Our prison system is growing out of control.
The United States has adopted a set of criminal justice policies that has produced a tidal wave of imprisonment in this country. Between 1970 and 2005, the number of men, women, and children locked up in this country has grown by an historically unprecedented 700%. As a result, the United States locks up almost a quarter of the prisoners in the entire world. In fact, if all our prisoners were confined in one city, that city would be the fourth largest in the country. ~ Alexander, Elizabeth (November 2009)
We got this way by our untested beliefs. Our American culture believes in separation, but this has repercussions. We have problems we can't see. We have not used science to help us, we just keep doubling down, doing more of the same. It isn't even a model prison system, but it dehumanizes, humiliates, and regularly uses total isolation. This approach is outlawed in Europe because it makes people worse, not better. Total isolation makes the human brain stop functioning. It is a form of torture. We need change.
In 2008, according to the Department of Justice, there were 7,308,200 persons in the US corrections system, of whom 4,270,917 were on probation, 828,169 were on parole, 785,556 were in jails, and 1,518,559 were in state and federal prisons. http://drugwarfacts.org
The long-term costs of prisons, if they are not affecting positive change, just go up. Prisons create more violence, illegal activities, and social dysfunction because they mostly release what comes in. They fail culture as well as the incarcerated. In the current system positive change isn't happening within the consciousness of prisoners. Instead, they learn how to network with other prisoners, and build into gangs. It takes increasingly more tax dollars to keep this broken system limping along. It is now clear to almost everyone, in every political party that the current prison system is going in the wrong direction. Our approach of warehousing, punishment, lockdown isolation, and watching the calendar doesn't work.
We need change, and we need science to help us do that.
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