How Can We Reduce the Prison Population in the U.S.?

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anonymous66
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How Can We Reduce the Prison Population in the U.S.?

Post by anonymous66 » January 19th, 2018, 8:40 am

It's a fact that the U.S. has less than 5% of the world's population and about 22% of the world's prisoners. Assuming that that's a bad thing....

What do we need to do to change our society such that we incarcerate fewer people?

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LuckyR
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Re: How Can We Reduce the Prison Population in the U.S.?

Post by LuckyR » January 19th, 2018, 3:26 pm

anonymous66 wrote:
January 19th, 2018, 8:40 am
It's a fact that the U.S. has less than 5% of the world's population and about 22% of the world's prisoners. Assuming that that's a bad thing....

What do we need to do to change our society such that we incarcerate fewer people?
Well it depends why you think that statistical issue exists. Here are some possibilities:

1- We have average crime but catch way more of the bad guys than other countries

2- We have way more crime than other countries

3- We have average crime but choose incarceration way more than others (as opposed to other punishments)

4- We have average crime but have way longer sentences than others

5- We catch the same number of bad guys, but convict way more of them than others

6- I am sure you can dream up others possibilities

What do you think?
"As usual... it depends."

anonymous66
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Re: How Can We Reduce the Prison Population in the U.S.?

Post by anonymous66 » January 19th, 2018, 4:15 pm

My gut feeling is that we just incarcerate more people. I'm becoming aware of just how often we incarcerate innocent people and that in our country, justice is not blind (poor people and minorities are more likely to be incarcerated than wealthy white people).

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LuckyR
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Re: How Can We Reduce the Prison Population in the U.S.?

Post by LuckyR » January 20th, 2018, 2:37 am

anonymous66 wrote:
January 19th, 2018, 4:15 pm
My gut feeling is that we just incarcerate more people. I'm becoming aware of just how often we incarcerate innocent people and that in our country, justice is not blind (poor people and minorities are more likely to be incarcerated than wealthy white people).
Well, I am trying to explain your first sentence. Your last comment, if corrected would increase the prison population even more! (If the wealthy guilty people who get off were convicted).

No ideas as to why? (Heck, I even made it multiple choice)
"As usual... it depends."

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Re: How Can We Reduce the Prison Population in the U.S.?

Post by Fooloso4 » January 20th, 2018, 11:38 am

I think the solution is quite simple - a) eliminate private for profit prisons, b) provide an adequate tax base so that law enforcement and judiciary do not have to rely on exorbitant and compound fines and prison for those who cannot afford to pay them as a source of revenue.

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Re: How Can We Reduce the Prison Population in the U.S.?

Post by LuckyR » January 21st, 2018, 3:24 am

Fooloso4 wrote:
January 20th, 2018, 11:38 am
I think the solution is quite simple - a) eliminate private for profit prisons, b) provide an adequate tax base so that law enforcement and judiciary do not have to rely on exorbitant and compound fines and prison for those who cannot afford to pay them as a source of revenue.
Why do you think the US prison population is so high?
"As usual... it depends."

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Re: How Can We Reduce the Prison Population in the U.S.?

Post by Frost » January 21st, 2018, 10:39 am

My personal opinion is that harmful economic policy leading to social strife along with a legal system and an intellectual/academic climate which reduces responsibility/accountability and permits the violation of rights seem to be significant candidates.

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Re: How Can We Reduce the Prison Population in the U.S.?

Post by Fooloso4 » January 21st, 2018, 11:25 am

LuckyR:
Why do you think the US prison population is so high?
I suggested that it had to do with profit motive. This was too facile an answer for solving the problem. The rapid increase in prison populations corresponds to the war on drugs and “get tough on crime” measures such as mandatory sentencing and the three strike rule. These people are in the system, system is slow to change, and simply releasing prisoners is problematic. The most likely way to reduce prison populations may come from changes in beliefs and attitudes regarding the efficacy of reducing crime by locking people up together with parole and completion of sentences.

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Frost
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Re: How Can We Reduce the Prison Population in the U.S.?

Post by Frost » January 21st, 2018, 11:32 am

Fooloso4 wrote:
January 21st, 2018, 11:25 am
I suggested that it had to do with profit motive.

Why would the profit motive matter if the justice system were....just? Wouldn't the profit motive actually help to efficiently get all the criminals off the streets as possible? The cause of the crime would be a separate question, but I'm not sure I see how the profit motive is, in and of itself, a problem.

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Re: How Can We Reduce the Prison Population in the U.S.?

Post by Fooloso4 » January 21st, 2018, 4:09 pm

Frost:
… but I'm not sure I see how the profit motive is, in and of itself, a problem.
Because there is an incentive to lock them up rather than explore alternatives. There is a strong prison lobby that influences politicians who influence both public opinion and the judicial system.

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Frost
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Re: How Can We Reduce the Prison Population in the U.S.?

Post by Frost » January 21st, 2018, 6:14 pm

Fooloso4 wrote:
January 21st, 2018, 4:09 pm
Because there is an incentive to lock them up rather than explore alternatives. There is a strong prison lobby that influences politicians who influence both public opinion and the judicial system.
So that's exactly what I meant. If there is a lobby corrupting the judicial system then the judicial system is not doing its job and it is not just. If the justice system were just, then I don't see how the profit motive would be detrimental. It seems to me to be a separate question, since if the system were just then it would efficiently deal with it. Furthermore, it's not as if government facilities don't seek power and increased money.

