5 Ways To Fix Our Broken Criminal Justice System

We have a problem in the justice system of our country. The U.S. has the world’s highest prison rates among the developed countries. What would it take to renovate the justice system into something that worked for the people and not against them?

Alter the Drug War

While a shockingly low number of violent offenders make up the prison population (3 percent), a large number are nonviolent drug offenders. The Federal Bureau of Prisons reports nearly half of the men and women in the federal prison system are there on drug charges, as of January 2015.

If drugs were “decriminalized” and treated as a health hazard instead of a criminal act, we would see a huge shift in the number of criminals living behind bars, costing taxpayers roughly $20,000 per year per inmate and over $19 billion for the current drug offender population. It would cost less to send these offenders to college and focus on campaigns that stress the dangers of drugs and opening rehabilitation centers. The only way to effectively dry up the drug market is to put drug dealers out of business with an uninterested population.

Offer Zero-Violence Prison Blocks

Violence should not be accepted as a way of prison life and the small segments of the prison population who are aggressive and violent should not be controlling the atmosphere of the prison system for the other inmates. Prisoners who are placed in jail for peaceful protest or jailed in lieu of a fine are introduced to a hostile population. Inmates would benefit from zero-violence areas where inmates who follow the rules are able to better themselves rather than worry about violent repercussions from other inmates.

Expand Parole Eligibility

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Image via Flickr by FiDalwood

Louisiana had over 61 percent of the prison population in 2009 convicted for nonviolent, non-sex offenses. Between 1985 and 2010, Louisiana’s jail population grew by 267 percent and corrections spending increased by 400 percent. In an effort to shift the expense, the state expanded parole eligibility and streamlined the process. Eliminating delays in parole processing and opening eligibility allowed more prisoners to avoid doing time and participate in treatment programs at a fraction of the cost with the Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI).

Promote Individual Responsibility

It takes every one of us to care about what happens with our justice system and do something about it. If you are interested in what could fix the broken system then become part of the solution with a career in law or social justice. Get your master’s in criminal justice and become part of the change you want to see.

Hold Prosecutors and Police Responsible

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Image via Flickr by tedeytan

Reports of police brutality and misconduct are absolutely unacceptable. If police and prosecutors were held liable for their deliberate engagement in misconduct then you might see a reduction in fabricated evidence, false testimony, and coerced confessions. With power comes great responsibility, and citizens will suffer every time the justice system is warped by corrupted individuals.

Trust must be reinstated in our justice system with the kind of changes that push for lower spending and higher rehabilitation rates. Prison should not be the end result, but the means to an end for many. We need to keep in mind that every person in the prison system is a fellow human being with the ability to change.