July 23, 2010

LKL Tonight – Can prison inmates be reformed?

Posted: 11:41 AM ET

Tune in TONIGHT at 9pmet/6pmpt for a special "Larry King Live" – we've got Dog the Bounty Hunter, Judge Greg Mathis and other discussing whether prison inmates can be reformed.  Do you think they can?  Let us know in the comments!

via Judge Mathis' website:

TV personality Judge Greg Mathis is launching a Prisoner Initiative entitled PEER standing for Prisoner Empowerment Education and Respect. Through the initiative Judge Mathis will visit jails and prisons throughout the country to encourage inmates to change their lives.  Motivated by his own experience as a troubled youth who overcame the challenges of being incarcerated, Judge Mathis will share his personal experiences and offer advice and encouragement to inmates.

To date, the Judge has made PEER appearances at the Wayne County Jail in Detroit, where he was previously sentenced to serve nearly one year, the Fulton County Jail in Atlanta, GA, the State Correctional Institution at Chester, PA and most recently spoke with the youth population at Rikers Island, NY. The Judge, who is scheduled to return back to NY to speak with the adult male population at Rikers as well as visit Sing Sing, will visit Cook County Boot Camp in Chicago, IL on March 26th.


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Filed under: Justice • Larry King Live

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Joe G. (Illinois)   July 23rd, 2010 3:37 pm ET

It’s so ridiculously shocking to hear grownup people make such parities.. Concrete walls and education opportunities to Salvation..! Maybe they didn’t get the memo.

To live a clean, healthy, loving Christian lifestyle you have got to get to know Jesus Christ and establish a one on one unique personal relationship with Him.

Eric   July 23rd, 2010 4:39 pm ET

In certain circumstances inmates can be reformed, but only after they reach the point in their life where they are ready to make a serious change. For some, this may come early in life, but for many it is in their later years 40 plus. This may not seem old to alot of us, but in the criminal world, it means that you have spent some 25 years inside, including youth detention. There are numerous factors including employment skills, substance abuse counselling and strict supervision which must play a role in determining their successes once they reach the community. Without that, many will revert to their old ways and earn a living the only way they know how via crime.

Lucy   July 23rd, 2010 4:48 pm ET

It's a disgrace that the US such a high percentage of its citizens in prison. We need to invest a great deal more time and money on programs to rehabilitate those who can change their lives.

Perhaps we should do more to appeal to the greed of those who oppose such programs. Would rather pay to warehouse prisons or pay to rehabilitate them?

Dodie   July 23rd, 2010 5:16 pm ET

Larry, that is a ‘loaded’ question. Is it possible? Yes!

However, there are a lot of variables. Motivation, length and number of times in prison, highest level of functioning factors, addiction issues, support system, environmental and neuropsychological factors……. and the list goes on.

Smith in Oregon   July 23rd, 2010 6:34 pm ET

America's massive prison systems breeds racial hatred, absolute hatred towards the American government and encourages graft and corruption. Any small steps addressing those state of depravity would be a improvement.

gerald Jolly   July 23rd, 2010 6:40 pm ET

In the last consensus done on this subject the results indicated that only one out of every hundred has a possibility to be reformed.

Crime is not a criminal act by most of the criminals that are incarcerated.

In their words "IT'S A WAY OF LIFE"

Ethan (Six 8) Birch   July 23rd, 2010 8:16 pm ET

In 1993 I was sentenced to 10 years in prison for 5 class B armed robberies. I was released in 1996 on good behavior. For the last 14 years I have struggled heavily trying to maintain as a productive citizen. I have been out for almost 15 years & I am STILL blacklisted when it comes to jobs & living a normal life. The only thing I could do was become a motivational speaker & try to keep others from making the mistakes I made. Even though I was featured on the national news, it is very hard to make a living.

If an individual gets out of prison & stays out, there obviously was a safety net there or a program in place to help that individual out. Otherwise, it is nearly impossible (my opinion) for "rehabilitated" individuals to successfully re-enter society.

A 9 page article about me entitled "The Man Who Mugged My Parents" can be found in the March issue of Indianapolis Monthly Magazine. I would LOVE the opportunity to call in on this particular episode.

