It's time to change the law/Why We Must Fix Our Prisons !

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It's time to change the law/Why We Must Fix Our Prisons !

Post  Yoke on Mon Apr 13, 2009 9:34 am

By Senator Jim Webb




I am now introducing legislation that will create a national commission to look at every aspect of our criminal justice system with an eye toward reshaping the process from top to bottom. I believe that it is time to bring together the best minds in America to confer, report, and make specific recommendations about how we can reform the process. This commission will be tasked with giving us clear answers to hard questions, including:

Why are so many Americans currently in prison compared with other countries and our own history?

What is this policy costing our nation, both in tax dollars and in lost opportunities?

How can we reshape our nation's drug policies?

How can we better diagnose and treat mental illness?

How can we end violence within prisons and increase the quality of prison administrators?

How can we build workable re-entry programs so that our communities can assimilate former offenders and encourage them to become productive citizens?

How can we defend ourselves against the growing scourge of violent, internationally based gang activity?



Senator Jim Webb (D., Va.) is a PARADE Contributing Editor and the author of nine books, including "A Time to Fight."
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Thats why they Must Fix their Prisons !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!




Why We Must Fix Our Prisons
By Senator Jim Webb

America's criminal justice system has deteriorated to the point that it is a national disgrace. Its irregularities and inequities cut against the notion that we are a society founded on fundamental fairness. Our failure to address this problem has caused the nation's prisons to burst their seams with massive overcrowding, even as our neighborhoods have become more dangerous. We are wasting billions of dollars and diminishing millions of lives.

The United States has by far the world's highest incarceration rate. With 5% of the world's population, our country now houses nearly 25% of the world's reported prisoners. We currently incarcerate 756 inmates per 100,000 residents, a rate nearly five times the average worldwide of 158 for every 100,000. In addition, more than 5 million people who recently left jail remain under "correctional supervision," which includes parole, probation, and other community sanctions. All told, about one in every 31 adults in the United States is in prison, in jail, or on supervised release. This all comes at a very high price to taxpayers: Local, state, and federal spending on corrections adds up to about $68 billion a year.

Our overcrowded, ill-managed prison systems are places of violence, physical abuse, and hate, making them breeding grounds that perpetuate and magnify the same types of behavior we purport to fear. Post-incarceration re-entry programs are haphazard or, in some places, nonexistent, making it more difficult for former offenders who wish to overcome the stigma of having done prison time and become full, contributing members of society. And, in the face of the movement toward mass incarceration, law-enforcement officials in many parts of the U.S. have been overwhelmed and unable to address a dangerous wave of organized, frequently violent gang activity, much of it run by leaders who are based in other countries.

With so many of our citizens in prison compared with the rest of the world, there are only two possibilities: Either we are home to the most evil people on earth or we are doing something different--and vastly counterproductive. Obviously, the answer is the latter.

Over the past two decades, we have been incarcerating more and more people for nonviolent crimes and for acts that are driven by mental illness or drug dependence. The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that 16% of the adult inmates in American prisons and jails--which means more than 350,000 of those locked up--suffer from mental illness, and the percentage in juvenile custody is even higher. Our correctional institutions are also heavily populated by the "criminally ill," including inmates who suffer from HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and hepatitis.

In short, we are not protecting our citizens from the increasing danger of criminals who perpetrate violence and intimidation as a way of life, and we are locking up too many people who do not belong in jail. It is incumbent on our national leadership to find a way to fix our prison system. I believe that American ingenuity can discover better ways to deal with the problems of drugs and nonviolent criminal behavior while still minimizing violent crime and large-scale gang activity. And we all deserve to live in a country made better by such changes.

Yoke
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