Fixing the Prison System

*This is an essay I wrote last year for a college class and I thought you all might enjoy it*

The national debt crisis has reached a critical point. According to US Debt, on 17 November 2011 at 9:07 AM, the United States owed more than $15,002,958,100,000[,] and the number is increasing tens of thousands by the second! There are several factors contributing to our national debt, and one is the prison system.

The current system has too many inmates.

An article in All Business, published in 2010, states the following:

In 1980, there were 1.84 million people in the U.S. under some form of correctional supervision, either incarcerated in a prison or jail or being supervised in the community by probation or parole agencies. Today, nearly 30 years later, more than 7.5 million people are incarcerated or being supervised in the community. This includes more than 1.5 million prisoners and another 780,000 jail inmates. Based on a U.S. population of 303 million, this means the U.S. incarceration rate is 762 inmates per 100,000 people in the population. By comparison, the most recent available estimates indicate that there are more than 9.8 million people incarcerated worldwide. Based on a world population of 6.7 billion people, the world incarceration rate is 145 inmates per 100,000 people worldwide. No other country, including many that have higher victimization rates, appears to have a higher incarceration rate than the U.S. (Innes 1)

The shocking fact is that“[w]ith 5% of the world’s population, the United States has close to a quarter of the world’s prisoners” (Lazare 1). The United States should be the ones to be an example, but she has a higher imprisonment number than any other country!

The current system is costing us too much. The United States is spending “$60 billion a year to imprison 2.2 million people” (Warren). According to this figure, we are spending about $30,000 to feed, clothe, guard, provide cable, provide a library, and provide a weight room to one inmate! This number does not include the millions of people in community prisons.

The current system has a high turnover rate. There are too many inmates returning to state  prison: “roughly 44% ” in Pennsylvania (“Looking for Ways”). It looks like 44% of criminals are not learning their lessons!

What the United States needs to do is to go back to God’s standard of punishing crimes—Restitution. Restitution, unlike punishment laws, “remind[s] the prisoner that ultimately he is responsible to God for his actions” (Godfather). People are, eventually,  responsible to God, not the government, for their actions. Government is what God works through “for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well” (1 Peter 2:14b).

Paul states in his letter to the Romans:

Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. (Romans 13:1-4)

The government should be a terror to the evil! Would not that be welcome to the law enforcement? People who break the law should be terrified of being punished.

In God’s system of Restitution, criminals would have to pay back at least double what they stole and/or damaged. Sometimes it would be more because the amount that criminals would pay back would be determined by the crime committed. God says that “all manner of trespass, whether it be for ox, for ass, for sheep, for raiment, or for any manner of lost thing, when another challengeth to be his, the cause of both parties shall come before the judges; and whom the judges shall condemn, he shall pay double unto his neighbor” (Exodus 22:9). God also says that “[i]f a man shall deliver unto his neighbor money or stuff to keep, and it be stolen out of the man’s house; if the thief be found, let him pay double” (Exodus 22:7).

If the convicted cannot pay, he/she would be made to work. In God’s law, it was stated that “a thief who was unable to make restitution for a property crime could be sold into servitude for his theft” (Godfather). This is found in Exodus where it states that “if [the thief] have nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft” (Exodus 22:3). The Constitution of the United States confirms this by saying “[n]either slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction” (13th Amendment, U.S. Constitution).

Jobs that criminals could do if they cannot pay restitution are cleaning and maintaining parks, cleaning roadsides and streets of debris, cleaning public restrooms, etc. If the convicted is not a threat to society, a tracking device could be placed on the person and he/she could work for a business that has volunteered to hire the convicted person. These businesses can be restaurants, malls, grocery stores, farm stores, carpenters, mines, foresters, colleges, and more. The business would treat the ciminal in work expectation and income the same as any other citizen.

Criminals would not be made comfortable. America should not be spending money to make life in prison more pleasant for people who have broken the laws of the land! Cable television would be one of the first things to go. Weight rooms would be eliminated because the inmates would be building muscles while working. A Bible and some character books are all that the convicted needs, so access to a library would not be needed. Computer and telephone access would be restricted to communication with the criminal’s family members.

