Monday, May 30, 2011

Prisons: We're Doin' It Rong

Mother Jones recently published a photo essay about California's prisons in the wake of the Brown v. Plata ruling, which addressed out of control overcrowding in California prisons and allowed for some remedies, including the release of some prisoners.  The reaction to the ruling has included an unfortunate percentage of "oh my God, they're releasing the Bad Drug Guys" response, which misses the point entirely.
We jail people because we have decided they need punishment for various crimes, but we also have provisions against inhumane punishment, because we recognize that even the worst criminals are humans as well.  The above - and the rest of Mother Jones' essay - shows that the overcrowding of our prisons has the potential to create a truly inhumane environment. 

In many cases, one might argue that that we simply must build more prisons, but when we look at the populations of our jails, a different picture emerges.  Our drug laws are remarkably draconian, and often serve a more political purpose than one in accord with the above recognition that punishment is needed in equal measure to the offense of the crime.  So many of these detainees are jailed for relatively minor drug related offenses, and in such an environment, we know that prisoners become more prone to worse offenses.  Rather than serving the presumed theraputic purpose of punishment, casually jailing people for the botanical equivalent of two bottles of vodka increases crime.   This is no way to run a society and no way to rehabilitate criminals, particularly those that are barely criminals in the first place.

No comments:

Post a Comment