In 2008 almost 2.5 million inhabitants of the US were in prison (Incarceration in the United States). The total population of the US as calculated by the last census was just over 300 million which means the incarcerated population of the US is almost 1% (2010 Census Data). With overcrowding in prison and all the lost revenue that comes along with it we have reached a time when something needs to be done to fix this problem.There have been many proposed fixes but none of them seem to address the main issue. The US needs to convert to a true correctional system instead of a penal system.
A large population of the US prison is there because of the war on drugs. Whether the US drug war is constitutional, moral, or working are all issues which can be debated forever. Regardless the war on drugs carries a heavy burden on the US economy as it costs money to incarcerate the users and takes away the productivity of the people who may be hard working Americans. The state of New York saved 2.5 million dollars in incarceration costs alone by using its drug court system (War on Drugs). This court is a perfect of example of a correctional system instead of a penal system because instead of imprisoning anyone who breaks the law it corrects the faulty behavior of those break the law.
Although the drug court system does a good job at helping a few the idea of correction needs to be adopted further until it is used to correct anyone who committed any crime. This is opposed to the current system which focuses on punishing those who commit crime (hence it is a penal system). Proof of this is the return rate of those in prison: 1/3(please correct me if this number is incorrect). This also shows not everyone released from prison is ready to be released.
The system which should replace the system currently used should focus on rehabilitating criminal and re-introducing them to society as normal Americans. Although creating this system would be hard such systems have been created before as demonstrated by this quote referencing Iroquois culture:
"He who stole another’s food or acted invalorously in war was "shamed" by his people and ostracized from their company until he had atoned for his actions and demonstrated to their satisfaction that he had morally purified himself." (Zinn)
This obviously could not be put in piece by piece in the US but maybe it could be used as a model to develop a system which could work . Perhaps once they feel they are ready to re-enter society they could be presented before a jury which would then vote if they were ready to re-enter society.
If this correctional system replaced our current penal system it would invariably save the US money. Firstly it would decrease unnecessarily long sentences and return people to normal productive life as soon as possible. Additionally it would create many new jobs for people to help rehabilitate criminals. And finally this system would be more morally correct because it would allow good people to recover from a slip-up and not be constrained by our penal system.
"2010 Census Data." United States Census 2010. U.S. Census Bureau. Web. 26 July. 2011.
"Incarceration in the United States." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. Web. 26 July. 2011.
"War on Drugs." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. Web. 26 July. 2011.
Zinn, Howard. A People’s History of the United States. New York: Harper Collins, 2005. Print.