One thing is clear – there are far too many people in American prisons. There are far too many ‘criminals’ in prison despite the fact that they pose no significant threat to society. As a result – otherwise productive citizens are sitting in a jail cell costing taxpayers money to look after.
Despite this, there are many non-violent crimes which warrant jail time. Without this, the penalties for breaking the law might be so mild, that people will take calculated risks. For instance, when I was a child, I was told not to eat more than two cookies. However, the punishment if caught would be that I would have to return the excess cookies. Therefore, from my point of view, it made sense for me to always try and get away with extra cookies. If the punishment had been a spanking, being grounded etc – then I would have factored in the risk, and would have decided against taking extra cookies. Imagine if CEO’s took the same view towards corporate fraud.
Now, I am not suggesting that people who break any infraction of the law should go to prison, nor am I suggesting that the current system is perfect, or even remotely close to perfect for that matter.
However, I do feel that there are many non-violent crimes which merit a prison term – not community service, not a suspended sentence, not house arrest and not probation – but prison.
Here are a few examples:
1) Repeatedly driving drunk or with a suspended sentence.
2) Defrauding seniors out of their life savings.
3) Ignoring the constitution and illegally wiretapping American citizens.
4) Making hundreds of millions of dollars while falsifying documents to trick investors into investing in your company.
5) Selling crack.
Do we really want these people on the streets? Do we really want to give them a slap on the wrist? Do we really want to give these people a chance to escape and go to a South American country to retire? Absolutely not. These people might not kill, but they are every bit as dangerous as the drunk who punches a cop in the face.