On air: Is your country too quick to send people to prison?

‘The United States has less than 5 percent of the world’s population. But it has almost a quarter of the world’s prisoners.’ No country in the world rejects the idea of prison, but of course they vary on which crimes warrant time spent inside. So does your country get the balance right?

Is it too quick to resort to locking people up? Or are more and longer prison sentences needed to keep criminals out of society and to provide a decent deterrent?

143 Responses to “On air: Is your country too quick to send people to prison?”

  1. April 24, 2008 at 14:52

    in austrailia we do it by fine default and breaking good behaviour orders ,the judges dont ‘send’ you to prison but place such ardious conditions on some they just naturally go to jail by default

    [like one percent goes to courts each year just for drug offenses [5 percent default and end up in jail]
    we do it via the back door here down under [most in jail simply defaulted [after pleading guilty at a rate of 20 out of 21[by lawyers advisement ”to get a lighter” sentance][and a permanent criminal record]

    the drug war allows govt to declare real ‘war’ on its own children ,[drugs should be a medical problem [not a legal [nor policing]problem]

  2. 2 Des Currie
    April 24, 2008 at 14:54

    Let me take a stab at this. You have run out of any worthwhile topic of conversation, are down to the last WHYS barrel and found that it was empty, and this was the best topic you could come up with at short notice? Or you are really just having a bad day?


  3. 3 George Wills Bangirana
    April 24, 2008 at 14:55

    In Uganda, anyone can land in prison for any reason as small as splashing muddy water on a pedestrian to a s huge as taking someone’s life.
    Quick may not even describe it as in Uganda anything can get you there.
    Have you heard of Safe houses??
    Coem to Uganda where you can be picked up, by “unknown” people and you disappear, only to reappear either dead and you were killed by “enemies” of the state who got into government prisons or you were in a place no one knows.

  4. 4 steve
    April 24, 2008 at 14:55

    I think sometimes the US focuses on locking up non violent offenders (though some can be horrible, like corporate crimes, stealing millions), but I think victimless crimes should not be given jail (ie drug possession, prostitution). But there is a serious problem in this country. Just this past weekend, there were 36 shootings in Chicago. People who do that really need to be locked up and the key thrown away.

  5. 5 Cheburet
    April 24, 2008 at 14:55

    My country Kenya sends youth in droves to prison. I find this very reactionary. Our prisons are conjested because many people get arrested. Some are locked up long before they are tried (and proved guilty). While it is ok to lock up criminals, it is also important to ensure that the justice system does not punish the innocent. The authorities should also work towards Effective Rehabilitation Programmes. By so doing, they will be affirming the believe that people have the inherent ability to change – for the better. Cheburet, Nairobi.

  6. April 24, 2008 at 14:56

    We have far too many people being sent to prison for sentances which are far too long. Criminals need help and to be reformed, they do not need to be ‘kept out’ of society for half of their lives then released back into it with nothing changed.
    The wonderful American way of locking them up, throw away the key, and deal with them in 30 years. Now I’m not saying that criminals need to get off easier, but there are other ways to serve a punishment or sentance then sitting behind bars for half of your life.
    As I noted in the Talking Points blog, it is a cultural problem and the root problems need to be curbed before they arise. Education, reduction in poverty levels, community involvement, a well functioning and strong family (whether biological or through association), and increase in employment are all ways to facilitate such change.

    Then again, I have seen instances in the worse-off parts of the city where law enforcement and courts are far too lax because they write the delinquent youth off as a ‘lost cause’ and give loosely enforced and poorly administered probations and punishment for kids which need something more than a slap on the wrist. Many of the kids come from impoverished and broken homes. Punishing them and re-releasing them into society is NOT the answer. Social and Community / Family based programs would do much more in the long run then locking a kid up with harder criminals.

    The worst and most excessive sentances I have seen involve light and moderate drug use and posession. Even for first time offenders, the punishments are severe. I’m don’t care for drugs, nor do I do them. But filling our prisons with kids and young adults who came down with a posession charge is senseless.

    Brett ~ Richmond, Va.

    Brett ~ Richmond, Va.

  7. 7 Obeds Oriku
    April 24, 2008 at 14:56

    Hi WHYS,

    In Kenya it so easy to be thrown behind bars but it takes such a long time to get judgement delivered.

    Please call me.



    Nairobi, Kenya

  8. 8 Janai Calluy
    April 24, 2008 at 14:59

    When I did some research I came to a very surprising conclusion:


    Belgium seems to have the lowest prison population of entire Europe (56/100.00).
    The other side of it is that a great part of the prisoners in Belgium is awaiting his/her trial and this waiting can last for some years. I think somewhere in the article they say we have the slowest judicial system in Europe.
    As long I dont have to go there…

  9. 9 Ros Atkins
    April 24, 2008 at 15:04

    No, my Country Sudan has been implementing the government’s policy of impunity.
    Khartoum can’t bring the genocide pertetuaters in Darfur even to National Justice.
    But, they are quick in sending Southerns to prison regardless their Rights.

    John Gaaniko Salaam
    Western Equatoria State/South Sudan

  10. April 24, 2008 at 15:06

    What you have to remember in regard to America also is that many of those in jail in America should really be in mentally ill facilities. It almost seems as though it is considered to be a slight to have such facilities as mental homes and having to have people trained to deal with that kind of ailment. Too many mentally ill get shot for behaving anti socially also. A guy in Pensacola stripped off his clothes and was observed banging his head against shop windows. He was shot by police as was a woman with steak knives locally recently. If someone with a weapon does not respond to orders from police to desist or lie down or hands up the invariably get ‘taken out’. Even a guy in the surf of Jacksonville Beach threatening to ham himself was ‘taken out’. Of course they are having to deal with mental illness and guns quite often also but who is to blame for that? I would say that the extraordinary belief in the right to own guns contributes and I was in New York where guns are more controlled and felt safer at times than drive by shooting areas of my own city. Most cities jails are overcrowded and in Jacksonville a police officer was raped twice and held for an hour in the very jailhouse. The perpetrator has been on remand since 2005 waiting to come to court on a murder charge? Is that a factor maybe?

