I know quite a few of my readers are not from the United States. I have not studied other countries criminal justice systems but I do hope your countries are doing better than the United States. The US has a financial and safety crisis because of the “Get Tough on Crime” campaign. My studies support in order to achieve safer communities, the key is helping rather than condemning offenders. Although when helping offenders, accountability must not be discounted.
Helping Rather than Condemning
There was an African American teenager who got into trouble with the law by selling drugs. Rather than prosecute this young man, a smart, caring prosecutor helped him by presenting solutions to replace the reasons he was selling drugs. Helping rather than condemning this young teen, he got an education and also became a prosecutor that has helped many people needing intervention to avoid the criminal justice system that is poorly designed, making recovery and positive changes next to impossible.
- This new young prosecutor helped prostitutes find safe housing so they could get off the street and begin to rebuild their lives.
- He has also helped abused teenagers in trouble with the law get out of their inherited bad situations into safer environments to learn and grow.
- He helped a woman, who was arrested for stealing groceries, get a job.
- He helped a young man who stole 30 computers because he needed money. He was facing 30 felonies. Rather than set him up for certain failure by branding him a felon, he helped this guy recover 75% of the computers, and set up a payment plan to pay for the other 25% of the computers. Because someone helped this young man, he got an education and became a manager of a large bank making a very good salary, so now he pays lots of taxes rather than the taxpayers paying millions of dollars to house him as a “felon” inmate for life (or for many years) greatly burdening taxpayers. As of 2017, it now costs $75,560 per inmate per year in California and $69,000 in New York, costs vary state to state but I could not find current numbers for other states. It is now costing the United States a frightening 182 billion annually to house inmates.
At these rates, if an inmate is in jail at a rounded off rate of $70,000 per year (does not include inflation costs over the span of years) the cost would be as follows:
- 20 years – A million four hundred thousand
- 30 years- Two million one hundred thousand
- 40 years- Two million eight hundred thousand
- 50 years- Three million five hundred thousand
We should be 100% certain there is no chance for rehabilitation because most problems could be stabilized or fixed for much less money.
Due to overcrowding and financial restraints, there are inmates being released after sitting in jail for over 30 years for selling marijuana that could have easily learned their lesson in a small amount of time. With no job history and skills, their outlook is grim.
Investing money upfront to save lots of money
If we are spending 182 billion dollars to house inmates annually, there is plenty of money that could be invested upfront to solve core problems that are the real causes of crime.
- Investing money upfront to prevent crime is like investing money upfront to prevent disease.
- It saves money, lots of money, and it saves lives, lots of lives!
The American taxpayer could save billions of dollars and thousands of lives by employing upfront solutions such as listed below.
- Poverty- Helping offenders find affordable housing, and the connections to attain skills to get good employment. These are the real tools to make our societies safer.
- Addictions – Helping offenders get into addiction recovery programs so they can become taxpayers who pay into the system rather than take millions from the system sitting in a jail cell.
- Mental illness – Helping offenders get care to stabilize their illness with proper medications and therapies which is so much cheaper than housing thousands and more likely millions of mentally ill inmates currently sitting in jail cells without proper treatment.
Helping rather than condemning
Compassionately helping rather than condemning offenders are the true tools that make us all safer. Anytime we make it more difficult for someone to attain basic life needs such as housing and employment, we are making the world a more dangerous place. Condemning offenders to a system that ruins lives has statistically been proven as a FAILURE in making our communities safer. Changing lives for the better is what makes our communities safer!
Prosecutors praised and promoted for their convictions and trial wins
- Prosecutors are in a position of power but almost all of them use their power to put offenders in jail ruining lives rather than using their creativity to find solutions to the real problems that are the reasons for crimes.
- Prosecutors are praised and promoted for their convictions and trial wins rather than incentified to help offenders find solutions to get them in a better place.
When you vote in your next local elections, ask the prospective prosecutors what they are going to do to make your community a safer place and vote accordingly (This link is to my blog about voting in the 2018 local elections).
Fyodor Dostoevsky said, “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons”. We the people of the United States must do better and we can do better by helping a high percentage of offenders to become successful rather than marking them as failures.
Additional Complication of Mass Incarceration
Another complication of mass incarceration is what it does to the affected children. I did some research on children of incarcerated parents if you would like to check out that blog.
Here is a YouTube video of Adam Foss, an African American who became a prosecutor and blessed many lives by helping rather than condemning.
Photo by Shalom de León