Funding a Broken System

According to the Center for economic and policy research (cepr), the United States spends about $75 billion on corrections and most of that money is spent on incarceration. To put this in perspective, the money spent on corrections is more than DOUBLE the GDP of many countries such as  Albania, Nicaragua, and Jamaica. These costs are covered by covered by taxpayers who must constantly compensate for the increasing rate of incarceration. The average cost per inmate various largely from state to state, ranging from around $14,000 to over $60,000. State governments are responsible for running prison systems and can set up their on choice of corrections facilities. A 2008 cepr research states “reducing the number of non-violent offenders in our prisons and jails by half would lower this bill by $16.9 billion per year, with the largest share of these savings accruing to financially squeezed state and local governments.”

Figure 1

The U.S. is not only increasing incarceration rates compared to other countries, it is also increasing in comparison to historical standards in this country. From 1880 to 1970 incarceration rates ranged between 100 and 200 per 100,000. Then  around 1980, the prison and jail population experienced a huge spike than the overall population, climbing from about 220 (per 100,000) in 1980, to 458 in 1990, to 683 in 2000, and finally to 753 by 2008 (cepr). In a nation still in recovery from a historical economic crisis, it is hard to believe the billions of dollars being spend on an increasingly dysfunctional system. For the past three decades Federal, State and Local government have decided to just throw money at the problem (at a sever cost to taxpayers) and ignored the evidence that shows that imprisoning more people is not an effective solution to deal with criminals.

it is past time to come up with cost effective measures to deal with crime. The government (at all three levels) should explore cost-cutting improvements such as decreasing the number of non-violent offenders in prison. These offenders can experience alternative punishments such as probation or parole. The government can so spend more money on programs that are designed to make sure that offenders who have served their time can re-join society easily. These programs provide job training and opportunities, and educational training. This will help decrease the number of returning offenders to the prison system.

What suggestions do you have for how to reduce the cost of the U.S. prison system?


Allowing Drugs May Help Lower the Incarceration Rate

According to the Huffington Post, around 50% of prisoners in the Federal prison system are the for drug offenses.  The largest number of offenses dealt with marijuana, which is the most acceptable illicit drug in today’s society.  I believe that people should have the right to do drugs as long as they do not interfere with the rest of society, which would be along the same lines as alcohol with drinking and driving.  Although, people who traffic drugs and sell them in large quantities should face charges, but not as serious as they are today. Getting rid of sentences for drug offenses would reduce a large amount of people in the prison system which reduces the incarceration rate, and it would save the governments money because they would not have to house the inmates.


Refutation- Right to vote?

Should Uncle Sam say no to ex-felons voting? 

Those who are released from prison are often prevented from doing many things such as voting.  In an article by the Washington Post it states that, the 14th Amendment permits states to deny the vote “for participation in rebellion, or other crime.” This can be argued that prisoners should not vote; after all, the purpose of prison is to deny freedom. It was also stated that felons might form some kind of “anti-law-enforcement bloc” and elect bad officials. It can be argued that those who break the law lack the trustworthiness. According to the article by YouGov, 21% of Americans think that convicted felons should permanently lose the right to vote and 50% think that they should regain the right the vote. Convicted felons shouldn’t be able to vote because they have lost their rights to act as citizens of the U.S. due to their alleged actions against society.

felon-voting-bars-buttonAs stated in an article by Katie Quandt in the Moyers & Company, “one out of every 13 African-Americans is prohibited from casting a ballot in the United States.” They lost their right to vote because of felony convictions. Depending on the laws in their states, some may regain access to the polls when they complete their prison sentences, finish parole, or complete probation. So, maybe there should be a process where an ex-con who has proven to be a good citizen can petition to get voting rights reinstated? It should not be automatic though and should be a very careful decision. But, like said in a letter to the editor of the article, Disenfranchised Felon, in the New York Times, “If you are not willing to follow the law, you cannot demand the right to elect those who make the law.”

What do you think should those (ex-felons) who have paid their debt to society be able to vote?