Prison Camps Waste Taxpayer Resources

By · Sunday, March 8th, 2009

President Obama has repeatedly said that under his administration, leaders will evaluate the effectiveness of every government agency and program. Those that provide useful services to society will received appropriate resources, and those that fail will undergo reforms. I know the economy, the war efforts, foreign policy, energy, and health care take priority. As long-term prisoner, however, I am eagerly anticipating a review of what I consider a wickedly ineffective and bloated prison system.

Recently, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals made a ruling that will require the state of California to release thousands of prisoners before their sentences expire. I know that many citizens feel threatened by such a ruling. Those taxpayers have been influenced by the propaganda machine of the enormously powerful lobbyists who represent the so-called corrections system. Ironically, citizens have been deluded into believing that long-term imprisonment of all offenders is a good strategy for America. They ignore the unbiased statistics which show that the longer society locks a person in our system of corrections, the less capable that individual becomes to function in society upon release.

Leaders need to reform America’s prison system. Rather than measuring justice through the turning of calendar pages, we need a system that would encourage offenders to work toward earning freedom through merit. Rather than a system that extinguishes hope among the 2.4 million people locked inside cages, we need a system that inspires offenders to work toward reconciling with society. Prison reforms should launch programs that help individuals emerge successfully; they should not perpetuate cycles of failure.

One area that administrators may consider reforming would be the system of minimum-security prison camps. What is the point of these facilities? I understand that they serve the interests of lobbyists and the businesses that provide goods and services to the prison industry. Yet they do not serve a legitimate interest to taxpayers.

Much earlier in my prison term, I was confined in a medium-security prison where Warden Dennis Luther presided. At the time, Warden Luther had more tenure than any other warden in the Bureau of Prisons. I was studying independently toward a graduate degree at the time, and Warden Luther extended me the privilege of interviewing him for several hours. If he could, Warden Luther said that he would close all prison camps. He said they represented a waste of taxpayer resources and that they served no useful purpose.

Since 2003, when administrators dropped my security classification to minimum, I have served my time in minimum-security camps. No fences have confined me. While in the camp, administrators have assigned me to jobs that placed me in direct and unsupervised contact with society. If administrators have classified me as posing no threat to society, and they allow me the degree of trust to serve my sentence under the honor system, in a prison without walls or fences, then why shouldn’t I conclude the remainder of my term under the strict conditions of home confinement? Why shouldn’t I be working in a legitimate employment position where I would pay my taxes rather than wasting taxpayer resources in an open prison?

The American prison system is ripe for reform. It generates recidivism rates that exceed 60 percent, and taxpayers fund these cycles of failure with nearly $60 billion in public expenditures each year. One place to start prison reform would be to release those in minimum-security camps into community confinement programs that would require appropriate offenders who do not pose a threat to society to pay their own way. Such a reform may not serve the interests of lobbyists for corrections, but it would serve the interests of the American citizens.

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4 Responses to “Prison Camps Waste Taxpayer Resources”

  1. Alex Gomez says:

    March 9, 2009

    Mr. Santos,
    In the article entitled, “Prison Camps Waste Taxpayers Resources” you indicated that the prison needs reform and instead of seeking justice through the turning of calendar days, the system needs to encourage offenders to work progressively to earn their freedom. You also suggested, that tax payers are wasting their money since the longer an individual is confined in prison the more difficult it is for him to reconcile with society. Moreover, I honestly agree with the comments you made about the correctional institution prisons are supposed to be. I do not see any correction being made because the recidivism rates rates speak for themselves. My questions to you are if you were President Barack Obama’s policy advisor what would be your first steps in reforming the prison system? Would you release the less dangerous offenders? What would you do in cases where offenders have committed violent offenses in the past but have changed their ways?

    The book entitled, Inside: Life Behind Bars in America, was an different way of looking at the correctional institution. I never imagined prison to be that dangerous of a place. Honestly, once I first was assigned to read the book, I thought it was another one of those books Dr. Sam Torres glorifies in class. But after reading the book it opened my eyes of how the prison system is a world itself with different rules each offender has to follow. Moreover, the book was badass and I enjoyed reading it. Thanks for your contribution to my small library.

    Alex Gomez

  2. Christina West says:

    Can there be any balance between long term incarceration to appease conservatives while still allowing programs that help prisoners to be able to function normally, be gainfully employed and self sufficient for example, upon their release? If so, what types of programs would “help prisoners emerge successfully”? Do you believe these would reduce recidivism or are the types of people who would truly take adavantage of them unlikely to reoffend in the first place? If minimum-security camp inmates should be released into society, where should the line be drawn for minimum/medium security?—since without minimum-security camps, current medium-security facilities would be the lowest rung of severity in terms of confinement, the new minimum-security facilities.

  3. Susanne says:

    I am very interested in doing what I can to assist in moving prison reform forward. My husband will soon be at Taft (after his 3/23 sentencing and Taft is the minimum security facility they choose to send him to). Like what you continue to speak about there is a much better way to use these valuable resources (like my husband and plenty others) then to send them to minimum security prisons. What my husband did is wrong but the punishment certainly does not fit the crime. There is so much good that he could do and share with others that would benefit society rather than incarcerate him. I need some assistance on how to best to proceed to move this forward. I know your wife is doing some wonderful things and I would love to join her in these efforts. My husband is currently in the county jail and I continually send him your articles and blogs (today I’m sending him this one). They are very insightful for those of us that have never had anything more than a parking ticket. He also looks forward to meeting you. Keep up the great work! You’re an inspiration!

  4. Jason Okubo says:

    Dear Mr. Santos,
    I would agree that the American prison system is overburdened and largely ineffective in rehabilitating inmates. The current system wastes billions of the dollars incarcerating criminals and is therefore in dire need of reform. However you stated that “…we need a system that would encourage offenders to work toward earning freedom through merit”. How is this different from the current good time statutes that reduce a prisons sentence for good behavior? In your article you feel that minimum security facilities should be abolished and changed into community confinement programs. Wouldn’t these programs be very similar to probational terms given to inmates who have served their time?