The failure of rehabilitation Forum Extra

October 03, 1990|By Ronald Q. Ellis

AFTER reading Marina Sarris' "State is probing Thanos' early release from prison" (Evening Sun, Sept. 19), I realized once again how people are casting a short-sighted view on a very serious problem.

John Thanos spent about 25 years in prison, over half of his life, and when he gets released, he is accused of going on a spree of senseless crimes. Like most people, I, too, have a problem with a deranged individual running around committing senseless murders. However, in my mind the question isn't why Thanos wasn't incarcerated a few extra months. It's this: What type of system do we have that continuously turns out deranged killers and rapists?

It seems as if a very large portion of the individuals who are released from our prisons choose to commit more crimes. About 75 percent eventually return to prison. This is a clear indication that someone has dropped the ball. Under the current system, very few people incarcerated are rehabilitated prior to their release. Something has to be done immediately to improve the rehabilitation programs inside our prison system.

There is a very small and elite group of prisoners who have chosen to re-educate themselves. Unfortunately, almost all of their efforts go unrecognized and unrewarded. Their efforts are overshadowed by the negative behavior of the ex-convicts who choose to continue a life of crime.

Unless something is done to upgrade the quality of prison programs, of prison employees and of their supervisors, it will continue to be a losing battle and, thus, the people in our communities will continue to suffer.

Someone must take a close look at our current prison system to determine whether it attempts to re-educate and rehabilitate its prisoners, or whether it can be labeled as a major reason why people like Thanos regress.

The writer is a prisoner at the State Penitentiary in Baltimore.

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