# How good are prisons?

#### devil-fire

prisons are the last resort in dealing with people that cant otherwise be dealt with in a way that is safe for society. the prison system is vary costly and i'm wondering what people's thoughts are on the usefulness of this institution if criminals reoffend or are otherwise not made safe for society after being released.

after watching a show (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/asylums/) on the mentally ill in the prison system iv been questioning how this staple of the justice system can be considered effective and not in need of dramatic change

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#### Rabid

The Justice system does need dramatic change. Imprisonment of nonviolent offenders is a serious drain on the system. From theft to drug laws, there are more effective ways to deal with a number of 'criminals' than simply throwing them behind bars for a number of years. When people are being sent to prison for smoking marijuana or even prescribing it to people with cancer -

A week and a half after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the federal government can block doctors from prescribing marijuana for medical use, drug agents arrested a doctor from Cool.
http://www.news10.net/storyfull1.asp?id=11629

-and rapists and murderers are being released, something is definitely wrong.
A number of states have adopted a three strikes rule, which would be a good idea if it was limited to serious crimes.

In November 1995, Leandro Andrade was caught shoplifting twice within two weeks at K-Mart stores in Southern California. In both instances Andrade stuffed children's videotapes inside his pants, and both times he was arrested within minutes of leaving the store.
The tapes Andrade stole were worth approximately $160. Such petty thefts (under$400) are ordinarily misdemeanors punishable by up to six months in jail. But Andrade had a record of burglaries and marijuana possession from years before. Using California's tough three-strikes law, Andrade's new petty thefts were treated as felonies. Upon his conviction, the judge sentenced him to 50 years to life in prison.
http://www.njsbf.com/njsbf/student/eagle/spring03-1.cfm [Broken]

I don't know much about how prisons handle the mentally ill and plan to go over your link when I have more time, but if they are not able to function in society they should, of course, be kept out of it. I do think more should be done to try to rehabilitate prisoners and treat the mentally ill. The reason to look more closely at the nonviolent offenders being locked away is that the cost that could be saved by using other punitive methods would allow the system to handle the real criminals in more effective ways.

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#### Pengwuino

Gold Member
It doesnt need to be changed, it needs to be... investigated? But then again who knows. Who are we to say whats wrong with the system when we only get little 6 paragraph snippets from newspapers and special interest groups.

For one, its easy to tell someone "hes recieved 50 years for stealing a hat!" and get them to hate the law but it all changes when you say "hes recieved 50 years for stealing a hat after grand theft auto and a home invasion". We need to remember that these are repeat offenses and its not exactly easy to think that th epersons going to change.

#### mapper

Prisons would be much more effective if they could introduce a school system inside that will teach studies comprable to that of univeristy or collage. Most people in prisions are uneducated unemployed people.

#### devil-fire

Rabid said:
I don't know much about how prisons handle the mentally ill and plan to go over your link when I have more time, but if they are not able to function in society they should, of course, be kept out of it.
to watch the show instead of just read transcripts, just click on 'watch the full program on-line'

to quote an introduction on the site
PBS show said:
Fewer than 55,000 Americans currently receive treatment in psychiatric hospitals. Meanwhile, almost 10 times that number -- nearly 500,000 -- mentally ill men and women are serving time in U.S. jails and prisons. As sheriffs and prison wardens become the unexpected and often ill-equipped caretakers of this burgeoning population, they raise a troubling new concern: Have America's jails and prisons become its new asylums?
on the over all subject of prisons i vary much agree with mapper. these people needs to be given skills that can be used productively for society after release. it doesn't do enough good to put these people back were they came from without providing the beginning for an alternative lifestyle

#### Rabid

While I agree that there are some people who should be treated that way, I believe others are being caught up in the system, who if an honest attempt was made to rehabilitate and treat them, could become productive members of society and not a drain on the community at a cost that can range from $15,000 to over$30,000 per prisoner per year.

Personally, I wouldn't consider a shoplifter a danger to society. Even if that person has committed a serious crime in his/her past. The three-strikes law can place a person in jail who hasn't committed a single violent crime. People who may have committed felonies in the past, whether it be burglary or grand theft and years later are charged with shoplifting or even posessing a small amount of marijuana should not be sent to jail for life, IMHO.
I have no problem with throwing a child rapist or murderer in jail for life without parole on the first offense - people who pose such a clear threat to society. If we don't want to see people murdered or children raped by people who have already been charged with these crimes, then the system does need to be changed, IMHO.
When the US has the highest incarceration rate in the world,
http://www.csmonitor.com/2003/0818/p02s01-usju.html
then system needs to be changed, IMHO.

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