The US has more people in prison per capita than any other nation. Commercial prison companies like the income but their earnings are our tax dollars and crowded prisons make us look rather barbaric to the rest of the world. To reduce the prison population, start with a threat assessment. Who presents the greatest threat to the average person, violent criminals, that’s who. Here’s my reform plan.
Abolish minimum sentencing requirements for nonviolent offenders and find alternative sentencing options unless the crime is extreme. Using GPS technology we can allow a nonviolent offender to continue working, get medical attention, and attend scheduled religious services while still effectively keeping that person from having much fun, i.e., still making it a punishment. Financial restitution to victims is mandatory in all cases. Obviously alternative sentencing has it’s limits and after three strikes it may mean jail time (but not necessarily life). Extreme cases like embezzling millions of dollars warrant prison. So do deliberate lies that send an innocent person to prison (lex talionis – make the penalty year for year).
Up to one-third of inmates are illegal immigrants. They should face immediate deportation upon completion of their sentences and should not be released to the streets where they can vanish. We are under no obligation to harbor the world’s criminals. Why would any administration want to keep the crime rate unnecessarily high unless it serves another agenda?
Establish minimum sentencing for violent crimes and sex offenses. Those are the people we need to keep off the streets. No one wants to see a rapist or killer get off with probation, and they shouldn’t.
Finally, we have a high recidivism rate. Take an honest look at what works and what doesn’t for rehabilitation programs in prison. Make one better and get rid of the other. Obviously inmates without a high school education should get a GED as the minimum. Low level convicts (not rapists or murderers) might be able to earn time off their sentence by completing higher education goals.
What about allowing felons to vote upon completion of their sentence to help them reintegrate into society? Yes and no. They should have voting rights restored after a first offense, but repeat felony offenders should lose that right as they’re not trying to integrate into honest society.