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Capstone Project

United States versus European Correctional Facilities: Access to Healthcare and Living Conditions

For my senior capstone project, I focused on life in the prison system. I looked specifically at incarcerated individuals' access to healthcare and what the living conditions were like in different countries. By looking into the United States correctional facilities versus Norweigan and German correctional facilities, I learned about the drastic contrast between jail and prison types based on the facility's fundamental goal: the difference between retribution and rehabilitation. 

Product #1: Research Paper

The first product for the Capstone Project is the research paper. Within my paper, I discussed the differences in access to healthcare and the living quarters and conditions in correctional facilities in the United States and European countries like Norway and Germany.  Furthermore, I noted the impact of jobs in prison, how the environment affects inmates, what could be implemented in the US prison systems, and what has already been done to a few prisons based on trips to Europe. In the US there has already been European influence on new measures surrounding handling inmates and there has been a progression towards opening new facilities focused on rehabilitation and support for inmates to make sure they can get out of life surrounded by crime. My conclusions show that European countries are more effective and successful because of their low recidivism rate and their focus on rehabilitation. The central focus of rehabilitation prepares inmates for reintegration giving them the tools to help themselves grow as a person not being held back by their crimes-overall becoming productive citizens for reintegration into society. With this project, I got to merge my interests in healthcare and access to medical care, issues of human rights, and the prison system. 

To read my full paper click the photo to the left and it will open a link to my whole paper. 

Product #2: Infographic

For the second product of my capstone project, I chose to do an infographic highlighting a few of the main points from my research paper. Within the infographic I focused on one aspect of my paper, the housing and living conditions in correctional facilities within the United States, and how it compares and contrasts to correctional facilities in Norway and Germany. I started by giving an insight into the two ways of thinking about the prison system. Around the world, the stigma around incarceration is viewed drastically differently, especially among European countries like Norway and Germany, and the United States. The United States focuses on retribution and ensuring time is served for individuals who stray from the law and societal norms. The US uses the jail and prison system as a form of deterrence to get crime off the streets but in doing so it leads to mass incarceration, with limited resources to properly care for its inmates. This surplus of inmates leads to many issues in the prison system not only for the facility but the impact it has on its incarcerated population. Within the United States prisons the environment “does not promote individual and environmental growth like in Germany and Norway, it cultivates feelings of institutionalization, immobilization, and lack of control among the people who live there”. Contrasting the US, Norwegian, and German prisons focus on rehabilitation and prepare inmates for reintegration into society. In European correctional facilities inmates aren’t looked down on because of their criminal past, why they are serving time, or awaiting trial. Everyone supports each other and works to better themselves. In Europe, they follow the motto that one’s past doesn’t define them or their future. Building off of this the structure of the correctional system and programs built to support inmates help grow individuals and provide effective resources to reintegrate inmates into society. These are a few main points of my infographic. I wanted to hone in on one drastically different aspect of the prison systems in the US versus Europe. 

A prominent resource I used during the research process was the Vera Institute of Justice. I found multiple articles regarding the living conditions in United States prisons in addition to a few documenting their trip to Europe and what they took away from visiting the prison systems there. They went into detail about the main differences between the US and Germany and created a video highlighting their findings. This video connected directly to my project because it explores how the living conditions and layout of correctional facilities can affect inmates and their state of health. I found their findings very informative and they matched my main takeaways from my research. This video does a good job of comparing German prisons to prisons in the US. Click the video button on the right to view the video on German versus US prisons.

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Product #3: Free Verse Poem

For my third product, I created a free verse poem depicting life in US jails and the system as a whole. I based my poem on information I found through my research and first-hand accounts of life in jail I gathered from the Netflix Docuseries Unlocked: A Jail Experiment.

While looking for a new show to watch, I came across the Netflix Docuseries Unlocked: A Jail Experiment. After watching the trailer I realized how similar this series was to my project regarding incarceration in the US and what could be done differently. This series looked into a new way of imprisonment. In Little Rock Arkansas's Pulaski County Regional Detention Facility Sheriff Eric Higgins tried implementing a new protocol regarding inmates' lives in jail. His new approach was based on research he gathered from European jails in countries such as Norway. As opposed to keeping inmates locked in their cells for 23 hours a day he opened all the cell doors, removed the deputies, and let the inmates make decisions for themselves. While still following the standard rules of a jail he let the inmates stay out of their cells and see how they would react to this new form of freedom. Whether the inmates would work as a community to keep the doors unlocked was up to them, they controlled their fate. This experiment tested the theory that if inmates were not defined by their past actions and given the opportunity to beneficially change their surroundings-even though it would take hard work- would they take it? 

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