Crime & Punishment

I recently read an article in a newspaper ‘USA Today’, about America’s record prison population. The author, Richard Willing, used a quote in the article that made my blood boil:

‘The reason crime rates have fallen to levels we haven’t seen for 30 years, is due to the nationwide movement to keep habitual criminals behind bars.’
Michael Rushford, Criminal Justice Legal Foundation

I am compelled to respond to Mr. Rushford’s deceptive twaddle.

Dear Mr. Rushford,
If you removed your habitual mental bars, you would see that America’s record prison population reflects a disease embedded in your society. Until your leaders eradicate the swamps in which the miasma of crime forms and breeds, lawlessness in America is going to persist and spread like leprosy. The public are becoming increasingly aware that the intimidation and slow-motion torture, which you call punishment, does not work. Your misleading slant on the record crime statistics is an insult to my intelligence. Until your chieftains cleanse the swampy soils of economic poverty, poor education and discrimination, and the enforced medication of young children, tension in American society is going to build and build.

I would like to refer you to a quote from the ‘Declaration of Principles’ adopted in 1870 by the leaders of what became the American Correctional Association:

‘The supreme aim of prison discipline is the reformation of criminals, not infliction of vindictive suffering.’

The cost of America’s senseless mass incarceration policy has sucked resources from the very services that could address the root cause of crime. Teachers, trainers, psychologists and sociologists should be flourishing in an enlightened society, not prison guards. If you and your leaders fail to address the smouldering stresses and strains – mark my words – you will have an erupting volcano on your hands, whose cinders and lava your sham policies helped to produce.
Yours sincerely, Jon
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Anonymous said...

US prison stats are a sad indictment on that country. Their emphasis on free market values at the expense of social values has led to the lack of investment in these crucial bedrock social services. Hence the uneducated ghetto culture. The great irony of US economic beliefs is that although they preach laissez faire economics, the trans-national corporates are the first to lobby for government intervention when it benefits them.


Anonymous said...


While I largely agree with your assessment of the American penal
system, I must say that the brutality of the US prison system does not necessarily refute the theory that perhaps mass incarceration and
longer prison sentences have actually decreased the number of crimes
in the US. Many liberal, forward thinking scholars believe that mass
incarcerations have at least somewhat contributed to our plummeting
crime rates.
That is not to excuse the American penal system. Brutality very well
may be effective in controlling crime, but that doesn't make it an
appropriate option for an enlightened society.