White Paper

Prison Reform

Executive Summary

 

The United States of America, with a history of military victories, economic prosperity, and the idea of freedom for all, has traditionally taken a tough stance against drug use and distribution.  The war on drugs, beginning first with Nixon in 1967, then reinstated by Ronald Reagan in 1982, is responsible for the incarceration of thousands of criminals every year.  Many of these criminals received harsher penalties than people who commit similar crimes in other countries. Mandatory minimum sentencing laws in the United States, originally developed as a deterrent, have actually increased the amount of prisoners currently housed in American facilities.  Some non-violent crimes in other countries, such as possession of certain illegal substances, generally warrant a fine and probation, whereas similar crimes in America demand a prison sentence.  Due the combination of the war on drugs and mandatory minimum sentencing laws, American prisons are crowded far beyond their maximum capacity.  With overcrowding, inmates do not receive proper rehabilitation, and a large percentage of convicts are arrested again for new crimes within three years of their release.  The result, even more prison crowding, has serious side-effects.

With a large percentage of prisons considered to be filled above their recommended capacity, and staffed with below the minimum recommended amount of guards, inmate misconduct and violence is a significant threat.  The number of inmate assaults is directly related to how overcrowded a prison is.  Since understaffing is also a problem, it is very difficult for guards to quell these assaults and other violations, leading to unsafe conditions.  In addition to safety hazards, a high incarceration rate means that prisons will have to spend more time and capital to provide for more inmates.  The cost to house just one prisoner per year is surprisingly large, and only magnified by the enormous amount of inmates held in American prisons.  These costs run directly to taxpayers across the country.

Policymakers must advocate for a change to the current system.  Emphasis needs to be placed on rehabilitation, rather than on excessive punishment.  By removing a percentage of non-violent offenders from prisons, and placing them in probation or parole programs instead, the federal, state, and local governments can save an enormous amount of resources.  In order to do this, mandatory minimum laws must be repealed and judges must have more discretion to determine the appropriate consequences for each individual offender.  The saved resources can then be used to create new social programs inside of prisons to help effectively rehabilitate inmates.  If inmates choose to complete these courses, they will become eligible for shorter sentences.  These programs will not only reduce the chance that an emancipated offender returns to prison, but will also aid in decreasing prison populations across the nation.

Reforming the United Nations Human Rights Council


UN-human-rights-council

Aside from the fact that they meet in a building with a pretty awesome ceiling, the United Nations is one of the most significant international organizations in the world. And while it has many different areas of focus, one of the most culturally, socially, and morally significant ones is human rights abuses. Continue reading

Child Soldiers White Paper Teaser


In my French class this semester, Francophone Africa, we read a 400-page novel entitled, Johnny Chien Méchant, translated to mean Johnny Mad Dog. The plot follows a 16-year-old boy, recruited into the army at a young age, who desperately searches for his individual identity beneath the overwhelming presence of a militant organization. The psychological journey of this teen both fascinated and saddened me. I decided to delve deeper into the conflict of child soldiers to learn about the current regulation, prospects for improvement and the overall environment of the problem. Continue reading

White Paper – Proposal #3


Kofi Annan, one of the most vocal critics of the original United Nations Human Rights Commission.

One aspect of the United Nation’s attempts to deal with international violations of human rights that I want to deal with is the transition from the UN Human Rights Commission to the UN Human Rights Council. The Commission was established in 1946, with the intended focus of promoting human rights and helping states elaborate treaties. However, criticism of the organization was so severe that in 2007, it was replaced by the newly formed Human Rights Council. That criticism was rooted in the fact that certain members of the Commission were some of the worst human rights violators. Those states would often “band together to block investigations into their own records – or those of their allies” (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty). Continue reading

Change the world: Save water


Colorado River Abstract

Colorado River Abstract (Photo credit: cobalt123)

Water may be the most abundant thing on earth, but 99% of it is saltwater that is unsuitable for human consumption and use. Two thirds of the remaining one percent is locked up in the polar ice caps and glazers. So, only one third of one percent of the total of world’s water is shared between human and other organisms.

Water management has become a top priority in UN agenda. The United Nations estimated that 30% of the world population in 50 countries will face water shortages by 2025. According to the World Water Organization, as many as 135 million people may die from water-related diseases by 2020 if no action is taken to meet basic water needs. Continue reading

Pay It Forward


This basic idea is old.  It has been used in several books and movies over the last hundred years, but the philosophy is sound.  The idea is to try to perform three kind acts per day.  The three recipients of these kind acts must then strive to also perform at least three kind acts for three other people, therefore paying the debt forward to a third party.

If everyone took part in this simple practice, the world would be a better place.  While this wouldn’t stop poverty, hunger, and wars overnight; it would help to make everyone’s day-to-day quality of living a little bit better.  The long term affects of this practice could prove to be truly world changing.  If kindness could become a cornerstone of society’s values around the world, maybe one day humanities problems could be solved through efficient coordination.

The Future of Transportation


33,000. That’s the number of deaths resulting from car accidents in 2010. Now add the death tolls from wars involving territory and gasoline. Plus the side-effects of gas emissions from cars on the environment. That’s a lot of bad. Continue reading

Don’t Bite Off More Than You Can Chew


Don’t bite off more than you can chew.  If everyone lived by this montra, the world would change for the better.  It applies to so many aspects of our ailing society–

foreign policy: don’t go in without an exit plan

birthing rates: don’t have more children than you can support- both financially and emotionally

economy: don’t spend money you don’t have

obesity: literally, don’t bite off more than you can chew.

This would change society at large to a more self aware being that does not over-consume, over-spend, or over-extend.  Obvioiusly this does not speak directly to the developing nations that struggle to survive on a daily basis.  But I do believe that if people were generally less concerned with digging themselves out of various overwhelming situations, we’d be all together more inclined to help those in need.

LAST post- 60 second idea to change the world


There is a lot wrong with the world.  But there is nothing wrong with the world that cannot be fixed by what is right with the world (thanks Bill Clinton for the phrase).  I think the same mix is inside each of us.  Hopefully, your education and this class have given you the means and tools to find what is fixable and how to start fixing.

What To Do

In that spirit, your last post is to think of a “60 second idea to improve the world.”  This is shamelessly borrowed form a BBC podcast I heard. (You can riff on an idea there if you like).

Please read your post and time it to sixty seconds!  These should be short, powerful, and convincing.  60 seconds is about two paragraphs or 500 words. Continue reading