Persuasive Essay Example

A previous article discussed the essentials of writing a persuasive essay. Now, allow the following example of a persuasive essay to acquaint and familiarize yourself with the practical application of the tips you have learned, as well as the parts of a persuasive essay. The persuasive essay example shall discuss a controversial issue – the argument for rehabilitation as a much better alternative for traditional punitive action, with the latter having been proven to not only be counterproductive, but also a contributor in the cycle of violence. Paragraph by paragraph, study the claims made by the essay, the facts and statistics, the logical transition between paragraphs, the potent reassertion of the thesis statement, and of course, the essay’s manifestly persuasive power. 

Persuasive Essay Example: Why America Should Focus On Rehabilitation

Being a prisoner in the United States will send you to a dark place. Incarceration isn’t meant to be fun, of course, but a combination of experiences of strict sentencing guidelines, a corrupt justice system, budget shortages, topped with a vindictive philosophy of rectification, has made today’s prisons vile, to say the least. Rehabilitation has been put in a corner to be forgotten, and prisoners are routinely treated like vermin. Prison population has varying groups of inmates, with criminals who have committed gruesome crimes and those with less extreme cases. Psychologists argue, though, that mental health has a role in the formula – mental illness is prevalent among inmates, at least three times the national average. Discussions around the definitive purpose of imprisonment have been around for ages, but a growing body of scientific evidence are proving that the use of punishment is counterproductive. 

Tracing back to history, rehabilitation had been a key part of the US prison policy up until the mid-1970s. Prisoners at the time were encouraged to acquire and develop professional skills. Facilities were also provided to help inmates resolve psychological problems relating to substance abuse and even aggression, which were believed to later be a hindrance to their reintegration into society. Since then, rehabilitation has been pushed back, and in its place sprung an approach that believes punishment to be a prison’s exclusive function. This approach caused massive growth in the prison population, all the while having little to no effect on crime rates. As a result, America currently has more than 2 million people locked up in prisons, and another four to five million on either parole or probation. In general, a higher percentage of the population is involved in the criminal justice in the US compared to other developed countries. Many of the prisoners also suffer from mental illnesses. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, somewhere between 15% and 20% of the people in prisons are mentally ill. 

Research has also shown consistently that incarceration does not equate to rehabilitation in most inmates, and a majority of them return to a life of crime immediately after release. The U.S. Department Justice has confirmed that 68% of prisoners released return to prison for a new crime. Many experts argue that prisoners actually learn new and better ways to commit crimes as they are locked up with other fellow convicts. Connections are also made within, which ensnares them further into the criminal world. This makes prisons the most unsuccessful institution, as they fail to carry out their actual purpose – rehabilitation of convicts to give them a chance to be better and productive members of society. 

It is only logical that when people pose a threat to others, we restrain them in spite of their background, financial standing, and who they are in entirety. This process takes away some of their freedom as punishment. In an ideal world, with the exception of sociopaths and psychopaths, the limited freedom of convicts would force introspection, which would ultimately dissuade them from repeating the crime once given their freedom back. From the current statistics, it’s obviously not the case. This system fails to work and the problem cannot be attributed to lack of punishment – it is due to lack of rehabilitation. Countless studies postulate that when people are subject to punishment, they often learn nothing. And increasing the severity of punishment only exposes the criminal to ideations of revenge, or the “you get what you deserve” conviction, which, psychologically speaking, will do nothing to improve their behavior. According to James Galligan from New York Times, people learn from example, and punishments only reinforce their violent behavior. According to the U.S. Department of Education, this concept of people learning from example can simply be observed with child-parent relationships. When children experience and see their parents doing certain activities, they are more than likely to uphold those values in their own life. Similarly, the “teach them a lesson” approach used on them in prison will solidify in the unconscious mind, to later be reflected back in the outside world.

The U.S. criminal justice system may be failing, but how come other developed countries have it figured out? Take Norway, for instance. Norway has built a prison located in Bastoy, where prisoners serving time are free to stroll through pine tree forests or spend their days under the sun, as opposed to being cramped up in cold and dirty cell. Bastoy has been hailed as the world’s nicest prison, home to 115 prisoners. Some of these prisoners have been involved in violent crimes, but Bastoy serves as the largest low-security prison in Norway. Truth be told, it’s actually more of a community rather than a prison. Inmates are allowed to live in shared homes, enjoying the privacy of their own bedrooms and other shared facilities. They’re allowed to don their own clothes, visit the library, church, and even the prison shop. During leisure time, they are free to play a good game of tennis, go fishing, or even work out at the gym. Movie rooms are also available, and authorities arrange weekly agendas that include lectures and courses, along with other events. Some prisoners are given the task of running the island’s ferry service, but none of them have ever tried to escape. The best part? All of these seem to work. Norway has the lowest recidivism rate in among Scandinavian nations, as only 20% of prisoners go back to being convicts. By contrast, we look into America again, the world’s largest prison population, and its significantly higher recidivism rate, which stands at a whopping 68%. Norway also boasts of a continuing care policy, which enables former convicts to have access to services that help with employment, housing, and healthcare.

Norway’s prison-community system only goes to show that employing a nonviolent form of rehabilitation helps inmates reintegrate into society as normal citizens. When prisoners are treated with kindness and respect, the chances of them reflecting these principles once released will be high. An extensive program by James Gilligan and Bandy Lee called “Resolve to Stop Violence Project” has found a reduced amount of violence in male prisoners at the San Francisco jail after a year’s time, with cases even dropping to 0%. The longer these men stayed in the program, the more effective it was.  This program is more effective than those approaches use in prisons, with violent punishment uniformly used as rehabilitation. After all, treating the root of the problem, which is the psychological behavior of an individual, is always more effective than resorting to punishment for end actions. Statistics don’t lie, the most ideal relief for the current system and society is for all prisons to develop and facilitate various forms of therapy, including psychotherapy and treatment for substance abuse. 

Perhaps it would be beneficial to every man, woman, and child living in America to effectively demolish every single prison in the country and replace them with safe and locked home-like residential communities, much like that of Norway’s, known as an anti-prison. Such a community, devoted to providing a wide array therapies and rehabilitation to its inmates - or residents, rather - will surely yield promising results and recidivism, in time, will be a mere afterthought. Similarly, all forms of education will be accessible, and perhaps ideally, a college degree is attainable. But the reality is that the rehabilitation of prisoners is an extremely arduous process, requiring exhaustive effort. The segregation of inmates from the general public causes enough problems, and for many, time spent behind bars will only push them deeper into the cycle of crime. Challenging, yes, but not impossible. The results are well worth it, as Norway already has set a precedent.  

There is a fundamental difference between punishment and restraint, and the beginning of change comes with recognizing which is which. People who become a threat to others are to be rightfully restrained, but inflicting pain on them for revenge’s sake or the concept of “teach them a lesson”? The only lesson to be learned is the idea of inflicting pain on others. The only rational purpose for a prison is to restrain and help bring about change in these less than ideal behaviors, helping them adapt to a pattern that is nonviolent and constructive. If done properly, the possibility of returning to the community is not remote. In any case, prisoners should be regarded with the same degree of kindness and respect due any other group of people exerting effort to reform themselves, and the hope we shall get from them once they return to the community. Because after all, people learn by example – prisons, cold and haunting they may seem to be, should do the same.

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