“Being tough on crime” overrides national wellbeing. This article has some pretty staggering stats referencing the differences among crime categories and how they fluctuate from state to state. It reminds me of the class we had earlier in the semester when we talked about what makes a good policy and the conversation that followed regarding why some policies spread to surrounding states faster than others. I have cut some sections of an article written by Nake M. Kamrany and Ryan J. Boyd that was published in the Huffington Post last April. The article was well-written and explains many of the points I believe to be important about prison reform. I have pulled a few of them.
“In Rummel v. Estelle, the Supreme Court upheld a life sentence with the possibility of parole for William James Rummel for a felony fraud crime amounting to $120.75. On his third offense, Rummel refused to return money received as payment for unsatisfactory repairs of an air conditioning unit, resulting with a life sentence.”
Really? …and this is justice? ‘Common sense’ shows all kinds of wrong-doing on this one.
“Another case that demonstrates impacts of such minimum punishment laws is Ewing v. California. In 2000, Ewing stole three golf clubs worth $399 each and was charged and convicted of felony grand theft of personal property. During sentencing, Ewing requested the judge in the case exercise discretion permitted under California law and reduce the conviction to a misdemeanor. The judge declined and sentenced Ewing in accordance with the three strikes law. On appeal, Ewing argued the sentence of 25 years to life was grossly disproportionate to the crime and therefore a violation of the Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishments. The court, reasoning that the three strikes law served the state’s legitimate interests, rejected this claim. The California Supreme Court declined to hear the case.”
Grossly disproportionate to say the least.
“A study has shown that a 10 percent increase in incarceration is associated with two to four percent drop in crime.”
I don’t know the detail of the study done to come up with this statistic, but according to this stat it appears all the more evident that our overcrowded prison system is not resulting in a safer society. What is the point of prisons, again?
The war on drugs
“Non-violent drug offenders make up 25 percent of the incarcerated population (up from less than 10 percent in 1980). While in Europe, drug offenders may be sent to outpatient clinics, in the United States, enormous sums are spent waging war on drugs and incarceration. There is a disconnect between the intended results of our politicians and the actual results that the taxpayers are paying.”
I believe the War on Drugs has created unintended consequences. I am mindful that not all drug-related offenses are dealing with an addict, but perhaps someone who is addicted to a lifestyle ‘achieved’ by selling drugs. There is a difference and this needs to be taken into consideration.
“61.8 percent of all inmates (including jail, state prison, and federal prison) committed non-violent offenses. “
I believe this stat may help explain why incarcerating so many people does not create a safer society.