Nonviolent Offenders - Is Incarceration the Answer?
"It's really clear that the most effective way to turn a nonviolent person into a violent one is to send them to prison," says Harvard University criminologist James Gilligan. The American prison system takes nonviolent offenders and makes them live side-by-side with hardened killers. The very nature of prison, no matter people view it, produces an environment that is inevitably harmful to its residents.
America locks up five times more of its' population than any other nation in the world. Due to prison overcrowding, prisoners are currently sleeping on floors, in tents, in converted broom closets and gymnasiums, or even in double or triple bunks in cells, which were designed for one inmate. Why is this happening? The U.S. Judicial System has become so succumbed to the ideal that Imprisonment is the most visibly form of punishment.
The current structure of this system is failing terribly. To take people, strip them of their possessions and privacy, expose them to violence on a daily basis, restrict their quality of life to a 5x7ft cell, and deprive them of any meaning to live. This scenario is a standard form of punishment for violent offenders, although not suitable for nonviolent offenders.
Today, almost 70% of all prisoners are serving time for nonviolent offenses. U.S. States are spending an average of $100 million per year on new prisons and all U.S. taxpayers front the bill for a system that is not working (Carson). Why should we force taxpayers to pay to keep nonviolent criminals sitting in prison cells where they become bitter, aggressive, and more likely to repeat their offenses when released? The answer is we shouldn't, there are more reliable forms of punishment available, and rehabilitation and restitution are two...