Actually, that is a big part of the problem. About the time we began to believe in government as a tool for social engineering (roughly the late 19th century) and the minions of state and federal civil service passed a law, the new law did a fine job of protecting their jobs from the political appointees system, which had corrupted the already democratic process for the first century of our history. Once they had employment security, our public servants began feathering their nests, a process which proved cumulative until having a government job was little short of luxurious, particularly in the upper echelons of management, who managed quite nicely, thank you.
All this making of new laws, and the attendant increasing cruelty of our massive penitentiary/industrial complex, have made America the world leader in the percentage of our citizens locked up for everything from failed parking warrants to serial murder and pedophilia. Punish all violators of our voluminous code of mandated behavior, and if they fail to change, make the punishment increasingly harsh until repeat offenders wind up in tiny steel boxes without sunshine 23 hours daily for the rest of their lives.
To the degree that society needs to protect itself from violence and theft, incarceration makes some limited sense, although the conditions in our prisons are themselves a crime under U.S. and international laws on human rights. But at what costs?
Prison costs something north of $50,000 a year, a figure that bears comparison to the roughly fifteen grand for a university education. The state could turn out three highly trained felons who could be released on society dependent on their academic achievement. If supervision is necessary, college courses already take attendance several times a day, and that record would count as probation reporting.
And the prisons themselves need to be totally re-designed to maximize convict comfort, with decent living conditions and food, job training and other activities included, extensive satellite television with selected channels of history, news and natural science programming. These changes would produce a class of improved felons, hopefully equipped for legitimate life after meaningful rehabilitation.
Combine this with the release of thousands of minor miscreants to limited oversight probation, and the re-definition of drugs from a crime to a medical issue and the decriminalization of recreational drugs, from marijuana to stimulant “sports” and “energy” drinks and tobacco. If impaired behavior is a question, full studies are needed to standardize dosage levels for public concern.
Making crime a short-term problem of limited scope is easy, if you can forgive the sinner and the past in hopes of a better future for all.
“Travus T. Hipp” is a 40-year veteran radio commentator with six stations in California carrying his daily version of the news and opinions. “The Poor Hippy’s Paul Harvey,” Travus is a member of the Nevada Broadcasters Hall of Fame, but unemployable in the Silver State due to his eclectic political views. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.