What’s a better approach for prisoners: Punishment or rehabilitation? (letter) | VailDaily.com

What’s a better approach for prisoners: Punishment or rehabilitation? (letter)

For the past 10 years, I have volunteered with Freedom to Choose Project, a volunteer-driven organization that has served 4,000 men and women in three maximum-security prisons. The work is based on the philosophy of renowned psychiatrist Viktor Frankl, himself a prisoner during the Holocaust.

Freedom to Choose conducts weekend programs, which are experiential and present social and emotional skills in large group settings. Many of its alumnae and alumni have successfully returned to their communities and attribute their success to what they learned in the workshops. As a result of my participation, I concur with Professor James Gilligan who published an article in the New York Times on Dec. 19, 2012, stating that "… punishment fails; rehabilitation works."

As for the bottom line: The per-annum cost of incarcerating an individual ranges from $35,000 to $80,000. Since more than 90 percent of inmates will return to society as our fellow employees and neighbors, doesn't it make sense to rehabilitate them by teaching the skills needed to succeed and to reduce recidivism? The United States represents 4.4 percent of the global population, but its prisons hold 22 percent of the world's incarcerated people.

Punishment or rehabilitation: What do you think?

Karin Weber

San Jose, California