The prison population is at its highest levels in history and tougher sentencing laws have placed an immense burden on our prison systems with regard to keeping prisoners in for longer periods of time. The rise of crime, better investigative methods and the problem of repeat criminals means that prisons are being filled faster than we can build them and overpopulation of prisons is a heavy burden on our collective tax bills. A simpler solution needs to be found for our social needs.
As noted by Schlusselberg (2007), America pays a heavy price for the prison system it maintains and this system has been called, “a vacuum that sucks up $60 billion a year in taxpayer dollars (Schlusselberg, 2007, Pg. 1)”. Additionally, the taxpayers may have to cough up more than $28,000 to keep each new individual who comes to jail for a year. This system certainly does not deserve more money from the people since to keep society safe from criminal elements; we the people are paying the cost for medical, educational as well as the living expenses of prisoners whereas a much simpler solution could be presented to the government.
The simpler solution is execution. For criminals who have committed violent crimes such as murder, rape, kidnapping, armed assault and a host of other crimes, the easiest method to cure crime would be to hand them the death penalty and be done with it. Such crimes are already considered punishable by death by some countries which we do not consider as ‘developed’ as America but it must be noted that valued legal thinkers such as Bedau (1998) consider the death penalty for rapists to be quite valid. Bedau (1998) says that the death penalty to be a possible punishment for rape since it, “may measurably serve the legitimate ends of punishment (Bedau, 1998, Pg. 213)”.
It seems that calling a prison a correctional facility is a misnomer because the aims of the prison system are not being met. As reported by Beard (2005), nearly 95 percent of all current prisoners will one day return to prison and more than fifty percent will utterly fail to readjust to the normal social order. The reasons given for this situation are the wrongful filling of prisons with individuals who may be mentally ill and could be given better services elsewhere. When we try to control their behavior with prisons, we fail and other solutions such as medical treatment and the death penalty itself become more realistic approaches to handling our prison population problem.
Of course there are those who think that the death penalty should be abolished altogether since they do not consider it to be ethical or within the dictates of humane punishment but we must consider the impact which the crime has on society. For example, what if we allow the victim to decide what punishment should be given to the rapist? Would the victim say that we should imprison the rapist in a secure location and take care of all the needs of the prisoner up to and including educational expenses? Surely not. Putting the criminal in prison is merely removing the problem from society for a brief period of time at a very heavy cost to society. What we need is a better solution where even the thought of committing the crime should make the criminal reconsider and look towards the consequences.
Beard, J. 2005, ‘The Complex Problem of Offender Reentry’, Corrections Today, 67(2), p. 8.
Bedau, H. 1998, The Death Penalty in America, Oxford Paperbacks.
Schlusselberg, M. 2007, ‘Milwaukee gang rape exemplifies state’s prison woes’, [Online] Available at: http://badgerherald.com/oped/2007/09/14/milwaukee_gang_rape_.php