Friday, January 15, 2016

Should Prisons Be Only for Psychopaths?

The debate about mass incarceration has led me to think about who should be imprisoned.

Of course people should be punished for their crimes.

However, I think prisons are an ineffective way to fight and treat drug use.  If we prevented drug use better, and treated drug use separately from prison, then rehabilitation for former drug users would be much more effective.

This would leave the prison system for the hard core of career criminals and conscienceless psychopaths.  We would still have prisons, but would no longer use mass incarceration as our main tool of social control of poor and lonely men.

1 comment:

Mac said...

I tend to agree with you. but I have some concerns. You suggest that all drug users who are incarcerated are there because our society uses incarceration "as our main tool of social control of poor and lonely men." I do not believe that a first time user should be imprisoned, but what do we do about the recidivist--the individual who simply give society the proverbial finger ann ignores the laws we have enacted to prevent illegal drug use? remember, dealers would be out of business if there were no users. In my experience as a defense attorney and a prosecutor, I have seen that the defendant in front of a sentencing judge is rarely a first-time offender. Usually, there have been repeated attempts by society to curb the individual's criminal conduct through counseling, suspended or probationary sentences, and short stints in local jails. At some point, we have to protect society from the individual who has made the conscious decision to place his or her own desires ahead of the needs of society for citizens to obey the law.

I doubt that very many drug users are ignorant of the harmful effects--medically, emotionally, and criminally--of using illegal drugs. They use any way and at some point, society has a right to say "if you simply will not play by the rules, you can sit in the penalty box so that you do not hurt anyone else."

This call to individual responsibility is, of course, anathema to the liberal elites of our society. Give the users a break the first time, but if they do not take advantage of society's generosity, lock 'em up and toss away the key.