Over Populated Prisons
Yesterday a case was brought before the U.S. Supreme Court by lawyers of California inmates who are claiming that their clients sentences are a violation of their Eighth Amendment rights under the United States Constitution. The Tenth Article of the Bill of rights, which is the Eighth Amendment, states:
“Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”
The lawyers claiming the sentences are unconstitutional are arguing on the grounds that their clients are receiving cruel and unusual punishment due to over population of the prisons.
This is not the first time that this argument has come up, just last year panel of federal judges declared overcrowding in California prisons unconstitutional and required the state of California to release 4,000 inmates over the course of two years.
According to the lawyers, the California state prisons are holding nearly twice the capacity that they were intended to hold which poses a threat to both the prisoners health and safety as well as the prison guards. The California Correctional Peace Officers Association concurs saying:
“California uses converted gymnasiums to house hundreds of inmates on double and triple-stacked bunks. In these prison ‘dormitories’ there are normally only one or two correctional officers to supervise approximately 200 inmates.”
The State of California is on the defense saying that releasing enough inmates to make the prisons population equivalent to the buildings capacity would be a threat to the entire state of California’s safety because they don’t have adequate funding for the rehabilitation programs that the released inmates would need.
So let’s look at some statistics concerning crime in the United Sates to better understand our over populated prison problems shall we?
On a global scale, the United States takes up only 5% of the worlds’ population, so 95% of human beings reside outside of the U.S.
Also on a global scale, nearly 25% of the worlds prisoners are incarcerated in the United States and held in United States prisons.
But why is this you might be wondering, why is there so much crime in the U.S. we have less poverty than most countries, which would make you think there would be less desperation leading to the temptation of turning to a life of crime? So in order for someone to go to prison they must first break the law, now in order for the law to be broken they would first need to commit a crime. With every crime there is at least tow persons involved. We will refer to these two people as the criminal and the victim.
Example: A criminal breaks into the victims house and takes the victims wallet. We refer to this crime as theft.
A criminal forces the victims head underwater and holds them there until they drown. We refer to this crime as murder.
The list could go on and on but I am sure by now you get the picture. So now that we know what a crime is let’s break down the 25% of prisoners in the world who are incarcerated in the U.S. and find out just what crime they committed.
It is estimated that just under 30% of criminals in U.S. prisons violated the rights of another human being which landed them in prison. Now does this mean that 70% of the prisoners are innocent and have been wrongfully accused of the crime? No this statistic does not take into account wrongfully accusations. This statistic is based off of what people are locked away for. So that means over 70% of prisoners in the United States are in for victimless crimes! Which begs the question, how can there even be a crime if there is no victim?
The governments answer to this question is that these people have broken a law. Well which law could have they violated to throw them in prison? Well there are many laws they could have broken, in fact the Federal code book is over 1 million pages of fine print! It is estimated that it would take the average reader over 23 thousand years to read. Even though you may be ignorant to the laws you are still held accountable for every single one of them, it’s merely up to our government to decide which laws and which citizens’ they will crack down on.
One of the biggest laws they have cracked down on is the war on drugs. Most people who are in prison are there for using or transporting drugs. They weren’t forced to do it and the government refers to them as their own victim. They seek to save these people from themselves. But does it work?
Short answer… no, in fact it is said that the vast majority of people who are incarcerated for minor drug offenses are more likely to be arrested later on for more serious offenses.
So how does all of this tie in with the over populated prisons? How can we solve this problem? Well its rather simple actually, it the California prisons release the inmates who are in for victimless crimes they will be freeing up about 70% of the prison space.
The experts are claiming that they have over two times the amount of prisoners the buildings were intended to hold so let get a better idea of what this would look like. If the prison was made to hold 1,000 inmates and they currently have 2,000 inmates booked. drop 70% of that and we are left with 600 prisoners in a jail built for 1,000. Over population problem, solved! Victimless crime problem, solved! Not to mention we would cut our spending on prisons by 70% which is estimated to be about $60 billion each year to house, guard and feed these prisoners. The best news of all is the kids who were being arrested for minor drug offenses would be less likely to commit more serious crimes later on down the road, and as a result of drugs being decriminalized if not legalized there would be less violence associated with the dealing of drugs, resulting in less actual crime and then lowering our prison population further in the future. How is that for a simple common sense solution to a major problem?