A look at the American Prison System

Aside from being wrongly accused, one does not find them self in a U.S. jail or prison without breaking the law. Committing a crime must be followed by some form of reprimand and punishment, regardless of how liberal your humanitarian view. The Justice system in America is here to do just that, but has largely missed the big picture – prisoners need reform more than retention. A young person who commits a crime, no matter how violent or damaging, does not deserve to be locked in a cinder block hole and left to rot the rest of his/her life away. People can and do change, but without being given solid counsel, support and encouragement they will never have the opportunity to do so.

Negative stereotypes and attitudes bestowed upon the incarcerated creates a strong sense of resentment and contempt against them. We must begin to recognize the mental, social and cultural factors that steer people down the wrong path in life. Often times all a person needs is a wake up call or someone to put a hand on their shoulder and notice that they matter in this world. Take a person with low self worth and a broken spirit, throw them in prison to suffer all of the grotesque inconveniences and tragedies of being locked up, and their problems only escalate. Isn’t this fact corroborated by the high numbers of violence, rape, and homicide in U.S. correctional facilities? Lumping together hundreds or thousands of prisoners who all need individual guidance, only begs for the problems to escalate. If your son or daughter was showing signs of emotional instability, would you ask for them to be locked in a room full of children with the same diagnosis, or would you prefer them to have one-on-one leadership from a professional who cares about their well being?

The issue of corrections is too astronomical to tackle in a few brief paragraphs; however, the overarching philosophy that inmates need reform instead of useless retention is a simple thing to grasp. If in prison for life equals the right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, we need to re-evaluate our founding fathers’ dreams.

-U.S. Correctional Facility Statistics (compiled from the U.S. Department of Justice web site)

-At midyear 2005, 747,529 inmates were held in the Nation’s local jails, up from 713,990 at midyear 2004.

-In 2005, jails reported adding 33,398 beds during the previous 12 months, bringing the total rated capacity to 789,001

-95% of the rated capacity was occupied at midyear 2005.

-On June 30, 2005 local jails were operating 5% below their related capacity

-From 1995 to 2005, the number of jail inmates per 100,000 U.S. residents rose from 193 to 252

-Blacks were almost three times more likely than Hispanics and five times more likely than whites to be in jail.

-Almost nine out of every ten jail inmates were adult males. However, the number of adult females in jail increased faster than males

-38% of sexual misconduct allegations involved staff sexual misconduct; 35% inmate-on-inmate nonconsensual sexual acts; 17%, staff sexual harassment; and 10% inmate-on-inmate abusive sexual contact

-16% of convicted jail inmates said that they committed their offense to get money for drugs