If you ask the average person what the goal of a prison sentence is they will probably say that it is supposed to help reform the individual who was sentenced. They may also claim that prison time is supposed to act as a deterrent to future crimes. Either way, they think that it will lower reoffending rates, which makes them believe that it makes sense to put people behind bars. The authorities are just trying to decrease crime.
The problem is that this doesn’t actually work. In fact, some studies have found that prison sentences actually increase reoffending rates, rather than reducing them. These sentences could be responsible for more crime in the future, instead of preventing it. Why does this happen?
Destabilization of someone’s life
The issue is that a long prison sentence really destabilizes a person’s life. For instance, they may get out of prison and not be able to find a job because employers don’t want to hire someone with a record. They may also struggle to find housing, as they can be barred from rentals, and they may not have a credit history that allows them to get a mortgage. Similarly, they face a lot of financial instability and struggle just to make ends meet or to provide for their own basic needs – like food, water and shelter.
So, if someone gets out of jail and has “served their time,” but they cannot find anywhere to live, they can’t secure a job and they feel like they have no other options, they may turn back to crime. This is why many people who are arrested for selling drugs will immediately start selling again when they get out, for example. Their time in prison has actually made it so that they don’t have any other choices.
It’s important to keep this in mind if you are facing serious charges. Be sure you know about all of your criminal defense options.