The United States has more people in prison, on a per capita basis, than any other country in the world. According to the International Centre for Prison Studies, as of 2009, the United States incarcerated 743 people for every 100,000 (0.743 percent) of the population. The same study shows that Russia’s rate is 0.577 percent, China is 0.120 percent, and Canada is 0.117 percent. Additionally, the United States is the only industrialized country, except for Japan, that continues to enforce the death penalty. It is often argued that such a system makes the citizens safer, is that true?
What really fuels such a structure is the for-profit corporate prison system that spends millions of dollars lobbying legislators. These well-paid lobbyists continue to push for new crimes that are geared toward low-income citizens and that are designed to direct more of the government’s tax money to the lobbyists’ corporate employers. The state of Texas is on the same path as the United States. Texas is one of the leading states, as to the number of its people it imprisons. As of 2010, Texas had an imprisonment rate of 0.669 percent. From 1976 to August 2011, Texas executed 472 of its inmates. If Texas were a country, its execution rate would be similar to that of some Middle East countries.
Texas ranks only behind Louisiana, Alabama, and Oklahoma in terms of its incarceration rate. As previously stated, many of the for-profit prisons are holding persons from low-income backgrounds. These people are often incarcerated for nonviolent crimes, such as drug possession.
Prison overpopulation is not healthy for Texas communities. A family member being incarcerated for a nonviolent crime can hurt families, businesses, and communities. It does, instead, increase the profit margins of the for-profit prison industry, their shareholders, and well-paid executives. Would it not be better for society, as well as communities from which these prisoners are taken, to improve and develop a rehabilitation system in Texas? Of course, it would! Instead, our tax dollars continue to be funneled into the dark and archaic for-profit prison system. A modern and well-funded rehabilitation system would turn non-violent prisoners into productive citizens. The current system does nothing to promote public safety. It only enriches the corporations and causes our government to be controlled, even more, by lobbyists and their bosses.
THE EFFECT PRISON HAS ON A PERSON AND THEIR FAMILY
An inmate is separated from his family. This separation is not only from the spouse, but also from person’s children. The prisoner is no longer involved in raising his children. This can have a devastating effect, not only on the inmate, but also on the children. A person put in prison will also lose his job. The effect on his immediate family is clear. The essential economic support of at least one person in the household is lost.
What About The Former Employer? The prisoner may well have been a vital component in the business, and not easily replaced. Even after the prisoner is released, he will probably not be able to return to his former place of employment. Employers regularly will not hire applicants with criminal records. The person is often branded a “criminal” or “ex-con.” The former prisoner will probably also face additional economic hardships due to court fines and penalties. Once released from prison, a person is treated as an outcast, loses his right to vote, and may not be eligible for some state benefits such as low-income housing.
WHAT IS THE ALTERNATIVE?
In the case of non-violent crimes, probation is a better avenue. The convicted person can maintain his job and continue essential family relationships. There is little doubt that statistically a person that is sent to prison has a high likelihood of returning to prison. Of course, the continuing cycle of enriching the for-profit prison system is enabled, but it does little good for society as a whole. By allowing a person to keep his job, he can continue to support the family, pay taxes, attend family events, and support religious institutions. This system saves tax dollars and cuts down on the number of potential re-offenders. The money being spent on incarcerating and re-incarcerating people in Texas exceeds the amount spent on education in Texas by seven-fold.
WHAT IF WE BREAK THE CYCLE?
If non-violent offenders are kept in the community rather than in prison, much of this money can be spent on education. Education not only for the offender, but also for the general population, as well. More than half of the prison population in Texas is incarcerated for a nonviolent offense. The only education that they will get in prison is to learn how to be a criminal and how to survive by violence.
Texas spends billions of dollars each year, only to imprison people. Not much is spent to avoid having the revolving door of prisoners stopped. The economic incentive for the profit-driven prison system is too strong. The Texas prison system has a budget that has grown $1.6 billion from 1990 until now, and that price tag does not include construction of new prisons. The TDCJ has an annual budget of $2.9 billion dollars.
Defense attorneys work every day to keep their clients out of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice system, and they are losing the war. No one wants an armed assassin running the streets, but the overwhelming majority of current prison inmates are not evil, they are human. They have made mistakes, but they are not the only ones suffering. Their innocent families are suffering also, and statically, incarceration disproportionately affects lower economic classes. By removing, one wage earner from a family it all, but guarantees the future of the TDCJ, as the inmates children slip into poverty. This cycle needs to be broken.
Until the laws are changed to support families, and the for profit prison system is abolished, criminal defense attorneys will be the firewall fighting to keep common people, who make human mistakes, with their families and working in their communities.
Get the help you need from the attorneys at The Kyle Law Firm. Call us today to schedule a free consultation.