The United States is known to have a high incarceration rate. In fact, it’s had the highest in the world since 2002. What’s behind the massive amount of people in prison? Many experts believe that long prison sentences and excess laws are mostly to blame.
Does is make sense to deny help to those who need it? Should prisoners be kept locked up for most of the day? It seems like the most logical solution is to try and help those who want to change. Instead, they are severely punished and end up traumatized. Are these the sort of people we want going out into the world someday? Aren’t there other ways to go about this? Here’s how punishment in the United States varies between states and how it stacks up against other countries:
How Does the United States Handle Punishment?
If there’s one thing the United States is famous for, it’s that it knows how to make a law. There are laws for just about everything. Some are helpful to citizens, like ones that protect victims of trucking accidents. However, there are those might make you scratch your head, like ones that litigate how to manicure a lawn.
Laws, of course, are a necessity to keep things running smoothly, but when there are too many, especially many vague ones, it’s impossible for citizens to know when they might be breaking them.
Herein lies the problem with United States punishment. It’s not necessarily that people in the U.S. commit more crimes; it’s that there are too many laws governing what people can and cannot do, and even how they do it. Luckily, you have the choice to hire a lawyer if you commit a crime – but not everyone can afford the best possible one for the specific case. Plus, the punishments don’t always make a lot of sense. Often, rapists are kept in jail for shorter periods than people who take illegal drugs. It doesn’t take much critical thinking to see why this is an issue that the country needs to work out.
If you fail to mow your lawn after your town has already given you a warning, should that equate to jail time? Should you go to jail if you’re caught drunk in public, but aren’t doing anything other than slurring some words and walking a bit wobbly? Most people would agree that these cases shouldn’t ever equal jail time, but they can in the United States.
Capital Punishment in the United States
Capital punishment is a touchy subject anywhere, and the United States is divided on the issue. The way capital punishment works in the U.S. is that each state is responsible for creating its own set of laws governing it. This is much like other laws – when states, counties, and towns can create their own bodies of laws and ordinances.
Some states choose to have the death penalty, whereas others don’t. In those states with the death penalty available, they also must decide on what types of deaths are acceptable for those on death row. Of the 31 states that allow the death penalty, all allow lethal injection as a form of execution and use this method the most. Yet, some states offer a choice to their members of death row to be executed by another method, like hanging, electrocution, or gas chamber.
How Does United States Punishment Differ from Other Countries?
You might have heard that many United States citizens distrust their government. The incredible number of laws in place could play a role in that, especially when innocent, law-abiding citizens get thrown in jail for not adhering to a vague law that they had no idea they were breaking. It happens too often, unfortunately, and contributes to the high amount of prisoners in United States jails.
But, that’s not the only reason other countries keep lower numbers of prisoners in their systems. In the United States, prisoners are kept in the jail system much longer than in other countries.
Rather than getting prisoners with mental health issues the help they need, they keep them in jail longer. Other countries have higher success rates for prisoners staying out of jail once they’re released, usually because they help them during and after jail time to transition seamlessly into society.
Can This be Fixed?
The justice system is extremely flawed – there’s no denying it. One way of fixing the punishment system is to offer rehabilitation while in jail. It’s a step in the right direction to bettering the people who are behind bars.
If these prisoners are taught to be good while in jail – it’s likely they’ll continue that behavior when they’re set free. It seems insignificant, but benefiting society seems like a good idea.
Rather than helping those in need of change – they are likely to be kept in jail longer. The United States might consider looking at success rates in other countries and learning from them. One thing that seems to hold back lawmakers is that they fear change and are optimistic of things changing on their own.
As you can tell, The United States is in need of change, and it isn’t likely to happen overnight, or with little to no help.