In America today, almost one percent of people are imprisoned. Look around you in your next lecture. Don’t see anyone behind bars? Then it’s you. You’re in jail. What did you do? I bet you pirated TV shows, you sick bastard.
With five percent of the world’s population, the U.S. has almost 25 percent of its prisoners. The worst feature of American incarceration is the discrimination with which it operates. African Americans find themselves targeted by police far more frequently than whites; when arrests are made, black offenders are subjected to sentences up to 20 percent longer than whites committing the same crime; one in nine black children has an incarcerated parent.
Much of the blame for this massive incarceration rate has been aimed at the government’s waging of a war on drugs. President Obama responded to these claims, saying, “If you’re gonna wage a war, it’s way more fun to do it on drugs.”
Upon realizing he had misunderstood the criticism, he said in October, “For a long time, treatment was a second-class citizen to interdiction and arrest.” Obama is right. Consider our nation’s marijuana users. They’re not criminals – they’re addicts. Rather than prison sentences, we should be giving them medical treatment, and there’s only one prescription for the job: medical marijuana. Maybe even some medical glazed donuts and a medical glass of iced tea. Sure, marijuana use caused an arrest every 51 seconds in 2014, but that was probably just one stoned cop repeatedly telling a parking cone it was under arrest.
One problem with the American prison system is its concentration on retribution and deterrence, rather than rehabilitation. Consider our tendency to lock people up for life: the United States has 41,000 people serving sentences of life without parole. England has 41. England’s sentences seem to have gotten a lot less annoying in the time since I had to read Shakespeare.
On top of long sentences, exorbitant recidivism rates lead to a “once a prisoner, always a prisoner” mentality. Prisoners are more likely to return to prison than campers at most summer camps are to return to camp. I say we capitalize on this by sending criminals directly to summer camp when they break the law. This way, thieves can redirect their kleptomania toward stealing second base in kickball, and murderers can learn to kill it in karaoke.
Congress harshly punishes recidivism with such policies as the “Three Strikes and You’re Out” law. And who better to criticize repeat offenders than congressmen? I mean, someone serving for a few years and, as soon as they’re dismissed, winding up right back in the same place, over and over again? I really hope Congress fixes this terrible problem.