  11. April 24, 2008 at 15:07

    The high number of prisoners in US jails reflects the level of crime in that country, which is high and to some degree the effeciency of law enforcement agencies. In my country the sytem collapsed: when you steal chicken you go to jail, when a minister swindles 4 million dollars, he is a hero!

  12. April 24, 2008 at 15:16


    Just like in Kenya where it so easy to be thrown behind bars but it takes such a long time to get judgement delivered, in Uganda due to a bogged system files get lost, the wrong people are prosecuted and cases drag on as these suspects remain in dtention.

    Walter in Uganda

  13. 13 Ros Atkins
    April 24, 2008 at 15:26

    Absolutely not. Look for example at our own Scooter Libby who apparently was a traitor in times of war and still hasn’t been sent to jail. I rest my case.

  14. 14 Sandra Patricia, Colombia
    April 24, 2008 at 15:29

    A warm hello for everyone! 🙂

    😛 It’s been a long time since I posted my last comment! I’m happy to be back… Usually in Colombia it takes a bit longer to make people go to prison. There are some crimes like robbery, drug possession and others that are not penalized with prison but with fines, and because of this some people continue doing the bad things they did as soon as they are set free. Legal processes and trials take longer than normal, to the point that sometimes cases are closed. However, many people are sent to prison with long sentences. Unfortunately, I can say only corrupt politicians and leaders of the guerrilla and paramilitares that have murdered thousands of people have the right of a reduction in their sentence or don’t have serious punishments, while all the other people don’t receive any kind of help, like rehabilitation programmes, and have to live under terrible conditions for a long time. In some cases the situation is not different to the conditions of kidnapped people 😦 .

    😛 I really appreciate the WHYS team’s work!
    Greetings from Colombia!

  15. 15 Stephen
    April 24, 2008 at 15:31

    Make prison less pleasant then maybe criminals will make an effort not to go back.

    Sacramento, Calif.

  16. April 24, 2008 at 15:34

    Morocco is one of the countries with a large prison population totalling about 60,000 prisoners. There are all kinds of prisoners from drug dealers and violent criminals. Since the bomb attacks in Casablanca on May 16th, 2003, there have been prisoners considered as terrorists or with links to terrorist organisations. There were three major occasions in which up to 50,000 prisoners were freed. But in short time, prisons become again overcrowded with the same or new prisoners.

    Morocco is planning to build new prisons to cope with overcrowding. It doesn’t seek to be soft on petty crimes or on people suspected of being sympathetic to terrorism or planning terrorist attacks. Currently there are about 2,000 prisoners that have been tried or being tried for terrorism charges.

    At the same there are still criminals at large as the security forces is understaffed in comparison of the areas it should cover.

    The latest news about prisons in Morocco is the escape of nine Islamist prisoners convicted of terrorist offences: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/7335740.stm

    This will be a reason for the Moroccan authorities to be more vigilant. But at the same time the efforts of the security forces is now more centred on would be terrorists who are more dangerous than ordinary criminals.

    Abdelilah Boukili
    Marrakesh, Morocco

  17. 17 Nick in USA
    April 24, 2008 at 15:36

    I agree that the USA focuses too much of its time locking up vicimless offenders. Particularly for marijuana offenders, since we now know that paper companies were responsible for its becoming illegal (No, I’m not a hippie and I don’t smoke marijuana).

    I think today’s topic should have been “How can we make our prison systems more effective”. We really shouldn’t be throwing anyone in prison because it’s not working. It’s just a big drain on tax dollars. I say bring back the chain gang. Put these guys to work, so they can pay us back. Make them so tired that they don’t have the energy for violence anymore. No more hanging out in the yard and playing ball with your gang. Sorry for going off topic here, but I think this is the real issue.

  18. 18 Sandra Patricia, Colombia
    April 24, 2008 at 15:37

    Hi, Walter!

    In my country we live a similar situation to the one you describe in Kenya. Personally I don’t trust very much the justice system in Colombia… We can see how politicians that have stolen much money from the people are still free and even help the president (who I don’t trust, either), or guerrilleros and paramilitares that are offered reductions in their sentences for their cooperation, without considering the way they have affected and destroyed many families…

  19. 19 Anthony
    April 24, 2008 at 15:38

    I think in the U.S. the system is looking for excuses to let people out of prison. Its so packed there, but luckly the govt. can use the inmates as slave labor. $.25 an hour is a good deal! At least McDonalds, Starbucks, and Costco think it’s a good deal 🙂

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  20. 20 selena
    April 24, 2008 at 15:52

    This is a good question. The answer my lie in the fact that there is not much financial or emotional help for the disadvantaged.

    It is a sad reflection on society when, what is viewed as, the most democratic country in the world locks up so many of its citizens.

    What does this say about democracy? Is the US more safe because of its policies?

    There are many question that should arise out of your basic question.

    Thank you for looking at this subject. An examination is long overdue.

  21. 21 gary
    April 24, 2008 at 15:55

    Big buildings, bars and guns are cheap; addressing societal problems at their roots takes care, thought and some capital. The US judicial system works about as well as the US healthcare system; billions of spent bucks and not much justice, or healthcare. But of course it’s never about the money; it’s about who gets the money, and who does not.

  22. 22 Tita
    April 24, 2008 at 16:00

    My country(Cameroon) is too quick in sending people to especially after the February general strike in some part of the country.So many have been could whether in connected to the crime u are refered to or not,When an elite or political leader(rolling party) give order for ur arrest there will be no question ask and straight to prison the person goes,it is a country were even the military is so the sole cause to crimes since they say there are the law.

  23. April 24, 2008 at 16:25

    I am looking forward to appearing again on the programme tonight.

    Isn’t it ironic that we can be so concerned about recycling waste, and yet with humans we throw them in penal dustbins and throw away the key?

  24. 24 VictorK
    April 24, 2008 at 16:26

    I’m not as cynical as Des but this really is the wrong approach to the subject.

    Numbers don’t matter; judicial procedures do. In most parts of the world, but in Africa especially, many people spend years in prison just waiting to be tried. . They are often kept in verminous conditions. They are fed courtesy of the charity of family and friends, or of other prisoners. They face guards who conduct themselves with the brutality that always emerges when one human being exercises unaccountable power over another. Many of these prisoners die before coming to trial. And best of all, many of these people are quite innocent. The BBC intermittently runs stories about this.

