This breaks my heart. Over 2 million people in the United States are in prison. Most are in there for non-violent, consensual crimes such as marijuana possession. Even if we consider only the violent offenders, the fact remains that spending vast effort and money locking people up after they have hurt someone is more inefficient and costly than investing in crime prevention. Worse yet, someone has already been hurt at that point.
The way the law enforcement and prison system is set up now, everyone loses. Well, almost everyone. All that wasteful spending goes into someone’s pockets, and by extension the pockets of the lobbyists and politicians who work for those wealthy special interests. But the people rotting in prison, the victims of preventable violent crimes, the taxpayers whose money is handed to fat cats playing games in Washington rather than actually protecting people and solving problems, and everyone else who doesn’t get to feel safe because of an utterly corrupt political and legal system… well to say it’s not good for us would be the understatement of the year.
The irony in the statistics that started this post is that not only is violent crime prevented by direct measures–like having an armed guard stationed at the bank to stop wouldbe robbers–but also violent crime is indirectly prevented by investing in education, social services and poverty reduction.
Some people might feel something like, “Oh there go the bleeding-hearts again… caring so much about the prisoners and blaming poverty instead of the offender.” But the real sentimental folly is in taking some kind of sick glee at making allegedly “bad” people suffer in prison, and getting so wrapped up in that petty emotion and emotional blame that one mentally puts aside the fact that it just doesn’t stand to reason. A more grownup, logical consideration of the clear facts leads to the obvious conclusion: Shoving people in prison by the millions is financially terrible for taxpayers and makes the general public much, much less safe than investing in education and violent crime prevention.
So many people are suffering so needlessly. And it’s not even in our financial interests–as if saving a few bucks would be worth intense human suffering anyway. Like I said, it just breaks my heart.
What do you think? How do you feel when you think of the millions of people suffering in expensive prisons juxtaposed to the children being failed by an incredibly underfunded education system?