The Fourth of July is over and as I watched the celebrations on TV, I thought about how those of us on the outside have our freedom and those incarcerated do not.
Our forefathers fought for our right to be free. So, why do we incarcerate so many and take away their freedom? Most people will answer that they lost their right to be free. That is true in many cases, but what about those who can’t afford bail and are held for days, weeks, months and sometimes years before a trial is held or they go to court? There are thousands incarcerated waiting for a hearing, a court date or a trial.
The problem is, we have a for profit bail bond system. Other countries do not. If you’re poor and cannot afford your bail, you’ll be forced to wait in jail until your court date is set. The courts are overloaded, so you may wait an extremely long time. Yes, you’ll be credited for time served if convicted, but what if you’re innocent, or if your crime is one you should not be incarcerated for?
In this country, we incarcerate far too many who would best be served by other means: mental health care, substance abuse counseling, proactive parenting, counseling and other types of interventions. Prison does not work to change men and women. More often than not, a person comes out worse than they went in. Angry, isolated, depressed, without resources or skills.
In Norway and Germany, a much more humane approach is taken, their recidivism rate is much lower and their prisons are partially empty. Not so with ours. Our prisons are mass incarceration machines that churn people through like pieces of meat.
Just saying! We are not doing it right.