    I know that there’s not much scope to bash the US in taking this view of prisons, but it is a much more important story and one that can only benefit from discussion and publicity.

    Maybe next time.

  25. 25 Ros Atkins
    April 24, 2008 at 16:29

    Good afternoon,
    we are so wrong to send so, so so many innocent yet ill people to prison as a first resort – it shows how unhealthy our society is in much less than assisting our needy, we are abusing them so terribly. Thank you for reading this.

    Many thanks!

    Kind regards,
    June in Kent

  26. 26 Rachel in California USA
    April 24, 2008 at 16:32

    We have too many people in prison in the USA. Over the past thirty years, voters and legislatures in many states have passed laws like “three strikes you’re out” that result in life sentences for people convicted for nonviolent crimes. In poor communities, being a prison guard is a good job, and communities fight to have new prisons built so they can reap economic benefits. Recently in my state voters have started to turn down requests for funds for new prisons, and some prisoners are being released early from overcrowded and dysfunctional facilities.

    The USA is also a society on the edge of breakdown, with much untreated mental illness, poor education, violence, poverty, child abuse, and drug addiction. I’m not going to go into the many causes of this breakdown, but I do not think putting broken people into prison helps them to become whole. There are some rehabilitation, treatment and education programs inside and outside of prisons, but these are far too rare and poorly funded.

  27. 27 Paulo
    April 24, 2008 at 16:35

    I think that certain behavior in the USA needs to be decriminalized, and that will empty out a lot of the prisons. Ultimately, we must decide what we send people to prison for. We call it “rehabilitation” and call the institutions “correctional facilities”, but I don’t think there’s many people who would really believe rehabilitation is going on in America’s prison for the most part. If anything, the prisoners come out more violent and better equipped for crime than when they went in. If it’s about punishment, then let’s not confuse it with the intent to reform them.

    Some people who have committed truly terrible crimes should be punished without thought of rehabilitation (especially if they’re never going to breathe a free breath again). But there are others who are in prison for petty crimes who could be redeemable, and we should pursue alternatives for them besides tossing them into a closed space with murderers and rapists. It will be cheaper for us and better for them in the long run.

    Paterson, New Jersey

  28. 28 John in Salem
    April 24, 2008 at 16:37

    The heart of the problem is that for every dollar we spend on building new prisons we spend less than one cent on rehabilitation or reeducation. Our court systems are overwhelmed with people from the margins of our society, the rest of us are unwilling to face the issues that put them there and the costs it would take to fix them and our judges are only given the options we are willing to pay for.
    We spend money on crap like Iraq and not on schools and then tell the disadvantaged that wind up in court that they made bad choices.

  29. 29 Cyprain
    April 24, 2008 at 16:38

    I don’t think there is the respect of human rights in Cameroon. In this country, walking down the street without your ID card will lead you to jail for the police officers are more intersted in seeing citizens who can not give them bribe suffer the consequence behind bars.A recent example is the February strike actions, many innocent people were arrested and one week later they were sentence to three and more years prison terms. The law is in the hands of the military in cameroon, civilians have no right voice their views and opinions.

  30. 30 Virginia Davis
    April 24, 2008 at 16:38

    Yes, there are too many people in prison in the United States. And time in prison is not focused on rehabilitation, rather on retribution.

    The disparity in race is a disgrace. It was, and probably still is true, that for a black American, prison was a safer place to be than “on the streets.” That is statistically you are will live longer.

    Not a good sign is the emphasis on TV commercials for “9 months” to become an employee in the so-called criminal justice system.

    Some prisons are now “slave labor” camps for large corporations.

    And a % about 15 – 20 of prisoners are mentally ill. And are drugged. And prisoners who do not need medications are drugged to be controlled.

    You all in other countries may hear that our economy is a big issue in this election year. But we are not giving all our kids a good education; an alarming number don’t finish high school; and there are not a lot of good jobs for them.
    So they get in trouble.

    Virginia in Portland, OR

  31. 31 Peter Gizzi UK
    April 24, 2008 at 16:45

    In The UK 1 in 8 of our prisoners are foreign nationals! No wonder our prisons are overcrowded! Judges are tending to give shorter sentences as a result. We should surely sort out our border policies as this costs The British Tax Payer a lot of money.

  32. 32 Royston Roberts
    April 24, 2008 at 16:57

    hi ros, it’s such a nice topic we will be discussing today, because the reason why i like this topic is, there are times when we expect to see hard core criminals behind bars, who owned criminal instituitions (Cartels), and are responsible for ninty percent of the crimes that are committed globaly, but instead of these crime barons held responsible, instead it is their students and sometimes victims of circumstances, i.e ( the poor, orphans etc) who spent the time behind bars unlawfully, unjustly, and hastily judge. so to me, the question should have been, “are the people spending the time, the right one in the cage?”
    royston roberts
    freetown, sierra leone

  33. 33 Andre
    April 24, 2008 at 16:58

    In my opinion, the United States jails far too many people who pose no real threat to society. As an American, I find it embarassing that over two million people are currently jailed in the USA – more than China, India or Russia.

    Americans seem to believe that non-custodial sentences are too lenient for offences such as minor drug use, driving infractions and petty larceny. The result is a huge, expensive to keep and (largely), non-productive prison population and many of our prisons have become places for criminals to learn further criminal skills and to join in-prison racist gangs for self-protection. Our prison system is, by and large, in disgraceful shape.

    In the future, I hope that the United States focuses more on restorative justice (fines, community service, house arrest e.t.c), and less on incarcerating people for relatively minor offenses.