Furthermore, one also has to wonder where the people are in this. Trial by jury, by definition implies the right of jury nullification. If such sentences were unjust, then why don't juries exercise nullification? There are also examples of psychiatrists that "treat" prisoners and then okay their release only for the criminal to go and kill right away, where the naive psychiatrist was more manipulated than the prisoner.

I agree that drug convictions are a major part of the prison population problem, and I think it is terribly unjust. Decriminalization of all drug use would be a very simple way to eliminate this problem.

However, outside of this, what if it should really be the case that more people should be in prison? All the crimes that go uninvestigated let alone prosecuted and convicted would indicate that more should be in jail, at the very least to keep criminals off the street to reduce crime. However, why there is so much crime I think is an essential factor for the question. For example, welfare programs have resulted in the destruction of the family of inner city blacks, and this not only leads to more crime in and of itself, but single mothers raising children are also not good for crime. This is just one example, but moral hazard is the general principle by which reduced incentives for hard work and good behavior lead to more crime. Add to the mix discriminatory socioeconomic policy like minimum wage laws, many regulations, and inflationary monetary policy, and I think you have a nice recipe for dramatically increased crime.

Perhaps the U.S. has the highest prison population because our justice system, flaws and all, is still the best in the world, but many policies are encouraging the increase in crime. Not saying this is necessarily true, but it must be considered. It seems the automatic reaction is to think the prison system is to blame, but perhaps it is Congress that is more to blame by discriminatory and harmful socioeconomic policy.

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Re: How Can We Reduce the Prison Population in the U.S.?

Post by Fooloso4 » January 21st, 2018, 7:07 pm

Frost:
If the justice system were just, then I don't see how the profit motive would be detrimental.
I see from your avatar that justice is a concern of yours. I agree that in a just system profit would not be a consideration, but the system is not just.
However, why there is so much crime I think is an essential factor for the question.
Is there is a disproportionate amount of crime in the U.S. or is it just that there is a disproportionate number of jail sentences?

One problem that has recently gotten some attention is that communities that have insufficient tax revenue have shifted the burden to the poor by raising revenue through fines, compounding fines for unpaid fines that that many do not have the resources to pay, and then jail sentences for unpaid fines with additional financial penalties for processing, etc.
Perhaps the U.S. has the highest prison population because our justice system, flaws and all, is still the best in the world …
Is it? I am sure there are worse but I would be surprised to learn that it is the best. American exceptionalism is a thing of the past, perhaps always more fiction than fact though.

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Re: How Can We Reduce the Prison Population in the U.S.?

Post by Frost » January 21st, 2018, 7:20 pm

Fooloso4 wrote:
January 21st, 2018, 7:07 pm
Is it? I am sure there are worse but I would be surprised to learn that it is the best. American exceptionalism is a thing of the past, perhaps always more fiction than fact though.
American exceptionalism is a thing of the past? That seems to be a strange view, since American certainly is exceptional:

http://www2.psych.ubc.ca/~henrich/pdfs/ ... inal02.pdf
(Henrich, J., Heine, S., & Norenzayan, A. (2010). The weirdest people in the world? Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 33(2-3), 61-83. doi:10.1017/S0140525X0999152X)

Even among western nations, the U.S. often proves to be an outlier. Perhaps we are with respect to the the justice system as well. However, I think that is a bit beside the point. I have to say that yes, justice is an important issue for me, but I do not know the answer to the question posed here. I just think that there are answers that seem presupposed that may blind us to other possible factors. I agree that our justice system is corrupt and becoming more corrupt by the day, and the partnering of big business with corrupt government is as old as this country.

However, I do suggest we take seriously the idea that the increase in crime has something to do with Congress rather than just the justice system or crony businesses, as well as the erosion of normal standards of law, evidence, and justice. Moral hazard is a serious problem, and laws passed by Congress create moral hazards that that justice system must deal with. Perhaps it is inadequately dealing with it, or perhaps it is actually doing a fairly good job. I don't know, and this would require very in-depth empirical investigation that is open to all sources of influence rather than presupposed ones as seems common in sociological research.

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Re: How Can We Reduce the Prison Population in the U.S.?

Post by LuckyR » January 22nd, 2018, 3:57 am

Frost wrote:
January 21st, 2018, 10:39 am
My personal opinion is that harmful economic policy leading to social strife along with a legal system and an intellectual/academic climate which reduces responsibility/accountability and permits the violation of rights seem to be significant candidates.
Is the translation: more crimes committed than other countries?
"As usual... it depends."

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Re: How Can We Reduce the Prison Population in the U.S.?

Post by LuckyR » January 22nd, 2018, 4:00 am

Fooloso4 wrote:
January 21st, 2018, 11:25 am
LuckyR:
Why do you think the US prison population is so high?
I suggested that it had to do with profit motive. This was too facile an answer for solving the problem. The rapid increase in prison populations corresponds to the war on drugs and “get tough on crime” measures such as mandatory sentencing and the three strike rule. These people are in the system, system is slow to change, and simply releasing prisoners is problematic. The most likely way to reduce prison populations may come from changes in beliefs and attitudes regarding the efficacy of reducing crime by locking people up together with parole and completion of sentences.
Are you implying: 1- the war on drugs was criminalizing something (drug use) that shouldn't be a crime, ie that it was a mistake? Or 2- drug sales and use should be a crime and so the increased prison population is a good thing? Or 3- something else?
"As usual... it depends."

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