Imagine if you will living in a space the size of an average 3 bedroom home with 50 other people all doors locked and no windows. These people are not your relatives or your friends. In fact, some of these people you normally wouldn’t even consider interacting with at all.
Take away the kitchen and add meal trays when the scheduled time for them to be delivered arrives. Take away the carpet and walk on cement floors. Take away the beds and bedding adding one cement bunk style slab attached to the wall with 1 ragged blanket and pillow per person. Take away the furniture and add one metal picnic table with attached benches able to seat 15 at a time.
Imagine your recreation being one hour per day in a fenced in yard, no grass, and a basketball court if you’re lucky. Contact with the outside world through letters and collect phone calls. One hour visitation per week, if you behave.
This is just a basic description of what prison might be like. Many people with various degrees of violence competing for space and perhaps a better blanket, simply because they have nothing better to do. All walks of life, all degrees of violent behavior and all cramped together just looking for the opportunity to prove their the baddest.
Psychologically debilitating might be a good analogy. Once a person is permitted to leave the house they have less social skills then when they arrived. Not to mention respect for rules and a belief in a just system. Once again just a basic description of the effects of an over crowded prison on a person released.
Can we separate the mentally ill from the murderers? Mentally ill inmates have basically no chance to come out of the system as a functioning human being. The only chance they might have would be an institution equipped to handle their special needs. Yes, we have the “everybody was crazy when they did it” syndrome. That’s what professionals are for. Let’s focus on the needs of the mentally ill instead of the space it will take to house them. That would decrease the number of prisoners just barely touching the surface of the over crowding problem. Can we find a place for the addict to go. A place that can rehabilitate the willing. If we did we just might help an alcoholic become a productive member of society and better yet, help with the prison over population.
These topics are big! There is no one answer to fix it all. It’s my belief however that building more prisons and spending millions more of the tax payers dollar should perhaps be the last resort.