According to the Justice Bureau 93% of prisoners are men. Around 2,000,000 people are incarcerated which is about 1% of our total population while close to 5,000,000 inmates are on parole or probation. Most of these are repeat offenders. I admit that I thought more than 1% of our population was in jail because it seems like that’s all I ever hear about on the news.
This is a breakdown of the crimes as to a percentage each category makes up of all crimes committed: Property 46.8%, Larceny Theft 31.9%, Burglary 11.1%, Aggravated Assault 4%, Vehicle Theft 3.8%, Robbery 1.9%, Rape .4%, and Murder .1%. No crime is good but I admit I was happy to see that violent crimes make up a small percentage of the total.
I have several issues when it comes to our legal system. First of all, who decided sentencing guidelines? For some reason people who commit crimes against children typically get a lesser sentence than criminals who commit the same crime against adults. It’s my opinion that sentencing guidelines should be revisited and much harsher penalties should be placed on crimes against our children. I also believe that most sex offenders can’t be reformed and this is backed up by a tremendous amount of research including sex offenders admitting the same thing. There is a lot of work being done to come up with a way to rehab these offenders but nothing is proven highly successful yet. We need to take this into consideration when deciding sentencing. I think we should look at life sentences for men who are found guilty of raping a child. My preference when it comes to issuing a life sentence is for the rape to be reported within four weeks and that there is physical evidence.
I also think we should take a look at how we rehabilitate prisoners as not enough money is spent in this area. I do know that some of them get training in prison but most of them go from their cells to the dining hall and then to recreational facilities without gaining any real life skills (i.e. computer, reading, writing, etc.) There’s no doubt in my mind that if we don’t provide prisoners with tools that will make them more marketable they will quickly end up back in prison. This is one of the reasons why 61% of convicts are repeat offenders.
Unfortunately, many prisoners who get their GED’s and learn marketable skills still can’t get a job because most employers won’t hire them. I hate it but it’s just the way it is. What can these ex-convicts do but go back to what they know best which is crime? Some of the convicts say they’d rather be in prison because they were living on the streets and starving. It’s definitely sad when someone thinks prison life is better than life outside of the walls; yet another reason why we have repeat offenders.
Another terrible thing that’s taking place across our country (more so in cities with a large amount of crime) is that most criminals only serve a fraction of their sentence. I’m sure you’d agree that having criminals (close to 5,000,000) walking our streets isn’t safe for our society. I don’t know about you but I think this negatively impacts my ability to pursue happiness! Where’s the Supreme Court now?
The reason for sentences being reduced is primarily due to prison overcrowding. What’s more harmful to society, spending additional money on building more prisons or allowing criminals to cycle in and out of jail all of their lives? Mark Twain once said something to the effect that if you try to save money by not giving convicts the tools they need to succeed you’ll end up building more prisons. We might think we’re saving money at one end but it will end up costing us more at the other.Not to mention if it were your family member or friend who was beaten, murdered, robbed, and or raped, you’d be devastated if the person who committed the crime got off with only serving a partial sentence.
There are several common denominators when it comes to the demographics of prisoners which are environmental. Most of them are from single family homes, most of them come from poor neighborhoods, most of them are high school dropouts, and most of them have never had a job that pays more than minimum wage. It would be very difficult to fix these issues and we’ve certainly learned that throwing money at it doesn’t work.
In wrapping up I think we need to build more prisons; we need to expand the number of people needed to prosecute cases so we can get offenders in jail as soon as we can, we need to change our criminal codes to reflect the severity of each crime, and we need to put more emphasis on rehabilitation. Crime has been around from the beginning of mankind so it’s not going away. But if other countries are doing a better job with their criminal justice system, we should seek their advice.