US Justice System

America is the world’s largest jailer.  We have 5% of the world’s population and 25% of its prison population.  I guess I could consider myself lucky because I am serving my time in a better federal prison as opposed to a state prison but on the other hand, there was no way a state prosecutor would have gotten a conviction (or probably even taken me to trial) from what I’ve been told.  It’s my opinion that unless a person (and I mean a real human being and not society as a whole) is harmed there are more productive ways of ‘correcting’ their behavior or punishing them other than prison.  One day people are going to get out of prison and putting non-violent people in a hostile environment breeds hostility. 


This is especially true with first-time offenders because even a ‘light’ prison sentence (which in the feds is 1-3 years) can ruin a person’s life and in many cases their family’s life as well.  Just like police officers that are required to get tased before they use a taser. I believe a prosecutor and judges should spend a few days in prison before they argue for or hand down these ridiculous prison sentences.  Part of the problem is that politicians have capitalized on the fact that we are a risk-averse society.  Until recently most campaign slogans were ‘tough on crime’ which translated into voters to mean ‘this person is going to protect me.’ Only lately have I seen criminal justice reform hot topics for both state and federal governments, but it takes a lot longer to reform bad legislation because it involves downsizing the government. The Bureau of Prisons (BOP) which is the body in charge of housing the nation’s 175,000 federal prisoners has an annual budget of around $7.2 billion. 


The Bureau of Prisons (BOP) which is the body in charge of housing the nation’s 175,000 ish federal prisoners has an annual budget of around $7.2 billion.  Downsizing that large of an organization would affect thousands of careers that rely on warm prison beds for their share of the government cheese.  In addition to the BOP employees themselves (correctional officers, case managers, counselors, doctors, nurses, psychiatrists, etc.) there are also private prison companies’ life GEO and CCA that are paid millions of dollars to house federal pretrial inmates in a maximum-security jail. There are also companies that provide food, commissary, and other supplies to prisons. 

Inmate phone services, outside medical treatment (approximately 5 ambulances run patients out of here each day for emergency treatment per day), and private prison transport services.  Let’s not forget the exclusive group of federal defense attorneys spread throughout the nation that despite the 3% success rate still manage to make a very comfortable living. I’m positive there are some very powerful lobbyists in Washington making sure Congress is working in their best interests. (Plenty of new laws with long prison sentences)  I’ve spoken with countless inmates in prison and while I felt some were guilty and some were not. Nearly every single person I’ve spoken with was over-sentenced. Even with a light sentence, I’ve seen men struggle to keep their families together. I know several men who are serving 10 to 20-year sentences for clicking a download button on a computer while the government was watching. 


These guys aren’t Larry Nassar or R. Kelly and never did anything to anyone. Some guys got 3 years for it but if you get the wrong judge or the wrong advice and go to trial it is 10 to 20 years for the same thing. Most people plea out because they didn’t want to take that chance. I mean who would with a 97% conviction rate? That is a statistic that North Korea would be proud of. I’m not saying that possession of drugs or child porn should be legal but the punishment for such crimes at the federal level needs to be reviewed and adjusted. In the 1990s some 80% of drug arrests were for marijuana. The legality and punishment for such a crime are vastly different in modern times. I hope we are headed towards more reasonable justice in all areas of crime and not just drug possession. I equate our current prison system to The Matrix because it runs on warm bodies.