Fix People, Don’t Punish Them

Fix People, Don’t Punish Them

By: Vanessa Mendoza Carillo

Prison reform is necessary in the United States because the focus of the system should be rehabilitation rather than simply punishment. Although much is said about a focus on rehabilitative procedures and processes in the current prison system, the growth in the prison population and the recidivism rates indicate this is not the case.



The people and organizations supporting this narrative are generally on the left side. This being said liberal thinkers like The Lionheart Foundation,  believe that people who have been incarcerated can change and deserve a second chance.

Lionheart’s prison program provides education, rehabilitation and reentry support to incarcerated men and women in prisons and jails throughout the United States.  At the heart of this initiative is  a powerful emotional literacy program, Houses of Healing.  This program offers prison inmates encouragement and the necessary support to take stock of the life experiences that have propelled them into criminal activity, take responsibility for their criminal behavior, change lifelong patterns of violence and addiction, and build productive lives.  

This is based off the overwhelming support from the liberal side opposed to the conservatives,because up until recently they have been very anti prison reform. This is based off a few select individuals, not necessarily the prison population as a whole.

A case study supporting prison reform is the “Ban the Box” campaign. This is a campaign that wants to remove the question “Have you ever been convicted by a court?” from all applications to prevent discrimination in these specific areas. If that question will be removed from all sorts of applications like for jobs, renting or buying houses, buying a car, insurance, and more it may prevent recidivism by providing a legitimate opportunity for former inmates to have a fresh start. It may also begin to remove the stigma associated with serving time.


One organization supporting prison reform is the American Psychologists Association (APA). It was founded in 1892 with 31 members and it grew quickly after World War II because of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Now it has nearly 130,000 members and 54 divisions. They also believe in rehabilitating people to make them better and healthier. They are involved with prison reform because they have rehab programs in prisons and argue that people should get sent to rehab instead of prison. They are idealistic and positive people, and it’s obvious that they are not only out for themselves and actually want to help. They they have rehab programs throughout the country, not just prisons and are one of the largest scientific and professional organizations representing psychology in the United States. 

A person that is supporting prison reform is James Gilligan. He is an American psychologist and author. He wrote a book “Violence”, based on his 25 years of work in the American prison system. He is a psychology professor at NYU. He believes that prisons must be used for recovery not only for restraints and punishment. He became involved with prison reform when he decided to do studies and research on the American prison system. He is powerful enough because of the impact he has made in people’s life and was able to open up their eyes a bit more. His constituency is prisoners, mainly because he wants to teach them non-violent skills so that they can learn new ways and has found that it has been very helpful.

Another person supporting prison reform is Robert Morgan. He received his Bachelor’s Science in psychology, Master’s Science in clinical psychology, and PH.D in psychology. He joined the psychology department at Texas Tech University in 2000. His research interests are in correctional mental health, specific treatment of mentally disordered offenders. He believes that American prisons are punitive in nature and that it’s hard to develop effective rehabilitative programs but that it’s possible. His research is funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and the  National Institute of Justice (NIJ). He is also a part of APA. He is powerful because he is in a large organization and does work on his own. His constituency is mentally ill inmates because he thinks that they need the most help and are treated the worst.

Another organization supporting prison reform is the CRC Health Group. It was founded in 1995 by Daniel Newby and Dr. Barry Karlin. They treat more than 30,000 people with drug addiction and alcohol addiction, learning differences, weight management issues, eating disorders, and other behavioral issues. They believe that incarceration does not work and that rehab is better. They also believe that addictions grow or start in prison. They are interested in helping people get and stay well. They became involved with prison reform by researching about addiction in prison. They are not out for themselves, they really care about people and try to help as much as possible. They are very powerful, they are the largest provider of specialized behavioral health care services in the United States. They have 145 facilities. Their constituency is anyone with a behavioral issue, but mostly inmates.

This narrative is gaining bigger ground. More people are supporting it and it’s scientifically proving that incarceration is not necessarily the best option and that rehab is so much better. It is proven that rehabilitating recovers more effectively than incarceration.



8 thoughts on “Fix People, Don’t Punish Them

  1. The racial impact of a criminal record for callbacks about job interviews was shocking to say the least. How could someone who is black and qualified without a criminal recored be less likely to be called back than anyone with a criminal record. This is a bit crazy and hard to believe it makes me feel like America has not come as far as we think we have when it comes to racism.


  2. I think the “ban the box” campaign is very important. It allows them a second chance. However, I think this is a major race issue and that this campaign won’t help all.


  3. Is the “criminal record vs. no criminal record” bar graph just male prisoners or everyone? I wonder how the gender of someone with or without a criminal record effects if they’ll get called back for a job.


  4. I did a project outside of school on the Ban the Box campaign. I spoke with several formerly incarcerated people and they all deatiled how difficult it was to find a job after they were released; one man said he filled out every single job apicatipn he saw, every sign in every eindow calling for a job, and not once in months did he get a call back. When he finally did get a job through someone he knew at a gardening company, he felt the need to acknowledge that he was lucky he was white, that if he had been a person of color finding a job and reintegrating into society, being seen equally or at least given close to equal opportunities would have been much more of challenge, even impossible.


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