Some of the daily “burdens” for many Woodstock students are tardies, demerits, and early morning detentions (EMDs): each of these being forms of “discipline” that the school uses in an attempt to deter students from misbehaving.
In reality, these methods are overused and ineffective; fairly harsh punishments create a sense of bitterness from students towards the school. They do not deter students from misbehaving.
As infuriating as the school disciplinary system is, it is a petty complaint when compared to the flawed nature of the United States prison system.
Currently, there are 2.2 million people serving prison time in the U.S.; that is about 700 people per 100,000 Americans. Despite having only 5 percent of the world’s population, the U.S. has 25 percent of the world’s prison population.
Furthermore, prisons in the U.S. have subhuman conditions.
Prisoners have to deal with being crammed into crowded rooms with minimal staffing, solitary confinement, poor quality food, and other things that, over time, can potentially even cause permanent mental damage.
Additionally, inmates are exposed to other more dangerous inmates. This, mixed with a lack of trained staff, creates situations like the one shown in the image below, where a young inmate in Georgia is being held by other inmates with a makeshift dog leash, after being beaten.
Some might argue that criminals should not be treated the same as regular citizens as they may have done terrible things; however, subjecting prisoners to these conditions will not change their nature. It will only make them more dangerous.
For example, if a man gets arrested for possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute it, he may get a one-year sentence; the man would then be exposed to other people who are more dangerous and violent than he is; he will then be subjected to abuse, poor living conditions, and solitary confinement.
All of these things will take a psychological toll on the man, and since there are no therapy or counseling options for him, he will not improve as a human being: He went in as a petty criminal but left as a violent thug.
Hence, it comes as no surprise that, after 5 years of release, the re-offending rate in the U.S. is 77 percent.
Another problem with the U.S. prison system is the unnecessary sentencing of convicts.
In 2016, there were over 500,000 people serving time in jail for low level and/or nonviolent offenses, 3,000 of these being life sentences; in other words, about a quarter of the prison population does not deserve to be incarcerated.
If these prisoners were released, that should be half a million people out of the system and $20 billion saved.
In the long run, incarcerating fewer people would result in fewer criminals in future generations. This is because, if prisoners have children, the children’s lack of parents will make them far more likely to become a criminal sometime in the future.
Furthermore, the cost of prison is absolutely staggering when put into perspective.
The cost of a prisoner in the U.S. in some states is about $31,000 annually, going all the way up to $61,000 in other states. This is a stark difference to how much the U.S. spends on education, where the cost per K-12 student is about $12,500.
This seems odd that more money is spent on a failing system than is spent on education. It is especially frustrating considering that if more money were put into education, fewer people would end up going to jail.
It is clear that changes need to be made, but how?
Well, the U.S. and other countries could take an example from Norway, more specifically Bastoy.
Bastoy is a prison island in Norway, sometimes referred to as the “world’s nicest prison.” This prison allows inmates to roam around freely and live their lives as they would in the outside world.
Moreover, even though a number of the prisoners at Bastoy have been found guilty of violent crimes, there have been no violent incidents among the prisoners there.
This is because Bastoy has focused on the rehabilitation of its prisoners rather than punishment and incarceration.
This purpose is achieved via counseling and allowing inmates to perform normal jobs like they would in the outside world. These include being a lumberjack, farmer, stable worker, maintenance worker, or cashier at their prison supermarket; they are also allowed to partake in social events and can be leaders of social groups. Furthermore, they have a quiet and safe environment that allows them to reflect on their past.
This method works.
Statistics from the Bastoy prison show that only 20 percent of inmates re-offend after release.
The numbers also show that this prison is effective, as has been made clear during interviews that the prisoners can reflect on their past and improve.
Sadly, the world is still a long way from adopting this system, as most places still focus on punishment rather than rehabilitation.
Comparing foreign prison systems to the Woodstock’s disciplinary system is a stretch; however, applying the core principles of establishments such as Bastoy would be a good idea for this institution.
Having a revised disciplinary system at Woodstock would not only better the students’ perception of the school, but it would also be more effective in persuading students to improve themselves.
The first step to improving the disciplinary system is to change the way that different offenses are categorized.
With the current system, students get an EMD both for not making their beds and for missing class: These offenses are significantly different in nature, and the punishments should reflect this.
In other words, if you were to not make your bed you would not be given an EMD; instead, a possible option would be to give students a tardy. If this was the case then the student would only receive an EMD if they repeatedly did not make their bed.
With this kind of system in place, students will receive fewer EMDs, while still being held accountable for their actions.
Edited by Dhrubhagat Singh