What kind of society would reasonably accept, or champion, 1 percent of its adult population imprisoned?
A more astounding 3.1 percent of adults in the U.S. are under some correctional supervision – whether prison, parole or probation – according to the International Centre for Prison Studies. England and Wales have a higher incarceration rate than most of Western Europe, but they still maintain only one-fifth as many prisoners per capita as the U.S.
On a personal level, the attitude toward imprisonment here reflects fighting fire with fire. The only sufficient explanation for supporting such dreadful levels of imprisonment seems to be an excessive appetite for revenge. Punishing poor behavior with more undesirable behavior, like a petulant bully without foresight, does not correct anything or improve our society.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics shows a stark increase in imprisonment from relatively average levels before 1980 to the exceedingly high levels today.
Are modern humans too inferior to behave according to the standard of a livable society, or are expectations too high for fallible, fixable people? Or, is the legal system guided by a code that never should, or will, be achieved by an honest civilization?
Clearly, our culture lies in a troubling and unacceptable state to require 1 in 31 adult citizens burdened under correctional supervision (including parole) and especially to hold such a portion of our populace on punishing leashes.
If we are interested in happier lives for our 307 million citizens, we must steer away from consistently denying 7 million or more important freedoms, whether through correcting the criminals or the legal system.
If we care about the lives of countless people who have made mistakes against the law, rehabilitation should absolutely supersede punishment or containment in our reaction to their errors.
Rehabilitation creates a culture that faces crime as a reality and works to improve it, as opposed to fighting an endless battle to silence and deny what naturally occurs when humankind interacts in competitive groups.
On the surface, U.S. prisons claim correctional aims, but a quick review of prison conditions and the 60 percent recidivism (re-imprisonment) rate show no effective strides are taken toward rehabilitation.
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