Prison Reform For Justice

By · Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

Recently I contributed an article for the readers of that describes the absurdity of using the amount of time spent in prison as the primary gauge of justice. We need prison reforms that will encourage more offenders to work toward reconciling with society. That type of prison adjustment would yield far more in the way of justice, as I understand the term.

I felt inspired to write that article after I received a message from a professor who used to work as a a warden. The professor endeavored to pay me a compliment, I think, by saying that release from prison should have come for me at the 20-year mark. That statement seemed so absurd to me. I didn’t understand why the concept of 20 years in prison had such significance.

Recidivism rate statistics in our country show some troubling trends. As Congress stated through its Second Chance Act, two out of every three prisoners who serve time return to confinement after release. These failure rates do not convince me that society is using its criminal justice system effectively. The costs to taxpayers for such a failing public policy of isolating and punishing approach $60 billion each year. Where is the justice?

Justice, to me, would advance if society were to operate a prison system that helped more people emerge as contributing citizens. Requiring people to live in cages for years or decades at a time does not condition them for the challenges they will face upon release.

Society could change the dismal statistics by incorporating the concept of earning freedom that former Chief Justice Warren Burger wrote about in Factories With Fences. By encouraging people to earn freedom, society would reap far more benefit than warehousing offenders for lengthy sentences.

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