To jail a criminal is just, in my opinion. And living in India, i believe that most of the criminals in India are not duly punished for their offences. But talking of the US, the country is on the opposite end. The country’s judicial system is responsible for the jailing of the highest number of offenders. No other country in the developed world has this high rate of incarceration, the closest being Britain which has a rate of one-fifth to that of the Land of Free.
What’s the damage?
Jailing criminals is good, is it not? Not when its over-done. Around 2.5 million US population is currently behind the bars. The rate is a whooping 1 in every 9 blacks. Even the least of offenders are being awarded sentences. If that can be digested, take this – The cost of imprisoning is $50,000 per inmate per year in California. Consider that being spent on the likes of petty thieves and you will realise that the cost of imprisoning criminals often far exceeds the benefits, in terms of crimes averted. Add to that the economic crisis which still exists in spite of being stated otherwise by the US government. Total Damage combo.
How did they manage that?
It started off 40 years back, when the high crime rates made the politicians to win votes based on the tougher crime laws promised by them. The politicians, in the next election, then promised even tougher laws to win elections. This has led to a situation that even the thought of excluding the issue of crime in their political address, scares the politicians. The highest supporters of the ever-toughening laws are the prison-guard’s union. This move could have been still justified had the crime rate fallen over the years. Instead, the crime rate has increased from the 1970s level.
What are the tools?
When, even the least of the possible infraction was deemed punishable, the only other ways to further ‘toughen’ the laws were probably manipulating it, to further lengthen the sentences and to introduce mandatory minimum sentences. The US is not alone in this road to ‘justice’. Canada too, is impressed and is following similar methods.
People have long suggested non-custodial sentences as an effective way of solving this problem, which has been responsible for the falling prison population and the crime rate in countries like Netherlands. Britain too is trying to bring in Social service as a way to to replace incarceration. Though, the critics believe that these might not be worthwhile for countries as big as the US.
As for India, I would say, I still want to see the criminal politicians behind the bars. This US policy of incarceration might not be very appealing but i would still prefer something similar and powerful enough to correct at least 10-15% of our Criminal politicians.