And that is mild compared to changes in places of incarceration at unexpected times, erratic health care, lack of literacy programs and other training that can help equip these men and women for productive lives as parents, citizens and employees in the free world. Additionally, wildly divergent sentencing too often seems to depend on the sense of well-being of a judge or the re-election schedule of the prosecutor or the level of attention achieved by the defense attorney. And that does not even take into consideration false accusations leading to expensive trials and mangled reputations and even improper incarceration.
But to understand the larger picture we need to consider some data:
1980 Federal prison population 21,000
2015 Federal prison population 222,000 or more than 10 times more
1980 USA population 226.5 million USA incarceration rate .01%
2015 USA population 318.9 million USA incarceration rate .07% is 7 times higher than 1980
And while all this cost is rising, the rate for major crime has been dropping for years.
And the cost to our country of all this is stunning: personal pain, live's derailed, disrupted families. Life is more dangerous and difficult for communities, law enforcement and prison staff. Even in just cold hard dollars this is obviously not working. Incarcerated people are not only expensive, they are not paying taxes and a criminal record does not improve employability so there will be fewer tax dollars and most costs to social service programs for years following incarceration.
Finally there has been a glimmer of light out of our nation's capital. The bipartisan Colson Task Force on Federal Corrections has been formed and J C Watts named chairman. The Prison Fellowship CEO (and the resources of Justice Fellowship) is a member along with a federal judge, a criminologist, a re-entry specialist and other stakeholders. The Prison Fellowship folks are praying. Please join us in praying for these folks as they seek to find better ways to conserve our most precious resource: our children who are paying the price for our fear and our stiff-necked approach of doing more of what does not work.
An article on this program is available at http://www.prisonfellowship.org/2015/02/a-new-task-force-for-criminal-justice-reform/?spMailingID=10762776&spUserID=MTI0MjkyMzYyNTA3S0&spJobID=482069091&spReportId=NDgyMDY5MDkxS0