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There Are Too Many People in Our Prisons

W. Scott Cole

Posted on May 18, 2018 23:50

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The Unites States is called the land of the free and the home of the brave. For too long, it has not been the land of the free in too many ways. We need to change that.

It is a sad fact of life that prisons are necessary in order to protect society from the anti-social and the violent that exist in our world. It is also a fact of life that we have far too many people in prison that do not need to be there.

The United States has more people in prison than any country in the world, including Russia and China, both as a percentage of population and in raw numbers. As of May 2018, there are 655 people in our prison systems per 100,000 people, with some studies going even higher. That is over 2.2 million people. With only 5 percent of the world population, the United States houses almost twenty-five percent of the world’s prisoners. How can that happen in the land of the free?

An even better question is what can we do about it? According to a study done by Time Magazine, fully thirty-nine percent of our incarcerated citizens could be released from prison safely. That is the number of people convicted of low level, non-violent crimes, who would be better helped by alternatives to incarceration or who have served sufficiently long sentences that there literally is no point in keeping them in prison.

We could reduce the numbers of people being sent to prison by better identifying those who would do better with a sentence to one of the alternatives and by refocusing out war on drugs. The war on drugs has focused mostly on addicts and low level dealers. The higher level distributors, drug manufacturers and smugglers, meanwhile, are arrested and convicted at much lower rates, yet they are the drivers and suppliers of the drugs being sold on the streets

Law enforcement should focus less on the feel-good, look-good tactics of arresting the addicts and low level dealers and concentrate more on the higher level dealers, the manufacturers, and the smugglers. The courts need to start sentencing the addicts and low level dealers to sentencing alternatives that will accomplish more than incarceration and give severe sentences to the high level dealers, manufacturers and smugglers. It will not only help lower our prison population, it will have a bigger impact where it is needed… on the suppliers.

Many of the addicts are addicted because they have other problems, such as mental health issues and they self-medicate with drugs. Prison will not help the majority of those addicts. Alternative sentencing will help a majority of them; they should not be in prison because of addictions caused by their attempts to deal with their problems by themselves.

Prison should be only for those who commit violent crimes or those that cannot be helped by alternative sentencing. Sentencing lengths should be reduced to be more appropriate for the crimes committed. If we do these things, our prison populations would fall by a significant number with no negative impact on society.

W. Scott Cole

Posted on May 18, 2018 23:50

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Source: The Atlantic

David Clarke, the Trump-loving, pro-mass-incarceration, Fox News favorite, is challenging criminal-justice reform--and stereotypes.

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