Over the years, I have been following a number of articles both generated in print as well as on the net concerning prison overcrowding and the problems that it produces. One federal study in the United States estimates that we have well over one million people incarcerated in our state prisons at any one time. (According to a study generated in 2008, The International Centre for Prison Studies found that the United States leads the world with those in prison, 756 per 100,000 people. Russia was next with 629, followed by South Africa with 329.) Without getting into a vast statistical spread sheet approach in this posting some of the facts as to numbers are interesting. For example in 2011, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the California’s prisons were at 137-145% capacity and must lower its prison populations dramatically. Governor Brown, who had fought the ruling, then began shipping back a certain classification of inmate to their county of origin to be housed in understaffed and already over-crowed county facilities. Obviously this has not worked so in 2013 California passed Assembly Bill 109 which lays out a process for the release of “low-risk” offenders from the prison system as another way to placate the Feds. The problem with is that oftentimes so called low risk offenders have been shown to become high-risk offenders once release and go directly back into a life of crime; once again feasting off a widening group of unprotected citizens. (The cycle of victimization continues.)
I have just been reviewing my latest copy of the Economist Magazine which I do enjoy plus have on occasion even been quoted in concerning an article on stalking. However, that does not mean that I don’t find fault with some of their and other periodicals I have read that reported on this same issue. Of late concerning the Economist, it has been their writings on the United States’ prison system (both state and federal) and now even their comments about their own system (August 2nd-8th 2014 edition) in the United Kingdom entitled Rough Justice. As for United States prisons they complain that they are over-crowed and violent as well as they tend to house more Hispanics and Afro-Americans than other ethnic groups. They have also discussed that prison sentences for drug dealers and abusers; especially in the federal system are too harsh. As for their prisons they express that they are becoming more violent, overcrowded and many times not as clean as they could be. They also claim that many of the non-violent offenders in their prisons are attempting to get officials to place them into protective custody so they are not subject to assault by the more violent prison population. The article goes on to state that inmates are making more make-shift weapons to defend themselves. This type of behavior has been pretty commonplace in most of the higher risk as well as some of the less at risk prison populations in the United States for as long as I can remember. For many years, my partner and I put numerous criminals in California prisons hailing from a variety of ethnic backgrounds; including three that are still hanging around death row. (Oh, sorry, that is probably not the case lately because in July of 2014 some Orange County Federal court judge in his infinite wisdom ruled that California’s death penalty was unconstitutional. The judge called California’s system “dysfunctional” and “arbitrary.” REALLY! Has this “judge” bothered to talk to the families of the victims that these clowns, may have raped, tortured, and murdered to ascertain how they feel about his or any other judge that decides to rule against the death penalty? I for one would agree that California needs to change how it handles the death penalty process and follow the Texas model, which would expedite the process. California has not executed an inmate since 2006.
I digress. I could get into a much longer tirade about what do they think happens in prison when violent offenders are placed with other offenders violent or not in an enclosed space. Or that is how the criminal justice system works, you commit a crime and you go to jail or prison, not back to kindergarten. I truly wonder how many of these journalists have either been the victim of a crime requiring a prison sentence or at the very least had family members that were victims of these individuals. However, the real way that both the prison systems in both the United States, The United Kingdom and elsewhere can be reduced is to eliminate the person that may be slated for one of these institutions, which realistically rehabilitate the few not the many; is to stop that person male or female from ever committing a crime in the first place.
You are always going to have crime, but we can radically reduce much of it by starting to direct children from pre-school and beyond to do the right thing. We all know this is so easy to say and yet in our societies so hard to do. Poverty, lack of parental direction, and mental health all have to be impacted during the formative stages of the youth being presented now in our communities. If not the cycle of crime and oftentimes the violence it generates will never be broken.