Just read that last post to M and she drew my attention to some stuff she found when she was doing research for the ‘briefings’ she has to do in language class. I’m pulling this out of a larger document she created, with all kinds of data on social issues in this country, and at the end of the document, an outline in Bosnian for her talk in Bosnian about these issues. She rocks.
I have no idea the source for this, so I'm somewhat breaking protocol. If you know the source, please contact me, otherwise be careful how you reproduce or use this material
From http://www.newhumanist.com/statement. (I have not properly researched this source! Just like what they said):
As a humanist, it is my hope that one day there will be no need for prisons because people will have adapted to new ways of thinking and living together on this planet. I do not believe that humans are born violent, but I do believe we are products of our environment. The care and nurturing we receive as infants, the attention we receive from adults, the treatment we receive from our peers in school, the images we see on television, and so on, all contribute to our sense of self-worth. The better we feel about ourselves, the less likely we will be to engage in unhealthful behavior or criminal activities.
Since 1980, thanks primarily to the so-called "war on drugs," the prison population in the United States has quadrupled. Today, there are more than 2 million people in jails or prisons and another 3.6 million on parole. In the states of California and Texas alone, there are more people behind bars than in all of western Europe, Canada, Australia and New Zealand combined. Alvin J. Bronstein, former Executive Director of the National Prison Project, cites a recent British study estimating that there are 8 million people incarcerated worldwide. "You do the math. With less than 5 percent of the world's population, the United States incarcerates nearly 25 percent of the world's prison population."
Approximately 87 percent of the U.S. prison population are incarcerated for non-violent offenses such as drug possession, theft, vandalism, disorderly conduct and alcohol-related offenses such as DUI. Of the 13 percent incarcerated for violent offenses, only 3 percent of these cases involved injury or death to others. Overall, the crime rate has been dropping and violent crime is at a 25-year low.
The prison system in the United States is a blend of private business and government interests. While politicians say publicly that the "war on drugs" or the "fight against crime" is the rationale behind incarceration, the drive for profit and social control are the real purposes of incarceration. In the 1970s, Chief Justice Warren Burger called for turning prisons into "factories with fences" and this concept has now been widely implemented. Inmates -- mostly people of color and the poor -- represent a cheap labor pool comparable to sweatshops in Mexico, Indonesia, or Southeast Asia. Today, inmates in the U.S. are being paid as little as 23 cents per hour to manufacture goods for corporations like McDonalds, TWA and Starbucks.
In the United States alone, approximately $100 billion is spent on the criminal justice system each year. Incarceration costs an average of $25,000 per person annually and each prison cell costs $75,000 to $100,000 to build. I believe this is wasteful spending because prison does nothing to address the fundamental causes of crime or to rehabilitate people. A person who has served a five-year sentence for drug possession might be a greater threat to the community after having experienced life in prison. Why not invest the bulk of this money in programs that prevent crime?
With 80 percent of prisoners functionally illiterate, the best crime prevention program of all is education, yet states would rather spend money building new prisons than improving schools. In my view, spending money on new schools, early-childhood development, conflict-resolution, after-school recreation programs, job training and placement, and for therapeutic intervention to treat people with mental illnesses and drug addictions would drastically reduce crime in just a few years if these programs were adequately funded.
Communities, too, can help reduce the jail population by seeking alternative sanctions, rather than jail sentences, for individuals who commit non-violent crimes. For example, a person convicted of vandalism might be sentenced to scrub city sidewalks and shovel snow for six months to pay the community back.
For those who have committed violent crimes and need to be incarcerated, every effort should be made to treat, counsel, and rehabilitate them. No matter what they have done, they should be treated as human beings, with access to visitation, reading materials and health care.
As a first step toward the elimination of control unit prisons, I support a national moratorium on all new prison construction so states can establish community task forces to evaluate drug sentencing laws, explore the cost and effectiveness of alternatives to incarceration, and evaluate treatment strategies. I also support converting all existing private prisons into state prisons.