Eagle Forum Legislative Alerts

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Too Many People in Prison

The prison population is greater in the United States than in any other country in the world, surpassing even Communist China. More than 1% of the American population is in jail, some on very long prison sentences for dubious crimes. Mens rea, or criminal intent, is no longer strictly required before sentencing someone to jail, as it used to be. Politicized prosecutions are increasingly common. About $50 billion is spent annually by states on the jail population. Far from doing good, much of this money is causing actual harm. Fifty years ago, it was considered conservative to favor putting more people in prison. Today many liberal judges impose overly harsh sentences on defendants who didn't commit any serious crime. We need to have an investigation since the U.S. Supreme Court ordered California to release some of its inmates -- quite an unusual decision by the courts.

Centuries ago, Charles Dickens wrote about the problem of debtors prisons in England. Debtors prisons were also common in colonial America. We thought we phased out debtors prisons along with slavery in the mid-19th century. Well, we got rid of slavery, but debtors prisons are still with us. Nobody knows how many husbands and fathers are in jail for the problem of not paying, or not being able to pay, a small amount of money to an ex-wife which had been ordered by the court. Then there is the problem of older inmates who are particularly expensive because some require wheelchairs, special protection against younger prisoners, costly health care, and many suffer from dementia.

Of course, criminals who commit violent crimes should be locked up for the protection of the rest of us. But we need to have a real investigation to find out if our prisons contain a lot of people who don't need to be there because they are not a threat to society.

1 comment:

Sieglinda Fritz said...

Dear Phyllis Schlafly,
This is the first time I logged on to your site, or conmmented on any of your commentaries, though I have enjoyed listening to them for many years. This story sparked my interest - and perhaps you can answer some questions for me.
If the Parole Board determines length of stay and when one can be moved to a lesser security prison, why then can the Placement Review Committee (PRC) override their decision and move the prisoner to whatever facility they want to? An example: Rodney S. Reed #216059 was granted Community Custody with a 10 month defer in Jan 2011. Instead, the PRC sent him to a secured minimum facility, Oakhill Correctional Instution (known on the inside for being harsh on "Lifers"). When he saw parole in October 2011, the Parole Officer asked him why he was there! He was told that given the political unrest in WI to sit it out for another 10 months and continue to do as good a job as he has been doing for the last decade... He sees parole again in August. Kevin Minske,(also at Oakhill), who sees parole on the 27th of this month has a similar story, Both men show exemplary conduct and have homes and support waiting for them. Instead, we spend another $40,000.00 of our tax dollars yearly on each of them to fund the prison they are housed at.

I began visiting some prisoners after being challenged by another christian to do so in the past year. It has been an eye opener. There are many "Lifers" who have truely been "corrected" but are not allowed to be paroled and are costing taxpayers to the tune of almost $40,000.00 per year. They are well-behaved, and have done all the tasks, modules, etc. asked of them- but are kept inside anyway. (My thought is - that's an easy money amount for a prison's budget.)

We have an Internal Affairs Office that investigates police. Who investigates the Internal workings of our prison systems. "Who cares?" is what I have heard from many people! I believe a society is defined by how they treat those they incarcerate - for whatever the reason. Have we forgotten the situational power the Nazi guards inflicted on those they imprisoned? Your thoughts and comments are appreciateed.

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