Shifting Gears to Rehabilitation
Ivanko, Katarina, Corrections Today
There is a real perception that America's crime rate is spiraling into crisis. Not only is the prison population dramatically rising, most Americans believe that our streets are becoming more unsafe. Between the talk shows and columnists, we are led to believe that the moral fabric of our society has so decayed that our future is predictably bleak. During the thick of this last political campaign season, we were bombarded with sound bites and slogans that reinforced our worst fears. As a result, the American public has adopted a simplistic viewpoint on crime with an even more simplistic solution: "Lock them all up."
Despite public sentiment to lock up the entire criminal element in our society in costly new prisons, this cannot and will not occur. Crime is not something that can be eliminated by creating a criminal underclass that is incarcerated and forgotten. Consider that more than 5.3 million American adults are under some form of correctional supervision, with just over 1.5 million behind bars, more than at any other time in our history. Demographics experts and criminologists tell us that the worst may still be ahead, with the incidence of juvenile and young adult crime expected to rise as we approach the new millennium.
How, then, do we reconcile these ever-increasing crime rates with record rates of incarceration? Is there some threshold or critical mass in the number of incarcerated people that we must achieve in order to make a difference? Isn't "locking them up" working?
As a mental health worker with the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, I have observed first-hand the complex dilemma that we desperately hope will just go away. I also am a taxpayer who asks whether we are simply burying our heads in the sand in the hope that the crime problem will somehow resolve itself. We all ask the same questions: What does the future hold for our children? What can I do to make a difference?
While there seems to be a great deal of information available on the prevalence of crime in America, there is very little in the way of understanding, and even less in the way of solutions. …