Whenever you read about prison statistics it invariably mentions the addictions, lack of education and opportunity and deprivation of the inmates. Many, however, have overcome these issues to become useful members of society. What makes the difference?
On the other side of the coin it is interesting to speculate on the privileged individuals who have had every opportunity yet are willing to cheat and lie to achieve even more wealth. The only difference between these people is that one has knowledge and legal access to manipulate their world and the other does not.
In the nineteenth century people blamed the poor for their condition thinking they were lazy, but when there is no work and the person has no skills how can one earn a living?
Perception is a curious thing. We see what we want to see. We ignore what is uncomfortable. As a result our culture fails many. Then we blame people for being failures. We laud those who know how to use the system to stay just inside the law for their own ends. Where is our honesty?
No one should break the laws. Laws are there for the protection of the community. Yet desperation, and a local culture of lack of caring, pushes individuals to do many things. Low self-esteem means nothing matters.
It is not being soft on criminals to find out their back ground. Can they read? Can they write? Do they have any useful skills? Have they fallen victim to the bully boys? Or are they not good people?
If you wish to imprison men and women for breaking the law, you need to turn them out at the end with skills they can use to earn an honest living and with some sense of self-worth. In the long run, practicality is cheaper for all of us. Having a sense of purpose, a sense of self-respect keeps many of us from doing things which would endanger our freedom. It is easy from the safety of a good job with an income which supplies all we need, to point the moral finger at others who do not come up to our standards.
Prison is a deprivation of liberty and mobility. It punishes not only the law breaker but their family, friends and children. That is not a satisfactory situation. Law-breakers need to have some restraint to encourage them not to do this, but leaving them in a worse state as a result of prison than when they entered it does not help the rest of us. Prisons are notorious schools of information on many ways to break the law. Is that what we want to achieve?
For purely selfish reasons we should make every attempt to rehabilitate offenders because society runs more smoothly and it is cheaper.