Nonviolent Offenders Essay

Nonviolent Offenders Essay

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Nonviolent Offenders – Is Incarceration the Answer?
“It’s really clear that the most effective way to turn a nonviolent person into a violent one is to send them to prison,” says Harvard University criminologist James Gilligan. The American prison system takes nonviolent offenders and makes them live side-by-side with hardened killers. The very nature of prison, no matter people view it, produces an environment that is inevitably harmful to its residents.
America locks up five times more of its' population than any other nation in the world. Due to prison overcrowding, prisoners are currently sleeping on floors, in tents, in converted broom closets and gymnasiums, or even in double or triple bunks in cells, which were designed for one inmate. Why is this happening? The U.S. Judicial System has become so succumbed to the ideal that Imprisonment is the most visibly form of punishment. The current structure of this system is failing terribly. To take people, strip them of their possessions and privacy, expose them to violence on a daily basis, restrict their quality of life to a 5x7ft cell, and deprive them of any meaning to live. This scenario is a standard form of punishment for violent offenders, although not suitable for nonviolent offenders.
Today, almost 70% of all prisoners are serving time for nonviolent offenses. U.S. States are spending an average of $100 million per year on new prisons and all U.S. taxpayers front the bill for a system that is not working (Carson). Why should we force taxpayers to pay to keep nonviolent criminals sitting in prison cells where they become bitter, aggressive, and more likely to repeat their offenses when released? The answer is we shouldn’t, there are more reliable forms of punishment available, and rehabilitation and restitution are two alternatives I firmly believe are most effective than incarceration.
Nonviolent criminals should be punished differently. This is because nonviolent criminals do not learn from the misery of being in cells with violent inmates. Drug offenders for example are a public health problem, not public safety problem, and nonviolent offenders can be properly educated. We offer convicts no opportunities to learn compassion or take responsibility for what they have done, nor make restitution or offer atonement to their victims in any practical ways. ...

... middle of paper ...

...he certainty of restitution, by requiring monetary payment, takes the profit out of crime (Carson).      
Most people have the common view that the criminal justice system’s increasing arrests and imprisonment is an effective strategy for reducing crime. If the judicial system makes greater distinction among violent and nonviolent crimes, the prisons will have the vacancies to incarcerate the Jeffery Dahmers of the world in prison for life. By providing alternatives to imprisonment for nonviolent offenders will reduce the burden of taxpayer’s dollars for added funding for construction of new prisons. I know as a College Student I would like to see increased State funding for education system rather than the millions allocated to the prison system of Pennsylvania.
Prisons are not places where nonviolent offenders can serve time and then be released a better person, more fit for society. The prison environment is wrong, and as a result a nonviolent offender will leave unimproved. It is my belief that the alternatives of community control programs, rehabilitation programs, and restitution programs are the answers to the sentencing of nonviolent offenders.

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