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School Shootings In US – The Outraged Generation Getting Armed

“The shooter … asked one of the other students to stand up and when he did ask him if he was religious. The student said he was Christian and was shot … He then had another student stand up and asked him the same, when he answered Catholic the shooter then asked if he believed in the afterlife. The student said I don’t know and the shooter thanked him for standing up for his beliefs and shot him. …A woman on the floor “said she was sorry for whatever happened to him and for whatever she had done wrong, The shooter then said that he bets she was and shot her.”

This is the account of Matthew Downing of the Umpqua Community College Oregon, who is one of the survivors of one of the deadliest school shootings in the history of Oregon. Matthew was only spared because he was told by the shooter to deliver a package from him to the police. Otherwise, he too would’ve met the same fate as his other classmates and the professor.

School Shootings have become a common phenomenon so much that people have now become numb to any and every incident which takes place. As of now, more than 50 incidents of shooting have taken place in 2015 where a gun was fired both intentionally or unintentionally, leaving more than 30 dead and nearly 50 injured. As of now, the total amount of incidents averages to more than 1 incident per week!The facts are taken from an Index created by Every Town Research for Gun Safety which has a record for every School Shooting which has taken place since 2013. The situation is so bad that America leads the world in the number of school shootings!
There is probably no one reason as to why America has such a high number of school shooting incidents especially when gun violence has dropped nearly 50% from 1993 till 2011. One of the reasons for such a large number of shootings is the easy access of firearms. Americans own more firearms than the total amount owned by the civilians of 21 other countries where school shootings have taken place. The number of firearms per 100 residents in America is 97. The second country which comes after America is Serbia with nearly 58.2 guns per 100 Residents! That is a huge difference! Almost every other household has a firearm which a Child can easily access. Banning the purchase of guns altogether or requiring a stricter check before purchasing a firearm would not solve the issue because there are so many guns already out there that it is extremely possible for a perpetrator to acquire a firearm from a relative or even purchase a gun illegally.According to an analysis conducted by Every Town Research, nearly a third of the shootings have occurred as a direct result of a confrontation vocal or otherwise which escalated into a shooting. And the American culture is such that people are told that taking a stand for what you believe in is the right thing to do. Underage teens who are still extremely immature that this the wrong way and think that the usage of guns is the one and only way to solve problems and end confrontations and that is what most school kids who go on rampages do. Combine this with the fact of easily accessible firearms; we have a solid reason as to why America is the leader in the number of school shootings.

Another factor which can and does contribute to the abnormally high number of school shootings is the practice of glamorizing and glorifying the perpetrators by the Media. Take the example of Time Magazine, which after the incident at Columbine had big colored portraits of the attackers on its cover page. According to various behavioral experts, this practice can encourage more unstable and unhealthy people to take up arms in order to get the same amount of attention from the media as others. Guns give that impression of power and strength over another and those who have been subdued all their lives take this as an opportunity to subdue those who have subdued them all their lives.  There have been solid indications of attackers being inspired from people who have previously committed similar acts in notes and manifestos left behind after they commit suicide or are killed in encounters with the police.

According to the analysis carried out by Every Town Research, most of the school shootings have occurred in high schools and among which 70% of the shootings were committed by minors. According to researchers, this is the time of a person’s life when they are going through both physical and mental changes. They are going through puberty; they start to feel affection and other emotional changes such as love, lust, hate etc. Most of the people try and cope up with these changes one way or another but then there are a few of those who are unable to cope up with these changes which leads to loneliness, isolation and seclusion which again in turn leads to hatred and anger. Again, those which are not able to cope up with the anger resort to violence and release all of that anger stored in them on to others.

Combine all of these factors of easy accessibility, Media Coverage and Health Issues with the fact of growing social inequality, the people will find a way to take out their frustration one way or another.  Unstable people who are also victims of social inequality are bound to turn to violence one way or another in order to take out their frustration at the society. The American Health system is in tatters and those who are mentally ill are not being taken care of properly. As long as unstable and mentally ill people are remain unchecked, incidents such as this will take place regularly as one incident will inspire many others to do just the same in order to gain name and a means for releasing their anger.

It is clear that something needs to be done about this ever growing problem and everyone needs to make some sort of compromises in order to reduce the number of casualties due to school shooting incidents. The Media can compromise and stop giving prime time to the killers and attackers which they certainly do not deserve. Such an action will show otherpotential perpetrators that shooting someone just to get the public’s attention is not something worth killing and dying for. The politicians can compromise they vote bank and call for stricter laws regarding the purchase of guns as well as checking the background and mental health of a person before selling a firearm. This will not solve the problem completely but it will surely help. The Schools can tighten up their security and be on a constant lookout for people with unstable behavior. As soon as a person starts to show abnormal behavior, the schools should immediately take action so as to prevent a possible shooting or any other deadly incident. School Shootings are bad for us and our children, and they need to stop as soon as possible.