  34. April 24, 2008 at 17:03

    Hi Ros, Akbar here in Tehran

    I have strong feelings on your discussion on prisons and prisoners. We currently have 2.5 million opium and heroine addicts in Iran. They are summarily rounded up and imprisoned, but that is beginning to change. Given the shortage of prison space and fear that banning opium can lead to greater use of Crack and other concoctions, opium addicts have been treated more leniently.
    Several corpses are carted out of Qasr Prison daily. It is located some 30 kilometers from Tehran. These are AIDS sufferers, having contracted the virus through use of a common syringe. Could we concentrate on addicts and what is to become of them? An addict, whether the father or the son of a family, is a scourge for the rest of the household. They will embezzle the housekeeping money, prostitute the women in the household, burgle houses and cars in order to buy drugs, and commit countless other offences.
    There is no getting away from it, it is even worse in the countryside, where opium is the customary afternoon leisure pastime. Unless these offenders are segregated or sent to one of the countless Iranian islands in the Persian Gulf, addiction will continue to ravage the country.
    Finally, the local justice system requires urgent overhaul, it is simple unable the handle drug addiction, corporate financial fraud, property suites, or even family quarrels. The system is based on the French model, where one can theoretically accuse anyone of theft, murder or even conspiracy to steal or kill, and imprison him, and leave him there, unless he can prove otherwise.

  35. April 24, 2008 at 17:04

    The issue of prisons isn’t limited just of the number of prisoners and the expediency to arrest people. It has above all to do with human rights. In democratic countries, people are arrested for their felonies like murder and theft. In other countries where there is no democracy, people are also arrested for their opinions. The police use all means to arrest them, sometimes with trial, sometimes they are left to linger in prisons without being taken to court.

    There are also the conditions of the prisoners who live in crowded and squalid prison. They are offered no means for rehabilitation. They spend their sentences just locked.

    The reasons to imprison and release has to do with common laws. There is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights apparently adopted by all UN member countries. But still each country has its laws which determine the length of the sentences and the cases a person should be taken to prison.

    Abdelilah Boukili
    Marrakesh, Morocco

  36. 36 Will Rhodes
    April 24, 2008 at 17:06

    Stephen April 24, 2008 at 3:31 pm

    Make prison less pleasant then maybe criminals will make an effort not to go back.

    Sacramento, Calif.

    So I take it that you have been to a high security prison, then?

    People who generally say something like the above believe the hype that prison is a playground, usually from reading tabloid newspapers – if this is not the case then please accept my apology and please inform us as to why the prison you were in was so ‘user friendly’.

    In the UK the public are asking for more and more draconian prison sentences because of a perceived explosion of crime – which isn’t the case. Hang everyone who commits a crime higher than stealing a Mars Bar is seems.

    Yet, as has been mentioned – if a CEO steals millions of pounds/dollars – nothing is said! Think about why!

    Prison is a place to put the bad people – or so many would say, yet, those ideals are governed by a small minority who shout the loudest, that is called lobbying.

    BTW, you can be put under house arrest in Canada for quite a time, that means you cannot leave your house, and the system seems to be working well.

  37. April 24, 2008 at 17:07

    No, not sending them fast enough. Many of them skate by the skin of their teeth leaving the prosecutors saying, “I know they are guilty, but I just don’t have enough to prove itSo they are aloud to continue running for office or retaining their, say, vice presidency. .” (Could you imagine if you were a major drug distributer and found out one of your dealers just got busted. Worried that he might roll over on you, you just had him pardoned.) Lol, but then again maybe that is drifting “off topic”.

    We do seem to be solving the problem of overpopulation in prisons by building bigger and more prisons, rather then addressing the problem. You don’t end up in a gang if you make the grades to attend Harvard. That is a 100% true statistic. Now we can’t send everyone to Harvard, but we should try to find out where the disconnect is.

  38. April 24, 2008 at 17:14

    It is a mixed bag. Mostly criminals are dealt with too easily, because so many people are doing the wrong things most are let go and they end up getting bolder and bolder.

    There is so much crime the cops see the revolving door swing so many times they just let all but the worst go. Finally no one knows how to deal with so many bad people who no longer even believe they are bad, they just take and do what ever they think they can because there are so many sheep who allow the bold to rape, rob and destroy.

    We need to train all prisoners into attack forces and assign them to attack our enemies in the areas where it is too difficult to send traditional military forces.

    Their attitudes would be perfect to go after the really bad enemies. If they are dropped in the rocks they all would be interpreted as infidels and there would be no cause or other than fighting for life.

    Poor parenting, poor enforcement and punishment/rehab.

    Mao had a fairly severe solution to criminals….he executed 66 million social problems. He got a bad rap, but got China to a starting point again.


    Nehalem, Oregon

  39. April 24, 2008 at 17:17

    America NEEDS its PRISONS!

    You have to accept that America is a rather barbarous state – it is built on slave labour and prison culture! (Kind of like it’s cousin: Australia!) 😉 I don’t say this to be a snit – its true, actually. How else could such a young country build so quickly? It took us English over a thousand years to become assholes.


  40. 40 Rashid Patch
    April 24, 2008 at 17:19

    United States penal policy is quite literally insane.

    Official statistics have shown for decades that “white collar” cases constitute the overwhelming majority of crime in economic impact, and yet the major focus of enforcement is on petty crimes and non-violent crimes like drug use.

    Even in the case of drugs, users are prosecuted vastly out of proportion to large-scale dealers – and indisputably documented CIA complicity in the drug trade since the 1940’s is ignored.

  41. 41 steve
    April 24, 2008 at 17:29

    @ rashid

    Yes, I had a black coworker that would claim that the CIA was trying to get blacks in trouble. She also said that the people who make malt liquor put broken glass, and fromaldehyde in it, to kill off the black people. same with Kool cigarettes and Newports. I asked why don’t if black people think whites are trying to kill them off via the products blacks use, why not drink Budweiser, and smoke camels, which white people use, as if one cigarette is any less deadly than any other?

    Though there are some valid points about race (Rashid didn’t explicity mention race, but when you bring up the CIA and drugs, it’s a conspiracy theory in the US that the CIA is out to get blacks), and drugs, some are just conspiracies. Some valid points about race and drugs is the disparity in punishments between crack vs. cocaine, whereas the only difference in the user is the race, it’s still both the same product, just consumed in a different fashion. Crack is punished usually with 10x stronger sentences than cocaine.

  42. April 24, 2008 at 17:29

    Great Britian does not have enough prison space to meet the ammount of offenders judges want to send to prison. Prisons are over crowded, and as a result reforming programs such as skills workshops which have the potential to reform a criminal are over subscribed and under funded.

    The problem is what is the alternative?

    We would never accept the death penalty, but much discussion on prison reform focuses on how ‘easy’ prison is. People are quick to jump to conclusions that because prisoners like Steve Wright (Suffolk murderer who killed 6 prostitutes back in 2006) have tv’s, video games and accomidation and free food for all their lives, must mean that prison is easy.

