The Psychological Torture We're Imparting On Prisoners Is Only Making The Country More Dangerous

The Psychological Torture We're Imparting On Prisoners Is Only Making The Country More Dangerous

The lie we've been sold to feel better about torturing people to death is crumbling right before us.
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Prison is the closest institution I can think of that exemplifies the term "necessary evil." Few people would argue for the complete abolition of prisons. They serve a need that our society, and every society, has had since the beginning of time. But there has got to be a better way to do it than what we're doing now.

What we're doing now can be summarized in one heartbreaking sentence: the U.S. prison system is harvesting a group of mentally ill individuals solely prepared to reenter the system somewhere down the line.

The current framework for prisons in the United States relies on psyche-breaking strategies that inevitably cause long-term psychological damage, not only ruining the life of the imprisoned individual but also ruining the chance of that individual’s successful reentry into life beyond prison walls.

Often times, when I start this conversation with those around me, they say something along the lines of, "Who cares? They're just prisoners," or, "If you don't want to be there, don't break the law." This sentiment that prison shouldn't be a nice place and its frightening environment is a deterrent for crime is messed up in a lot of ways - but the one of greatest interest to people who believe this might be that the current state of prisons is not successful at reducing crime.

Success within the legal system can be defined by the rates of recidivism within it—the rates at which former prisoners relapse into criminal behavior. In the United States in 2005, 76.7 percent of released prisoners were rearrested within five years of their release.

Does that sound like success?

Maybe this is what it's about. Maybe even if you don't care about the treatment of inmates behind prison walls, you care whether or not that treatment is doing what we've been conditioned to believe is the goal: keeping our country safe.

Because of the evidence that psychologically traumatic conditions lead to negative behavior, it's not a jump to say that the psychological effects of living inside a United States prison, including development/exacerbation of mental illness, contribute to the increasingly high rates of recidivism inside the U.S. legal system.

Statisticians from the Bureau of Justice (BJS) led a study in 2004 on inmates in state and federal correctional facilities. The results revealed that 56 percent of prisoners had a mental health problem based on criteria specified in the DSM-IV. These numbers are even more concerning when compared to the average prevalence of mental illness in the general United States population—18.2 percent. This research points to the idea that mental illness is not only something that leads to imprisonment but something that comes as a result of imprisonment.

A final sentiment on the fatality of mental illness inside prisons is the fact that in 2011, suicides accounted for 5.5 percent of deaths in United States prisons—that year, the BJS reported that 185 inmates took their own lives. This research clearly points to the fact that the United States prison system is not doing an efficient job at preventing, identifying or treating mental illness, and the consequences are fatal.

While these statistics are clearly ethically disturbing, a greater truth remains: not only is the prison system harvesting mental illness and the unethical treatment of individuals, but it is also perpetuating an ineffective system for reducing crime rates. This is best illustrated by the rates of recidivism in this country. In the United States, the average recidivism rate for released prisoners is 43.3 percent. However, according to a report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, about 68 percent of 405,000 prisoners released in 2005 were rearrested for a new crime within three years of their release, and 77 percent were rearrested within five years.

We're human. We make mistakes. Yeah, some people make really, really big ones. And some of us are luckier than others. But I can't—and I wonder if you can—defend a system that unfairly penalizes people who have made the same mistakes I have to the point of being driven to death.

I believe a system that is both ethically and pragmatically sound is a possibility when the focus moves from punishment to rehabilitation.

In my mind, this looks like an end to solitary confinement and mandatory minimums, less severe sentencing for lower-level drug offenses, treatment for addiction as opposed to imprisonment in cases of drug offenses, and greater concern for the rehabilitation of inmates as opposed to their punishment, specifically aimed at greater psychological care.

With new information concerning the disturbing psychological effects of the nation’s prisons and the inefficiency—legally, financially, and morally—of the system, it is irresponsible to overlook what is happening inside prisons and inside prisoners. If United States’ prisons continue to source and pursue psychological effects in its inmates, including severe mental illness, the 68 percent recidivism rate will continue—and possibly increase.

Does that sound like success to anyone?

Cover Image Credit: YouTube

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This Is How Your Same-Sex Marriage Affects Me As A Catholic Woman

I hear you over there, Bible Bob.
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It won't.

Wait, what?

I promise you did read that right. Not what you were expecting me to say, right? Who another person decides to marry will never in any way affect my own marriage whatsoever. Unless they try to marry the person that I want to, then we might have a few problems.

As a kid, I was raised, baptized, and confirmed into an old school Irish Catholic church in the middle of a small, midwestern town.

Not exactly a place that most people would consider to be very liberal or open-minded. Despite this I was taught to love and accept others as a child, to not cast judgment because the only person fit to judge was God. I learned this from my Grandpa, a man whose love of others was only rivaled by his love of sweets and spoiling his grandkids.

