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Stop Sending Them to Prison

02.19.09

Law Professor John Pfaff explains how the American prison system should be reformed.

We need to stop admitting many minor offenders, even if they’re serving only short sentences. We need to focus less on high-profile drug statutes and more on the ways small-fry drug convictions cause later crimes to result in longer sentences. Once we start admitting fewer people to prison, we should shift money from prisons to police.

Pfaff has some good ideas and, being a student of law, probably has a more educated and informed take than I do on how to fix the current situation.  But, I feel that he misses a huge issue:

The fact that if you have a felony on your record you’re immediately disqualified for countless jobs.

Whatever happened to the idea of prison being a rehabilitation center?  Or, at the very least, an adult-style “time-out” where you serve your punishment behind bars and, when you re-enter society, you’ve finished paying your debt to society?  To deny someone employment because of a previous infraction for which they’ve already paid basically means that the punishment never ends.  No wonder felons stick to a life of crime.

We need more than just not imprisoning small-time crooks.  We need to allow for some infractions to be dismissed after the punishment has been appropriately served.

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