    I had a lecture on transportation in the 18century to america and australia this afternoon. The reason why contemporaries agreed with it owed much to the out of sight out of mind philosophy, and since it offered a mediatory punishment between whipping and execution. The problem with the british system is that at the moment there is no effective deterrent punishment owing to popular misconceptions of prison life.

    As to America the focus on “keeping dangerous people out of society” rather than reforming individuals contributes to its high levels of recidivism amoungst the prison population. As a result it has the largest jail population in the world.

  43. April 24, 2008 at 17:40

    Dunno ’bout u guys — but I got a raw deal! Why not over-easy? Ay yi yi …

  44. 44 CHRIS IN LA
    April 24, 2008 at 17:48

    Prisons have become an industry in America. Simple as that. Same as lobbyists. Follow the money, follow the money.

  45. April 24, 2008 at 17:57

    First of all, the United States is quick to put black men behind bars – but that’s probably a topic for another show.

    Second, prisons need to have the facilities to deal with prisoners properly. What I mean is that the majority of them do not need to be wasting away in their cells. Prisons need to provide rehabilitation for those with short sentences and therapy for those with life or death sentences.

    Prisons need to play a pro-active role in the life and care of the company they keep.

  46. 46 Scott Millar
    April 24, 2008 at 18:00

    Due to the overwhelming collective stupidity of Americans it would only make sense that a high percentage should be locked up; albeit many seem to be incarcerated for the wrong reasons. In the land of the cowboy and the moral police, where “folks” drive army vehicles (hummers) to work–it also makes sense. In the land of illegal wars–perhaps the hundreds of thousands of troops involved in nefarious activities should also be locked-up along with their leaders.

    The world should be glad so many of us are behind bars!

    -Portland, Oregon

  47. April 24, 2008 at 18:02

    I had an interesting experience lately trying to use black felons to rebuild electric motors. Setting up an assembly line and getting the job done. Was surprized to learn most had no interest in going back to prison. They had their culture to look cool in front of each other, but really they all were trying to find a way to make work work and get a life going outside the slammer.


  48. 48 Lamii
    April 24, 2008 at 18:03


    My country is quick to send people to prison, especially for civil disputes. But interestingly it fails to keep in prison those who deserve to be kept in prison, especially those who have transgressed the criminal law. Strange right? You’ve not been to Liberia.

    Lamii Kpargoi

  49. 49 Janet T
    April 24, 2008 at 18:04

    I think that our rate of imprisonment is alarming- and yes many are due to drug offenses, growing marijuana, possession of illegal drugs- maybe we ought to send them off to serve in the military instead? It seems this used to work.
    An in-law relative of mine is in prison now- his constant offense is drinking/drugging/driving without a license etc…. He simply will not follow the law or probation rules when he is out of prison so he serves longer and longer sentences each time he is caught- he hates going to prison but will not quit drinking and drugs- thinks AA is stupid etc….. I think he has well proven he will not follow the law- while he is a danger mostly to himself and his liver; I don’t want to be out on the road with him either. While in prison he writes letters and petitions and tries to figure out ways to get out, but isn’t smart enough to understand what he needs to do to stay out. I don’t think he is unique in anyway, I think there are thousands in prison just like him. Do they need to be locked up?? If I use him as an example- the answer is yes!
    By the way he always has full medical coverage and acess to doctors while in prison.

  50. 50 Leonet Reid- Jamaica
    April 24, 2008 at 18:06

    Jamaica has a bad reputation with their penal system. An uncle of mine was accused of rape and served a year and half in prison with a medical proof of rape brought before the judge. He got out of jail three months ago and their have been no re compensation. he has lost his job, family and is currently living with us. Also it was brought up in the Media few years ago where an elder man was released after being held for over 40 years for just breaking a banks window. the Judicial system needs reform.

  51. 51 Scott Millar
    April 24, 2008 at 18:12

    Americans love prison—its the only place in the country with free health-care!

  52. 52 steve
    April 24, 2008 at 18:12

    @ Scott

    If you hate it so much here, and think American are so stupid, why don’t you leave? There must be some reason you’re still here since the nation is so beneath you apparently.

  53. 53 rawpoliticsjamaicastyle
    April 24, 2008 at 18:13

    Hi Ros and the WHYS Team!

    I am not sure whether we are “too quick to send our people to prison”, as your question asks. However, the justice system in Jamaica is often criticised for being heavily biased in favour of the privileged (minority). Names, addresses, lineage and, even, skin colour are some of the factors which are said to be interwoven into the awarding of justice here. The result is a general lack of trust between citizens and the state, as they are not sufficiently confident there are real options in this regard.

    Reggae artiste Peter Tosh aptly asks, therefore: “How can there ever be peace if there is no justice?” It is hardly surprising, then, that crime and violence are among Jamaica’s top governance priorities, currently.

  54. April 24, 2008 at 18:16

    America’s large prison population is born of good intentions. The argument in America is that if you give lenient sentences for non-violent and white collar crime often committed by better educated, higher class citizens who are usually first-time offenders and unlikely to commit more crime, you’re being unfair to violent criminals who are often poorly educated, lower class citizens. The problem is one of impression of unfairness to lower class citizens in a system of blind justice. The question is: Should justice really be blind? Should someone well-educated and higher class be given a non-prison sentence for a serious non-violent crime simply becaus they’re perceived as more valuable to society and less likely to re-offend?

  55. April 24, 2008 at 18:16

    The reason the US has such a high percentage of the population in prison is because there are very few safety nets to help out the poorest members of American society — very little low-income housing, lack of health insurance, etc. These pressures naturally lead to higher crime rates and much more incarceration than in Europe.

    American prison sentences are also very harsh for minor drug crimes such as marijuana possession.

    Jeff in DC

  56. April 24, 2008 at 18:16

    I was swept up in that Hollywood campaign to arrest revelers and celebs a couple years ago in Lost Angeles.

    I only made an illegal U-Turn and should have been given a ticket – perhaps a good reprimand, but I got much more!

    I was arrested and charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance: residue of Marijuana! Yes – you read it right: RESIDUE!

