Prisons do serve a useful purpose, when society needs to segregate individuals for the good of everyone else. It's not a political
liberal/conservative issue when a knife-wielding rapist is loose on the streets - it's a common sense public safety concern.
The concept of confinement is not fundamentally flawed, it's a fine way of dealing with anti-social individuals.
What is fundamentally flawed is the belief that victimless crimes need to be punished. It's an enormous waste of resources to prosecute and imprison
individuals who haven't hurt anybody.
Drunk drivers face fines and wrist-slaps, and maybe if they get caught a dozen times they'll do a couple of months in the local jail. Meanwhile
rapists and murderers routinely get bail, and a guy with a load of pills is looking at life. It's all upside down.
Also, there's a huge discrepancy in how poor offenders are treated, compared to wealthy offenders. That's honestly my second biggest problem with
the justice system as a whole. Take the money out of the justice system, and stop prosecuting victimless crimes, and that would largely solve the
problems we're seeing.
We don't need more prisons, we need a simplified, scaled-down, focused system of justice, whereby violent offenders are neutralized and non-violent
offenders are rehabilitated. Also, it really bothers me that this country allows so much rape in its prisons. The cops joke about it, the judges see
it as an additional form of punishment, and that's not the way it's supposed to be.
I also think the future may see a transition to more home-confinement, which saves the taxpayers bundles of money. It also allows a more normative
environment to acclimate offenders back into regular life - there're never any guarantees, but the better prepared convicts are to face the
challenges of life outside, the less the chances of a repeat offense.
How many guys get sucked back into a life of crime out of simple necessity? They get out, nobody but Wendys will hire them (and you can't live on
minimum wage), but they have the skills necessary to support themselves through crime. Seems a pretty clear choice. Worst case scenario, they get
sent back and the taxpayers have to clothe, feed, and house them for another term.
Give people a way to make a living, and they're less likely to resort to crime. Of course drug habits are a huge driving force behind property
crime, and violent crime as well, but I don't think the answer is stiffer penalties for users. I think a better all-around solution is to
de-criminalize drugs, thereby reducing the cost to the user, the profit to the distributor, and the incentive to do violence.
In brief, there are millions of Americans who would kill for a few hundred thousand dollars. There are comparatively few who would kill for a hundred
bucks. Reducing the allure of drugs is as simple as reducing their real value.
Let's look at the situation from a little farther away. What do animals do to survive in the wild? They kill, in order to eat, to retain shelter,
to protect their young. Being in a state of nature almost guarantees violence. The farther you remove a creature from the jungle, the less agressive
Just look at the animals in the zoo. Most of them are perfectly content to lay around all day and sunbathe. Why? Because they're fed, and housed,
and taken care of. There's little in the way of competition, and that reduces the pressure on them.
Extrapolate that to society, and it becomes clear that the best way to prevent crime is to eliminate the perceived necessity of crime. There will
always be a few whackos, who kill for fun, or out of anger - and that's where prison comes in to the picture. Realistically, prison populations
should be at about 10% of their current levels, if we were seriously committed to reserving them for hardcore anti-social violent-types.