The inmates would be required to pay for their care. Money would be taken out of an inmate’s income to pay for his/her food, clothes, tracking band, medical attention, etc. This would nearly eliminate the $60 million spent a year to house an inmate. Also, if an inmate will not cooperate and work, he/she should not be allowed to eat. The only exception is if the inmate is ill.

Thieves, drunkards, embezzlers, burglars, etc. would pay back at least double what they stole and/or damaged. Scripture says that “[i]f the theft be certainly found in [the thief’s] hand alive, whether it be ox, or ass, or sheep; he shall restore double” (Exodus 22:4). If the convicted cannot pay immediately, he/she would work under supervision until he/she has paid back double.

In federal prisons, “27% of all prisoners … are criminal illegal aliens and the majority (63%) of those are Mexican citizens” (Wagner). Illegal aliens would be put to work building the United States border for a specific amount of time—preferably five or more years. Only days that they spend working would count toward the five or more years. Any money, houses, cars, land, etc. that they owned would be sold and the money given to the government to pay for the transportation of the illegal aliens back to their home country after the years of servitude were done. If the illegal alien had committed a theft, he/she would work on the border until paid back double to the victim and then his/her five years or more of work for coming here illegally would start.

People who transport or are involved in illegal drugs would be put to work building the United States border or working at any other anti-drug-related job.

First Degree, Second Degree, and Voluntary murderers would be put to death. God says “[h]e that smiteth a man, so that he die, shall be surely put to death” (Exodus 21:12). Whereas involuntary, accidental, or murders done out of defense would not be punished by death. God puts it this way: “And if a man lie not in wait…I will appoint thee a place whither he shall flee” (Exodus 21:13). These days, the place God has made as a safe heaven for innocent people is the government.

All rapists who forced their victims would be put to death. God touched on this subject when he commanded that if a man found a girl and “force[d] her, and l[ay] with her: then the man only that lay with her shall die: But unto the damsel thou shalt do nothing” (Deuteronomy 22:25).

Kidnappers would be put to death. God commanded that “he that stealeth a man, and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death” (Exodus 21:16).

If a person fights and injures another person badly, but he/she can still walk and are not affected seriously, then the one who injured would pay for the medical expenses and the time the wounded was not paid for work. God puts it this way: “And if men strive together, and one smite another with a stone, or with his fist, and he die not, but keepeth his bed: If he rise again, and walk abroad upon his staff, then shall he that smote him be quit: only he shall pay for the loss of his time, and shall cause him to be thoroughly healed” (Exodus 21:18-19).

So how is a prison system that has too many prisoners, costs too much, and has a high turnover rate fixed? Go back to God’s standard of restitution. Make prisoners work for food, clothes, and supplies. Enforce a stricter death penalty. Do not make prisoners comfortable Most of all, make potential law breakers terrified of even thinking of breaking the law!

Works Cited

Godfather, The. “A Simple Way to Reduce the Prison Population.” Godfather Politics 1 Nov. 2011. Web. 17 Nov. 2011.

Holy Bible, The. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989. Print. King James Version.

Innes, Christopher A. “The Simple Solution for Reducing Correctional Costs.” All Business 1 Feb. 2010. Web. 17 Nov. 2011.

Lazare, Daniel. “Jailing Nation: How Did Our Prison System Become Such a Nightmare?” AlterNet 20 Aug. 2007. Web. 17 Nov. 2011.

“Looking for Ways to Reduce Pa. Prison Populations.” Daily Local News 6 Nov. 011. Web. 17 Nov. 2011.

U.S. Constitution. Washington, DC: The Heritage Foundation, 2008. Print.

Wagner, P. F. “Impacts of Illegal Immigration: Crime.” The Dark Side of Illegal Immigration. N. pag. US Illegal Web. 17 Nov. 2011.

Warren, Jenifer. “High Cost of Prisons Not Paying Off, Report Finds.” Common Dreams 8 June 2006. Web. 17 Nov. 2011.