Vicious Circles in Prison and Drug Users

According to the reading materials, in 19970, as the rising of the population of criminal because of three strikes law, the federal and state authorities had to build the new prison. (Pyle 2) They built prisons in a small towns where there was only a little things to make a living and revenue for the local and gave them a reward. The local officers expected the prisons make them living by attracting workers involving the prisons. However, in spite of their expectation, a vicious circle was started; to build the prisons, local and federal officers input capital which came from citizen’s taxes. Since the taxes went to build the prisons, there was less money to serve educational, care-giving, job-training and medical services. On the other hand, ‘the prison businesses’ did not make much revenue than they expected. Therefore, the social services got worse and people became poorer than before. That situation made more criminals.

On the other hand, another reading material, Prisoners of the War on Drugs, shows micro perspective of vicious circle; According to the reading, he people who go to jail convicted of minimal level of drug crimes. Even though it was low level of crime, they got life sentences due to the three strike law. Since then, they cannot make sufficient money to make living and raise their children. Therefore, it is relatively easy for people like them to do crime again which is easier way to make money. While the prisoners make little money or were in the prison, their children are readily exposed to environment causing crimes because of absence of caregivers. Then, the children also easily fell into the crime. The problems are never solved along the generation.

Both vicious circles are closely related. Personally, to solve those endless forming problems, it is primary thing to cut the vicious circles. Specifically, what I mean is that the federal and local government should focus on precautionary measures, not measures after the crime. Offering a drug treatment is also effective way to solve the problem, but I would like to introduce ‘the broken window theory’. This is a criminology world that explains by caring about minimal social disorder and criminal behaviors, government can prevent severe vandalism (Kelling 3). This theory was proved in New York in 1980s. By simply erasing graffiti on the wall in subway, the crime rate was rapidly decreased by half in 1990s. This describes that people think if something is not cared enough, they treat it more carelessly and this allows vandalism and more severe crime in society. In this sense, making prison worsen the problem because building prison is not the way to try to solve basic problem, but the way to solve is afterwards and make social revenue for the authorities. I think, to disconnect the vicious circles, the officers should pay attention to change the cities’ atmosphere by ranging from serving drug addiction treatment or job training to cleaning the building. In short, Citizens need to feel being cared by government.

Discussion questions
1. Other methods to cut these vicious circles.
2. If just imprisoning prisoners worsen the social situation, then how to deal those prisoners? Is it okay to give them a mild punishment?

Pyle, Kevin and Craig Gilmore. Prison Town: Paying the Price. Northampton, MA: The Real
James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling. BROKEN WINDOWS: The police and neighborhood safety. Atlantic Montly, Mar. 1982

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11 Responses to Vicious Circles in Prison and Drug Users

  1. rmkwakazono says:

    I agree with your idea of stopping the vicious circle of locking up jails that we should provide drug addiction treatment and giving them job training. As you mentioned, building prisons is not profitable to anyone, and it created the bad circulation of the increase of prisoners. What I also thought by reading this comic was that education is important. If a parent become addicted to drug or prisoner, the children are also likely to become one of them like their parents. To prevent this bad circle, providing education about drugs and illegal actions can lead to the decrease of prisoners. Moreover, if a prisoner get out of the jail, the person is tend to go back to the jail because of lack of education and inexperience of job. What I think the good way to stop the situation is when the prisoner is in jail, they should get good education and job training, so they can start their new life after getting out the prison. Building prisons does not make money ,and the money to build prisons come from taxes. I think instead of building new prisons, government invests money for educating prisoners considering of their lives after imprisoning.

  2. whlam2013 says:

    I really like the way Liz categorized the two comics into macro and micro view of the prison cycles. In recognizing that both the prison building/three-strike and drug war are both cyclic should signal the authorities to be cautious about future policies regarding crimes.
    Both of these cycles shows us that crimes are just the surface, and the root of the matter is often the lack of basic care for the people. May it be from the government, society, or family, positive reinforcement to serve the emotions of people is really important because human based a large portion of decision making on feelings.
    In response to the question of other ways of ending the vicious circles, I believe that putting prisoners to work is a plausible idea, as discussed in class. Paying prisoner proper wages for the work they do can give them and other criminal hope that it’s not the end after they have entered the circle. Another method is to set up gradual and solid targets that when they meet these targets, they can migrate back to society as a normal citizen (instead of the three strike law). This will help prisoners get out of the circle if they actively choose how they want to live their lives.

