…today’s secret…Our Criminal Justice System. (Part 2 of 2)

Did you vote yet?

Last week I talked about how our criminal justice system has historically tried to help criminals exit their criminal ways.

The main storyline is that we seem to always be looking for a better path forward. Looking, but not yet finding.

Currently we are fighting among ourselves over what to do with people who harm us. We can’t even seem to define what ‘harm us’ means these days. Tsk. Tsk.

It’s a real mess out there on the streets right now and will probably get messier.

This doesn’t mean we can’t shoot a sacred cow this week when it comes to our prisons.

Here it is.

We have got to stop expecting our prisons to be the Jeoprady answer to the question…

“How do you change a person who has harmed society into someone who will embrace society?”

Prisons are not society’s washing machines in which society throws in its lepers and expects them to come out clean. Hasn’t happened much. Doesn’t happen much now. Won’t happen much tomorrow.

Here’s why.

(1) Prisons historically follows the whims of the culture in charge of our country, like a puppy dog follows its owners…

(2) Prisons are slow to change. Prisons drag their heels in implementing their own research…

(3) Prisons have confused missions…Job One is to dispense safety behind bars and Job Two is to touch each inmate in some way that they won’t come back.

By the way, Job One is called Job One because it’s the more important of the two.

This number (3) above is the back breaker.

My friend Jeff believes prisons cannot accomplish these two missions simultaneously…”Prisons cannot be both the master and the one who teaches the slaves how to be free.”

Prisons, by their nature, must move their inmates around like chess pieces in predetermined ways in order to maintain their Job One of safety.

Prisons, by their nature, cannot treat inmates as individuals who have individual learning styles, motivations, talents, strengths, and, of course, weaknesses.

Prisons, by their nature, have no way of identifying who needs help, wants help, what help, when help, how much help, etc.

They cannot match inmate personalities to any available programming and still do Job One successfully.

Prisons just flat-out suck at the Job Two mission. But, it doesn’t mean they should not keep trying. And, let’s not be too harsh on them right now…

…recently, some decade-old criminal justice research on the “How to change someone” question has begun resurfacing.

This research centers on six specific factors which identify prosocial behavior. The deal here is that the more a person has in each of these six factors the better they work and play well with others.

It would be logical to think that if a person left prison with all six factors tucked in their backpack they might not return.

And, to their credit, prisons have been offering these six factors in different ways and at different times to different inmates. It’s their stab at completing the Job Two mission.

Their Job Two hope is that inmates decide on their own to get smart instead of muscular, dedicate themselves to personal change, and take advantage of any of the six factors where and when offered.

This is not a bad two-mission compromise. Many incarcerated reach bottom in prison and find the will and resources to never come back. Plus, this Job Two compromise helps the prison fulfill Job One in a good way.

Question. Could there be a better answer to this two-mission prison problem?


The answer could be as simple as the adults operating our prisons focus solely on the Job One safety mission and allow big-hearted people like yourself to bring these six factors behind bars to do the Job Two mission.

Could it be that the outsider you, not the master, would do better than they, the inside master, at the Job Two mission?

Ah, but I digress. Sorry.

Anyway, next week I’m going to identify these six factors for you.


Because your understanding of these six factors can help you unmarginalize the marginalized population(s) you have chosen to help, including those who have experienced our prisons first-hand.

A little long this week. Thanks for sticking to the end. Shorter next week.