February 20th, 2007

Packed Prisons


photo credit: smalldogs

Our prisons are packed:

A record 7 million people or one in every 32 American adults were behind bars, on probation or on parole by the end of last year, according to the Justice Department. Of those, 2.2 million were in prison or jail, an increase of 2.7 percent over the previous year, according to a report released Wednesday.

More than 4.1 million people were on probation and 784,208 were on parole at the end of 2005. Prison releases are increasing, but admissions are increasing more.

1 out of every 32 people in this country is in prison. What type of society do we live in that so many people have committed criminal offenses and necessitate being put behind bars to prevent further crime?

How much money are the other 31 people forced to pay in order to sustain the life of a person who has committed a crime?

Prisons are often referred to as “correctional facilities”. Indeed, the stated intent of such institutions is to force repentance on the criminal, exact justice, and (often) later release him/her back into society, hopefully as one who has learned from his/her mistakes and suffered the consequences.

Teaching about the Lord’s correctional institution, President Ezra Taft Benson has said:

The Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the slums. Christ takes the slums out of people, and then they take themselves out of the slums. The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature. (“Born of God,” Ensign, Jul 1989, 2)

Alma also knew something about this method:

Now Alma did not grant unto him the office of being high priest over the church, but he retained the office of high priest unto himself; but he delivered the judgment-seat unto Nephihah.
And this he did that he himself might go forth among his people, or among the people of Nephi, that he might preach the word of God unto them, to stir them up in remembrance of their duty, and that he might pull down, by the word of God, all the pride and craftiness and all the contentions which were among his people, seeing no way that he might reclaim them save it were in bearing down in pure testimony against them. (Alma 4:18-19)

The gospel of Jesus Christ is the only truly functional and fully thorough correctional institution available to men. To know that the Church Educational System conducts institute classes in several state prisons further attests to that fact and shows that Alma’s line of thinking is still being implemented in this dispensation.

4 Responses to “Packed Prisons”

  1. February 20, 2007 at 10:55 pm #

    Uh, no. 1-out-of-32 is only true if you count probationers and parolees. “On parole” can be nuanced too, and it likely includes people from the time they are “paroled” until the end of their life. So if that’s the case, they’re counting people who committed crimes up to 50, 60, or more years ago.

    The more accurate ratio is 2.2 million out of 300 million, or .733%, or 1 out of 136. Which is still bad, but it’s a lot better than 1 out of 32.

    You also have to realize that the Criminal Justice system in the US is a business. It’s an industry. And like any business or industry, it wants to increase the customer base, and it wants repeat customers, whether those desires are consciously expressed or not.

    The manner in which our country is fighting the “War on Drugs” is meant to prolong and perpetuate the war, not win it. The focus on dealers/distributors instead of users, and the mandatory sentencing illustrates this, as neither of those things reduces the demand side of the drug business. Drug addicts/users will always “create” more dealers through the law of supply-and-demand, no matter how many dealers are thrown in jail. Interdiction and the jailing of dealers only serves to drive up street prices. It does nothing to reduce the demand.

    Putting a drug dealer in jail for the mandatory 20 years, costs $500,000 over those 20 years. But doesn’t cure any of his cutomers of their addiction. But $500,000 could go a long way in treating those addicts. Also, the average sentence served for murder is only 10 years. So drug dealers realize that they are better off killing someone, if necessary in their mind, in order to not be arrested for drug dealing. Therefore, the 20 year mandatory sentences for drug dealing (and the 3 strikes you’re out clauses) end up being causing more murders as unintended consequences.

    I used to live in a drug-infested neighborhood. Every 2 years or so the cops would do a sweep, and arrest over 100 people throughout the city. Within 48 hours, the drug trade on the street was back to “normal.” Putting the dealers away did not do a damn thing at the street level. All it accomplished was to change the faces, and keep the criminal justice system busy, and waste resources.

  2. Connor
    February 20, 2007 at 11:06 pm #

    The more accurate ratio is 2.2 million out of 300 million, or .733%, or 1 out of 136.

    Where are you getting these numbers? As I only have the numbers in this article to go on right now, I’d love to see another source that elaborates on this.

    You also have to realize that the Criminal Justice system in the US is a business. It’s an industry. And like any business or industry, it wants to increase the customer base, and it wants repeat customers, whether those desires are consciously expressed or not.

    A-freakin’-men. Ugh.

    The manner in which our country is fighting the “War on Drugs” is meant to prolong and perpetuate the war, not win it.

    This isn’t true just with the “war on drugs”, either. Pretty much every war our country is waging at the moment has this specific intent in mind. I like how this article puts it:

    The drug war is even worse – it targets our own people as the enemy. About 1.7 million people are arrested annually for narcotics, 43 percent of them for marijuana, a drug far more benevolent than legal alcohol. In America’s booming prison industry, 25 percent of the 2 million-plus inmates are there for drugs, and most of their crimes are nonviolent. In federal lockups, 60 percent of the prisoners are drug offenders.

    But the terror and drug wars make people rich. Bush’s obscene demand this month for a $700 billion defense budget won’t make us safer, but it will allow the military-industrial complex to wallow in wealth.

    Meanwhile, after almost four decades of the war on drugs, federal and state authorities spend about $50 billion a year – a sum that’s roughly equal to the profits pocketed by drug dealers. Narco lords’ profits rely on a “war” that keeps prices high. Meanwhile, massive amounts of scarce public resources are diverted into fighting a “war” – one that occasionally nails street dealers but hardly ever attacks the kingpins or the root problems. This is lethal and loathsome symbiosis.

    All it accomplished was to change the faces, and keep the criminal justice system busy, and waste resources.

    The more things change, the more they stay the same… Basically, such “wars” are nothing more than job security for government workers.

  3. Bookslinger
    February 22, 2007 at 1:41 pm #

    I got the 2.2 million in jail # from you. 300 million is the population fo the US. Do the math. 300 divided by 2.2 = 136. So it’s really 1 out of 136 in jail.

    And the other number, 7 million, divided into 300 million is 42 point something, not 32.

    The 7 million, from your article, admittedly includes those on parole or probation.

  4. Connor
    August 7, 2007 at 1:27 pm #

    Glenn C. Loury, a professor of economics at Brown University, wrote in a recent column for the Boston Review:

    According to a 2005 report of the International Centre for Prison Studies in London, the United States—with five percent of the world’s population—houses 25 percent of the world’s inmates.

    Our incarceration rate (714 per 100,000 residents) is almost 40 percent greater than those of our nearest competitors (the Bahamas, Belarus, and Russia).

    We have a corrections sector that employs more Americans than the combined work forces of General Motors, Ford, and Wal-Mart, the three largest corporate employers in the country, and we are spending some $200 billion annually on law enforcement and corrections at all levels of government, a fourfold increase (in constant dollars) over the past quarter century.

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