    An empty bad with a couple seeds.

    Now, was I DWI? or DUI? I did cross the double yellow lines – but should I have been arrested on 10,000 (usd) bail? Two years later, I am still scraping up dollars to complete a AA and drug diversion course that I cannot afford! I am constantly threatened by the Judge to complete or go to prison! Thus, I’ve been criminalised! I was a Hollywood commercial director! If I wasn’t crying – I’d be laughing!


  57. 57 Anthony
    April 24, 2008 at 18:16

    Richard Ramirez has been in jail since 1989. He stated he “loves to slit throats and watch their faces turn white” and “I love to kill, I love to watch them wiggle and then slowly stop”. He killed so many people, yet he’s still on death row. He’s a waste of money and space and should be dead. If I was given the opportunity, I would shoot him myself. You CAN NOT rehabilitate people like this. They should die.

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  58. 58 Anna
    April 24, 2008 at 18:18

    I am a graduate student of Criminology and have studied criminal policy deeply. I’ll say that a gigantic portion of the population in prison come from urban, underdeveloped communities. They see little legitimate ways of obtaining goals (money) and end up receiving jail/prison sentences. When they are released, most are released back into those same communities attached to a rapsheet which further prevents them from obtaining realistic and legitimate goals or careers. We need to focus on our social theories of criminology and educate our citizens in a more effective manner, not simply imprisoning them.

  59. 59 Justin from Iowa
    April 24, 2008 at 18:18

    Its a very deep subject. If you don’t improson violent offenders, how do you treat them? Should violent crimes be the only ones that get prison time? SHould the death penalty be more universally enforced? There is a great depth to this subject.

    On a side note, the speaker who mentioned all american prisons were like guantanimo bay is disassociated with reality. Many prisons in America are a VACATION. American prisons should be much harder, uncomfortable, painful places so they are actually a discouragement rather than the vacation prisons can be now.

  60. April 24, 2008 at 18:19

    I believe that the meteoric rise in the prison population in the US is to a large degree caused by the lack of preventative institutions that help people who essentially have mental problems. An ever larger amount of these people are sent straight to prison here whereas in other countries there are a lot more resources for psychological treatments.
    Between 1982 and 2001, the numbers of public hospital beds available for the mentally ill decreased by 69% in the US. In the same time period the number of prison beds increased 470%.

    A sobering Guardian article on March 3, 2003 reports 300,000 mentally ill people to be held in US prisons. The US Bureau of Justice reports that an estimated 16% of the two million prisoners in the US are mentally ill, “often because there is nowhere else for them to go. So serious is the problem that one jail in Los Angeles has become in effect the biggest mental institution in the country”.

    San Francisco, USA

  61. 61 In America
    April 24, 2008 at 18:20

    My father’s friend was a journalist who was working on a story about the disgusting crimes of child pornographers. The man contacted child pornographers through a chat site in an attempt to cover all sides of the story and was as a consequence arrested by the police and sentenced to several years in prison as a supposed child pornographer himself. My father’s friend went through a hellish 2 years in jail with murderers, rapists and real child molesters, and was forced to pretend to be wildly insane in order to be left alone and avoid being raped by other inmates. Needless to say, it took a toll on this innocent man’s physical and mental health.

    Obviously, this was an awful mistake of judicial system in America. I believe that many people who go to jail may deserve it, but many others who commit either petty crimes or none at all are sent there too.

  62. 62 Nate, Portland OR
    April 24, 2008 at 18:20

    I was held up at gunpoint about 10 yrs ago. The guy just took my $, and left me with my wallet. Actually, I was at an ATM and he made me put my card back in and get out “the rest of the $200” – I neglected to tell him my daily limit was $300 :).

    Anyway, he didn’t hurt me at all. He robbed 2 other people over the next day (no physical harm), then got caught trying to use a stolen credit card a few days later. He ended up pleading to multiple counts of armed robbery, and because he had a prior record got 5 yrs. I don’t know how long he actually served. He was ordered to pay restitution, which I of course never got.

    I’d say that given that he didn’t take a lot and didn’t hurt any of us that I’d be inclined to give him less time, with much or all of it being rehabilitative. I think for this sort of crime you could probably get more good from some sort of monitored semi-imprisonment (like halfway houses) where the offender works outside the halfway house, gets counciling and maybe even trade skills. Only upon violating these terms would they end up in the nastier prison system.

    ONLY violent crimes should result in significant lock-ups – even an option of corporal punishment (not disfiguring other than scarring) if the criminal has not previously demonstrated recidivism after the corporal punishment.

  63. April 24, 2008 at 18:20

    I realize this is going to be a bash the USA WHYS, but I’ll NEVER forget the show where you covered the Red Army Faction member, who murdered 5 people in the 1970s, and only served 25 years, and was still unrepentent for what she did. In fact, one of her victims was already down, disabled, and she blew his brains out. She served 25 years for that, then got released. I’m glad at least in our system she would never have seen the light of day again.


  64. April 24, 2008 at 18:21

    Consider the cost; to put someone in jail for a lifetime doesn’t cost as much as carrying out an execution. It’s the most broken part of the system and it causes more criminality by creating a demand to fill the cost; that in turn aligns with the motives for recidivism. So you ultimately have criminals to fulfill the demands of the system.

  65. April 24, 2008 at 18:21

    In the US, african americans and hispanics make up about 25% of the main population but 63% of prison population.

    This isn’t crime control, it’s race control. Follow the link in my name to read harder numbers.

  66. April 24, 2008 at 18:22

    If we (the U.S.) would get rid of our arcane prohibition on Marijuana we wouldn’t have half the people in prisons as we do. End the War on Drugs, which has failed miserably, and half that again would be released, and might get some help. If people weren’t penalized for being sick, we might even have enough money left over to find bin Laden and his band of merry men.

    thank you

  67. 67 Anthony
    April 24, 2008 at 18:24

    I’ve said this once, and I’ll say it again. “Ghetto” people ACTUALLY LIKE PRISON! They see it as a vacation where they eat and sleep for free, and get high and drink coffee all day. They know they will get out in a week for robbing someone, even though the sentence is 2 months, the risk is worth the reward if they succeed. I think Capitol and Corporal punishment should come back, personally.

