According to popular belief, prison serves two main purposes: to correct unacceptable behavior and to increase community safety. This reasoning may not be completely sound. In a logical sense (backed by much data), prison does not effectively correct obscure behavior, nor does it escalate security in communities. The data verifies that 45% of released prisoners return. Using this statistic alone, it becomes apparent that almost half of these criminals did not “learn their lesson”.

Non-violent offenders categorized as property, drug, and public-owner criminals make up 56% of the prison and jail population in America, while 7.9% are violent criminals. In this respect, one can note that prison does not necessarily ensure a safe environment. The number of individuals behind bars is increasing while violent crime is far from decreasing, which costs the government an enormous sum of money and resources. In essence, incarceration does not provide a safer community or influence criminals to keep the laws.


See References:


1. This link contains statistics and analysis of recidivism rates from Pew Center on the States.

2. This link contains the graph of recidivism rates by prior recidivism.

3. This link provides data on incarceration rates by country per 100,000 people.

4. This link provides data on homicide rates by country per 100,000 people.

5. This link contains the graph of number of people in U.S. Prisons and Violent Crime Rate since 1960

6. This link contains statistics on the reasons for imprisonment in the federal jurisdiction.

8. This link contains the graph on government spending for inmates

Comments (11)

  1. Joe Brinkman


    I recently attended a lecture by a Mayo Clinic physician that is very in line with what this article suggests.I forget the specific statistics, but the lecturer made an effort to point out the ridiculous cost of incarceration in the US. He followed this up with showing our heightened crime rate compared to other nations, demonstrating the ineffectiveness of our prison system. Other statistics showed the dramatic number of mentally ill individuals that we imprison instead of placing them in mental facilities. Reflecting what Marlynn said, this hints at a grander issue that, as of now, is not being addressed. The failure of the prison system supports Dr. Dean’s proposal that not even laws cannot control or influence individuals. By applying Dr. Dean’s fatherly approach, I feel he would argue that there should be no laws in order to correct the system. I would be very interested to hear his thoughts on this as we have not yet touched on it in class.

  2. Matthew Langford


    I believe that there can be better ways to alter ones behavior instead of sending them to jail. The statics show that jail is that jail is not the best option. I do not believe that there will be a method to get 100% of people to not get back to doing crime, but do believe that we can find better ways to deal with those who have not committed to bad of crimes. Jail is just another method of control and through IMT we see time and time the negative consequences that control will bring.

  3. Rizwan Assainar


    I read in an article couple of years back, a prisoner comments on how he feels in a prison. He says he was accused of false charges and was narrating about his fellow prisoners. He says that, atleast about 50% will go and start the same old thing they have committed to do. He also mentions, that is the background they come from. Now analyzing this in simple IMT terms, initial conditions decided the final outcome. The one of the initial conditions can be the background the prisoner is coming from. Thus, change cannot influence them. Probably, prison environment and conditions might make them more violent because of the control.

  4. Max


    There seems to be many alternative options as opposed to our current “you do something wrong you go to jail” system. Option #1; rehabilitation focused sentencing. For instance, if an individual is arrested for using drugs or other illicit substances, our current policy says “go to jail,” yet a model which seeks to educate these individuals about their behavior would seem to do much more good. Just look at the statistics, the current system is not working at all. You wont rob a bank, not just because of jail time, but because of how you were born (innate aversion to such activity).

  5. Brian Snedden


    Based on the information presented, how would we correct peoples behaviors than sending them to prison? I know one of the reasons I am not going to rob a bank is because I don’t want to go to prison. I am interested in any other comments that have alternate options to what we can do with criminals instead of incarceration.

  6. Daiquiri Ryan


    I definitely agree with Marilyn above: society contributes to why a good number of prisoners return to jail. Employers won’t hire ex-convicts leaving a vast population of recently released prisoners unemployed and some even homeless. Where is a person to turn when they have nothing? I have even heard stories about convicts finding life after prison so hard, they do things to purposefully violate their parol and get back into prison. Clearly this shows there is no rehabilitation for the American incarcerated population.

  7. Cody Pizzaia


    The prison system is misled in its idea that it can correct unacceptable behavior and increase community through a method of control. Currently little to no reforming goes on in prisons and it is practically just a large time out center. Analyzing this with IMT we see that the system is failing as it is attempting to control prisoners by creating a fear and stress based environment not conducive to rehabilitation. While rehabilitation seems like a form of control also it only is if you try to directly influence a change, if you take a no control approach you can create a more visionary environment where people could become less blind and see the error in their ways.

  8. Marlynn Radford-Brown


    It is my belief that criminal behavior alone is not a contributor to an individuals return to prison. When prisoners are released, our society has practices that are not as forgiving as the prison system and force a former convict into a stigma that keeps them from getting jobs and moving forward with their lives. Its as if society still penalizes them after their release, thus forcing them to do what they do best out of necessity; criminal activities to survive. Also, another main contributor to the revolving door of incarceration is un-diagnosed mental diseases. A large percentage of prisoners suffer from schizophrenia, sociopath tendencies and multiple personality disorders therefore also contributing to their inability to “conform”. Hence, it is not the prison system that can rehabilitate the individual as the issue is a much larger one.

  9. Vahid


    Punishing violators is a complicated concept. Gathered data shows that incarceration with the current system is not so efficient in achieving the goals that it has been defined for. Statistics show that the community will not be necessarily safer, nor the behavior of imprisoned criminals will change for the most part. Putting criminals behind the bars for a certain amount of time, apart from any kind of social life and isolated from society tend to turn them only less considerate about the society, rules and people around them.

  10. John


    Punishing criminals has always been a very difficult topic. Prisons have been the logical punishment, but they do not produce results that help communities and society. I believe money is a typical reason to cause crime, and once criminals are released, they are still left with little money. This can lead to the criminal returning to prison.

  11. Wessam Saleeb


    when i read this Article two scenarios came on my mind.First one was what if you are innocent and you had been involved in a crime by mistake,when ever you will go to the prison,You will feel offended and that is not what you deserve and will keep looking for revenge all the time.Second scenario is what if you are really a criminal and you will be sent to the prison, you will always feel like you don`t deserve this harsh punishment.For both scenarios the main problem starts when you start living with the prisoners starting to learn violence through them and at that time you will think that you have to beat every one to be the strongest. That is why i believe that Prison is a “Psychological Punishment” which make it worse.

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