crime and punishment?

Mar. 15, 2014

One of the many problems we have in this country is understanding crime and appropriate punishments. In efforts to be "humane" in our treatment of criminals, we seem to have lost sight of what really acts as a deterrent to go back to prison. Years ago I suggested to state and national legislators that closed military bases be turned into minimum security prisons for first time and white collar crime offenders. This was bounced around saying it was the state's responsibility to decide use of closed bases and the state saying it was the federal government's responsibilty since the bases were federal property. Later I was told that the barrack facilities would not be "up to specs" for prisoners, in other words, good enough for our soldiers, but not for criminals ! Instead, we provide a relatively comfortable facility that some prisoners actually prefer over the outside world.  When I was doing my residency in Oral and Facial surgery, we would provide care for prisoners in the Walls Unit at Huntsville, Texas. I remember one inmate clinic assistant that was polite, intelligent and a hard worker. He was due for parole and we congratulated him and wished him well on the outside. A year later, during another of my rotations to the prison, he was there again. I asked him what he was doing back in prison. His response was " Well Doc, I got outside and it was kinda hard to find a job. All my friends were still inside and here I have a roof over my head, three meals a day, and it's easier to get drugs. So I held up a gas station and waited for the cops." !!! Have we made our prison systems too nice ? Do we allow prisoners to run the prisons with freedom of dress, access to computers and other things the old "chain gangs" would have never dreamed of ?  Humane is one thing, but making a prison some place you want to call home is an issue we need to consider.