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  68. 68 Thea Winter - Indianapolis
    April 24, 2008 at 18:24

    I think the US send more young people to prison due to charging them as adults with crimes. I think some of the crimes young people do are due to the lack of adult supervision. With the amount of single parent households our young people are not learning right from wrong. They watch too much TV and play game that glorify criminal behavior.

  69. 69 steve
    April 24, 2008 at 18:24

    “Tough on crime”. Mayor Guiliani did this in NYC. When he took office in NYC in the 1990s, it was one of the most dangerous cities in the US. He worked off the broken window theory, that little things would set off crime because people would just increasingly not care, and then become bolder. So he closed down strip clubs, started cracking down on minor crime, and it eventually chased out most crime from the city. NYC is now the safest large city in the USA. On the other hand, cities like Chicago had 36 shootings last weekend. If you ever go to San Francisco, a beautiful town, but the liberals in control allow the people to run wild, and hence, tourists get murdered by homeless people. San Francisco isn’t particularly safe, though it’s much better than a place like Newark, Detroit, or Baltimore. The difference from NYC and Detroit is just incredible. I don’t think there is any amount of money you could pay to someone from the BBC to walk around Detroit at night and do a report.

  70. 70 Justin from Iowa
    April 24, 2008 at 18:25

    Drugs, etc which require treatment programs are SYMPTOMS of greater problems. People will always turn back to those comfort solutions when their life situation frankly sucks. And new people will always join them. Only when the negative situations which create those side effects (poverty, class distinction, dissolving family structures) are treated will “soft crimes” like drug use drop.

    Now in the mean time, treating them with drug treatment is a concsience satisfying solution only, because in the end it doesn’t really help. Prison is the same way.

  71. April 24, 2008 at 18:28

    I do not think that w e do not do enough to rehabilitate prisoners but simultaneously we do not send enough perpetrators to prison. Murderers are running free while petty thieves are locked up.

    Dorothy Elaine

  72. April 24, 2008 at 18:29

    If we (the U.S.) would get rid of our arcane prohibition on Marijuana we wouldn’t have half the people in prisons as we do. End the War on Drugs, which has failed miserably, and half that again would be released, and might get some help. If people weren’t penalized for being sick, we might even have enough money left over to find bin Laden and his band of merry men.

    Wil Michigan, USA

  73. April 24, 2008 at 18:29

    I wouldn’t support any of them for just stating they would like to reduce prison populations. All of them understand the cause of increased crim about as well as they understand the reason for economic inflation.

    want to reduce prison population? Stop welfare. Welfare encourages population growth at the poorest and most uneducated sector of the society. These are the people most likely to commit crimes.

  74. April 24, 2008 at 18:29

    The United States has more criminals per capita in jails and prisons because it has proportionately more crime and lawbreakers. Why is that? Because the country was founded by criminals (remember the Boston Tea Party?) and perpetuates the idea that if you can get away with it then more power to you. The U.S. elite are avoiding taxes and swindling the world (recall the “Sub-Prime Lending Crisis”) and are thus criminal at heart. Those who are not criminal inside are in the minority, unfortunately. The figures are not lying. It is the analysis–that the U.S. justice system is too harsh–that is deluded.

    Mankato, Minnesota USA

  75. April 24, 2008 at 18:29

    I live in Oregon where, like many places, there has been an increase in mandatory minimum sentencing laws. In most cases, these laws were passed by intiative petition and a ballot measure vote. On the one hand, it’s hard to deny that after the upswing in the length of prison sentences that we saw a significant decrease in violent crime. On the other hand, we simply can’t afford to continue as we are. Given unlimited resources, nearly any policy could be successful. Even bad ones. But we don’t have unlimited resources. There’s a new intiative in Oregon this year to expand the crimes that have mandatory minimum sentencing beyond violent crime and into property crime. It would cost an estimated $300 million that the state of Oregon simply doesn’t have – so we would have to take money from other programs, like public education. Defunding public education means more crime in the long run, which means more prisons, which means more cuts to public education and other programs that could prevent crime. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle. We in the US and specifically in Oregon need to break that cycle – and it starts with trusting that judges can sentence properly. It’s their job, after all.

    Allison Sliter,
    Portland OR

  76. April 24, 2008 at 18:30

    Yes I would support a candidate who said they would reduce prison population

    Adam in Portland, OPB

  77. April 24, 2008 at 18:31

    I think that thieves should be given life imprisonment and murderers should be given the death sentence. When someone takes a life they don’t just kill that person, they take away someones sister, mother, father, brother, husband, wife etc. They must suffer the consequences!

    Also I think that in South Africa, they are too quick to let people out of prison!


  78. April 24, 2008 at 18:31

    I’m an attorney in California. I practice civil law, but I took a sentencing course in law school and had the opportunity to visit a maximum-security prison. A majority of the people serving long sentences are doing so for drug violations. Under sentencing guidelines, a relatively minor possession violation can amount to over 20 years in prison if the proper aggravating circumstances exist. A judge has no discretion is those circumstances exist, i.e was the person in possession of a weapon too. That could add a mandatory 5 years. Also, if you have a little more than for personal use in your possession, the prosecutor tacks on “intent to distribute” and that gives you close to 10 years for carrying around a little more than it takes to get high. California also has the the 3 strikes rule. If you commit 3 qualifying felonies, you get a mandatory life sentence. CA spends more on prisons that on the education system.

    San Diego

  79. April 24, 2008 at 18:33

    Jamaica has a bad reputation with their penal system. An uncle of minewas accused of rape and served a year and half in prison.He was sent to jail without any medicalproof of rape, doctors note, brought before the judge. He got out of jail three monthsago and there have been no re compensation for the time he spent not working. he has lost his job, familyand is currently living with us. Also it was brought up in the Mediafew years ago where an elder man was released after being held for over40 years for just breaking a banks window, According to the Newspaper his sentencing documents were lost in the system. As a result he was raped, beaten and mentally abused over the years he had to spend in jail. How inhumane. Jamaica’s judicial system needs reform.
    Leonet Howard University

  80. April 24, 2008 at 18:34

    If you don’t commit a crime, you don’t go to prison, criminals are not victims and shouldn’t be treated like it. More so in the US than anywhere else, if you work hard, you can get ahead. Breaking the law is simply a lazy person’s poor attempt to get around the system.

