The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, and while the goal is to act as a correctional facility for prisoners, many would argue that there is little focus on getting people back on track with the current system. American prisons are known for their bleak atmosphere with only the bare essentials provided, but is that really the best environment to help those inside change course?
Earlier this month, the Vera Institute of Justice and the John Jay College of Criminal Justice took a group of prison officials, researchers, prosecutors, activists, and even Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy on a tour of German prisons to show off the stark difference between both countries correctional methods.
One of those making the journey, Washington state corrections secretary Bernie Warner, told VICE Media, which tagged along on the trip, that “at the end of the day, the public want people who return to their communities who won’t commit more crimes. Unless you focus on fixing behavior, you’re putting people back in the community who are bad for public safety.”
One example of a major difference found in German prisons is the way guards interact with prisoners. German correctional act more like therapists instead of guards in order to actually make changes in the lives of those locked up. The Pennsylvania prison system is already working on mimicking the German system in this regard by adding communication skill training for employees and shifting their focus “around humanizing offenders and lifting the expectations for officers, to get every staff member to feel some ownership over outcomes.”