Introduction Stern’s (2006) book, “Creating Criminals: Prisons and People in a Market Society”, gives us the black and white truth about important topics that are not usually talked about in the media, nor acknowledged by most in American society. The author explains that she is in no way defending criminals with her literature, rather researching and informing society about the ineffectiveness of the criminal justice system and the market society. She argues that many policies go in favor towards those who have money, leaving people who don’t have money behind, which ultimately leads to creating criminals.
She explains the dangers of overcrowded prisons, who are the people more likely to be imprisoned, and the role of a market society within prisons. Her findings emphasize the need for better developments in order to reduce crimes, rather than putting every person in jail and continue to let the number of prisoners grow with a loss of direction. Overcrowded Prisons, Criminals, Market Society One thing that is known globally and is fully supported by society is the idea of prisons being designed to keep those who break the law away from society, and deny them from doing anymore criminal activity.
Although criminals should pay the consequence for their behavior, it should not mean that they should live in overcrowded prisons. An example of an overcrowded prison is shown in Angola, where the max occupancy was for 800 prisoners, yet they had 1,750 prisoners (Stern, 2006). When this happens, the lack of resources, space, and training from needed officers increases. Therefore, conditions become hazardous and prisoners and officers are at higher risk for diseases such as HIV and Tuberculosis (Stern, 2006).
Although society feels safe with criminals locked up, they have to realize that a main purpose for prisons is to help reduce crime by showing prisoners that breaking the law will cause them the loss of freedom. Ultimately, leading those criminals who are able to get out, to come out with a sense of a change behavior. However, the system that puts these women, men, and young people in overcrowded prisons are not even worried about the criminal. Instead, they keep increasing the definition of “crime”, which increase the number of criminals in an ineffective prison system.
Stern bring up the fact that most prisoners are men, young, and poor, who are also poorly educated and come from a poor environment (Stern, 2006). It is also brought up that in the criminal justice system, the poor is less protected, which is something that does not come to anyone’s surprise. The poor in general struggle with everyday choices on whether to be involved in crime or not in order to eat. They also struggle with heavy policing around their residential areas due to acts such as, illegal drug use/trafficking, burglary, homicides, etc.
Regardless of the reasons to as why the disadvantage people commit crimes, they are a huge part of the overcrowding problem. The system is quick to sentence them and at the end of the day it looks great on them preventing one less criminal from causing crime. Even when the system gives an option to pay bail, the poor, uneducated criminal will not stand a chance (Stern, 2006). In the case of mental illness or drug addicts that need help, they are put in prisons systems that do not contribute to rehabilitation.
It is absurd to sentence someone to a prison institution where they are clearly not going to get the psychological, medical help they need. It is even more absurd to think that they will be helped in overcrowded prisons that don’t even have the resources for proper health issues. It is easy for the government to blame the crime problem on those who commit crimes, but if people take a look at the many isolations that the government embeds in specific areas and people, we will realize that the problem is not always the criminal.
Discrimination and bribery are used in all levels of the criminal system many times, but it is brought up by Stern (2006) that at times discriminatory, racists, bias factors are not the reasons for sending someone to jail. In fact, in situations of extreme poverty with no roof over their head, it is sometimes done with good intentions by the system. In their eyes, this allows the now labeled criminal to have a roof over their head. uations like these, excluding the things the criminal could learn in prison, they will come out with a criminal record, which personally seems worse than before.
Stern (2006) brings up the topic of life after prison, where she briefly explains certain things that happen to an ex-convict when they are trying to get their life back together. Those people who are put in jail for the lack of money, representation or suffer from mental illness/ addictions often struggle with necessities like, getting a job, housing, etc. These things ultimately define if they will be able to live life outside of prison walls. Due to overcrowded prisons being such a huge problem, prison systems have become targeted by private interests.
An era where privatization became even more of a need was during the War on Drugs (Stern 2006). Prison incarceration increased dramatically, with many of the arrested being drug users, sellers, addicts, and disadvantaged (Stern, 2006). This increase in arrests led to overcrowded prisons and problems with costs to local, state, and federal governments. The response of the private businesses interests was of expansion through the prison system. They promised quick building of private prisons to have more space for criminals. Also promising to get it done while saving money and having effective private institutions for criminals.
Since in a market society everything appears to have a price tag on it, these privatizations don’t just profit off society, but criminals as well, by charging services such as, phone calls, etc. Stern (2006) argues that the market society, the crime control, and punishment policy adaptations from the government are actually decreasing the chances of getting more effective education, health, and housing for people. Ultimately, they are working together in producing more crime, helping the rich get richer, while the poor get poorer with no chance of climb out of poverty.
Strengths and Weaknesses There is no doubt that Vivien Stern has deeply devoted her time to researching such troubling topics that need to be changed. The strengths in her arguments are strong and informative, which she backs up with facts. She does not only back up her arguments with U. S facts, rather includes other countries with the same issues. She aims to make the reader understand the importance of this issue with personal stories of people who have experienced it firsthand. She gives us facts, statistics, and comparisons of the effects that overcrowding systems have had towards criminals, officers, and society.
Stern does not defend criminals, rather explains where crime concentration usually takes place. She also argues effectively that many times specific crime policies effect people who are labeled criminals in a negative way. As for the market society, she firmly believes and stands up effectively to say that it is just away for the rich to profit from everything and ultimately everyone. They continue to open up doors for more crime policies that will bring more criminals, which will bring more money. It is seen as taking a huge profit from locked up people, which personally seems unethical.
Vivien Stern argues effectively throughout all her points. She clearly states her points across with effectiveness, facts, and statistics. With this being said, personally I see no weaknesses in the topics themselves, but do see Stern showing her personal opinions throughout the book. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but at times I found myself reading a certain topic, knowing that despite her effort of trying to convey a solid, unbiased argument, it would come across differently. Needless to say that when it comes to such topics of the government, crime and money, emotion will always show.
Conclusion Stern (2006) makes very provocative points about the prison systems fitting in a social market that should be analyzed and reformed for the better. Evidence has showed that the privatization of prisons does not significantly show more efficiency or cost-effectiveness than public prisons. However, it is recognized that the rich will continue to get richer (Stern 2006). In the case of overcrowding, the government needs to find alternatives for punishing those guilty of petty crimes, such as, non-violent drug crimes.
It is a fact that much of those in prison are locked up because of these types of crimes (Stern, 2006). Different programs for those who commit crimes with a drug/mental problem should be used effectively, rather than leaving them on the back burner for other occasions. As the government searches for different ways, the wider society must also be willing to help with ideas and participate with decisions of reform. We cannot give all the power to the rich and the ranked. We, as a society need to fight for less disproportionate punishments, inequality, and the control that market society gains every time they make a profit.