Prison, it’s not the perks, it’s the population:   An over-criminalization crisis

Prison, it’s not the perks, it’s the population: An over-criminalization crisis

The headlines this week have been touting how “Prison life has never been so good,” here and here. While I understand why taxpayers would be none too pleased at the idea that prisoners enjoy more daily life perks than those out earning a living every day, it isn’t the perks that are the problem. It is the massive prison population that ought to make you hopping mad.

The US has a wildly unproductive criminal justice system with a self-destructive focus on revenge-oriented judgment and entirely too many laws that permanently damage an individual’s potential for committing acts that ought never to have been considered a crime in the first place.  We have a veritable over-criminalization crisis.

No other country incarcerates a higher percentage of its population than the United States, a dubious gold medal we’ve held since 2002. Over 7 people are incarcerated out of every 1,000. The US has about 5% of the world’s population but 25% of the entire world’s prison population!

U.S. prison population is over 2.4m and has quadrupled since 1980, with the largest driver of this change being longer prison sentences for drug offenders. There is something seriously wrong with a system in which had the current President been caught smoking pot, as he admits he did in his youth, he could have been sent to prison and been unable to ever make much of his life, after being saddled with the stigma of a convict. Instead, he was one of the lucky ones who never got caught and is now arguably the most powerful person on earth. Something is very wrong with a system that would have imprisoned and effectively ruined his life, as it has so many others, even if you disagree with his political views!

Bottom Line: Prisons ought to be reserved exclusively for those who are a physical threat to society, not as a taxpayer funded form of revenge. Those who are not a physical danger to society ought to remain productive members of society and atone for their misdeeds while being an active part of the economy.