“More than 60% of the people in prison are now racial and ethnic minorities. These trends have been intensified by the disproportionate impact of the “war on drugs,” in which two-thirds of all persons in prison for drug offenses are people of color.”-The Sentencing Project
Anyone who wants to help reform America’s broken prison system needs to pay attention to the nation’s psychologists. “The prison population has rates of mental illness at least three times the national average,” reports the American Psychological Association. The connection makes sense: we have a serious lack of community mental health services in this country, and people who are left untreated are more likely to get in trouble with the law. Incarceration is not going to help these people. Psychologists have been studying the background of criminal behavior for decades, and theirs is a critical perspective if we want to actually lower crime rates AND lower prisoner rates. http://www.apa.org/monitor/julaug03/rehab.aspx
According to an article by Health Affairs, it states that “across the nation, individuals with severe mental illness are three times more likely to be in a jail or prison than in a mental health facility and 40 percent of individuals with a severe mental illness will have spent some time in their lives in either jail, prison, or community corrections.” It should be in our interest to provide inmates with the appropriate treatment because if mentally ill offenders receive the appropriate treatment they would be less likely to offend again. If they do not receive treatment, the harsh and violent environment of prison is likely to make their illness worse, which could leave them more susceptible to commit further offenses once they are released from prison. The justice system duty, of course, is to punish the offender but also to reduce the risk the offender poses to society. For some offenders, mental health treatment is more likely to achieve this than prison.
P.S. As a society, we should provide any sick person with the treatment they need. Healthcare is a basic and fundamental right that should not be abridged. But, our country’s lack of mental health treatment options is such an extreme problem that jails actually function as some of the nation’s biggest mental health providers. Listen to this NPR story from America’s largest jail, in Cook County, Illinois: http://www.npr.org/2014/01/20/263461940/mentally-ill-inmates-often-locked-up-in-jails-that-cant-help
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.
As 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?
Our group wants to advocate for lower incarceration rate. We believe it would be beneficial to criminals, states, and society as a whole if the legal system works to create behavior improvement programs and teaching programs. These programs may include psychological evaluation of prisoners, skill building programs, self-improvement activities, and teaching curriculum based on interests. This program would rule out people who have mental disorders and may commit crimes as a result of their compromised mental state, for which they should get proper treatment, not a prison sentence. The behavioral and teaching program will allow those in the prison system to develop desirable skills that can be used once they are out of prison, this will reduce the rate of reentry which is another issue in the U.S. prison system.
I am interested in the incarceration rate in the United States and its affects on our nation. We have incarcerated so many Americans and have created a system that hurts our society instead of protecting it. America is damaged and our prison system might have contributed. We are weakened by the over population in prisons today. This affect has caused Americans to pay a great deal more in taxes for the ability to hold these inmates in prison. The justice system isn’t properly screening these individuals and their crimes. They instead bunch all the lawbreakers together and host them on Americans tap. Once released from prison these individuals have a difficult time finding a job and properly contributing to society. This system only pushes these individuals into a vicious cycle and encourages them to make repeat mistakes. What I find most disheartening is the racial gap in our incarnation rate. In a Stanford article just written this past year, mentions that African Americans make up 12% of the United States population and 40% of the inmates in our justice system. You would think, as a nation who prides itself on equality would be a little more equal. These are the reasons I decided to focus my attention on this particular subject. I want to learn more about where we are as of now and what ideas are in place for our future. I am currently senior in college pursuing a degree in communications with the hopes of working for a public relations firm in the near future.
Tonn, S. (2014, August 6). Stanford research suggests support for incarceration mirrors whites’ perception of black prison populations. Retrieved March 3, 2015, from http://news.stanford.edu/news/2014/august/prison-black-laws-080614.html