Ethan Birch

STEVE   July 23rd, 2010 9:01 pm ET


Debby   July 23rd, 2010 9:25 pm ET

I thank Dog and Beth and their family for all the good deeds and actions and HOPE they have given to people. I appreciate how they witness and give God the glory. From their biggest fan in the great state of TEXAS.
We need and another book from them, along with another book signing!
God Bless yall.

gloria lewis   July 23rd, 2010 9:34 pm ET

Yes prisoners can be reform ,the most important things excons need is a loving support system ,to get them back on their feet ,My husband i met him straight out of prison he had just did 9 years when we met .He told me his story as to what led him to get in trouble ,he also said he was not going back to his dads house ,he would live on the streets but he cant go back there .As a mom i had to save him he moved in with me straight out of the half way house .Its been over ten years he went to school to be a mechanic ,he gave my son a dad he dont know his dad .I gave him a second chance at life and he gave my son a chance at a stabel life .
He says it everytime i saved his life if i was not there for him when he got out of prison it was so tough he was end back up in the system .I would like to speak to the judge because i really want to work in a system that helps people i have a fews ideas i just need an avenue thanks

Jim Keller   July 23rd, 2010 9:54 pm ET

My son is currently incarcerated at the Oxford Federal Prison. Within the past 12 months the FBof P has eliminated the educational courses he was enrolled in and have just shut down the job program that employed him. These decisions fly in the face of your PEER initiave which was featured on the Larry King Show. Is there antything I can do to help promote your idea?

William Curtis   July 23rd, 2010 9:56 pm ET

Hi Larry,

I'm a criminal justice grad student at Boston University; I am also the Director of the Special Investigations Division with the United States Virgin Islands Department of Justice. I am watching your show, and in regards to restorative justice, Judge Mathis is correct. Restorative justice kicks in at the end of a prison term. It is not meant to replace or be a substitute for a prison. Its goal is to make the victim whole again, both financially and emotionally, and aid them in moving on with their lives. Thank you.

Lizette   July 23rd, 2010 10:01 pm ET

Amazing five-star program Larry. Rehabilitation is viable for all humans.People can always change even psycopaths.It is a matter of having the right tools and resources available. I am a prison minister for a year now and it is difficult to see sometimes how little hope they have and what is protrayed to them by the officers.They are always treated as "they will be back" and "it is only a matter of time" attitude.
There are many flaws in the system that many are just real victims besides of being offenders. I know a few that had come out and we had tried to place them in rehab programs and do well. mainlyif they are accepted in a program away from their area. many do not have a home to go back to.Others od not know where to re-start and others are just not ready to commit to a change, but needless to say they alsoi deserve a hope for a future. I have experinced closedly a man who was incarcerated 3 times for drug use.He barely resisted arrest but he was under the influence of un-prescribed narcotics.He was charged on papers with a misdeameanor but in the system they recorded it as a felony in the State of Florida. This ma, closely monitored is a complete refored person and is more knowleageable of the Bible than any pastor in any church. He is always giving himself to serve others and has no desires to use any drugs. Still he cannot find a job because he is stained for life and he is one that really got saved from his past life.
Not everyone copes with stress nor situations in the same manner. I had my situations but never gave drugs nor alcohol a thought. others like my freind and brother in Christ, after a 20 yr marriage and the unfaithfulness of his then wife, he looked for drugs to ease his pain. How is he ever to get a decent job with a bachelor's degree in accounting but has a felony record for petty theft and cannot make enough money to support himself and pay a lawyer to help him with his record?
I listened to all of your panelists and my only questions is;If God can give a second and third chance to us, who are we to deny a chance to any of us?
Lizette-Prison Ministry, Central Florida

Jim   July 23rd, 2010 10:14 pm ET

As a former inmate I have a unique insight into the problem and the possible solutions.

One is give them choices. You have to educate them so that they will know their choices.

Secondly, it is the mindset of the induvidual. That may be changed by the proper enviroment.

Thirdly, give them hope. That is why all prisons have chapels. To give inmates hope. (I am not endorsing nor am I disparaging religion).

I (by the way), am the creator of the "Second Chance" ptogram (which is now a law.

I would love to be able to be involved with others in helping present and former convicts. (Anybody who can help?)

Annemarie Osborne   July 24th, 2010 6:21 am ET

Providing present and former convicts with the tools and the road map to help them transform their lives is critical, if we as a society are ever to break this vicious cycle. However, the criminal justice system needs to be completely changed so that non-violent criminals are given the opportunity to acquire an education and receive the guidance and structure they need in order to be productive. Throwing them in prison is not the answer.

Many people are unaware that prisons are highly profitable institutions. In the mid-80s private investment and venture capital was used to fund new prison projects and to run the prisons themselves for costs around $30 to $60 per bed, per day. This began what we know today as the for-profit, PRIVATE PRISON INDUSTRY.

As long as prisons remain money machines for their investors, it is unlikely that a more humane system of rehabilitation will eclipse the present rate of incarceration, especially for petty offenses.

Witnessing the level of corruption that exists in the banking system, the investment system and in our government, how can we say to our young people, "crime does not pay?" It pays when you have enough money to get away with it. Regrettably, social justice has simply become an appealing phrase used by manipulative politicians seeking re-election. Unless our leaders and the wealthy classes begin to embrace a social conscience, we are doomed to failure.

Ron   July 24th, 2010 12:19 pm ET

I am a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in 2 states, conducting a private clinical practice in my office in my home that I purchased 12 years ago. I hold a License as a Certified Social Worker (CSW). I earned credentials as a certified Criminal Justice Counselor (CJC), a Certified Addiction Counselor (CJC), and an Internationally Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor (ICADC). I have completed all of the course work, including passing the Comprehensive Examination, and am writing the dissertation for the PhD in Psychology.

