Although we would love to be able to punish non-violent crimes (such as a person who stole a charity’s funds) as much as for violent criminals, we have to be realistic. The prison system is at the breaking point. America now has more people in jail than any country in the world – with four of every ten prisoners repeat offenders.
This translates to one out of every 32 adults in America living in jails. We have to start weeding some of these people out to make room for the real whack noodles in society. Only jailing violent offenders is one way of accomplishing this. We can figure out other punishments for non-violent offenders.
What About Building More Prisons?
More prisons are not the answer. If it was the answer, then we should logically be living in the safest society at any point in history, since there are more prisons and prisoners now than ever before. Prisons do a great job punishing anyone who goes in, but does not do much else. After a prison term, people are usually mentally and physically scarred for life and not much good to the community or to anyone else. There have been exceptions from exceptional individuals, but for the most part, prison just teaches that might makes right.
We also don’t have the resources to keep jailing people, even for a few days. It’s not just sticking them in the jail, it’s the manpower involved to feed them, fill out all of the paperwork involved and to give them health services.
What Should Be Done
Those convicted of non-violent crimes should be punished – even if that punishment consists of sweeping streets, working in homeless shelters or manning for suicide hotlines for free. I have an personal favorite punishment for non-violent offenders, although I admit it would probably never happen. I would have non-violent offenders become human guinea pigs for medical treatment, provided that they volunteer for the medical trials.
That would kill two birds with one stone, wouldn’t it? Innocent animals (like guinea pigs) who never committed a crime would be spared the sentence of being forced-fed new drugs and undergoing mutilations and those convicted of non-violent crimes don’t need to go to jail, just go to medial trials.
Those convicted of non-violent crimes are a resource that can be used, not stacked away like firewood. Let’s put our heads together and use them. There certainly are enough of them around to make a considerable dent in the needs of charities, social services and clinical trials for new medicines.