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Americas Love Affair with Prisons

Updated on February 9, 2010

Life behind bars

Opposing Viewpoints

 Always in a controversial topic such as this to be fair you must include and consider view points from both sides of the issue. I have tried to do that in this article so as not to offend anyone on either side of the debate.

I would appreciate your comments and opinions on this issue.

More people are incarcerated in United states Prisons and jails than in any other country. More than half of the U.S. prison population, approximately 2,131,180 are incarcerated for non-violent crimes.

Supporters of incarceration argue that non-violent offenders have broken the law and therefore must serve time as a consequence.

Critics argue that the incarceration of those for non-violent crimes costs the states and government too much money and does nothing to reduce crime or to protect society.

My personal opinion is that they would be better paying society by working in community based programs such as roadwork, cleaning graffiti and other services such as homeless shelters. Also the mandatory requirement of some type of vocational training to help secure employment would be a better alternative and cost less.

Criminologists who defend incarceration for those convicted of small drug offensescan receive drug rehabilitation treatment that may not be available in the community.


From personal experience of working in the correctional system and courts, the drug rehabilitation programs are only offered in a few facilities and have long waiting lists.

The United States spends at least $80 billion on the criminal justice system each year but of the 650,000 offenders released form the state and federal prisons, 70% will commit a new crime and return within three years. Thus I must agree that imprisoning those convicted of non-violent crimes does nothing to lower the crime rate or protect society.

Ed Schwartz, of the Institute for the study of Civic values " if churning people in and out of our prison doors is the only way to effectively control crime, then we can expect our budgets for corrections to be staggering for years to come."

Advocates for criminal justice reform are lobbying for more community based alternatives for non-violent offenders. These include half-way houses, day report centers, drug courts and substance abuse and mental health services for the non-violent offenders.

David B. Muhlhausen, a top Washington expert on criminal justice programs: " prison construction and operations must remain a priority for the government and states, despite the public's dislike for prison spending.

Nationwide, signs are appearing that show that America's "Love Affair" with incarceration is ending. Due to enormous budgets and severe overcrowding of prisons many are rethinking their position on non-violent offender incarceration.

A. legislature in washington state, the first to implement the three strikes law, has now passed a series of laws to weaken it.

B. Kansas sends first offender drug cases to a drug court and rehabilitation if the crime was not violent.

C. Michigan dropped its mandatory minimums for drug offenders.

D. Iowa, Missouri, and Wisconsin eased their "Truth in Sentencing Laws", requiring the offender to serve most of their sentence before being eligible for parole.

E. in the past decade, 25 states have sought to ease their correctional burdens by weakening the mandatory minimums, reforming the post-release requirements, and reinstating the parole board. Those who propose this reform come from both sides of the political isle, including sherriffs, police, legislators, members of congress, govenors and prison executives. Increased emphasis on rehabilitation and return of the offender to society, advocated by Former President George W. Bush in his 2005 State of The Union address, makes sense to many.

Advocates of incarceration for non-violent offenders say the strengthing of the sentencing laws in the 1990's has kept dangerous criminals off the street and has paid handsome dividends as well. They argue that the rehabilitation of offenders has a long history of failure.

In truth i do not believe that America loves "prisons", instead, some of society must remain in prison for the safety of the rest of us.

Looking at both of these viewpoints, it is obvious that breaking up with the "tough on crime" mindset of the 1990's will be hard to do.


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    • crazybeanrider profile image

      Boo McCourt 7 years ago from Washington MI

      You would think that the states could come up with some program to keep the violent offenders incarcerated, and the less non violent ones doing some kind work for the community as you mentioned. Also checking in houses and house arrest is a valuable tool.

      With all the overcrowding, it only makes a C/O's job much harder. There are programs they could create, but I think they just find it easier to send them to jail and be done.

      The most violent offenders must stay in prison. But I see many of them skipping out on good behavior and overcrowding. I imagine it is hard to create the perfect or near perfect solution without spending money they don't want to spend. Just some thoughts. If people knew the viciousness of violent criminals in prison they would fight harder to keep them there.

      I lost my train of though, but it is a tough call either way. I enjoy reading these articles. Good writing.