Saturday, April 22, 2006

Criminal Justice Reform - "Ignore the Demagogues!"

Surely no Alabama Politician down at Goat Hill would "ignore rationality and practicality for political purposes" as suggested by The Hunstville Times. In their op-ed from Friday the 21st of April, David Prather gives us "Real prison reform" where he, in part, writes,

Too many women are behind bars - and too many men as well.

Alabamians like to put criminals behind bars. Politicians know this. So they enact laws that put people in prisons and jails more easily and keep them there longer.

Putting more people in prison isn't cutting the crime rate, though. It is, however, increasing dramatically the costs of warehousing criminals.

But Alabamians don't want to pay higher taxes to run the prisons. That's leading to an inevitable confrontation between jurists, both federal and state, and corrections officials, both state and local. It's a good bet it also will inevitably lead to mayhem and worse at overcrowded facilities that are inadequately staffed. ...

But there is the larger issue that involves both male and female prisoners: There's no need for a great many of them to be housed, fed and clothed at public expense. It would be far more effective, and far cheaper, to have them on parole or under house arrest or re-entering society under reasonable supervision.

To do that, though, politicians are going to have to get enough nerve to say that rehabilitative efforts for nonviolent criminals make more sense than throwing the book at them and putting people in prison who don't need to be there to ensure public safety. ...

One effort referenced by Mr. Prather is the DOJ's Commission on Girls and Women in the Criminal Justice System. Worth a visit to this detailed study yet I'm linking to the summary. On Tuesday I posted on a meeting in Randolph County dealing with these same issues. The meeting often came down to limited funding and canned materials as we even do alternative sentencing, and surely education, on the cheap here in Alabama. Peace ... or War!