What is the Purpose of Prison?

What is the purpose of prison? In today's society, there is a tremendous amount of emphasis placed on one's criminal background. In order to find employment, one must submit to a criminal background check. The same is true for obtaining public housing and other aspects of life, such as certain career paths. And the negative stimga that is attached to having a criminal background makes it virtually impossible for one without a large number of resources to re-enter society.

The Encyclopedia Britannica states, "There are a number of accepted reasons for the use of  imprisonment. One approach aims to deter those who would otherwise commit crimes (general deterrence) and to make it less likely that those who serve prison sentences will commit crimes after their release (individual deterrence). A second approach focuses on issuing punishment to or obtaining retribution from, those who have committed serious crimes. A third approach encourages the personal reform of those who are sent to prison. Finally, in some cases it is necessary to protect the public from those who commit crimes- particularly from those who do so persistently. The increasing importance of the notion of reform has led some prison systems to be called correctional institutions."

So what happens when prison works? What is the next step when prison is successful in deterring, punishing and reforming an individual? The criminal background check removes the posibility of re-entry in most cases. Released individuals are then left to beat the pavement and attempt to look for employment in places that use the criminal background check as their first form of removal for potential employees. Society doesn't realize that it is easy for ex-offenders to go back to the lifestyle that led them to prison and that they do not want to go back to. The background check is becoming more punishment than the prison sentence itself.

What is the solution? We can reduce crime in our communities if we open some doors and allow individuals that used the time in prison wisely and are ready and willing to contribute to society the ability to enter the workforce and find decent housing. If we begin to see people as humans and not as monsters that only want to destroy the world, we will not throw people away. When our children need to eat, or when child support is due, or when I need  shoes because the rain is coming through the hole in the sole of my only pair, what do I do when I can not find someone that will allow me the chance to prove myself? Until we figure this out, crime will continue to rise and we will have more victims. Is it right? Of course not! But it is reality.
Pastor Brown