Sunday, December 30, 2018

Does incarceration make sense?

With 2.2 million inmates, “no other country in the world imprisons its citizens like we do,” says Craig Haney, a professor of psychology at the University of California. Currently, 670 per 100,000 persons are incarcerated in the U.S., compared with 60 to 200 persons per 100,000 in other Western countries. This prison boom has led to annual spending of $72.5 billion on corrections.
Who Pays For Prison by Julie Bender, Sojourners, Nov. 2018, p.29

In New York State, taxpayers could send a prisoner to the finest Ivy College college for the same amount it pays to incarcerate him/her. 

New York State could also provide a prisoner with public assistance of at least $50,000 per year for the same amount it costs to incarcerate them.

I worked with a man in the UU A Way Of Life prison ministry who was sent back to prison for four years from parole for slealing about $30.00 worth of groceries after being denied welfare assistance and food stamps. He, at least in his own mind, was desperate and had no other options. New York State taxpayers will pay over $200,000.00 of this man's incarceration when $30.00 worth of food stamps would have prevented the need for the crime.

The narrative about the need for incarceration in our country and in my state, New York, is significantly distorted. Without providing for the basic necessities in life we have developed a culture where crime is not only an option, but a seemingly viable one.

As UUs we covenant together to affirm and promote justice, equity, and compassion. If we are looking for areas that could use our attention and assitance, the broken, dysfunctional criminal justice system would be a good place to start.

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