Sunday, July 16, 2006

Better To Avoid Than Confront Confinement

The Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons has released a report entitled "Confronting Confinement". The report is described as follows:
On June 8, 2006, the Commission released Confronting Confinement, a report on violence and abuse in U.S. jails and prisons, the broad impact of those problems on public safety and public health, and how correctional facilities nationwide can become safer and more effective. The report reflects the Commission's work over more than a year — an inquiry that featured four public hearings in cities around the country where nearly 100 people testified, visits to jails and prisons, conversations with people about their experience of life behind bars, discussions with current and former corrections officials and experts working outside the profession, and a thorough review of available research and data.
I appreciate the concerns expressed by Ronald Fraser, Ph.D., who writes on public policy issues for the DKT Liberty Project (no link available - Sorry), in today's Anniston Star entitled "Speaker's stand ... A fix for Alabama's prison woes". The writing talks about the financial and social costs of our nation's tendency to lock folks up. He ends his work with:

Overcrowded, violent and disease-filled prisons and jails are here to stay as long as the number of inmates sent to prison goes up year after year. As a society, we are quick to needlessly fill prisons with nonviolent inmates, and too slow to find alternative ways to punish and rehabilitate them.

We now need a second commission to finish the job, and publish a step-by-step road map for ending America's “unprecedented reliance on incarceration.”

A solution to this problem is complex yet as an educator and criminal defense lawyer I continue to fall back on avoiding the troubles with solid teachers and decent parents enabled. Knowing my friend in Probabation and Parole, plus my time working with many POs back in the day, convinces me that good alternatives via supervision and support exist. I know judges like having a "carrot and stick" to keep convicted people in line yet darned if that's not an expensive solution for both society and the individual plus often his or her family. I am certain that non-violent or pseudo-criminal conduct should seldom if ever result in incarceration. Peace ... or War!