Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Costs of our Dysfunctional Criminal [In]Justice System
No one is talking about the drain on our economy by the prison-industrial complex. We incarcerate 40 times more people than any civilized country. We have the same number of prisoners as China. We use prisons to avoid treating addicts and mental illness and to warehouse these people. We say we are tough on crime but do nothing to decrease crime in reality. Most of the people in prison will get out and without rehabilitation and education and opportunities for jobs and life with dignity - having forever to bear the burden and hidden costs that were not part of the sentence of being an ex-con, but are part of the reality of it, they generally are not productive citizens and end up using the "revolving door." Our crime rates will not drop without rehabilitation as the numbers of released inmates take a giant leap after years of increased rates of incarceration. This costs a great deal for police departments who initiate the arrest, the courts, prosecuting and defense attorney offices, cost of incarceration and medical treatment of incarcerated, lost productivity and taxes from the incarcerated, lost productivity from the court personnel and prison guards and staff who could be advancing our society with high tech, technology and other jobs, social services for the prisoner's families and for them when they get out, and for our reputation as a country of laws. When are the candidates going to discuss these costs and make a plan for fixing the problem, including treating addiction as an illness, providing parity for mental health care, having a national health plan where there is no one who is uninsured and cannot access mental health care, making rehabilitation and community service and alternative sentencing a priority, and ending the death penalty that has no redeeming value except for vengeance which I don't consider redeeming? We are imploding as a society because of this immorality and injustice.