Uploaded by sinbaaad on Oct 30, 2011
This essay argues that prison does not deter crime, and that non-violent offenders should receive punishment other than prison sentences.
American jails are overcrowded; in fact, America has a disproportionate number of its citizens behind bars. And the prison population keeps growing. Does prison deter crime, or merely teach young people how to be better criminals?
Supporters of harsh jail sentences often cite several arguments as the basis for their belief. These include the idea that jail terms serve as a deterrent to crime; that wrongdoing must be punished, and that a decent society has the right to ensure the safety of its members by incarcerating those who break its laws. This paper supports the following argument: Nonviolent criminals should receive punishments other than jail sentences, and in doing so refutes the beliefs stated above. (The conclusions in the paper are based on life experience and reasoning, not formal references.)
II Supporting Points
Considering the condition of American jails and whether they function as they should, the following points come to mind. First, the jails are overcrowded, and that in itself leads to problems for inmates and correction officials. Tempers fray, violence erupts, and there is no way in which lesser offenders can stay away from more hardened types. Second, there is no evidence to show that jail sentence deter crime. Third, I believe the recidivism rate is high. Fourth, I think there is truth to the contention that jails are “schools for crime.” Finally, I don’t believe there is a “one-size-fits-all” punishment system, and the “get tough on crime” campaigns that have resulted in so-called “three strikes” laws in states around the country have gone too far in the wrong direction.
III Further Discussion
Let’s examine three of these points: deterrence, the idea of jails being “schools for crime,” and the “three strikes” concept.
Do jails deter crime? I would argue that they have little effect on the overall crime rate. The crime rate is lower in some places than it is been for years, and officials tend to crow about their success in lowering crime, only to have it skyrocket again. It seems to me that crime is a result of many different factors, and possibly the least important of them is the likelihood of receiving a jail sentence for breaking the law. I suggest that a desperate...