Mass Incarceration and the Left

Thompson, Heather Ann

Publisher:  Against the Current
Date Written:  01/11/2014
Year Published:  2014  
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX20824

Thompson opens up a discussion regarding the American criminal justice system and why incarceration does not lead to rehabilitation back into society.



The reality is that this nation is at a major crossroads. Yes, the United States can indeed get smarter about operating its criminal justice system -- for example, do a lot less policing of low level "offenses;" continue to decriminalize marijuana; even start relying more on restorative justice practices in schools.

We also could simply stop sending people away for so long. And yes, doing all these things would both ease the realities of hyper-criminalization and mass incarceration that grind down so many, while also saving politicians some substantial money. These dollars could, at least theoretically, be spent in a much more humane manner.

To rely on this plan, however, is highly risky. Any reform plan that is motivated by fiscal insecurity is perilous, because it depends upon economic crisis to get political buy-in. They very quickly lose momentum the very minute that purse strings are loosened and funding is freed up.

To rely on this particular financially motivated reform plan is especially hazardous. There are, in fact, many ways for states to save money in the criminal justice system that have absolutely nothing to do with ending our nation’s true carceral crisis. One of the easiest ways for them to do so is just to make things much worse for the people who are serving, and will still serve, time.

From reducing necessary human services inside prisons such as needed medical care, to eliminating basic commodities like toilet paper and tampons, to shifting bodies from prisons into local jails, to tethering prisoners and making them pay exorbitant fees to incarcerate themselves at home, balancing state budgets does not have to mean decarceration.
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