Focus Point - CriminalsCommentary by Pete du Pont
August 24, 2000
I'm Pete du Pont with the National Center for Policy Analysis.
Almost 600,000 felons will be released from state and federal prisons this year. Sixty-two percent will be charged with new crimes. They were not rehabilitated.
Most specialists in criminology believe in counseling and therapy to set ex-cons right. But psychologist Stanton Samenow, author of *Straight Talk About Criminals, * says it doesn't work, because it starts with the premise that criminals are hapless victims of circumstance. He argues they can't be rehabilitated to something they never were.
People from every background become criminals through conscious. They're unprincipled predators and victimizers. What can work -- sometimes -- is changing the way an offender thinks so he can function responsibly, not just tinkering with social conditions.
Legal leverage gets their attention. The threat of bad consequences stimulates motivation to change. If offenders know they can expect long prison sentences for their actions, they can restrict those actions. And if they can't? Then prisons protect society from their destructiveness. The process is demanding, time-consuming and expensive; but 62 percent of criminals heading for the streets argues for our vigilance.
Those are my ideas, and at the NCPA we know ideas can change the world. I'm Pete du Pont. Next time, savings MSA's.