Wednesday, December 08, 2004

More Prisons, Less Crime?

Why is it some people just can't accept success? Take for instance the current spate of articles making the rounds now that say abstinence programs are not working and are dangerous. How do these people reconcile this notion with the fact that since the focus on teaching abstinence over teaching promiscuity we have seen out of wedlock births for the youngest of our teenage girls at the lowest level since 1948. Out of wedlock births and abortions for all age groups are down, down substantially. This is the definition of success, isn't it?

Well now, today I read in the St. Paul Pioneer Press a letter to the editor that claims... oh hell, read it for yourself:

(article reprinted here solely for the point of discussion)
More prisons won't reduce crime

The Pioneer Press' call for more prisons rings very hollow. The United States incarcerates more people than any other country in the world. Among these are hundreds of thousands of nonviolent offenders, many of them for minor crimes like petty theft and marijuana possession.

In addition, there is the startling fact that one in four African-American males will find themselves behind bars at some point during their lives.

Building more prisons is like putting a large Band-Aid around a gashed heart. The blood will be hidden, but the dying person won't be healed. We have to look deeper. We have to look at the long entrenched patterns of poverty, addiction, racism and powerlessness that are hidden beneath. These are the true causes of crime, and these are the things we must address. Putting more people behind bars does nothing, except create an illusion that we are safe.

St. Paul

Well Nathan, that's some flowery rhetoric. Too bad it's pure rubbish. I just had to send a response in the form of a letter to the editor, whether it is ever published in the Pioneer Press or not I'll put it here for your perusal:

Dear Editor,

In response to letter writer Nathan G. Thompson (More prisons won't reduce crime, 12/8/04) he misses the simple fact that crime and especially violent crime has been going down in a substantial way since society has demanded tougher penalties for criminals. If it means more prisons then so be it. The fact the America jails more people per capita than other country is a sign of a more just society. Crime victims deserve to see their perpetrators behind bars.

I might be inclined to agree with Mr. Thompson on the petty drug possession cases, but I frankly tire of the constant refrain that poverty is root cause of crime. The root cause of criminal behavior from the street punk to the corporate embezzler is lack of moral values and self restraint. A friend of mine once asked his teenage son why it is wrong to steal and was, sadly, not at all shocked to hear him say – because you might get caught. By the way the correct answer is – because it is wrong.

Craig Willms
St Paul

So there it is, another example of refusing to see success for what it is. If the point of putting people in jail is to make it safer for the law abiding then more prisons are what is called for.


flutterby said...

I agree with you that statistics do speak louder than a person's opnion that prisons are unjust. I also agree with both of you that the petty crime offenders are not so much of a cause for concern. The fact that a person in jail for felony marajuana posission will probably spend more time than a rapist is just ridiculous. Go ahead and build more prisions, just fill them with the right people, and then there won't be so many "good behavior" releases, which are just a nice way of saying "we don't have room for you".

StaticNoise said...

Flutterby, my friend, I couldn't agree more.