I would argue that the main issue that faces prison reform today is the lingering feeling on the part of many Americans that prisoners need to be punished as harshly as possible.
In my view, the main thing that needs to happen to prisons is that they need to be made into places that will actually rehabilitate offenders. My main reason for saying this is not concern for the inmates. Instead, it is concern for our society. As a society, we incarcerate huge numbers of people. If we incarcerate people without rehabilitating them, we set them up for later failure when they get out of prison. This hurts them, of course, but it hurts us as a society just as much. We are taking large numbers of people and essentially wasting all the potential that they ever had. Instead of helping our society and our economy improve, they end up dragging it down. I do not think that we can afford to continue to do this.
The issue that faces prison reform, though, is that most Americans do not feel this way. They feel (and understandably so) that it is not right to spend money on programs to train people in prisons if we do not spend similar amounts of money training people outside of prison. It seems utterly wrong to give people rewards (in the form of training, help getting jobs, etc) for committing crimes. Instead, Americans would prefer to punish criminals harshly. This is understandable, but I would argue that it is counterproductive. This desire to avenge ourselves on criminals by punishing them severely is the biggest issue that faces prison reform today.