Excellent article! I completely agree that we need to address the root causes of crime and contributing risk factors, such as social and economic inequality, in order to prevent and reduce crime. Imprisonment is a short term solution. Addressing the root causes is a long term solution and is smarter than getting "tough" on crime.Dan Lett, I couldn't agree more with your viewpoint! If we truly care about preventing and reducing crime, we need to address the root causes and social and economic factors contributing. These problems, such as poverty, addictions, unemployment and family dysfunction plague the inner cities and aboriginal reserves. Those conditions are what lead people to commit crimes. Most criminals are not rational thinkers, do not weigh the costs and benefits of their actions and do not consider the consequences of their actions. Most criminals are impulsive. Therefore, deterrence by imprisonment is useless and will not work. Imprisoning more people for longer periods of time, will not reduce or prevent crime. Prison is a quick fix, not a long term solution as most criminals are released from prison with no support network, substance abuse issues, no rehabilitation as prison programs are underfunded and due to overcrowding there are not enough resources for everybody, no housing, unemployed, financial difficulties, mental health issues, and little assistance from any justice officials. Under these circumstances, they are likely to resort back to crime. Also, longer prison sentences have shown to increase the rate of re-offending. This is because prisons are the schools of crime. They are a negative environment that does not facilitate or encourage rehabilitation or reform. They are filled with gangs, drugs, pro-criminal attitudes and behaviours. Any skills a prisoner may have learned from a program are counteracted by the prison subculture and therefore, cannot be practiced or incorporated. Often, non violent, property and drug offenders become more hardened criminals in prison. This is NOT in society's best interests, if the recidivism rate is so high when these people are released. And they will ALL be released someday, so we must care about prison conditions and prisoners' rights. Overcrowding and deprivations cause increased levels of violence which leads to bitterness, anger and frustration when offenders are released.
There needs to be a multi-faceted approach to solving crime; help solve the social and economic factors that leave teens thinking that joining a gang is the only family they will ever have, and offer incentives such as money for teens to complete high school. Longer sentences are not the answer as they increase the rate of re-offending and have negative impacts on offenders. Plus, offenders often become more entrenched in the criminal lifestyle as a result of gangs and drugs and pro criminal attitudes and behaviours which are prevalent in prison. Prisons are the schools of crime, where individuals learn to be better criminals and how to conceal crimes and learn dishonesty. I liked this comment from the WFP website: "Stony and Headingley are indeed schools: they teach Crime 101, Crime 201 and Crime 301. And just after lunch is Living Off the System 102 followed by How to Get Back In In 10 Easy Steps. Optional credits include Execution Style Murder for Dummies and Home Invasions Made Easy"
Deterrence by the threat of punishment is not effective. Most criminals are impulsive. They are not rational and do not think about the consequences of their actions or about the possibility or threat of punishment. They also are not afraid of prison, because they often know gang members who live in prison, where they continue their criminal lifestyle of drugs and gang activity.
The real problem behind gang activity is poverty. To overcome poverty, you need education. We need to offer teens monetary incentives if they complete high school and offer them scholarships to college and university. We also need to reduce unemployment by offering teens employment assistance and resources.