Sunday, April 12, 2020
Reducing the Prison Population
In the United States, it is evident we need to reduce the inmate population.
In Oklahoma, we are 100% overcapacity, despite sentencing reforms.1 Our state is not addressing problems of education, re-entry, and recidivism. Legislators remain divided on the answer.
A 2011 survey conducted by the VERA Institute estimated the total prison cost of 40 states was $39 billion, not sustainable.2. Our lawmakers have led us into this crisis with the war on drugs, which led to partnerships with bill mills such as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Large corporations fund ALEC, and many members are American lawmakers. Lawmakers and corporations often vote on and edit these bills before they make it to the public. ALEC was responsible for providing boilerplate legislation to state lawmakers to present across the country. One of ALEC’s most significant contributors is the private prison industry, legislation such as the “Truth in Sentencing Act,” and the “Three Strikes Laws.” It is apparent we have corruption currently in statehouses. ALEC created the need and the customers for their donors’ prisons.
One of the most obvious ways to start reducing the number of people incarcerated is to begin assessing inmates for release, which are: (1) over the age of 60, (2) non-ambulatory, (3) terminally ill, (4) Incarcerated on technical violations, (5) eliminate “Truth in Sentencing” and (6) inmates who have served 1/3 of their sentence. Studies show that after the age of 60, recidivism is almost non-existent in all offender categories, including violent offenders.3 If these inmates are not a risk, help them apply for community services and transition, the state will save money and reduce the number of inmates. It would be a great start, but by no means is this a solution.
1. Barry A. Krisberg, Marchionna, S., &; Hartney, C. J. (2019). American Corrections Concepts and Controversies 2nd Edition (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks: Sage.
2. Press, A. (2020, Feb 28). US News and World Reports. Retrieved Jan 29, 2020, from usnews.com: https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/oklahoma/articles/2020-01-29/oklahomas-prison-population-falls-but-system-still-crowded
3. Laub, J. L., R.J. Sampson (2006). SHARED BEGINNINGS, DIVERGENT LIVES :Delinquent Boys To Age 70. In J. L. Laub, & R. J. Sampson, SHARED BEGINNINGS, DIVERGENT LIVES :Delinquent Boys To Age 70 (pp. 110-113). First Harvard University Press.