Editorial Contest Winner | ‘Reform the Prison, Then the Prisoner’


我们每天发表一篇文章,以表彰第四届年度学生社论大赛的前 10 名获奖者。

下面是凯瑟琳·伦纳德(Katherine Leonard)16岁的一篇文章。

Reform the Prison, Then the Prisoner

One would think the United States, with the highest per capita incarceration rate in the world, cracks down on crime like no other nation. However, do higher incarceration rates necessarily reflect criminal justice system success?

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 77 percent of released prisoners are arrested again within five years of leaving prison. This high recidivism rate points to issues within the United States prison system. The United States should focus less on punishing inmates, and more on improving a prison environment that tends to foster continued criminal behavior after release. The United States can learn from countries like Germany, which have innovative criminal justice systems.

Germany takes an entirely different approach to the prison environment than that of the United States. Every prisoner has a key to his or her own cell, which offers natural light, a private bathroom, and a phone. Prisoners have access to communal kitchens and cook food purchased with money earned in vocational programs. While in prison, inmates are trained on skills that afford more job opportunities upon release.

Another successful aspect of German prisons is the level of respect with which the guards treat inmates. Newly hired correctional officers undergo a rigorous training, which proves to be beneficial because there are minimal assaults recorded between inmates and staff members. The correctional officers treat prisoners with positive reinforcement and uphold all inmates’ right to privacy by knocking on a cell before entering.

While German correctional officers emphasize humanizing their inmates, American correctional officers’ tactics lean toward denigrating. When prisons are designed to treat subjects like they are worthless, it only pushes them further into the criminal abyss.

In Malcolm Gladwell’s “The Tipping Point,” Mr. Gladwell stresses that human behavior correlates to certain types of environment, which could explain why Germany’s reimprisonment rate is only 35 percent. Inmates who leave German prisons can apply their positive experience to make good choices, while American ex-convicts often resort to crime again after release.

Understandably, some might argue that prisoners do not deserve a beneficial environment, but it is important to understand the benefits of a correctional system that concentrates on rehabilitation. A positive environment will do more than just improve the quality of life for the prisoners; its benefits will extend beyond prison walls by decreasing the United States crime rate.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky once asserted that “the degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.” America should take steps forward by following Germany’s archetype for prisons, which shows that positive treatment of prisoners can go a long way.

Works Cited

Fazel, Seena, and Achim Wolf. “A Systematic Review of Criminal Recidivism Rates Worldwide: Current Difficulties and Recommendations for Best Practice.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. Public Library of Science, 2015. Web. 02 Apr. 2017.

Gladwell, Malcolm. “The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference.” London: Abacus, 2015. Print.

Travis, Nicholas Turner and Jeremy. “What We Learned From German Prisons.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 06 Aug. 2015. Web. 02 Apr. 2017.

Wagner, Peter, and Bernadette Rabuy. “Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2017.” Prison Policy Initiative. N.p., 14 Mar. 2017. Web. 02 Apr. 2017.