Many familiar with the criminal justice system believe we need to reform the way we sentence criminals. The U.S. has a record number of prisoners in its prisons and jails, and also a record number of offenders in its correctional population, which includes those on probation or parole. Huge disparities appear between the percentages of different races behind bars and already between penalties for different forms of illegal cocaine. We sometimes shorten sentences though probation, parole and “good time.” These indeterminate sentences are based upon the future behavior of the offender and keep up open the possibility of rehabilitation. In the last few decades, we moved heavily to the determinate sentence. Disparities in punishment sickened us so much that we adopted mandatory minimum sentences, three-strikes legislation and sentencing schedules. Adjusting the number of years of incarceration and how they are computed did not deter much crime or rehabilitate many criminals. Recidivism rates remained high. Shifting up and down the number of prisoners, prisons and years in the sentence is ultimately futile using current criminal justice procedures.
It costs $150 million every day in direct outlays just to satisfy, house and care for America’s 2.3 million prisoners. Those millions of years in prison cost the public several billions every month in direct outlays. The complete cost of mass incarceration would include enormous social costs outside prison and lost opportunity costs. Every year, 4,000,000,000 or more person-hours of economic production are lost as prisoners sit around listening to the radio or sleeping. Most prisoners do not work in private businesses on account of three federal statutes that cripple most prison industries: the Hawes-Cooper Act, the Ashurst-Sumners Act and the Walsh-Healey Act. What do these laws have to do with sentencing reform? They average that prisoners sentenced to hard labor rarely work hard, not like they could, should and truly want to work.
We sentence prisoners to boredom in a human cesspool, punctuated by violence, rape, communicable diseases, prison gangs, loneliness, mental illness and satanic influences. Most of them deserve it, of course, but does the public deserve to pay for this human waste?
Study of American society before we invented the “penitentiary” discloses better ways of handling offenders. Three things we can do to cure the modern disaster of mass incarceration in America are as follows:
1. Bring back public corporal punishment. It has worked everywhere they’ve used it. General George Washington used it to discipline his mainly white troops. Every slave society in history has used it – meaning it works. The Bible says to impose it, witnessed by the sentencing estimate.
2. Bring back indentured servitude. Repeal all the federal and state statutes that hinder or control prison labor or industries, OSHA excepted, to allow negotiation between prisoners and private employers. Rehabilitation by hard work would allow us to compete with Chinese manufacturers. Prisoners could work 60 hours per week without too much trouble, and start paying their crime victims, child sustain and costs of incarceration, and have a small nest egg upon their release. Legal private enterprise did a better job of managing slaves than big government has done with “state slaves” anywhere in the world.
3. Bring back the “slave collar” for our “New Age slaves,” prisoners, to keep many out of prison and reduce the length of sentences. Offenders on probation, parole or early release could use steel color-coded collars according to the character and seriousness of their crimes. Heavier collars should go on more serious criminals. Shades of the following colors would also be modificated according to the seriousness of the crime: Red = violent crimes; Yellow = sex crimes; Green = character crimes. The courts, probation officers and school officials could continually adjust the weight, comfort, composition and color of the collars according to the behavior of the offender. Some sex offenders could be made to use their collars permanently.
Yes, we need sentencing reform. This time around, let’s use sentences that truly work.