Prisons Being A Punishment Rather Than A Place For Punishment

“My mind is free to go where it wants. But my body… has to remain within a 50 mile radius within the area I’m paroled at”, these are the words one ex-prisoner used to describe his feeling after release from prison. Society perceives prison as punishment instead of a place for punishment. This is a judgment in itself. When a person has spent time in prison, the law might vindicate him of the crime eventually but the re-adjustment issues which are to be faced at the hands of society and family do not let the person feel like a free man for a long time. On top of that, the strict parole conditions and mental effort it requires to re-start their lives from where they left, leaves many men incapable of going out of their house to avoid being sent back to prison.

 

Recidivism, which means a person’s inclination to slip back into criminal behavior which eventually results in that person being sent back to prison even after receiving intervention or undergoing correctional measures previous crimes, is said to be a direct result of the prison climate. Prison climate means the various characteristics of a correctional institute as they are perceived by the inmates of the prison. These include social interactions, emotional health while completing a prison sentence, administrative and organizational accessibility and physical health of the inmates. Prison climate is more commonly referred to as ‘prison environment’. Research shows that 1 out of every 5 men return to prison within a year of being released. 70% of these men are sent back due to violation of their parole supervision.

Research indicates that a prison with a ‘bad’ environment is frequently subjected to riots and instability. The inmates feel insecure and unheard. The staff feels overworked and underpaid. Everyone is dissatisfied. There are three most important factors which are necessary for a healthy climate at a facility. These are stability at the bureaucratic level, the dissatisfaction level of the correctional staff and the social environment of the place. Frequently, cases of physical violence are reported at prisons. These are due to a number of reasons which include the lack of privacy or having your personal space intruded by others, mental and physical monotony and sense of uselessness and the sense of being under someone else’s control. These factors visibly affect the social and cognitive environment of the whole place.

A number of evidences show that women experiences differ from men in US prisons. It is due to the fact that their relationship both inside and outside of prison matters in shaping the culture in women’s prisons. Even though men make up the majority of prisons in the US, the annual incarceration for women increased at a rate of 7.5%in 2004 as compared to 5.7% for men. Based on these figures, different studies show that men and women tend to cope differently when it came to form family structures within the prison and differed from the roles they would normally adopt in the society where men tend to isolate themselves from others and showed more aggression towards the other inmates. Another important issue that surfaces in many prisons is the child care and women worry about it when they are incarcerated. According to the statistics, 64% of women were primary guardians for their children prior to being incarcerated. It is quite likely that the life of male children is based on many traumatic events as they grow up in the prisons, but research has shown that female children experienced a higher rate of trauma.

To some extent gender imbalanced prison cells affected the overall climate of the prison in the US. According to the International Centre for Prison Studies, nearly one third of women prisoners are confined in US prison cells which account to almost 8.8% of the total US prison population. Another astonishing aspect is that this trend is on the rise. It all began in 1870s when the authorities in US started housing women in separate facilities. But it came up with one problematic feature as male staff used to operate these cells and they often tried to engage with women in immoral acts.  But with the passage of 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1972 Equal Employment Opportunity Act, a policy shift occurred and as a result females started replacing the male employees and as of 2007 males now serve at restricted positions such as prison guards and make 40% of total post.

However, both the positive and negative experiences of both the male and female inmates matter and help shape the overall climate of that particular prison. What matters to both genders is the respect shown towards them, humanitarian principles being practiced, staff-prisoner relationships, degree of support provided to the prisoners, level of mutual trust, degree of fairness, overall maintenance of law and order, maintaining an appropriate prisoner safety level, well-being opportunities provided for personal development, amount of family contact, use or abuse of power, meaning attached to the penal experience and decency shown to prisoners. Some other measures included the quality of physical environment, different staff services and programs, and personal safety and security. Healthy prison indicators are based on whether prisoners feel safe, are treated with respect are able to and assisted in maintaining meaningful contact with their families. Overall the issue of reliability and validity are of particular importance.

For now the overcrowded prison populations continue to be one of the greatest challenges faced by the US prison system. Not only more strict crime policies and determinate sentencing profoundly increased the numbers of various criminals in prisons and generated extended prison sentences, but overall raised the annual prison population. This overpopulation and heavily relying on system has overburdened the state and has lately resulted into fast depletion of resources. Ultimately weakening the ability to seek to achieve rehabilitation and accomplishing only incapacitation rather greater benefits. Therefore, in order to counter this situation, state took aggressive measures and as a result the prison system in US has evolved a lot till now since its inception in the 16th century. Now most of the prisons in US are being designed, financed, built and operated by private companies. On one hand they take the operational burden off from the government and are more innovative but on the other handsome experts believe them to be flawed both in principle and in practice.

What can be concluded is that the social climate of a prison can influence rehabilitative outcomes. It is, therefore, recommended that the social climate of US prisons is regularly audited such that the changes over time are assessed, standards for improvement are set and targets are achieved. So much so that the need for additional resources or interventions is identified and responded to properly.