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The Big Answer


To link to this article from your blog or webpage, copy and paste the url below into your blog or homepage.

A Rage to Punish

a book by Lois G. Forer

(our site's book review)

In this book, Forer makes some good points about reorienting the criminal justice system around public safety instead of punishment. That fact that we have more people in jail but simultaneously more crime than any other nation shows something is amiss. Some of the prison alternatives for nonviolent offenders are working better and have a lower recidivism rate than prisons—and they’re cheaper. Repeal mandatory sentencing laws which place first-time drug offenders in prison for inordinate lengths of time, at a cost to states of $30,000 or more a year (1994), compared to the more effective drug treatment programs which cost $500 to $700 a year. Make stricter child abuse and spouse abuse laws. Revamp sentencing policy goals so that protection of society is the most important objective (not prisoner rights or political agendas, etc.).

Some prison alternatives for nonviolent offenders work better and have a lower recidivism rate than prisons—and they’re cheaper
Some prison alternatives for nonviolent offenders work better and have a lower recidivism rate than prisons—and they’re cheaper

(Update: By the way, in 2013 Gitmo spends $2.7 million bucks a year per inmate, although Reuters says it's only 0.9 million. And the Bureau of Prisons' [federal] annual costs per inmate are $21,006 for minimum security, $25,378 for low security, $26,247 for medium security, and $33,930 for high security. Average annual costs per inmate housed in community corrections (residential reentry centers and home confinement) for the Bureau of Prisons are $25,838. By contrast, the annual cost of supervision by probation officers in the community is about $3,433 per offender. [Source: the Urban Institute, December, 2012.] The total number of inmates in 2007 in federal, state, and local lockups was 2,419,241. That comes to around $30,600 per inmate. In 2005, it cost an average of $23,876 dollars per state prisoner. State prison spending varied widely, from $45,000 a year in Rhode Island to $13,000 in Louisiana. In California, the cost per state prisoner hit $47,102 in 2008. [Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incarceration_in_the_United_States ])

We're shelling out a fortune to support prisons with outdated policies that fail us massively
We're shelling out a fortune to support prisons with outdated policies that fail us massively

Finally, enact laws requiring due process hearing before early release of dangerous felons or mentally ill people. He also wants to repeal capital punishment and make stricter gun control laws, but we feel that the capital punishment is the perfect logical consequence for the murderers, rapists and terrorists among us as long as the guilt of the convicted individuals is established beyond question. Where there are legitimate questions, the individual should be kept alive as long as he doesn’t murder more people in prison (which gangs often do). And if someone finds a way to keep guns out of the hands of kids and criminals without depriving the rest of us of our right to bear arms to keep ourselves safe, we’re all for it.

We need to keep guns out of the hands of kids and criminals without depriving the rest of us of our right to bear arms
We need to keep guns out of the hands of kids and criminals without depriving the rest of us of our right to bear arms

He’s advocating the perfect logical consequence of insisting that restitution is part of all sentencing. Amen! Why we don’t always do that as a matter of common sense has always been a mystery to us. And, referring to violent criminals who can be predicted to hurt people once they leave prison, Forer says we ought to protect those who are risk and the community at large. We don’t. Also, the fines for many white-collar crimes are mere tokens and should be increased to provide deterrence.

These are long overdue changes to our ineffective system. It’s time we got our heads straight and made these changes happen. And it’s time we quit throwing young and/or nonviolent offenders to the wolves in prisons where they can be brutalized, traumatized, and come out violent sociopaths. Creating a training ground for criminals and paying billions of dollars a year to make sure that we create hordes of ex-cons full of anger and vengeance that we loose on society is incredibly foolish. It makes sense to get our “revenge” on those murderers and rapists that we plan to keep jailed forever, if we must. But to do the same to people we plan to be living next door to someday is somewhere between insanity and suicide.

Our Department of Justice is insane: they're creating hordes of ex-cons full of anger and vengeance that they loose on society
Our Department of Justice is insane: they're creating hordes of ex-cons full of anger and vengeance that they loose on society