Do you ever take the time to review prison sentences when they are listed in the newspaper? Some people do, just to see if they recognize any names. I do, just to see who goes to prison, for how long, and for what reason. I am astounded by the number of people in our Michigan prison system for crimes that are non-violent. There were a dozen state prison sentences in the local newspaper today, sentences starting at 3 and a half months, and extending up to a maximum of 40 years.
And the crimes? Drugs, drugs, drugs, probation violation, failure to pay child support, home invasion, fleeing police officers, larceny, bad checks, retail fraud. All bad stuff, especially when the crimes have been repeated time and again, as indicated by the notation of habitual offender.
Is this the best way to punish violators of crimes that do not even involve theft, such as probation violation, drugs and child support? As a society, can't we do better to prevent these people from reoffending and to help them get out of the situations that lead to these offenses?
By legalizing marijuana, how much prison space would we free up and how many underworld criminal drug operations would we put out of business?
I'm not giving answers, I'm asking questions. Rather than continue to lock people up where there is no hope of rehabilitation, or education, or life-improvement, I have to believe there are better ways. The cost of incarceration, alone, should prompt an immediate study of alternatives.