For anyone interested in alternatives to prison — as in, something other than “lock ‘em up and throw away the key” — there’s a gold mine of information and insight into the criminal justice system in the current issue of YES! Magazine’s Summer 2011 issue (issue 58), headlined “Beyond Prisons.”
As editor Sarah van Gelder points out:
“The United States locks up more people than any other country, but that hasn’t made us safer. The drug war jails thousands of nonviolent addicts. Taxpayers and poor communities lose as states slash social programs to pay for prisons. There’s a better way—compassion, not punishment; restoration, not isolation. It’s less costly,more humane—and it works.”
Activists in the movement to reform the criminal justice system and implement restorative justice practices whenever possible probably know these staggering facts already. For the rest of us, this might be new information:
1) The United States has 25% of the world’s entire incarcerated population.
2) The U.S. imprisons more people than any other country.
In the article, “Just the Facts: It’s a Locking-People-Up Problem,” by editorial intern Robert Mellinger and managing editor Doug Pibel size up the crime and punishment issue through an assortment of easy-to-understand graphs.
Ray of Hope?
A contributor to the Summer issue offers an optimistic thought about the astronomical incarceration rates across the U.S.:
Today’s massive budget deficits may create an opening for transforming a system that is locking up Americans at the highest rate in the world.
(Special thanks to Deb Galerneau-Scanlon in Texas for pointing me to this excellent resource!)