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Prison Reform

In recent years, the U.S.A. has observed a significant growth in the number of individuals detained in the state and federal jails. As a reaction to the alarming crime rates in the 1960s and 1970s, the American nation got tough policy on offenses. It included reinforcing and improving of policing, increasing sentences and detentions - generating hordes of the new prisoners. In 1979, imprisonment rates started increasing dramatically, and around the time, Bureau of Justice Statistics reported about three hundred fourteen thousand individuals, who sat behind bars in the U.S. prisons (Lehrer). In mid-2013, the number of arrested was about two million people. Nowadays, the U.S.A. has approximately five percent of the global population and almost a quarter of its prisoners. Data reflects that the mass incarceration has executed more or less as it is advertised. Over the last two decades, almost each American state, city, or neighborhood has become safer. In many categories, crime rates are less than half of their historic highs. Still, both social and financial expenses of incarceration are becoming increasingly clear for the nation and authorities. The policy that was deemed as suitable for a country with the highest crime rates among the developed nations could not be an appropriate for a nation that had the lowest crime rates. Once, conservatives stimulated tough sentencing rules and policy that eventually increased imprisonment rates. At the present time, they should lead the way towards a reasonable reduction of the prison population. The American correctional system’s reform does not demand to neglect a sole conservative principle or return to disproved and baneful policy that blamed the whole American society for misdeeds and resulted in just a few individuals, who were prosecuted for their offenses. In reality, an emphasis on the personal responsibility, which earlier suggested the move towards the mass incarceration, keeps promise about the modern conservative agenda regarding the prison reform. Combined with an emphasis on the efficient punishment, different society’s attitude towards former convicts and amplified attention to the circumstances within the jail, approved principles can develop new vision for the prison reform that America urgently requires (Lehrer).

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Individuals, who disturb public peace, should be punished for their misdeeds. Forcing offenders to make amends helps reach the goal of retribution and limit their abilities to repeat the offending conduct. In fact, an efficient system of punishment would be rehabilitative and discourage violators from a desire to commit their offending acts again. The present high level of recidivism indicates that the U.S. system of justice is not sufficiently punitive since bad habits of the prisoners are not broken. A more efficient justice system requires an effective penalty that will make criminals regretting what they have committed and less likely repeat it again. It would be more reasonably than to provide those punishments that most likely satisfy societal outrage over the acts of offenders. Such options involve mandatory work behind bars, treating addictions of the inmates, and reviewing sentences to ensure that these penalties are not simply exercises in the human warehousing, but real and appropriate punishments for the offenders. More than a quarter of inmates have drug issues, and an approximately equal group of the inmates is alcoholics. All the offenders, who have serious alcohol or drug issues, should participate in the treatment programs. Individuals who refuse treatment should experience much harsher imprisonment conditions and longer sentence duration. All these programs should be regarded as an appropriate form of punishment. This may require significant expenses, but it is worth it, in particular if overall sentences partly become shorter and fewer criminals become repeat offenders (Lehrer).

Nowadays, the U.S.A. has five percent of the global population, yet twenty-five percent of its inmates. One in every thirty-three American adults was under correctional control. During the presidency of Reagan, the entire correctional control rate shows that anyone in jail, parole or probation was less than half that one in every seventy-seven adults. As the second-fastest growing area for today, the U.S. prison system demands more than fifty billion dollars a year, comparing to about nine billion dollars in 1985 (Viguerie). Significant expenses have not improved efficiency. More than forty percent of former offenders return to jail within three years of liberation. Some states have recidivism rates of almost sixty percent. The majority of criminals leave jails being unready to re-enter society and normal life. These individuals do not get jobs and keep their workplaces. The proper solution can be found not only inside the jails, but also with more efficient community supervision practices including counseling programs, new technologies, and using drug tests. Former convicts should either hold a job or engage in public works. This approach efficiently works since it turns criminals from tax burdens into taxpayers who are able to contribute child support and pay restitution to their victims.

Recently, there has been an essential shift in punishment and crime policy across the U.S.A., but, in fact, it started in the state of Texas in 2007. Texas refused to build eight more jails and started to shift nonviolent criminals from the state prison towards alternatives. The state began to enhance parole supervision and intensify probation and treatment. Texas could avert almost two billion dollars in projected expenses on corrections; its crime rate is decreasing. Simultaneously, the parole failures in Texas have reduced by thirty nine percent (Viguerie). The state demonstrates the highest adult incarceration rate, and an important accent on its policies has enabled Texas change situation essentially by reducing offenses and controlling expenses of taxpayers. Taking into account a burden on the state’s budget, the policy makers of Texas will most likely face new challenges. They cannot simply avoid considerable spending on new prisons but in reality authorities have to balance and equalize the corrections budget while strengthening public safety. It is important to note that adjusting corrections expenses to enhance cost-efficient community corrections programs will help enact effective sentencing reforms, stimulate the evidence-based practices in probation branches, and prevent repeated violations. In addition, the Texas policymakers should evaluate the efficiency of programs focused on rehabilitation of convicts before they re-enter society. By building a prison reform upon the successful and rational initiatives that help diminish both incarceration and crime rates, the state of Texas can reach further crime decline and reduce its corrections budget through closing unnecessary juvenile and adult correctional facilities in the state (“State Initiatives: Texas” 2010).                          

Ohio, Georgia, Vermont, South Carolina, New Hampshire are among those states that have made essential changes to their corrections and sentencing laws. Much of the focus has been made on reduction or even repeal of prison time for nonviolent offenders reinvesting savings in more efficient and rational options. With a strong leadership of conservatives, lawmakers of South Dakota passed a reform package that is expected to decrease expenses by holding nonviolent criminals accountable through probation, parole, drug courts, and other cost-efficient programs (Viguerie). Despite promising signs in the budget proposals made by Obama and aimed at restraining the growth of the U.S. prison population, the federal budget still requires more funding to enlarge prison capacity. Essential changes in the sentencing policy at the state level have led to the significant decline of the state prison population in forty years.  Since 1980, the population of the federal prisons has increased by almost eight hundred percent, and facilities are considerably overcrowded. Funds for expanding U.S. jails would drain money from programs that have diminished recidivism and prevented crimes. Congress and the president’s administration should focus on reforms that restrict mandatory minimum sentences for low-level crimes. This approach would go a long way towards promoting a fair and cost-effective justice system, essentially decrease the prison population and maintain public safety (Gotsch). Imprisoning a significant number of Americans has made the nation safer and largely excluded the subject of offenses from political debates. In addition, the advantages of incarceration have come with significant expenses of the country’s finances and tradition of individual freedom. It is important to take into consideration both benefits and costs of imprisonment. The decline in marriage rates, the drop of religious faith, and the breakdown of two-parent families undoubtedly indicate that more youth and children will grow up in unfavorable environment that fosters criminal behavior. Still, human-beings should be always held accountable for their unlawful actions since there is no other choice for them. The practice that supposed blaming society for offenses had awful outcomes. 

Public that is indulgent to individuals who prey on the law-abiding majority is no more civilized than one that too harshly punishes criminals. Undertaking a mass revision of the national laws and casting aside the personal responsibility that leads to so many citizens being imprisoned, the U.S.A. will be able to decrease its prison population and make more humane conditions for the inmates behind bars. Cautiously and wisely implemented reforms can alleviate the huge negative outcomes of the Americans’ explosion in the jails. The U.S.A. can remain safe and, at the same time, indemnify social damage that results from the considerable incarceration (Lehrer).

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