Do We Have a Prison Complex?

On my way home from work this past evening, I happened to be listening to NPR and the featured guest on the program was the author John Grisham.  He was discussing his new book, and his previous titles.  I am not personally a big fan of his books, though I have seen some of the movie adaptations and they pretty good.  Through all of his research and writing on the aspects of the legal system, he has become somewhat of an expert on the subject.

During the interview he was going into detail about some flaws in the legal system that I myself, hold very important.  The first aspect he discussed was the overcrowding of the prison system and the fact that United States imprisons more people than any other country in the world.  Some factors he said lead to this are politicians wanting to look tough on crime and a legal system stacked against the criminals.  I always ask why it is important for something such as the three strikes rule, where a person with three drug convictions will be locked up for life, putting a strain on our prison system and our fiscal priorities.  As a country I believe we need to start treating drug offenses from an addiction standpoint and not a punishment perspective.

Grisham then goes on to say how his life-long project is to compile all the injustices of the legal system and write a book about that.  Such things as number of convictions per state or community, conviction differences by race and class, and unfair sentencing guidelines.  Finally, a caller asked him what he thought of the extreme prison complex that we have as a nation, and how he feels about people making big money off the imprisonment of our population. This is something that rarely makes it to the front pages, but is no less important.  Morally, we should not be putting our imprisoned citizens in private jails where people and companies can make money.  This not only weakens the security of the prisons, but it is the cause to the overpopulation of our prison system.  We now have companies that hire lobbyists to change the laws so more people can be convicted and sent to prison, all so these private firms can make more money and our fiscal priorities as a state and nation are then stretched even further.  I do not know how everyone else feels about these issues, but I believe they are very important to our nation and our future.

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