Unless you count the jobs created, I didn’t see jail as providing much benefit to the larger community. Incarceration reduces an individual’s opportunity to commit crimes temporarily but I don’t know if overall it reduces crime. There is a ’revolving door’ situation for many petty, usually addicted, criminals. During my fifteen months at Ford Mountain several young inmates returned three times and there may be no better way to deal with them available. Drastic American solutions such as three strikes and you’re out laws address the problem in the crudest ways and are essentially personally and socially destructive, costly and inefficient and profoundly unfair. Incarceration may make some get fed up with a life of crime, some may settle down, but others may find a community, albeit a dysfunctional one, through incarceration. Many inmates benefit by the respite that jail offered from the ravages of drugs and life on the street. Some may even pick up skills and attitudes which enable them to lead crime free, or at least conviction free lives outside. Of those who give up crime, or in the case of sex offenders who don’t re-offend, the mere fact of exposure and apprehension was probably sufficient in many cases to ’rehabilitate’ them. It may be trite to repeat it but jail itself does not rehabilitate or cure criminals, and to argue that an eighteen month sentence is somehow better than six is to engage in an absurd intellectual process. The failure of the correctional system, the fact that it is of little effect in furthering the goals of reducing crime and protecting the public, is not of its own making. The main reason is bad laws, particularly laws dealing with drugs, prostitution, pornography and sex. This has resulted in a vast expansion of the prison population, a population with little in common with traditional criminal activities against persons and property. This failure is a result of legislating righteous moral attitudes and the concomitant moral cowardice of politicians, the media and the public. The courts are a relatively sane influence but the police have assumed a leading role in the proliferation of morally repressive laws. Sir Robert Peel, generally consider as the father of modern policing in the English speaking world, created a Frankenstein monster that has take over the powers of its erstwhile masters as politicians listen anxiously to the prescriptions of the police who always want more laws and powers. Their political activism has done as much as anything to exacerbate problems. As long as society is unable to contemplate alternatives to the current system of incarceration, and the mentality that sustain it, the criminal justice system will continue to thrive on its own failure.


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