Sunday, September 30, 2007

Aging Inmates Clogging Nation's Prisons

Razor wire topping the fences seems almost a joke at the Men's State Prison, where many inmates are slumped in wheelchairs, or leaning on walkers or canes.

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It should have been easy for elected officials and prison administrators to see this one coming. Several social scientists predicted that the fallacy of "two and three strikes" legislation would do nothing to the crime rate but would quickly fill up the prisons with some very expensive inmates.

The problem is that many people don't care about the suffering around them. The attitude that inmates committed crimes and are therefore deserving of any and all punishments should shock the conscience of every individual living in America.

We punish people today by taking a commodity that every one has - time. With the exception of capital punishment, we ostensibly stopped punishing the body some time ago. However, the attitude that inmates checked their humanity at the prison gate is gravely disappointing. We execute the insane and the mentally retarded. We criminalize drug usage and its accompanying mental illness. We violate the Bible's prohibition against disproportionate punishment - the incorrectly quoted passage about an eye for an eye, which is an early statement about retribution and not revenge.

We have a criminal justice system that is out of control - it is accountable to only a few. It does not protect us or even begin to address the causes of crime (It was never designed for that purpose). Prisons filled with geriatric inmates is just the beginning of our problems created by the "get tough on crime" crowd.

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