July 23, 2010

LKL Tonight – Can prison inmates be reformed?

Posted: 09:00 PM ET

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August   July 23rd, 2010 9:20 pm ET

Not as long as the prisoner are forced to convert to the 12-Step Religious Cult; the 12-step religious Cult GUARANTEES the felons will be right back in prison!

jay h   July 23rd, 2010 9:21 pm ET

Best show everdone larry. Billions of dollars every year go to prisons nationwide. Prisoners or the product shouldn't they be functional two degrees and I still have to weigh against throwing a brick because getting a job is rough. That's ridiculous

Paul   July 23rd, 2010 9:26 pm ET

Inmates can be reformed. Look into MTC private prison in Arizona. They have jobs classes for them to program them back to society. SO far a pretty good success rate

frankie   July 23rd, 2010 9:49 pm ET

Restorative financial payback isn't exactly realistic. If the only factory in a town willing to hire ex-cons is a low-paying sweatshop in a neighborhood full of bad influences that keeps the ex-con employees part-time so they don't have health insurance, people have to support them fix their own life first. That's reality.

Kelly   July 23rd, 2010 9:51 pm ET

Some prisoners can be reformed and be productive in society, just like some addicts can become clean. You have to give them a chance.

Luv Greg Mathis!

Geoffrey R Vale   July 23rd, 2010 9:58 pm ET

I was turned away from local emergency hospital.I had a case of sexual abuse back in 1979 by high school teacher.I was involved with forensics for three years.I can not volunteer with a Not Criminally responsible do to mental disorder. The whiff of jail time and forensics stays only gives reasons for former friends not to keep in touch. I choose not stay in touch with other forensics inmates. I took a gift to charge 5 days after refusal and telling Dr how Quebec Crown decided not proceed with a indictable charge 14 years after assault.


Very low birthwieght.Schiziaprenia affective.Aspergers.

Rooy   July 23rd, 2010 9:59 pm ET

I spent 30 years in prison for a crime committed when I was 16 years old. It gave me an opportunity to get off the drugs and alcohol, get an education, and learn skills I would have never learned. I took my time seriously and I honestly think I'm an example of the system working the way society hopes it would. Rehabilitation in prison is possible, but it takes prison employees who still have the hope it can work (they don't have to actually believe, just hope), and it takes an inmate who understands his life is over if he doesn't change his life.

As for second chances, society does not give second chances. Yes, I got out and many others do also, but we are never really given a chance to succeed. Jobs are almost impossible to find no matter how qualified and experienced someone is. As soon as you answer yes to the question about previous convictions, you're done.

Kelly spencer   July 23rd, 2010 10:00 pm ET

If ex-cons worked as hard as illeagels they could get a job.
a ex-con. nutward

Janice E Branch   July 23rd, 2010 10:02 pm ET


fay   July 23rd, 2010 10:18 pm ET

You are so right.

Carlos   July 23rd, 2010 10:06 pm ET

There is a hypocritical sense to the "rehabilitation" sentence. If a person has a pattern of criminal activities and violent behavior who comits

Dana Williams   July 23rd, 2010 10:10 pm ET

I believe the reason it is so hard for most offenders to "go straight" is the burden of the record of their crime following them. If you have been punished for your crime and paid the penalty; be it jail time, probation, etc. then why must these people suffer and be penalized again by society for the same crimes. Records should be expunged after a certain period of time as a matter of law and only available to law inforcement. How can you expect someone to change their lives when everyone else is judging them based on past actions they have already been punished for? Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty?

Carlos   July 23rd, 2010 10:17 pm ET

There is a hypocritical sense to the "rehabilitation" sentence. If a person has a pattern of criminal activities and violent behavior who commits a murder, rehabilitation is not a reversible behavior. Millions of dollars are spent every year in this individuals with no real result. In a case by case bases of curse! There should not be a second chance, for if take a life, we have the responsibility to the family and society to do justice and stop the cycle of second chance. In the majority of the cases the family is the one that is put in a extremely hard position "both emotionaly and financially". Instead of wasting thousands of dollars in that individual we should assist the family and eliminate the "second chance" for most of the individuals who made a choice of committing this crimes.

Dana Williams   July 23rd, 2010 11:07 pm ET

@ Carlos – true for the hard core murderers, rapists etc, but what of the ones charged and punished with felonies for 1st time offenses, many at early ages when judgement for whatever reason, is not what it should be. These folks must then carry the weight of this crime on every job application, some housing applications, they lose their right to vote, etc....seriously, how can you expect them to behave differently when right out of the box they are not given a clean slate to start over with. No one is perfect and mistakes will happen. When you commit a crime you should do your time but when it is done you should be given all of the rights that every other citizen is entitled to until such time you break the law again.

