During my course in criminalistics and criminal justice, I have learned many things about what the American criminal justice system is and how jails work. The conclusion I came to is that American prisons are very expensive, very inefficient, and very dehumanizing towards inmates. From facilities that were supposed to help reintegrate the convicts back as reformed members of the society, they became punishment facilities. The number of inmates grew ten times when compared to the 1970s, which was before the alleged “War on Drugs.” The sentences are long, and a great percentage of convicts return to a life of crime due to being hardened and conditioned by living alongside actual criminals, forced to assimilate their habits to survive their prison sentence. In other words, the impression I was given from the first semester of the class was that the current system of imprisonment and incarceration is doing more harm than good. This is especially true for the juvenile system, where young children are tried as adults and serve a sentence with adults, only to leave the facility to be thrown back into the real world, which does not want them back, thus setting a perpetual cycle of crime.
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Given that, the initiative of the Arizona Juvenile correction facility, called the Adobe Mountain School, is an admirable one. As is evidenced by the documentary, many children have had problems and abuse in their family, which lead them on a path of crime. The purpose of the facility is to allow the children and juveniles to finish their education and be able to continue their lives once let out of incarceration. The regimen in the facility is not as strict as it would be in a prison colony, and the staff for the school contains not only guards but also teachers, psychologists, and various medical personnel who treat various psychological disorders that come around as the result of abuse suffered in the past. Not all “students” have a background of poverty and abuse, which is evidenced by Jesse, who ended up convicted because of an accident with a shotgun. However, most of the convicted juveniles are largely products of the corrupt society. One of the basic tenets of ethics injustice is that no person is born a criminal.
However, the living conditions in the school are very prison-like. Sleep deprivation is common due to stone-hard beds and “flashlight-happy” guards, who have to constantly check the rooms for any attempt at suicide. While it is a noble gesture, it also violates a person’s right to privacy, as they can be supervised by guards twenty-four hours a day seven days a week. Considering the history of rape charges by guards in Arizona’s prison system, this measure is hardly comforting for the detainees.
One last part that I need to mention is that the correctional facility diminishes one’s sense of independence. The sense of dependency and a lack of control over oneself is a condition that often appears in highly-structured facilities with enforced daily schedules, like the army, for example. After returning from duty, soldiers have a hard time adapting and making choices on their own, as back in the army, all choices were made for them. This is especially true for juveniles, who spend years being taught what to do, when to brush their teeth, and when to go to sleep. Also, it is not guaranteed that they will be accepted back into society after serving their sentence.
Overall, I believe that Adobe Mountain School is a move in the right direction. But on its own, it is not enough. Society needs to change the way it is treating former convicts, especially juveniles if there is a chance for reintegration. Punitive incarceration, on the other hand, serves only to transform a minor criminal or a delinquent into a complete one.