Column: Prisons need to provide a rehabilitative experience

Gillian Eubanks

In America, there are 2.3 million people incarcerated, according to Also, people go to jail 10.6 million times a year and 1 in 4 people who were previously in jail will be arrested again within the same year, according to the same article.

If you know anything about our prison system, you will know there are many flaws in it. It’s not a hidden dilemma that America struggles with mass incarceration.

I’d like to point out that prison and jail are supposed to be reformative experiences. Even the definition of incarceration holds the word “rehabilitative.” There is absolutely nothing rehabilitative about our prison system.

Of course, people who are violent offenders and commit the most horrendous crimes belong where they are; in prison or even worse. But what about petty offenses? What about people who get locked up for having a smidge too much marijuana or other paraphernalia on them?

Here are a few reasons why I believe our prison system needs to be reformed along with our criminal justice system.

For one, say someone does go to prison and they become a felon. When you are a felon, you are stripped of opportunities, rights and really your humanity. You get locked up with probably way more violent offenders than your offense and then when they let you out, you can’t find a job because barely anyone hires felons, you’re probably broke and have no support in the outside world.

So what do you do? You could become a repeat offender. Now, this is not the case for every person who was previously incarcerated, but it is common. Repeat offenders have many reasons for becoming that, but for some it is the reason that they really can’t survive in the “outside” world. Why would they struggle to find a job, rebuild their lives, or feel like an average person when they have no support? In prison or jail, at least they can eat three meals, socialize to an extent and find a job within the prison.

Did you know that there are prisoners in California that are firefighters and help when there are massive wildfires ravaging California? Did you also know that these same prisoners cannot become a firefighter, if and when they are released? What if a prisoner finds a love for this line of work and it gives them a purpose?

Our prisons dehumanize individuals and break them down to nothing. I won’t say that some don’t deserve it, but I will say many don’t deserve it. We view criminals as the label they are given, a criminal. They are people though, just like you and I. They deserve a rehabilitative experience.


Gillian Eubanks junior health communications major. She can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]