Linda Reggie   July 24th, 2010 12:42 am ET

It's about time we have this social dialogue on a national level because the figures are that the high recivitism rate (now at 70%) guarantees only that taxpayers keep on paying. During the Regan adminstration most social service inmate programs were defunded, somewhat funded again during the Carter administration which supported on site family visitation programs. There is a direct documented positive correlation between visitation and the inmate experience and post sentence time. Thankfully Judge Mathis has brought to the forefront current rehabilitation programs. These, along with extended on site education, particularly basic GED education programs, we may eventually not have to continue building prisons. I think all except violent murderers, sociopaths, and pedophiles don't get such services without several years of integrated services. I believe that non-violent offenders should have the first shot in prison, in halfway houses after release and support for continuing education along with counseling. I agree with the five year expungement of prison records after demonstrated ability to live again in the mainstream society The severity and nature of the offense as Dog Chapman stated must be considered all through the processes. I think continuing support through non-profits as well as networking all existing services, particularly for veterans, should become a paramount consideration. I spent an entire year assisting adults and children who made more than 1,500 visits to Folsom State Prison. It was te toughest year of my life and greatly satisfying to provide a safe, non-threatening environment for visitors. We need to bring back into society as many people to live a life without making others victims to the perpetrators of crimes.

anonymous   July 24th, 2010 12:51 am ET

I am watching your program on prisoners..and reform. I am an Ex-felon who has been incarceraed numerous times and have served two prison terms. I have been out of prison for a year now, I have my own nice place, car, decent job considering my record. The first time I went to prison I did nothing with my time. The second time I went through a wonderful 90 day drug rehab program plus worked within the system. I then attended a 6 month half-way house program.... I have worked very hard to re-establish myself within society. It made all the difference in the world to have the programs available to me, I pay for them. In addition to restitution which has been paid to my victims I defrauded,I also pay 10,000$ in court fines...4,000 has been paid I still owe 6,000 I pay monthly and will contue to until Oct. 2012. Thank you for exploring this topic because like it or not most convicts will return to society, it's up to them how long they stay free.

Dan Merten   July 24th, 2010 5:12 am ET

I spent over 2 years in a pa prison. So hard to do anything after a felony conviction. Was the Judges a felony and if it was how did he get passed it. I got passed it after 30 years of hard work .Yes i think people can be reformed as youput it but only if they want to be.To many get out and are afraid of hard work. I worked alot of no where jobs but did make it

Burr Miller   July 24th, 2010 9:10 am ET

Alex King is one of my best employees. Works hard and fits in well with the team.

Sherone Woodley   July 24th, 2010 7:25 pm ET

Of course an inmate/excon can be reformed....but for the reformation to work there needs to be three things; a reformation program tht starts within the prison and continues outside the prison, an inmate/excon who is willing able n determined to be reformed and last but not least a society who is mature enough to realise tht it is better off helping n giving a reformed inmate a second chance rather than condemning him after he has already meted out da punishment given to him by the justice system....however i have seen a very determined excon reform himself reintigrate into society and now owns n runs an accounting agency

izm   July 25th, 2010 9:47 am ET

i am living proof. however, most prisoners do not have the same optimism due to societies continuous condemnation. societies condemnation tells majority of criminals you will always bare the mark of kane. the scarlet letter and we will never allow you to forget and you will never be forgiven. in criminals knowing this the say to themselve f@@@ it. i may as well get better at what i was doing. whether it be selling drug, robbing or killing. no one is gonna hire me anyways. especially if you are black or hispanic. if you are white anything short of charlse manson, its look @ as if youve made a mistake. i fortunately was in a rather unique situation. being a witness for the government, i was provided with oppertunity to increase the possibilities of heightening my success in life.

izm   July 25th, 2010 10:00 am ET

society may as well go back to prison colonies. or just immediate execution. i say this because society tortures those of us who make mistakes in life. we will not be given the opportunity to succeed in life. it must be taken. america is racist and a classist society. and the right people just dont care. it amazes me how so many people scream holiluya praise the lord and the dont believe in forgiveness.

Kathryn Wiley   July 26th, 2010 11:31 am ET

Yes, absolutely prisoners can be reformed, but it requires a cognitive change first. Prison Fellowship's 35-year history is testament to that. But also research by Doris Layton MacKenzie (What Works in Corrections), a review of myriad studies over the past decade, says the same thing. Without a change in thinking, there can be no change in behavior. The question becomes, what will bring about a change in thinking? Prison Fellowship's success in this area is based on years of leading prisoners to a relationship with Jesus and a close relationship with godly mentors. It works. In the meantime, we are devoted to seeing real reform come about in the US criminal justice system, such as that proposed by Sen Jim Webb in The National Criminal Justice Commission Act (S 714 and HR 5143) .

