
Off-site therapeutic contact and support, on-site sober living facilities, alumni groups and 12-step
programs are just a few options available to help patients stay dedicated to recovery after rehab
(Alpine Recovery Lodge, 2015).
If we could fix the circumstances that crime stems from in all people, then we wouldnt
feel the need to lock people up in a cell. Prison is the answer. But not the long term answer. If
we can couple prison and jail sentences with effective rehab centers, get our streets cleaned up
(cleaned up as in with better living conditions for our people), and be willing to pay a little more
money to help people in poor circumstances get back on their feet, I know that we could
substantially cut crime. It would make our world a safer, cleaner, and more equal place.

References
Darrow, Clarence. 1922. Crime. Its Cause and Treatment. New York, NY: Thomas C. Crowell
Domhoff, William. Who Rules America? Power in America, September, 2005,
http://www2.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/power/wealth.html
Doward, Jamie. Helm, Toby. Longer prison terms really do cut crime, study shows, The
Observer, July 7, 2012, http://www.theguardian.com/law/2012/jul/07/longer-prisonsentences-cut-crime
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colorado_Amendment_64
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drug_policy_of_Colorado
http://www.alpinerecoverylodge.com/
http://www.beatcanvas.com/content_view.asp?id=1533
http://www.bjs.gov/content/dcf/duc.cfm
http://www.notable-quotes.com/c/crime_quotes.html#0CBU8PkCSUBhT1zb.99
Norton, M. I., & Ariely. Building A Better America... Psychological Science, March 14, 2011,
https://sdsuwriting.pbworks.com/w/file/fetch/71890982/ariely_wealth_distrib_DEBATE_
GREAT.pdf
Sabet, Kevin A. Crime Is Up in Colorado The Blog, August 11, 2014,
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kevin-a-sabet-phd/crime-is-up-in-coloradow_b_5663046.html