Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Kicking the can...

It was actually a story I heard this morning about some miscreant, a young man who kicked a cat that sparked the idea of discussing prisons.

There is and can be absolutely no excuse whatsoever for cruelty to animals. I rescued a dog who had been tortured as a puppy and to this day would like to see done to that man what he did to her. But I digress.

The story about the abuse to the cat included a vigorous discussion about putting the offender in prison for a minimum of a year. While I agree some kind of punishment should be meted out, prison may not be the best idea.

People across the nation say we're locking up too many people for, in their eyes, relatively minor crimes. For several years, 'three strikes and you're out' swept the nation. More prisons, but not enough based on that standard, were built. Prison populations swelled beyond comprehension and some states, like California, were ordered by the federal government to come up with a plan to treat inmates better as the feds determined prisoners' rights were being abused. Prisoners incarcerated for relatively minor crimes started being released back into general society.
In Texas, we've ended up with prisons that stand empty because sentencing guidelines changed, people were paroled, private prisons took over and inmates were sent to facilities in other states, or various other reasons. What's to be done with those monolithic blocks of concrete and steel that cost money to operate even when empty? Fill them back up with criminals who will be paroled about the time their processing and paperwork is done? The boom and bust cycle of building and filling prisons them emptying them is unsustainable.

No one wants the next prison built anywhere near them. I get that. And yes there are people who should without question be locked away until their end of days, never to walk the streets and harm another person ever again.

So what do we do with the people who need more than a slap on the wrist but not a prison sentence? The Texas Public Policy Foundation has some interesting thoughts on this conundrum. I don't necessarily work on corrections issues, but I do think discussion is healthy.

What do you say?

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