Prison is not meant to be a good time for any person. The prison system is designed to punish criminals, and citizens wishing to avoid a negative life-altering experience are wise to obey local and federal laws. While prison has many advantages, the disadvantages to the lives of the prisoners and their families weigh heavily on society.
Cost to the taxpayer
The cost to the taxpayer of operating prisons is a con associated with prison operations. Prisons are state-funded, which means the general taxpayer pays to care for prisoners. While prisoners may have jobs within the prison, the taxable contribution is often low. Taxpayers contribute to the care of prisoners through their paychecks and working hard daily while the prisoner is fed and provided with a place to sleep. Criminals locked away in prison are not having a good time, but they are living on the hard work of law-abiding citizens.
Loss of family connections
Prisoners sometimes lose family connections, making this a con of prisons. Whether family members are not allowed to visit because of their age or refuse to visit due to personal reasons, prisoners may lose the family ties which existed before they were imprisoned. Some prisons may provide a halfway house or a work program for released prisoners, but most will not help a prisoner when he finally walks out the front door. Family ties are essential if a reformed criminal hopes to reassimilate into the working world. Family members are the most likely members of society to give prisoners a place to live and a second chance.
Effects on families
The effects prison has on families is a con of prison life. Families may fall apart while the prisoner is serving time, or begin to argue over matters better left alone. Witnessing a family member go to prison is stressful on family members, and old arguments may arise to avoid the real feelings regarding the imprisonment. The imprisoned family member may have possessed the highest income within the household, which would leave the family with less or no money. Placing a criminal in prison abruptly removes a member of the family, and other members need to learn to adjust to the change.
Removing criminals from the general population
Removing people who commit crimes from the populous is a pro of prisons. Once a criminal is found and caught, the severity of the crime must be weighed and the appropriate punishment given. If an individual is caught robbing a house or killing a person and does not receive prison time, the likelihood of a repeat crime grows exponentially. Criminals need to be removed from society to protect law-abiding citizens and assure a pattern of peace in the community.
Deterring future criminals
Some children who may otherwise be criminals may be deterred by the thought of prison. This "scare tactic" is a pro of prison. Children who possess a fundamental understanding of the law and know prison is not a place for fun may avoid breaking the laws. Future criminals may choose to act in a different manner or make different choices if there is a solid understanding of the consequences. Children or young relatives of current prisoners may be able to see prison from a closer viewpoint and decide to avoid criminal activity.
Prison deters repeat offenders, which is a pro of prison. Some ex-cons will attempt to follow the law as closely as possible to avoid returning to prison. In this case, the prison system is effective in rehabilitating prisoners and creating responsible citizens. Some ex-cons who made honest mistakes can learn which actions are appropriate and will allow them to stay in the community and out of prison.