arts of our society need more attention to detail than others. The criminal justice system is given surprisingly little notice considering the impact it can have on our society. Because the United States has the most incarcerated citizens, we need to start paying more attention to our legal system and the policies we implement. Implementing an effective system will prevent future crime and reduce our prison population.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, there are currently 2,188,000 people in federal, state and local jails and 6,814,600—those in prison included—are under correctional supervision. This means 0.7 percent of people are incarcerated and 2.13 percent are supervised by correctional services.
We need to consider our moral obligations to criminals. We tend to act “tough on crime” rather than focus on productive programs for individuals because we believe people should be held accountable and punished for their crimes. We also tend to encourage additional spending on corrections in the name of public safety.
Unfortunately, punishment of action does not lead to crime reduction—in fact, it increases recidivism, a person’s relapse into crime. Our policies are aimed at creating more prison capacity and at addressing repeating offenders than trying to allocate financial support to programs for criminals to return to society. Our obligation is to provide each prisoner with a chance to do better or to adequately perform duties when they return as a citizen.
Allocating financial resources to support college educational programs within incarceration facilities allows us to reduce the recidivism occurring in our society. A college education will increase employability of felons, where if they had none there could be an inclination back into crime. Crime needs to be an unattractive alternative to criminals in order to reduce the likelihood of repeating it.
A part of our moral obligation is to understand the outcomes and predispositions of others. Ex-felons are not seen as the most employable. Educating them would be our moral responsibility to provide them with equitable opportunity.
Granted, this action requires more financial support, but for now our focus and our obligation can be focused on allocating the current resources to another area. We should move resources from increasing prison capacity and from reentering policy for prisoners to supporting polices that integrate the prisoner back into society. A solution to this problem, in general, lies in our participation as citizens. It should already be our moral obligation to stay informed of the policies that are enacted around us—understanding where the money should be put and how we want to treat incarcerated individuals now falls on us.
Current policies are setting offenders up for failure because of their specific focus. The best way to change current policy makers’ minds is by having a grassroots movement to promote the policy that is working. Immediate, concrete needs of prison facilities are important, but allowing one to see how we can change the immediate needs is important as well. In a system where it seems changeable, we need to start a solution of faith in people somewhere.