  3. melbelle15 says:

    I like that you provide a way to change/solve the problems happening in the prison system in regards to drugs. However, I’m not sure I necessarily agree with the government offering drug treatment programs. Going to rehab for drug addiction treatment is a decision that has to come from the individual. Forcing someone into a rehab program will not work. They need to want to change. If they are forced into drug treatment and it is not their decision, they will most likely go back to using drugs again. This would cause the government to waste money on people who are un-willing to stop doing drugs. If the individual is willing to stop doing drugs, then I think that offering a drug rehabilitation program is a good idea. As it says in the reading, Prisoners of the War on Drugs, the person who is receiving drug treatment can work, pay taxes, and take part in family life. This is a good way to ease prisoners back into the real world while still maintaining some kind of control over them. The key here though is the want to stop doing drugs. If the person does not want to stop using drugs, then the circle of drug use will continue and the drug treatment program would have been a waste.

  4. qfeng2013 says:

    I cannot agree more with Liz’s idea, which says “the federal and local government should focus on precautionary measures, not measures after the crime”. It is much more important to prevent crime than to punish prisoners. Building prisons in small towns may stimulate local economy for a shout time, but for a long run, it makes towns go into vicious circle. In my mind, the best way to fix crime problems is education. It is true that the lower the education level is, and the higher crime rate.For example, the blacks receive less education than the white on average, and the crime rate of the blacks is much higher than the whites’. So any government should know that winning people by virtue is the best way to make our society peace.
    Drugs is a serious social problem in United States. Before I came United States, I almost have no chance to access drugs, but I find it is quit common to see Americans have drugs in parties. Thousands of people in United States try to get drugs while there are lots of laws which prohibiting drugs. But in some European countries, much less people try to access drugs it is legal to have drugs. People be more curious about forbidden things most times, so I think it is better to be legal to have drugs if United States do well on drugs education.

  5. cdowens says:

    I love the amount of discussion going on here! I also wanted to add some more information on the Broken Windows Theory. It’s actually been a fairly controversial idea / policy implementation because of how it targets homeless people, prostitutes, and youth of color. Also, not everyone is convinced that it explains the decreased crime rates in NYC. Here’s a short article by one skeptic:
    As the author says, the theory is loved by conservatives and liberals alike, but its practical effectiveness is under scrutiny.

  6. ljdoherty says:

    I agree with you in that prevention of crime in the first place, as opposed to punishment in the aftermath, is the best method for controlling crime rates. In response to your fist discussion question, I think one of the better methods for implementing this that was mentioned during our classes was the idea of having small police squads allocated to help specific neighborhoods. This way the officers are more involved in the community and will therefore will be more concerned about the wellbeing of the area as opposed to just trying to complete their assignment. Hopefully it would also work the other way. If the officers are more involved in the community and the people in the area begin to notice, the residents will start to respect the officers more and hopefully abandon the “fuck the police” mentality which is often held especially by youths.

    To address your second question, while it is often overused as a punishment, prison is an essential part of the justice system. I feel however that it’s purpose is often misunderstood. I always considered prison not to be a means punishment, but instead just a way of keeping those criminals who are not safe to be let loose in society separated from the rest of us. I understand prison as a means of containment, not punishment as I am unsure whether a society has the right to inflict punishment. A mass murderer for example should be kept in prison simply because it wouldn’t be safe to have them anywhere else. It’s when we get to the individuals who have committed very minor crimes where my philosophy breaks down however. Someone who was arrested for holding a small amount of drugs for personal use isn’t a threat to society and so by my logic wouldn’t need to be imprisoned and since I say we don’t have the right to punish people, he or she will get off free. To that I say “I’m not really sure” and then refer back to the concept of prevention as opposed to consequences in the aftermath. It would be better for society if we stopped that person from obtaining drugs in the first place than punishing him or her afterwards.

