Climate of Negativity

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It seems that people think in terms of negative more often than in terms of positive in today’s world. Society seems to have embraced a climate of negativity and, in turn, it permeates so much of our culture. The old idiom calls it “glass half empty”, but I simply call it sad.

As a member of the corrections world, I can affirm that this negativity is more than evident in our prisons and overall correctional system. Who is to blame for this negativity? Murderers? Rapists? Robbers? Burglars? No, the negative sentiment is bred in the most unlikely (or, perhaps, likely) place… the system.

It all begins with the primary measure of success in the correctional world, “recidivism”. Merriam-Webster defines recidivism as “a tendency to relapse into a previous condition or mode of behavior; especially: relapse into criminal behavior”. And while this seems to be a legit measure of how well the correctional world is doing the job of rehabilitation, it is based strictly upon negative results.

What the correctional systems of this country (and many others, as well) should be measuring is quite the opposite of recidivism rates… success rates. In Pennsylvania, the recidivism rate in 2008 was approximately 45-47%. Rather than publish this number and dwell on it, the entire outlook of correctional rehabilitation in the commonwealth that I live in and work for would be drastically different if we defined it as a 53-55% success rate.

Imagine the possibilities, defining our realities by our successes rather than our defeats… what a concept! In a sector as negative as the prison system, this small change to set off a chain reaction that could ripple throughout many other sectors of our society.

Perhaps the glass could be “half full” (and on its way to being even fuller).

~ by thepaintedman on September 22, 2009.

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