Friday, February 29, 2008

A Nation Of Criminals - 1 In 100 Americans Is A Prisoner

Do we live in a nation of criminals? If you read the statistics we do. Latest figures show 1% of adult American’s are in prison. That is 1 of every 100 adults in the country. If you are African-American that figure rises to 1 in 15 adults and 1 in 36 Latinos. Are we that criminally inclined?

The United States imprisons more people than any country in the world, including China. Our prisons and jails are overcrowded and schools for crime. Our state budgets are being gobbled up by incarceration costs and the trend seems to have no end in sight.

Part of the glut in the prisons is the "tough on crime" stance of officials seeking reelection. Many see incarceration as an easy fix, but it is a costly fix that has questionable results. Here in Texas we have the largest prison population, 172,000. Fortunately, the state legislature finally has decided to do more than warehouse prisoners. They have enacted drug treatment programs and overhauled the parole system for non-violent offenders. Now it’s time to go further.

We have thousands of people in prison for DWI, and treatment for their alcohol abuse would seem a better use of funds. The whole idea of rehabilitation has taken a back seat to just "getting the criminals off the streets" and it shows in the recidivism rate. It’s time to reconsider the entire penal system. The problem is that such a move will take courage and careful study, and during an election year that won’t fit on a bumper sticker.

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