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Why All Judges Should Spend One Week in a Prison






Before an individual becomes a judge, it should be required that any future judge be locked up in a prison for one week. I am not suggesting that our future dispenser of justice should be incarcerated with other inmates. The week of incarceration can be in a completely segregated protected unit or in a closed prison. The point being–judges should experience the actual living conditions of a prison or jail before they start sentencing defendants to long prison terms.

The judge will experience the unheated cell with a broken cell window (since September) in the middle of winter, the toilet that works sporadically, unidentifiable food, and the very long minutes of every day. Of course, they will not have to worry about coping with other inmates or ending on a gang’s to do list. The one week will not include the intense experience of wondering if your bunk mate will attack you in the middle of the night because he is simply crazy.

After reading about the teacher’s scandal in Georgia and their sentences, I thought of this unique requirement for all judges–before they wear the black robe. We are not condoning the teachers and administrators that were found guilty, but three educators were sentenced to seven years in a state prison. There are dangerous inmates, who have committed violent crimes, who will spend less time in prison than the three educators.

The three educators and society would have benefited far more from a sentence of  seven years  community service. In this instance, the judge may not have had any leeway regarding the sentence, but I cannot help think that our judicial system is addicted to incarceration. Our national addiction to incarceration has  produced the world’s largest inmate population ( 2.3 million inmates). The United States has 25 % of the world’s inmates, despite having only 5% of the world’s population. If a future judge experiences just part of the harsh reality of prison before presiding in a criminal court room, the judge’s prison experience may help reduce our incarceration addiction.


By Bradley Schwartz
Founder of

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PrisonPathLeslie Sammis Recent comment authors
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Leslie Sammis

Let’s add all prosecutors and criminal defense attorneys. I think that is fair – so sign me up (if everyone else is going). I’ve often thought of that – would I actually be able to do a week in jail and what would that be like. I can’t think of anything better for our criminal justice system than that.