The Incoherence of Prison Law
February 16, 2023
The United States has Prison Law the largest prison population in the world, with more than 2.4 million people locked up at any given time. That’s more than China, Russia, and India combined—and it’s also the highest rate of incarceration per capita on earth.
Yet even though crime rates have dropped over recent decades, the American criminal justice system continues to punish people for their crimes using outdated policies that lack any evidence-based basis for decision-making or fairness.
This is one reason why I’ve chosen to become a legal researcher who studies prison law as an undergraduate student at Harvard University: It’s important not only to understand how our current criminal justice system works but also why it doesn’t work well enough to keep us safe from harm (or worse).
The Incoherence of Prison Law
The prison system is not based on justice. It is based on punishment, fear, and revenge. The purpose of the prison system is to punish those who have committed crimes and separate them from society so that they do not commit more crimes in the future.
The United States spends $80 billion annually to maintain its criminal justice system including spending $15 million each year for each prisoner (1). This money goes toward maintaining prisons as well as paying for their employees’ salaries, benefits, etc., which Prison Law could otherwise be used for other purposes such as helping poor communities rebuild after natural disasters or providing clean water within countries where it does not exist easily accessible due to political instability or lack thereof.”
A History of Undemocratic, Unfair, and Unjust Sentencing and Punishment in the United States
You may be familiar with the history of sentencing in the United States. You’re likely also aware that it has not always been this way, and that many people were convicted for crimes they didn’t commit. But how did we get to where we are today? What are some examples of unfair sentences and punishments?
Prison Law Incarceration rates have risen steadily since 1980 when there were about 500 people incarcerated per 100,000 population (the highest rate ever). Today there are more than 2 million people behind bars — more than any other country in the world except North Korea!
Two-thirds of these prisoners are serving time for nonviolent offenses such as drug use or possession; another third were convicted on charges related to violent crimes like murder or rape; only a few percent have been sentenced for sexual assault/rape crimes against minors (which account for less than 1% of all sex offenses).
The Lack of Evidence-Based Justice
Prison Law Evidence-based justice is the concept that all decisions should be made based on evidence. In other words, it’s not enough to simply say “this sentence is fair” or “this punishment should be light.” Instead, you need a system that can objectively evaluate whether your sentence was fair and effective for both you and society at large.
Unfortunately, there are no such systems in place in our prison system today. This lack of evidence-based justice leads directly back to one of our first points: the lack of any clear definition of what evidence-based justice entails.
Prison Law It’s easy for those who support this idea–and many other good ones–to dismiss critics as ignorant or just plain wrong when they claim that these things aren’t possible without some sort of magic wand…but they’re not wrong! The problem here isn’t with their understanding; rather than being ignorant about how things work (or don’t), it’s more likely that people simply haven’t been exposed enough yet due to either ignorance or apathy towards these issues (or both).
Prison law isn’t about justice.
In the legal world, prison law is what we call “penal.” It’s about punishment, retribution, deterrence, and rehabilitation. The purpose of this article is to explore how prison law has evolved and how it relates to our justice system as a whole by looking at three major issues in particular:
- Imprisonment Length – How long should someone be imprisoned before they are released?
- Punishment – What kind of punishment will fit the crime committed?
- Reintegration – Where does one go once they leave prison?
The prison system is the largest and most expensive criminal justice system in the United States. It incarcerates more than 2 million people each year, with nearly half of those being African-American or Latino. The vast majority of these prisoners are serving time for nonviolent offenses, including drug crimes and property crimes like shoplifting or painting without a permit.
Prison Law These laws were enacted by legislators who believed that criminals needed to be punished severely so they wouldn’t re-offend upon release.
While this approach may have had some merit at one point in time when the crime was rampant throughout society and law enforcement was less developed than it is today, those days seem long gone now that technology has made many crimes easier to solve or undetectable through forensic analysis such as DNA testing.