Prisons are overcrowded for many reasons. However, there are key factors that play a large role in the prison population problem. One is the incarceration of non-violent drug offenders. Prisons are no place for this type of criminal. There are a lot of them. From a practical standpoint, these prisoners take up space, time and money from the penal system. Drug addicts need help. Not jail time. Sentencing them to jail only perpetuates the reason for their drug abuse and or addiction. In prison, they receive no or mediocre treatment for their drug abuse and or addiction. Once released, these former prisoners feel less of themselves than before they were incarcerated. They have more anxiety after being released and some may not even know what to do. So, they go back to the life of illegal drugs.
Then, “real criminals” are released. For example, pedophiles who have been found guilty of molesting children, violently or not, are released to make room for drug addicts and other criminals. This is the way it is in Texas. Pedophiles are released. And, any one who is interested can look where these offenders live on line. Where they work etc..
Pedophilia, according to Psychiatrists, is one of the few mental illnesses that can not be cured by therapy. The only cure is physical castration or chemical castration. Drug addiction can be cured. It is a process, but drug addicts have hope. But, instead, they are put in prison. Prison does not help a drug addict. Incarceration intensifies the reasons why these people use drugs. Then, a vicious cycle is set up where the drug addict continues being a drug addict. Gets arrested again. Serves his or her time. And, still has not received any help. But, the pedophile who is incurable is released.
The other factor often overlaps other issues. This is mental illness. Most criminals are mentally ill. This does not mean any criminal who is mentally ill should not go to prison. In fact, most prisoners have at least one mental illness. However, there is nothing in the prison system that addresses mental illness. There needs to be a screening process for prisoners that are drug abusers, drug addicts and non-violent offenders. A testing process, where psychological testing could be performed. Then dependant on the results from a psychosocial assessment, the prisoners who scored the best would receive psychological help while in prison. Scoring the best would mean that these prisoners had the highest chance of benefiting from psychological help.
The ideal solution would be to take these prisoners to a different facility. They would still be prison, but away from the general prison population. This would be a less stressful environment . Emotional help for these prisoners would be more productive if they were away from the stress of typical prison life. These prisoners would still serve their time, but the time would be more productive. The mentally ill would have a chance of not becoming repeat offenders. The overcrowded prison system would benefit tremendously.
Another issue, is all the appeals granted to prisoners who have been found guilty of murders and more. With every appeal, money is being wasted that could be used more productively by the prison systems. Now, some of this is dependant of how the individual states handle the appellate process and more.
For example, in Texas, we do not have a public defenders office. Lawyers are randomly assigned to defend poor people charge with crimes. So, this can be very wasteful. For example, a divorce attorney is chosen to defend a person charged with murder. There have been stories of attorneys not doing any work at all to defend these people. So, rightfully, the people are entitled to an appeal.
Poverty can be a big factor in people choosing a life of crime. It is easy to understand. if you cannot afford to feed your baby. You will, based on survival instinct, steal formula. Yes, the money for the formula may have been spent on alcohol or drugs. But, as the late Marvin Zindler from Houston would say on the nightly news,”it’s hell to be poor.”