Overcrowded prisons and jails are dangerous for inmates, correctional officers, and for society. The United States has 25% of the world’s inmates, although only 5% of the world’s population. One major cause of our mass incarceration crisis is the excessive imprisonment of non-violent inmates. The United States is addicted to locking up non-violent inmates.
In Ohio, two young heroin addicts faced incarceration for drug addiction. Kaylee Morrison was imprisoned for four years for violating drug laws in Hardin county. Ohio taxpayers will pay $100,000 for the incarceration of this 28-year-old woman who will not receive in prison the appropriate help she needed to control and manage her addiction.
At the same time, another Ohio county used a different strategy for a nonviolent drug offender. Clayton Wood, 29, was referred to the county drug court which ordered drug treatment in his community. He was allowed to work full-time. With this court decision, society did not pay the high cost of imprisoning Mr. Wood and he received treatment for his drug addiction.
In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, a local single mother was sentenced to 12-18 months in prison for providing an abortion pill to her teenage daughter to terminate her pregnancy. The single mother, a nursing home aide, purchased the pill online from Europe for her pregnant teenage daughter. The 16-year-old daughter did not want to have the baby and the family did not have health insurance to cover an abortion. However, Pennsylvania law required a physician to perform an abortion.
By locking up this single mother, the family lost her financial and emotional support for a substantial period of time. After release, the mother (burdened with a criminal record) will have difficulty finding employment. In the end, society incurred a large cost for incarcerating this single parent.
In 2009, almost 82 percent of federal prisoners were convicted of nonviolent crimes. The 2008 statistics show that almost 50 percent of the inmates in state prisons were imprisoned for nonviolent offenses.
The United States needs treatment for its addiction.
By Bradley D. Schwartz
Founder of prisonpath.com