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Prison Reform Essay

1223 words - 5 pages

When it comes to the prison system, the majority of Americans only know what they've seen in the movies and on TV. They believe that in prisons only the most dangerous and violent offenders end up locked behind bars for decades. For the most part whatever happens to these individuals in prison is off no concern to them. It’s a society of out of sight, out of mind. What people don't realize is that in reality it is a smaller percentage of inmates that are incarcerated that are violent and dangerous. Twenty-five percent are non-violent illegal immigrants, fifty-five percent are non-violent drug offenders, and about five percent are mental patients, and other types of non-violent crime. (Webb ...view middle of the document...

It’s a lot like what James Baldwin talks about in his letter to his nephew, “that they have destroyed and are destroying hundreds of thousands of lives and do not know it and do not want to know it. One can be--indeed, one must strive to become--tough and philosophical concerning destruction and death, for this is what most of mankind has been best at since we have heard of war; remember, I said most of mankind, but it is not permissible that the authors of devastation should also be innocent. It is the innocence which constitutes the crime.” They are corrupting non-violent criminals by treating them like murderers and rapists.
There is no segregation. No differentiation. No protection. This new non-violent inmate is now prey and is a sheep among wolves. He will not benefit from the rehabilitative programs that are offered in prison even if he does attend them. This non-violent person either learns how to survive by joining the pack, or stands alone and lives in constant fear of his life. He will spend 55 years with rapist and murders with limited outside contact with the real world. His only daily contact is with other inmates. Do you think after 55 years in such an environment is going to produce a well-balanced ideal citizen? This is just one of many reasons why there needs to be prison reform.
The following are some incarceration statistics gathered from Peace Review: The Journal of Social Justice from an essay called "Mass Culture and the American Taste for Prisons" written by Eleanor Novek. The journal states that during 2006 in the United States, there were over 2.25 million people were incarcerated, and there was another 4.8 million that were on probation or parole (Novek 377). This is a staggering amount of people to be incarcerated and on parole. Think about that for a minute. That is 1 out of every 30 adults that gets incarcerated. Is our society so morally and ethically unbalanced that we have to put that many people behind bars to protect the innocent law abiding citizens? According to Novek “Over the last 20 years, the prison population has more than tripled, rising 17.5 percent within in the last five years. Ironically, although incarceration rates have continued to rise, crime rates have fallen, particularly those for serious violent crimes.” (Novek 376) I find this to be a very disturbing trend. If crime rates are falling across the board and the serious violent crimes are declining, then why the rise in incarceration rates? The answer is not a simple one by far. But I believe some of it has to do with how the media portrays our prison system in...

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