The current criminal reform system does not serve the purpose it is intended to serve. About 70 percent of former prisoners return to prison. This recidivism rate has been at 70 percent for decades. Obviously, the system is not working.
Why is this a problem? The prison system is commonly called a “correctional institution.” To live up to this name, the programs should be able to reform individuals and correct illegal behaviors. Instead, these institutions are actually enhancing criminal behavior and fostering additional criminal tendencies. We cannot allow minor offenders to leave the correctional institute as hardened criminals, as this does the opposite of what is intended.
The Solution: This is not an easy solution, but instead would be a process.
Step 1: Reduce the number of convictions. If we simply decriminalize or legalize marijuana, we have cut down on a massive number of arrests and convictions. This alone helps to reduce prison over-crowding. With the prison system not as full of non-violent criminals, the tendency for people to be corrupted and converted to hardened violent criminals is lessened.
Step 2: The private prison systems should be ended or more tightly regulated. Quotas on inmates so that revenue can be generated does not help the current situation. Additional arrests to feed a system at its current size is not fair to the population, but it is also wrong. Once we remove minor drug offenders as sources of revenue, the private prison system will look for alternative means. We cannot allow this to be the case and increase arrests just to feed the beast.
Step 3: End early release for good behavior. With the over-crowding issue and private prison issue solved, we now need to look at actual punishment for real criminals. Someone convicted and sentenced should serve out that sentence. Violent criminals being released early back into society does not promote true justice for the victims of the crime, and instead rewards a short stretch of good behavior instead of punishing the wrongful action. In a free society, individuals must be held responsible for their actions.
Quick Takeaway: When the prosecution of non-violent criminals and the prison system are both overhauled, we will have fewer violent criminals walking the streets.