Rehabilitation is an attainable light at the end of the tunnel for inmates

Kati Gardella, Crier Staff

Although my previous article about Charles Manson has a darker tone, and his case makes rehabilitation seem like an impossible feat, it must be recognized that Manson does not represent the typical prisoner. The majority of inmates can improve and reach rehabilitation with the help of proper support.

I thought that it would be nice to write a nice cathartic article (still related to the criminal justice system, of course) about positive prison resources that allow inmates to flourish and have significantly improved lives.

There is such a strong bad-news bias in media, that we hear more about all of the negative events that occur in prison, such as ongoing lawsuits against the institution and other cases of injustice that inmates have been subjected to, instead of more positive outcomes of the system.

There are many caring prison workers, correctional officers, and inmates who support each other with positive friendships.

In general, correctional institutions have realized that you cannot simply detain an individual and expect them to improve. It is very uplifting to see the availability of support services increase, and these services do not only make the inmate a suitable potential employee, but also one who is ready to re-enter society.

Career services are pertinent for success, as a job provides stability and income. The Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP) based in Houston, Texas, is one of the most successful prison programs in the nation. Inmates in the program are instructed in APA writing, core values of a good work ethic, and a rich business vocabulary.

All members of the program found jobs once they left prison, and the recidivism rate for the group was found to be much lower than the national average.

In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the Department of Corrections includes a Culinary Academy for inmates. Students in the program are trained for various careers in the food service industry, including meal preparation and food safety. The program is very competitive, which motivates inmates to succeed.

Graduates of the program have found jobs as line cooks, kitchen managers, chefs, and prep cooks.

Similarly, animal-based programs are both productive and therapeutic.

At the Shimane Ashahi Social Rehabilitation Promotion Center in Japan, inmates were given the task of providing obedience trainings for guide dogs, and taking them on walks.

Similar programs with animals are also rising in popularity in the United States.

Caring for and nurturing a living thing comes along with a sense of responsibility, and a similar effect is also possible from maintaining gardens and sustaining produce.

Research from the US Federal Bureau of Prisons found that the recidivism rate was much lower for inmates enrolled in at least six months of an education program.

I also cannot emphasize enough how important it is for educational services to be available in prisons, whether this be obtaining a G.E.D. or working toward a degree.

Library services are also a necessary resource, and many prisoners use reading as a comforting outlet.

Psychological healing and a sense of redemption are critical to a true rehabilitation.

Restorative justice is a healthier alternative to just the mindset of punishment, as it provides the offender with a chance to right their wrongs and try to mend the pain that was caused.

If one was victimized in a crime, and is willing to communicate with the offender, Victim-Offender Mediations (also known as Victim-Offender Dialogues) are a viable option based in restorative justice.

These mediations allow for the victim to explain how the offense affected them mentally and physically, and encourage the offender to repeat back the feelings and needs of the victim that have been ascertained from the conversation.

For the best outcome, it is useful to have a trained mediator on hand to diffuse the situation if needed. I recommend The Forgiveness Project website, as it features various stories of victims making peace with inmates

Faith-based programs are a valuable resource, as they are more focused on spiritual healing of the individual than punishment. In the early 1900s, faith-based programs became less common, as many were replaced with a more medical model of rehabilitation.

Religious services in prison are still abundant, however, and for many are essential methods of building a community.

Faith based programs can also guide inmates in managing anger, making more ethical decisions, and feeling a sense of redemption and bettering oneself.

Family visits provide a sense of hope and community. Successful reconnection with family members is a strong predictor of rehabilitative success post-prison.

Bonding with family is especially salient during the holiday season, and it is common for prisons to allow extra visits around the holidays. It is also likely that cafeterias will provide holiday-themed meals to garner a celebratory spirit.

If the institution demonstrates that the happiness and comfort of its inmates matters, this is more effective from a correctional standpoint than merely providing punishment.

It is inconclusive which services are the most likely to result in rehabilitation, as each inmate has a unique prison experience. Overall, it takes a combination of familial connections, educative resources, spiritual guidance, mental health support, and drug treatment programs to reach rehabilitation.

These services are also not possible without caring volunteers. If you are interested in volunteering at criminal justice-related programs local to Manchester, there are the options of Dismas Home, Hampshire House, and Sununu.