The United States is a frontrunner in the jailing of its citizens, a nation whose justice is harsher and less forgiving than any other country. It has sent non-violent offenders away for long-periods of time, and innocent people to life or death.
The United States has incarcerated five times more people than Britain, 12 times more than Japan and nine times more than Germany. Only Russia, Brazil and Iran are close to the imprisonment rate of the U.S. These countries have problems with social inequality---a core concern of the global Occupy Together movement.
On a national level, the U.S. has one-out-of-31 people in jail, on parole or on probation. (Economist, para. 7)
Felman, a defence lawyer in Tampa, Florida, says America is conducting “an experiment in imprisoning first-time non-violent offenders for periods of time previously reserved only for those who had killed someone”. ("Too Many Laws, Too Many Prisoners," para. 20)
The United States incarcerates 25% of the prisoners on the planet, yet the country only has 4.5% of the world's population, according to the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.
Looking back at 1970, incarnation was one-fourth this amount. A harsher judicial system has brought federal prisons to a 60 percent overcrowding rate, with 13 times the number of inmates entering the prison system. An example of overcrowding is in California's prisons with 33,000 inmates, by far the worst in the nation followed by Georgia and Alabama.
California judicial system
California Dept. of Corrections & Rehabilitation
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy spoke for the majority when he said, "California's prisons had 'fallen short of minimum constitutional requirements" because of overcrowding. As many as 200 prisoners may live in gymnasium, and as many as 54 prisoners share a single toilet." ("Supreme Court Orders California to Release Tens of Thousands of Prison Inmates," CVAA News)
According to the United States Supreme Court, California prisons "constitute cruel and unusual punishment," and Governor Jerry Brown was ordered to transfer or release over 30,000 prison inmates during a two-year period.
However, the L.A. Times states that from 2002 and 2006, "more than 150,000 inmates walked free after serving a fraction of their sentences---many of them less than 20%." According to a 2006 investigation, approximately 16,000 of prisoners were rearrested after their release and 16 were charged with murder.
A lot has to do with the current economy, as parolees are less likely to return to prison if they are drug-free, have a steady job and have a stable home. What many people do not know is that businesses that hire a parolee can get a federal tax break of up to $9,000 dollars for each person.
Shifting state prisoners to Los Angeles local jails
Sheriff Baca of Los Angeles has been working on the best way to identify thousands of local inmates who are awaiting trial, in order to comply with the Supreme Court's demands to reduce prison overpopulation. Meanwhile, local jails are filling up with the transfer of state prisoners to the county level; the alternative was to turn them loose on the street. ("Prison Realignment done right")
The sheriff's department and the ACLU is studying an expansion of electronic monitoring and home detention programs. This will help keep track of the prisoners who are serving time out of jail. Another program is a new risk-assessment system that will help better identify prisoners who will be the most successful at being released, successfully educated, and willing to enter substance abuse programs.
In the article, "L.A. County jails may be out of room next month," it has been predicted that Los Angeles crime will increase by as much as 3% because of the realignment move of inmates. The local police and prosecutors are warning that not only will crime raise but an increase of offenders will be on the streets.
But so far, just the opposite is happening. According to the Nov. 4, 2011 PR/Newswire, 'the lowest crime rate levels in 45 years as reported by the FBI's UCR, while taxpayers are paying billions of dollars and carrying the burden of overcrowded prisons."
Senator Webb recently addressed the American Bar Association and said, "We over-incarcerate." "Eleven days ago all but four of the Republicans in this body filibustered a common-sense piece of legislation that would ... examine our broken and frequently dysfunctional criminal justice system, and to make recommendations as to how we can make it more effective, more fair, and more cost-efficient," said Webb on November 1 when speaking on the Senate floor.California's budget problems
It is common knowledge that California has serious financial issues, with its prison system one of them. To solve some of the issues, the Riverside County board of supervisors approved charging its prisoners $142.42 a day to stay in their jail. The town feels that it can save approximately $5 million dollars a year by charging its 60,000 prisoners a small fee.
However, not all prisoners can pay, "We believe that 25% of the people who go through our jail systems can afford to pay for their jail stay," said County supervisor Jeff Stone. "If we just grab 25% of those, that would save the county or the city $6.7 million."
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com