Pubdate: Thu, 27 Jan 2005
Source: Wisconsin State Journal (WI)
Section: Spectrum, Page F1
Copyright: 2005 Madison Newspapers, Inc.
Author: Gary Fontaine, Oshkosh Correctional Institution
Bookmark: (Incarceration)

Prisons Eat Up Tax Dollars

Rehabilitation Failures Lead To Repeat Crimes: Is Public Truly Better 


For 200 years Americans have extolled the values of personal freedom, which 
has given us unprecedented wealth, power and technological advances. We had 
the respect and envy of the world. What has changed?

The embarrassing prison abuses in Iraq have focused world attention on the 
hallmark of our democratic society. The Iraq situation is not an 
aberration, it is a reflection of our whole bloated penal system. The 
statistics are appalling. The United States incarcerates at five times the 
world rate, which has given us 2.1 million inmates or 25 percent of the 
world's prisoners, from only 5 percent of the world's population. We are no 
longer "the land of the free."

Are we safer? Evidently not. We have one of the world's most violent 
societies. The crime rates have been declining for over 10 years but the 
statistics show an inverse effect. The states with the highest 
incarceration rates had the smallest declines in crime and vice versa.

Although there is no empirical evidence that incarceration prevents or even 
deters crime, several studies have found that prisons cause crime. Our 
mission is clear if we want to regain the respect and trust of the world. 
We must bring our incarceration rates down from the highest to the lowest 
in the world. We must practice what we preach.

Gary Fontaine

Oshkosh Correctional Institution
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