Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Can Crimminals Really Be Rehabilitated?

Many books, movies etc deal with the problems long-term prisoners have after being released. No doubt that the suicides pictured in movies like Shawshank are based on true stories.

The New York Times has an article about suitable punishment for convicted youths. Should they be incarcerated for life? If a teenager is sentenced to a few decades in jail, or even one, could he ever adjust to a crime less existence on the "outside?" What type of employment could he have? With whom would he socialize? or marry?

Even if he/she tries to be honest and good, what are his/her chances?

Maybe there should be an "in between" community for them. Yes, I know it sounds peculiar, but people aren't so easily malleable and changeable. Learning the ropes of jail life, including impressing both sets of "bosses," may not be the best qualifications for freedom.

Just some thoughts...


Keli Ata said...

I think some criminals can be rehabilitated, especially youthful offenders, with the exception of rapists and murderers.

The recitivism rate with rapists and child molesters is simply to high to let them back into society. As for murderers--they've crossed a barrier and committed the ultimate sin and crime against a fellow human being and should remain locked up.

Rapists, child molestors and murderers are reprobates and beyond redemption in my book.

For other crimes? Yes, young offenders and others should be given a second chance.

We also need some reforms in parole policies. In Buffalo an innocent mentally ill man spent over 20 years in prison for rapes he was innocent of. His name was Anthony Capozzi. DNA tests in the infamous Bike Path Rapist/Killer investigation cleared him.

Much credit for that goes to Detectives Dennis Delano, Charlie Aronic and Lissa Redmond.

Anthony Capozzi could have been out of prison sooner but he refused to tell the parole board that he was innocent just to get out of jail. He came from a devout Catholic family and was taught that lying was a sin and he wouldn't lie to the parole board.

A very sad criminal case but B'H justice prevailed. Delayed justice, but justice nevertheless.

The actual rapist/killer, Altemio Sanchez pled guilty and is serving a life sentence.

These parole boards that demand that a person admit guilt before they're released is wrong. A truly guilty person could pretend to be contrite and get out while a truly innocent person remains locked up simply because he refuses to lie and admit to something he didn't do.

Keli Ata said...

I watched a talk show in the US about crime and some in the African American community believe the Somali pirate/terrorist who was captured should be shown leniency because he's only about 16 years old and could have been manipulated.

But I think its just an attempt to go soft on a cold blooded terrorists who held an AK 47 at an American captain's head for days and probably would have killed him were it not for the bravery of the US Navy Seals.

Batya said...

Habits and norms are ingrained from the youngest age. That's why I'm most afraid of the youthful offenders.

Netivotgirl said...

This is a difficult issue. I had an aunt in the USA who was a prison guard for years. And, my sis-in-law (Shomeret Shabbat by the way!) is the assistant head of a major prison up north here in Israel! (She began as a social worker working with troubled teenagers.)

ANYHOW... the stories are horrific.
Prison as we saw in the movie you mentioned is gehenom- a living He** and most prisoners come out worse and more decadent than when they entered the system.

REALLY young offenders, especially those from poor underpriviliged families who show remorse, may perhaps be able to be rehabilitated and I feel it is worth trying.

Not only is it a mitzva, (when Jewish youth are involved,) but think of the thousands of dollars it takes to lock someone up for 20 years.

But these words of Keli I fully agree with:
"I think some criminals can be rehabilitated,....with the exception of rapists and murderers."

I must also add, my hubby grew up in the most notorious slum in Beer Sheva. My mom-in-law was the only Moroccan lady without gold jewelry but every penny went to chinuch-- education. All children are either big talmidei chachamim or college graduates. (i.e. economist; lawyer; PHD in physics; etc.) In that slum my hubby's peers all either succeeded in a big way or ended up in jail. Almost nobody stagnated in the middle.

Makes you wonder...... just a thought!

Batya said...

A young criminal/person is raised in prison and learns prison life, not how to live honestly on the outside. That is more damaging than anything.

Most people learn to get along in whatever framework they're in. Rehabilitation requires major work in half-way houses to give people a chance under supervision and guidance.

As I write this, I'm reminded, l'havdil, of the Jewish People, taken out of Egypt, out of slavery by G-d, then Matan Torah and then they so easily sinned, Golden Calf.

And today, we are still enslaved by the ghetto mentality, yes, l'havdil, to differentiate.

Keli Ata said...

My mother and father lived through the great depression and both familes suffered horrible poverty. My dad had to quite school in the fifth grade to support his family. His sister was sent to a Catholic school for orphaned and poor girls--at the time the Catholic Church regarded a child with only one parent as an orphan.

My mother's family lived in a ramshackle house. Her father had TB and couldn't work full time. Her mother died at the age of 42 and her 14 sister died of TB. TB was a curse of the poor.

Yet my parents even for growing up in terrible poverty didn't become criminals. They had values and lived righteously.

Today poverty is used as an excuse for crime. There were broken homes in the 1940s and the children from those homes didn't become criminals. What has changed today?


BTW: Even though I am a crime reporter and more used to writing about crime I have also been pen pals with Jewish inmates in the US via The Aleph Institute.

One man was bounced from foster care to foster care--all of the families Christian not Jewish. The prison chaplain ridiculed Judaism so I pestered a rabbi I know to write to him as encouragement (is it a sin to pester a rabbi?)

Jonathan was thrilled to get a postcard from Israel!

Another woman had a life sentence for shooting her six year old son to death. Obviously, she was plagued with tremendous guilt. I sent her the Taslich Prayer. No river for her to recite it next to she improvised--saying it next to the prison shower as water flowed from the shower head.

She had been on a religious rollercoaster--married to a minister at the time of the crime and back history of experimenting with nature religions. In prison she wanted to return to Judaism often having to improvise as US prisons aren't exactly willing to compromise on certain issues.

Another pen pal was in jail for 16 years for committing a burglary while in the throws of bipolar illness. The lengthy sentence due to his history of previous crimes.

He wasn't getting my letters for while and I contacted the Aleph Institute. Sometimes prisons do that punitively. After contacting the Aleph Institute they visited the prison and he started getting the letters.

I was a little advocate:)

I have also sent a Chanukah card to Jonathan Pollard with words of encouragement (no idea if he got the card); and sent a card to an American Jew (ger) in prison in Ashkelon.

I don't know if he got that card but Dina, one of the people going to court with him each time told him I sent a card. I felt sorry for this man, Jeff Seath. He was an American and didn't understand anything that went on in court. Sometimes they wouldn't give him kosher meals.

(Note, I only mention his name because there is a lot written about his case online).

I think he is out now.

Long comment, I know.

I guess what I am saying is there is room for compassion when it comes to criminals. A lot of times they're thrown in a cell and have no contact with the outside world, no advocates at all when they are mistreated or abused.

Keli Ata said...

Note: If you want to know more about the Aleph Institute's Jewish Pen Pals program go here

Batya said...

keli, thanks so much for the information. You are truly amazing!