Todd   July 27th, 2010 1:25 pm ET

Here is proof we can change how we think!!

I am 46 yrs old, at 24 yrs I made a serious mistake. I sold cocaine to a pot dealer who got arrested for selling pot and turned me in to get himself off. A mistake I will never forget. I was what you call a nerd in the sense that I was working on a degree in engineering. I spent 4.3 yrs in prison. When I was tested in prison for my level of education I scored the highest of anyone they have ever tested. They immediately offered me an inmate job to teach math and gave me my own classroom to teach at the satellite college in the prison.

I taught math and worked my way through every problem in my college calculus book used at MIT. I taught the inmates basic math. One day the warden came in to my classroom and saw me working out a calculus 3 problem on the chalkboard and he asked me "why are you here when you can solve problems I can't even understand?". I explained that I was young and wanted quick money so I could have the lifestyle of the rich and famous. He asked me if I would do it again and I said "No way, now I know that making a lot of money requires hard work, at least for some of us", those born into money are spoiled little brats and do more illegal things than any average person! I decided before I went to prison that I was going to study and become a physicist since physics is the most difficult subject anyone can take.

Because I was a "one of a kind" inmate, the warden would not let me leave and go to a place that I could get more education. I had to write to senators and representatives to finally get the warden to let me go to a minimum security prison with education possibilities. I finally got to that prison. Finished my degree with an A.A.S. in industrial machining. I also solved every problem in calculus and physics textbooks. I consumed knowledge.

Then, I tried to get into work release. The warden at this minimum security prison would not let me transfer either. I had to rely on politicians yet again to pressure them to let me grow and learn. Finally, with 1.5 years left to serve, I got my wish and went to SIUC while on work release. I scored straight A's..4.0/4.0 throughout my B.S. in physics. I was released from work release and graduated from SIUC 6 months later with honors. I even received a best student award in physics.

I was lucky to get a job immediately after graduation. I worked for a little over a year and decided to go back to SIUC and get my M.S. in physics. I received my M.S. in physics exactly 2 years after I started and was the first to do a presentation in powerpoint. My masters thesis was over 200 pages long and it was praised as the best they have ever seen.

I was immediately hired as a scientist at the university because of my ability to make what I imagined because of my degree in machining. My GPA was also 4.0/4.0. I know instruments like the back of my hand and I can even repair anything I use.

This is my story as a non-violent offender, there is a lot more to tell but not time to tell it.

My big problem right now is that my past is coming back to haunt me. The internet has opened the doors to a Pandora's box of data and archived articles. I want to have my past deleted, but I do not know how to get it done properly. I do not want to lose my job from something I did 22 years ago. I have proven myself to be a valuable asset to society since I work on materials that saves your lives every time you fly or drive your car. I also teach your kids how to use their minds and hands to build things in engineering and science. I give demonstrations to grade school and high school students to show them what scientists and engineers do.

I want my record expunged so I can live life without worrying about someone being prejudice against me for my past. I am proud of the accomplishments I have made over the years and it was the past that changed my life and brought me to being a well known scientist in my area.

Jessie from Auckland, NZ   July 27th, 2010 6:23 pm ET

Some could probably be reformed, some could probably take longer and some probably not at all.

Everyone is an individual and we are all different. What might work for one might not work for another. One can only try and if they don't work, try another way.

There are many different paths in life that one can take and does A helping hand and guidance always help though and can work wonders with some.

Jessie from Auckland, NZ   July 27th, 2010 6:34 pm ET

@Todd July 27th, 2010 1:25 pm ET

Here is proof we can change how we think!!

Thank you for sharing your story and how things have turned around for you in your life and I would agree about your past coming back to haunt you. It is a tough one.

King   August 1st, 2010 1:00 am ET

Reformation is real. Prisoners can be reformed but the system does not make it easy. How can we say we are providing reformation when we are doing nothing but housing inmates? Services, education, and true -to-life programs are the key to actual reformation for prisoners. In addition, we have to provide services immediately upon release. We can not give the former prisoner an opportunity to go back to their old ways. Going back to the same environment with little or no resources is a ticket right back to prison!!! So, we can not fully blame those who recidivate because the sysem is set up to make money from the prisons rather than reform them

debra   October 6th, 2010 11:43 pm ET

Yes Re-form is very possiable, but prsion has become an industry. What is really needed to make postive changes is for society to change the way they think about inmates as a whole. 1st time offenders no matter what the crime should be given a chance, We CAN NOT keep locking them up and deny access to the courts, an throwing a way the key.

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