War on Drugs and Prison Overcrowding Essay Sample
Prison overcrowding is a major problem1in our criminal justice system and it continues to bea hotly debated topic as to how we should address the problem. One of the main reasons our prison systems have a problem with overcrowding is drugs. More specifically, the “war on drugs” started by President Reagan in 1982 brought a dramatic increase1to the number of people put behind barsfor drug offenses.
1Mandatory minimum sentencing and truth in sentencingare two policies which have sent drug offenders to prison and kept them there for longer periods of time. The continuing campaign against drugs has apprehended hundreds of thousands of suspects who spend millions on drugs but the cost to incarcerate these non-violent offenders exceeds billions of dollars and much of that money is coming from the taxpayers’ pockets. One way to address this problem is to reverse the current trend of putting first time, non-violent drug offenders in prison and instead sentence these offenders to boot camp and counseling combined with family support. Today’s corrections systems often make offenders worse, along with raising the recidivism rates.
America needs more then a new system, but a new way of thinking. Reformation or rehabilitation is not something that can be imposed or forced, on another; it cannot be created in the individual offender by the burden of external measures. Prisons in America have been portrayed to be places for reform and rehabilitation; places where criminals belong so that society can be safe. Yet studies and statistics have yielded such an image to be an illusion. With roughly 40% of the world’s prisoners incarcerated in the United States, we just may have to re-think our current systems (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2006). What happens when good people are found in an extenuating circumstance, which leads them to become involved in drugs? Does humanity win over evil, or does evil triumph? Workable Solutions A policy using boot camp to house low-level drug offenders instead of a long prison sentence would have a three effects; it would cut prison costs and overcrowding, it would be a fairer and more democratic punishment; and it would keep families apart far less.
My policy, deriving primarily from my experience in the Army, includes boot camps because its purpose is to instill discipline in the lives of these offenders. Combined with a type of life counseling, this overall experience could give these offenders some direction in their lives and point out their mistakes. First, this policy or program would only be available to2those who have not been convicted before and people who arelow-level, non-violent offenders; a good percentage of those incarcerated right now. Many times it is up to the defender as to whether they want to be helped and this makes it difficult for boot camps or other forms of intermediate sanctions. Therefore, to provide incentive, my policy would provide a risk/reward system. Successful completion of this program would result in the drug conviction wiped clean off their record. However, for those who fail to comply with the rules and overall philosophy or those who are convicted again after successful completion, would be punished twice as harsh compared to their first conviction.
The rationale of this method is that a short jail period followed by probation could make the offender realize that the justice system is legitimate and the law must be followed. As in all policies, one could find fault in its intentions, but my boot camp policy for first time/low level offenders is beneficial if applied efficiently and consistently. Conclusion Critiques of contemporary correctional policy indicate that current practice is costly and does not significantly reduce the number of criminals. Nonetheless, many states are now spending more on corrections than on higher education (All Academic Research, 2004). The theory behind the thought is that in order for a prison to successfully operate and reform its inmates it must adjust to how its inmates react to certain privileges being taken away.
All Academic Research. (2004). Punitive Correctional Policy. Retrieved February 3, 2009, from http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p83344_index.html Bureau of Justice Statistics. (2006). Prison Statistics. Retrieved February 3, 2009, from http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/prisons.htm War on Drugs 1