I have been out of prison for 25 years, after serving a 20-25 year sentence for armed robbery, and have not re-offended. I have 21 years of total abstinence from heroin, cocaine, marijuana and all other drugs including alcohol. I have 20 years abstinence from nicotine.

When programs like this are aired why is it that the ex-offenders who are successful are rarely interview? There are those of us who are not "barely" making it but who are thriving and living 2 lives in one lifetime. We exist! I refer you to a book "Convict Criminality" by Jeffrey Ian Ross and Stephen C. Richards (2003). Richards spent 11 years in federal prison and is now an Associate Professor of Sociology and Criminology. Many contributing authors in this book are professionals who spent years in prison. I am an Adjunct Professor at a university in Philadelphia. We can rehabilitate and excel.

The topic of "Can Prison Inmates Be Rehabilitated?" needs to have as much of a well rounded presentation as possible. No one has asked me "How did you get your life on track?" I will soon have the terminal degree. I think I can articulate my experience.

Thanks for listening.

Marina Kalugina   July 24th, 2010 2:05 pm ET

Dear Larry,

Regarding: kids/teens punishment as “adults“.

1. We are paying more than $1.60 Ml to jurisdiction and prisons systems for EACH kid who gets a life sentence as ‘adult’. How many teens and young adults possible to rehabilitate, if these money will go to the professionals in rehabilitation?

2.... Charging as adults.
It came to the law after voting on Proposal Initiatives.

The Constitution prohibits voting by majority on a law against minority. Some situations are requesting specialists only (Departments) to create a new law. We all were sick with a flu in our life but we do not voting on proposals how it should be treated by doctors.
Why we – majority – made a law against the minority – the teens?

3. Education and kids’ crime.

It’s normal for kids-teens – the human’s cabs – feel good about committing violence.
Kids came to life as predators and first bit the try on mother's nipple. Everyone knew how violent may turn the toddlers play!

Only education and Training are transforming the human’s cub -predator into social human adult.

It’s not enough to know what is wrong and what is right.

Example from 10 years old news. US humanitarian team went to Afghanistan. They KNEW that Taliban law is prohibits the Bible by death punishment. But they did take Bibles to Afghanistan, they did talk about Christianity to locals, they did put themselves and others in life treat danger – they were arrested and only US army invasion saved their life!

Why they did it, when they knew it was wrong? Because they feel so good about Christianity!

The same way teens’ brains wired on attacking others – it makes them feel good about it! The education and social training – are the Salvation Army for our teens.

We all knew about problems in ours educational system! And one of them is money. To pure money not into education, training and rehabilitation but into jurisdictional and prisons – is irresponsible and we, as a sociality, participating with our teens in their crimes!

For life of the future victims of teens crime we should change it!

Jessie from Auckland, NZ   July 25th, 2010 4:11 am ET

You do hear stories of people that have been in prison and have been able to change their lives around.

I don't think that there would be many that could have done it on their own. They would need quite a bit of help I would imagine. Like someone reaching out to them and offering a hand up.

They would need the right guidance and support on offer to them. The biblical way is the best way to start. I believe it can work wonders and it has.

You never give up on people. Need to give them hope too. Where there is a will, there is a way.

Susan Riel-Tobin   July 25th, 2010 5:28 pm ET

Can you please post more detailed information about how Judge Mathis PEER program consit of. I saw the show on Larry King Live, however I would like to share his program (in writing) with others

Vince   July 25th, 2010 9:22 pm ET

Yes..I believe juviniles who commit such acts of murder should be tried as adults..To many are just getting away with crimes as murder..armed robbery..I also believe that just because they are juviniles their names should be printed in the newspapers..

Lisa Leon   July 25th, 2010 11:33 pm ET

For some who feel it is a waste of time to help people who have been in prison and that criminal behavior is a way of life. You would be surprised at the increasing numbers of people who are fighting in every way they can come up with to do good and make it the right way. The laws that say no assistance, no housing, no jobs, no education. These are all the things every human being needs to survive in life as a whole. How in the world is a person supposed to live and feed their children when society has disenfranchised them for good. Give me a break. Those of us who did make it made by a strand of hair, but it was not easy. Change some of these laws and policies and watch how formerly incarcerated people change the world. It is a powerful thing to witness.

Diane Zimberoff   July 31st, 2010 9:57 pm ET

Larry, one of the problems that overcrowds prisons is mentally ill people. During the 80's Pres. Regan, implimented "Reagon-omics"
This closed all of the mental health institutions and dumped these people in the streets with no treatment. They are the ones who are now homeless or prisoners. We need to bring back those live-in institutions and separate out the true criminals from the mentally ill.

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