Falling Crime, Teeming Prisons

This is a topic or question that is starting to appear over and over again not only in the newspapers but on talk radio and television. It is given more and more attention as various levels of government are struggling with oppresive budget restrictions. What made wonderful sound bites a few years ago during the assorted electoral campaigns has come back to haunt us now that they have served their purpose of getting this and that idiot elected.

The same idiots and political parties are having to rethink the sound bites to see if theire is any truth. Manatory minimums, three strikes, 10, 20 and life all have a nice ring but are costly and not necessarily in the best interest of the public. Crime at best or worst is a sympton of something way bigger and we have yet to address the social issues of drugs, education and etc.

A point that is being totaly ignored is that prisons have become a holding facility for the mentally challenged; a very expensive holding faciltiy at that.

This is an editorial from the New York Times asking the questions. Falling Crime, Teeming Prisons
Editorial

Falling Crime, Teeming Prisons

Published: October 29, 2011

Senator Jim Webb, Democrat of Virginia, has a smart proposal to create a bipartisan commission to review the nation’s troubled criminal justice system and offer recommendations for reform. The National Criminal Justice Commission Act would be a valuable first step toward reducing crime as well as punishment. Unfortunately, Senate Republicans derailed the bill recently, with some falsely claiming that it would encroach on states’ rights.

As a means of controlling crime, America’s prisons are notoriously inefficient and only minimally effective, often creating hardened criminals out of first-time offenders. The United States has 5 percent of the world’s population, yet 25 percent of the world’s prisoners. In the past generation, the imprisonment rate per capita in this country has multiplied by five. There are 2.3 million Americans in prisons and jails. Spending on prisons has reached $77 billion a year.

While crime has gone down notably, just 10 to 25 percent of the decline can be credited to the increase in imprisonment. The rest is from the waning of the crack epidemic, the aging of the baby boomers and other factors.

Even as the prison population has grown, less than half of the inmates are serving time for violent crimes. Far too often, prison has become a warehouse for people with drug or alcohol addiction. More than half of the population has some form of mental illness. Without proper addiction and psychiatric treatment, many end up back in prison soon after their release.

The incarceration rate has had a devastating effect on minority communities. African-Americans, who make up one-eighth of the population, now make up about 40 percent of those in prison. African-American men have a one-in-three chance of spending a year or more in prison. The trend affects whole communities, depressing earnings and increasing recidivism.

There are, however, ways to end this cycle of incarceration. This could be done by reducing sentences for nonviolent offenses, ending mandatory minimum sentences and cleaning up drug markets nationally. Reasonable senators should support the bipartisan commission that Senator Webb is calling for, which would cost only $5 million and could help bring about compelling reforms.

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