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  In order to do this, mandatory minimum laws must be repealed and judges must have more discretion to determine the appropriate consequences for each individual offender.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.

Proposal 3 society


Prison Crowding

Society Proposal

The United States of America holds nearly a quarter of the world’s prisoners, despite its relatively small population of under 300 million people. With over 2.3 million criminals behind bars, criminologists and legal scholars around the world are shocked by the duration of sentencing and the range of crimes that are punishable by jail time in the United States. These analysts point to “higher levels of violent crime, harsher sentencing laws, a legacy of racial turmoil, a special fervor in combating illegal drugs, the American temperament, and the lack of a social safety net” as reasons for the high percentage of the population imprisoned. The number of prisoners held in America grows every year, and the country has become the most frequent jailer by a large margin. Continue reading

Prison Crowding Government Proposal 2


Prison Crowding

Government Proposal

Since 1980, the number of inmates housed in American prisons has quadrupled to over two million people. The number of people on parole or probation has also dramatically increased during this time to nearly five million adults. The United States has the highest documented incarceration rate in the world with .743% of its population behind bars (Squidoo). This unstable situation is caused by certain US laws which contribute to an increased duration of incarceration and mandatory jail time for some non-violent offenders.

Continue reading

Prison Reform and the Failing War on Drugs


With many important issues this election including the budget deficit, unemployment rates, social security, and medicare, it is not surprising that a lot of other issues are being put on the back burner.

One issue of importance to me is the over-population of our incarceration system.

Continue reading

Prison Break


Image

I recently became extremely addicted to the television show Prison Break. Prison Break contains a little bit of everything—unethical behavior, an overly powerful government, and a corrupt society. This show is truly addicting, I actually watched the first three seasons in one month…all seasons are available on Netflix if anyone is interested!
Continue reading