  7. cekarri says:

    To answer your discussion question, one method to stop the vicious cycle of imprisonment would be to provide jobs and counseling for the people who currently end up in prison. If the people who end up in prison are there because of lack of jobs in their communities and lack of ways to make enough money legally then they need to have an opportunity to do so. Being poor should not mean that you need to go to prison. The officials in this country should make it easier for released prisoners to gain permanent employment that will allow them to better themselves and their community. This will keep them out of prison again because they do not need to go back to crime to simply survive. If they find the root of the problem as to why these people began doing drugs and stealing, and whatever else they are doing it will be easier to stop the problem. Providing counselors not only to the people who would be prisoners but also to their families and other members of the community to stop the cycle before it begins would also be helpful in crime prevention. Small things can make a big difference to stop the vicious cycle.

  8. wuyue2004101 says:

    The broken Window theory also leads me to think about one example. When people are choosing accommodations, they usually pay special attention to how the residents there deal with the garbage. If they just place the garbage randomly, some people would regard this whole area as a low quality area and no choose it. For this reason, good-quality community usually emphasize on residents’ living habits, and people usually care about their neighbors more. This may be one proof of this theory: how the consequences of bad behavior affect the whole environment.
    However, go back to the text, I found slight difference between the drug and prison problems and the broken window theory. In the latter one, people commit crimes because they were signaled by the broken windows that they might be allowed to make a crime. However, people want to take drugs because they are addicted to drugs. This vicious circle is not set up by people’s influencing each other, but is originated from that the crime itself has a deadly attraction. Then it is harder to solve the problem, at least so easily solved by education problems. So I believe it make sense that prisons are put into use for this purpose.

  9. zepeda3000 says:

    To the answer your second question, in my opinion our prison system in California and in the US is severely flawed. I understand the concept of punishment but aren’t prisons suppose to be a form of rehabilitation? I see none of this happening and while they do offer programs for prisoners to get their GED or college diploma they still don’t offer any form of rehabilitation. Instead it seems like prisons are a resting home for criminals where they are content with getting medical attention, food and shelter. They offer no incentive to eventually being let go and re-adapting to society.

  10. Brittany says:

    I agree with Liz that the only way to stop the vicious cycle of crime is to take precautionary measures. The best way in stopping these vicious cycles is rehabilitate those who are incarcerated. One example of this in American justice system is the drug courts which are courts that deal specifically with drug offenses. The main goal of these courts is to rehabilitate drug users. Instead of just throwing them in jail, some offenders may be lucky enough to be sent to a drug rehab where they can get help to start their life over again. In response to your second question, instead of giving out milder punishments, I believe the rehabilitation route will work better in the long run. Our tax money would be better spent on programs that will help those who are incarcerated rather than paying just to keep them locked up. The result, while it may be far off in the future, will benefit society. I really like how you introduced the broken window theory and applied it to your argument. It is true that we are not caring for the people who the government is incarcerating and therefore perpetuating crime. Perhaps if we begin to produce laws that will help people, crime and drug rates will go down.

  11. jeongyeon Ha says:

    I agree with your opinion that we should cut the vicious cycle of crime and i think it is really brilliant that you used ‘the broken window theory’ to connect and support your argument.
    The way you applied the specific theory to your own opinion was impressive.
    In response to your first question, i personally think that rehabilitation and strengthening the social security net would be another method to cut vicious circles. I think the rate of recidivism is way more higher than the rate of first offence. Especially , when it comes to drug addiction, the possibility of second conviction is relatively higher than any other crime. Therefore, it is crucial to focus on rehabilitation of inmates and break out of vicious circle by strengthening the social security net.
    Also in respond to your second question, i think giving prisoners a mild punishment is not a great way. It is not a matter of weighing the gravity of punishment. As you said in this reading response, we should try to solve the basic problem. We should focus on the fundamental problem through
    rehabilitation because just building new prisons is not what we want. In this sense, ‘the broken window theory’ can be one of the solutions that can eradicate the crime and cut vicious circle.

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