Every country has a unique prison system that differs from others in some ways. Every culture has its own way of punishing criminals. In America, we put people in prison which are unfit to live in. The United States is 5% of the world’s population but 25% of its prisoners (Lichtenberg, 2016). Some people might think that since someone committed a crime the conditions in the prison don’t matter. However, these people are still human and not all of them are violent offenders. Some people haven’t even been convicted yet, some are innocent, and others are put there because of racial bias. America’s prison system is inhumane, ineffective, and overall flawed.
One requirement of a just system is that punishments should be proportional to the crimes. Our prisons are inhumane and don’t meet this requirement because after someone’s incarcerated we don’t treat them like humans anymore. Just recently in Brooklyn prisoners were without heat and electricity for days in the winter weather. What we need to understand is that the sentence is the punishment and denying prisoners the right to freedom is ok. However, it is not ok when we deny them their human rights and fundamental freedoms. Prison conditions should not be an additional punishment.
Prisons are ineffective at stopping crime. Which is unfortunate because another requirement of a good justice system is that the punishment should not do more harm than good. More than two-thirds of criminals released in 2005 were arrested by the end of their third year (Lichtenberg, 2016). Each extra year in prison raises the risk of reoffending by 6% (2017. Meaning going to prison does not do criminals good because they end up going right back. Another harmful effect of our prison system is its effect on the poverty rate. Mass incarceration breaks up families and causes former convicts to become unemployed. This has raised the American poverty rate by 20%. (2017).
Overall, Prisons in America are flawed in many ways. One flaw that plagues our system of punishment is racial bias. Black men are incarcerated more than white men even though they make up less of the population. Also, five times as many white people use drugs as African-Americans, but black people are imprisoned 10 times more (Lichtenberg, 2016). The third requirement of a good prison system is that similar crimes should be treated similarly, which is clearly not the case in our prisons. Colored people who commit the same crimes are not treated the same way as white people would be.
Our prison system has many problems and is in desperate need of reform. Some of these problems include inhumane living conditions, racial bias, and increased risk of reincarceration. We can solve these problems if we meet three requirements of an effective system. Firstly, the punishment has to fit the crime. Secondly, it has to do more harm than good. And, thirdly similar crimes should be sentenced in the same way.
Lichtenberg, J. (2016, September 30). America’s prison system is inhumane. Here’s why. Retrieved from https://theweek.com/articles/651722/americas-prison-system-inhumane-heres-why
America’s prisons are failing. Here’s how to make them work. (2017, May 27). Retrieved from https://www.economist.com/leaders/2017/05/27/americas-prisons-are-failing-heres-how-to-make-them-work