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Front Page » February 10, 2004 » Opinion » Letter to the Editor: Prison Reform
Published 4,258 days ago

Letter to the Editor: Prison Reform

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This letter is in response to the issue of increasing taxes to pay for the construction of more prisons.

Currently according to a website concerning prisons, the average U.S. inmate spends about 25 percent of their sentence in prison before they are paroled. Parole boards are influenced by the lack of prison space when determining whether or not someone should be paroled or not. I believe the only thing that should be considered, is if the prisoner is likely to commit another violent crime.

The recidivism rate for criminals in Utah is around 65 percent, with the majority being reincarcerated within the first year of being released. While nobody likes the idea of their taxes going up to pay for more prisons, how many people take into consideration the real cost of crime? Every time a crime is committed, there are costs associated with the investigation, law-enforcement involved on the case, possibly a trial which costs tax payers a ton of money, the costs of treating the victims, and the loss of productivity on the part of the victim and their family members. Both the grieving process and having to go through a trial takes a huge toll on the family not just emotionally but financially.

Then there is the emotionally cost to society. When we hear of the horrendous crimes, we change our lifestyles. We don't dare take our eyes off our kids and their freedoms to play in their own neighborhoods like all children should be able to is robbed from them.

When all of these real costs that are not accounted for on paper are compared to the cost of building new prisons and housing prisoners, it is obvious to me that it costs much less to just keep the violent offenders in prison for long periods of time. The whole fact that we even need to use a cost-benefit analysis on this issue is a very poor commentary for our society. When did we become so desensitized to the pain of victims and their families that we put a price tag on saving people from becoming tomorrows victims of murder, rape, molestation, and beatings?

But behind the scenes the costs of prisons are much too high to begin with. New prisons could be built for a lot less if they would skip constructing recreation rooms and gymnasiums. Or how about using prison labot to build the new facilities?

And then what about the daily costs of running prison.We could do away with cafeterias and all that cost by giving the inmates the same MRE's that our soldiers in Iraq have been eating for the last 10 months. If MRE's are good enough for our troops who are fighting and dying for us thousands of miles away from their families, why aren't they good enough for child molesters, rapists, and murderers? The constitution says we have to feed prisoners, it does not say the food has to be warm and cooked.

Let's also think about money that inmates earn while in prison. That money could be used to directly reimburse their victims. Not money for the the general fund that they have now, but where the perpetrator has to directly compensate their victims. They do this in many European countries where crime rates are much lower than ours.

I know a lot of people believe that crime stems from poverty and a lack of education. I believe that's true about non-violent crime. I do not believe that is true for the rapists, murderers, and child molestors. If poverty caused these things, crime rates should have been at an all time high during the depression. But it wasn't. We have free public education for every child in America and we spend far more per pupil than any other country, yet we have higher crime rates than these other countries.

Prisons should be a place where nobody who has ever been sent to one, would ever do anything to go back again.

It is time people email or write their congressional representative and hold them accountable for this problem. Every single incumbent who is not actively and aggressively working to change legislation so that prisoners serve their full term and are held more financially accountable to their victims should be put out of office.

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February 10, 2004
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