America’s Prison Nation Although written by a Canadian for a 24 hour Canadian news channel on Feb. 2, 2012, author Brian Stewart deals primarily with the US situation, fearing Canada could copy it. He expresses astonishment that neither American politicians nor their national media consider this a problem worthy of serious debate. Only states forced to release inmates because of serious budgetary constraints, consider it a problem and then only in economic terms, not whether incarceration is appropriate for all types of criminal activity. Stewart points out that more than 60 per cent of all US inmates are imprisoned for nonviolent offences. To counter the conservative argument that crime rates are down because of harsh prison sentences, he argues that these rates have dropped equally in states with soft sentencing regimes. What News Article Demonstrates This article shows that US criminal sanction policy is driven more by an emotional ideological argument that to deter crime no matter what kind and at what level, severe incarceration and legislated minimum mandatory sentences must be imposed. This popular sentiment catered to by politicians ignores scientific evidence of the lack of such a cause and effect relationship. Instead of mass incarceration, sentencing should be based on consideration of alternative (often less costly) sanctions for particular offences which have proven to produce better results in terms of offender rehabilitation, lower recidivism, and compensation of aggrieved victims. Opinion I would argue that a criminal corrections system that uses prolonged incarceration as its primary tool rather than rehabilitation, probation, boot camp, community service detention or victim restoration is likely to achieve very little “correction”. For example in a prison environment there will probably be no improvement in an offender’s attitude to make him want to conform to societies’ norms and high recidivism rates can be expected. Furthermore there is no opportunity for “correction” of the wrongs inflicted on victims. .While some punishment is necessary, I would argue that in general the primary goal of a corrections system should be to “correct” antisocial illegal behavior by the offender and to “correct” as much as possible trauma he inflicts on his victim. Prisons, I submit, should house violent offenders such as sociopaths deemed incapable of rehabilitation and who represent a danger to society. Also it could be used as a last resort for nonviolent offenders if they fail to take advantage of the other remedies noted above. Although a cliche, I would suggest “the punishment should fit the crime” and not be motivated by societies’ revenge or demonstrating a “tough on crime” position as severe incarceration rates tend to indicate. Since 60 per cent of US inmates are nonviolent offenders (Stewart 2012), I would estimate that the prison population could be reduced by at least half if most nonviolent prisoners were discharged and placed in remedial programs as specified above. This I believe would benefit society in 2 ways even though there would likely be some increased need for probation offices, therapist and treatment programs. It would reduce prison maintenance costs and likely result in more offenders becoming contributing members of society. Non violent criminals
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2 pages (500 words)Personal Statement
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