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The crusade for prison reform

March 30, 2009

The past few days packed a two-one punch on the need for prison reform in this country.  First came Virginia Senator Jim Webb’s bold call for a commission to oversee serious reform of this country’s prison system.  (Glenn Greenwald of Salon really nails this)

The second came on today’s All Things Considered where they discussed prison rapes with a rape victim, as well as anti-rape activists.

Webb really hits on one of the bigger issues at hand:

“The elephant in the bedroom in many discussions on the criminal justice system is the sharp increase in drug incarceration over the past three decades. In 1980, we had 41,000 drug offenders in prison; today we have more than 500,000, an increase of 1,200%. The blue disks represent the numbers in 1980; the red disks represent the numbers in 2007 and a significant percentage of those incarcerated are for possession or nonviolent offenses stemming from drug addiction and those sorts of related behavioral issues. . . “

Good thing we now have a fresh face heading our nation’s drug policies.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Terry permalink
    March 31, 2009 8:07 AM

    Prisons are not susposed to be desireable places to reside. The THREAT of prison should be a deterent to crime, not an inducement. It has been clearly shown that prisons do not reform people, so the only advantage of prison is the removal from society of those it deems “un-social” for a period of time.

    Possibly the answer is to stop anti-social behaviors, before they occur, by a threat of a very undesireable reaction by society to those behaviors. Incarceration in country club prisons is not a very effective threat. Incarceration in a place where bad things are likely to happen to one would be somewhat more effective.

    • April 2, 2010 4:09 PM

      Terry, although I understand your outlook on how to handle criminals, I must tell you that you’re completely off base. Contrary to your conservative views–which by the way–have been at the foundation of legislative thinking, locking up violent and non-violent criminals away to warehouse them for years does much more harm than good. This is a fact.
      Your mentality of thinking that it’s “clearly shown that prisons do not reform people” go to show that people like yourself, left to making major decisions about PRISON REFORM, are fools. There is evidence to the contrary. Keep reading about it, and you’re bound to run into some facts about vocational, drug, and alchohol rehabilitation. You might just change your views if you were in touch with the reality of success stories from prisons who offer these programs versus those who do not. Keep reading my friend.

  2. Val permalink
    April 2, 2009 3:01 PM

    Of course we need to work on prison reform. It is ridiculous the number of people we have in the system.
    And yes we need to correct the anti-social bevior that gets people Into trouble in the first place, but the deterioration of mental health support system will need to be reversed in order to provide assistance before problems escalate into crimes. The other concern is how to define the anti-social behavior and what the consequences are for non- violent crimes. We have alot of work to do.

  3. thelovelygreen permalink*
    April 2, 2009 9:26 PM

    I do agree that country club prisons are ineffective. But I have a problem with people being incarcerated for minor, non-violent drug offenses in a prison system that offers little chance for rehabilitation in society (not to mention drug rehab).

    Though there was also an interesting piece recently in the New Yorker about solitary confinement being a form of torture. Its worth a read:

  4. April 17, 2009 6:41 PM

    If ever an example of why it’s so imperative we achieve prison reform, this is it.

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