While I learned this at an early age, not everyone else in my hometown — or even within my own church — seemed to get the memo. When same-sex marriage was finally legalized country-wide, I cried tears of joy for some of my closest friends who happen to be members of the LGBTQ community.

I was happy while others I knew were disgusted and even enraged.

"That's not what it says in the bible! Marriage is between a man and a woman!"

"God made Adam and Eve for a reason! Man shall not lie with another man as he would a woman!"

"Homosexuality is a sin! It's bad enough that they're all going to hell, now we're letting them marry?"

Alright, Bible Bob, we get it, you don't agree with same-sex relationships. Honestly, that's not the issue. One of our civil liberties as United States citizens is the freedom of religion. If you believe your religion doesn't support homosexuality that's OK.

What isn't OK is thinking that your religious beliefs should dictate others lives.

What isn't OK is using your religion or your beliefs to take away rights from those who chose to live their life differently than you.

Some members of my church are still convinced that their marriage now means less because people are free to marry whoever they want to. Honestly, I wish I was kidding. Tell me again, Brenda how exactly do Steve and Jason's marriage affect yours and Tom's?

It doesn't. Really, it doesn't affect you at all.

Unless Tom suddenly starts having an affair with Steve their marriage has zero effect on you. You never know Brenda, you and Jason might become best friends by the end of the divorce. (And in that case, Brenda and Tom both need to go to church considering the bible also teaches against adultery and divorce.)

I'll say it one more time for the people in the back: same-sex marriage does not affect you even if you or your religion does not support it. If you don't agree with same-sex marriage then do not marry someone of the same sex. Really, it's a simple concept.

It amazes me that I still actually have to discuss this with some people in 2017. And it amazes me that people use God as a reason to hinder the lives of others.

As a proud young Catholic woman, I wholeheartedly support the LGBTQ community with my entire being.

My God taught me to not hold hate so close to my heart. He told me not to judge and to accept others with open arms. My God taught me to love and I hope yours teaches you the same.

Disclaimer - This article in no way is meant to be an insult to the Bible or religion or the LGBTQ community.

Cover Image Credit: Sushiesque / Flickr

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Class Size May Matter, But Accountability Matters More

If students take the time to think, they will realize their own potential.
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When it comes to the topic of education, decisions are often made, but not quite acted upon. On the left, we have advocates that look to fund the educational system in hope of bettering the kids’ futures. On the right, education is addressed with a degree of leniency, paired with more of an advocacy for occupational programs and trade schools.

One of the more frequently debated matters regarding education, more specifically K-12, is classroom size. For many schools, a lack of funding has caused many teachers to quit; consequentially, with less teachers, more students, inevitably, have to cram into the same classroom. The student-teacher ratio, in some schools, has gone beyond 30:1. In some cases, the overcrowding issue for a classroom is so profound that a student doesn’t have his or her own desk to sit in.

Due to this notice of classroom size increase, in correlation with declining academic performance, a considerable majority of education reformers believe that the classroom size increase is more of causation. The only issue with this argument, however, is that for a contributing factor to constitute causation, it must be the sole reason that another variable must occur. With correlation, however, there are multiple variables (more than two) that can occur within a specific time span. These variables could potentially influence one another’s behavior, but never fully dictate the outcome.

What the common argument fails to account for is accountability itself. Accountability is not something that is taught in the classroom, nor should it be. This is a crucial part to a child’s success, both in the classroom, and in real life. A perfect example of this is within a lecture hall. In a lecture hall, you could have upwards of more than 150 students in the same room, listening to and meticulously noting all of the essential details to a professor’s lecture. It is up to the student to learn the material with the tools they are given, not the teacher to hold their hand through the class.

The only responsibility of any teacher or instructor is to provide the appropriate materials and knowhow for the student to guide themselves. This prepares the student for more rigorous learning material and tasks, resulting in more favorable opportunities, both scholastic and occupational.

For the teacher to implement the right tools, however, requires that the student can and will hold themselves accountable for their success in the course. Such accountability falls back on the basis of good parenting. As education has shifted, the blame of failure for a student in a class also shifted.

The shift has taken place from the student losing their privileges and extracurricular activities, to the teacher potentially losing their job (which is especially daunting with the threat of new teachers not obtaining tenure). With the latter portion of the Millennial Generation, along with Generation Z, parents bearing excessive leniency and overall apathy have made for a widespread mindset that fails to take responsibility for itself.

It’s time for parents to be accountable for their kids, and for the kids to be accountable for their own success. A system is only as useful as those that utilize it.

Cover Image Credit: Tra Nguyen

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