Several years ago I spent some time volunteering at a county jail. I was able to see first hand how our current incarceration system makes people worse. It is worse for the offender, worse for their kids, worse for society when the offender is released. Here’s hoping that we can work toward restorative justice and not punitive justice.
The trend is born of a dark flipside: The US, with 5 percent of the global population, now houses 25 percent of the world’s inmates, the majority of whom are incarcerated for nonviolent drug offenses.
Historically, conservatives have pointed to dropping crime rates during the past 20 years as evidence of the effectiveness of the take-lots-of-prisoners laws ushered in during the Reagan presidency and formalized in the 1994 crime bill. But experts say the relationship between prison populations and crime rates is a tenuous one.Research shows that the prison population growth has only had a marginal impact on the dropping crime rate, says Professor Deitch. This realization has come as the public has more broadly begun to acknowledge that over-policing and over-incarcerating means the US is “pouring billions of dollars into prison systems around the country, with not that much payback,” she adds.