    Fargo, ND

  81. 81 Paul Curley
    April 24, 2008 at 18:35

    Higher incarceration rates in the United States during the past 20 years are a democratic response to law-abiding citizens’ legitimate demands for safer streets and homes.

    During the past 20 years, as incarceration rates in the United States have risen, crime rates have gone down in equal measure.

    As regrettable as it may be to have 1% of the US adult population behind bars, policies such as mandatory sentencing have undoubtedly contributed to lower crime rates across the United States.

  82. 82 Justin from Iowa
    April 24, 2008 at 18:36

    Alternatives to simple incarceration should be found. The option to join a state sponsored work force program should be an option for “soft” crimes. RIght now criminals go in and learn how to be better or more violent criminals.

    Instead, employ them in valuable trades where they can learn how to be something other than a criminal, or a job skill so they can pull themselves out of poverty- with support from the government for finding work.

    Less money spent on prisons and wellfare, more money spent on finding people work, training people for work, starting jobs, and getting people back out into the work force!

  83. 83 steve
    April 24, 2008 at 18:37

    Everyone here should watch the TV shows, not the ficitional ones, about prison life in the US. They are mostly about the California prison system. Truly frightening stuff. They tend to focus on the gang aspects of it, how people segregate by race, and all the the violence and weapons. Just watching shows like that would make me never break any law other than the speed limit. I mean honestly, any heterosexual male out there, do you really want to be put in a situation like that, where you won’t be around women for years? (let alone the prison rape issues).That’s enough encouragement right there..

  84. April 24, 2008 at 18:38

    I worked in prisons in Sri Lanka a few years back at a time when many thought that the country was on its knees. Even then, they were looking at treating the overflowing numbers of prisoners locked up for petty drug possession- no threat to anyone but themselves and their families. Obviously, locking up a potential wage earner is just plain dumb for a government interested in collecting taxes. But in America we ignore the lack of jobs for the less skilled and the lack of universal health care that would ween people from drugs. Tax payers money is wasted on prisons because rehabilitation is null in void.

    Diepiriye An American in India

  85. April 24, 2008 at 18:40

    Anyone who has been in the U.S. will have been struck by the presence of the cops – they’re all over the place,and typically they enjoy to act intimidating. The more cops you have, as a rule, the more crime. Also, with a felony conviction in the U.S.,you lose your voting rights. Hence, conservative politicians have passed laws whereby even for One seed of marijuana, hundreds of thousands of presumably liberal-leaners can’t vote them out of office, nor people for whom the system has failed, and thus turn to small crime.

    Banks, Amsterdam

  86. April 24, 2008 at 18:40

    People need to asses the “people” that are in prisons. Prisons seem to be swamped with black men in the US. I wonder why?

  87. April 24, 2008 at 18:40

    It seems to me that the u.s. federal reliance on prison subcontractors promotes the increase of incarcerations. More prison sentences = more prison business = more money

    do you have any more insight into this relationship?

    Portland, Oregon in the US

  88. April 24, 2008 at 18:41

    I’ve been a rapist and a woman beater, and I walk the streets free

    I reformed myself without going to prison – it can be done

    -Chad (in Portland)

  89. April 24, 2008 at 18:44

    I think treatment is better than imprisonment because in my country Phlippines prisoners keep coming back to prison because in jail they don’t have to feed themselves.

    Ben – Phillipines

  90. April 24, 2008 at 18:44

    In the past thirty years California has gutted the public defender system and contracted with private prisons. We spend the money on encarcerating the innocent with hardcores in crowded conditions. This money was once in the education budget. We are famous for our crooked cops. Not only are we too quick, but also do nothing to rehabilitate them while they are there.


  91. 91 steve
    April 24, 2008 at 18:46

    @ Banks in Amsterdam

    Do you really think the presence of extra cops causes crime?? hahha.. They’re just there to stop the crime and arrest people. There is no causation effect here. Please, I hope this is a language issue and you not actually believing that police cause crime.

  92. April 24, 2008 at 18:49

    I was sent to prison in the UK 15 months for working illegaly & but my fellow inmate from Romania was given 7 months for bank fraud..where’s the justice in that?

    Richard, UK

  93. 93 gary
    April 24, 2008 at 18:51

    In the US, the prison population is growing faster than the general population. This is a priori evidence the current system does not work (ie. If it worked, one would expect the incarcerated population to go down.)

  94. April 24, 2008 at 18:51

    Didn’t I hear, long ago, about a scheme in Scotland, in which prisoners were introduced to their victims. This reduced re-offending by a huge amount, but I beleive the scheme was abandoned.

    Chris in Namibia

  95. April 24, 2008 at 18:52

    Because of the rot in the Ghanaian judicial system, cases are always delayed to pave way for those who can pay to influence the system hence the delayment in passing judgement. In Ghana, a case can remain in court for over six years without judgement being passed especially with cases involving public officials like ministers who are serving in ruling governments. Infact it’s a worrying issue in my country.
    George in Ghana

  96. April 24, 2008 at 18:53

    I think what is really needed is social reform in this country. We need to begin to change how we value every human life. Currently in this country there is a greater value placed on individuals who have the greatest financial resources. Individuals with money and opportunity have a better chance at being successful. Unfortunately for some an inadequate education and lack of opportunity lead to making devastating life choices.


  97. April 24, 2008 at 18:54

    Treating ex-convicts well sends out the wrong signal to would-be criminals: that it s OK to commit crimes. Just do your time & we ll treat you well thereafter.


  98. 98 Angela from Washington D.C.
    April 24, 2008 at 18:54

    I lived in South Carolina for five years and I am from the South. However contrary to what Dan said earlier, the consensus in the South is not that prisons work. In the south has so many racial issues that it seems as if there is a judicial system for whites and blacks. I hope everyone does not think everyone in the South thinks like that.

  99. April 24, 2008 at 18:56

    I worked in a California prison for about a year in the business office. I worked as a public defender in California for 4 years. I currently live in Oregon. Many of the people who end up in prison in California have mental health, drug addiction, and physical health problems. Prison is a very inefficient method of dealing with mental health. It costs a lot more to incarcerate than to treat the underlying causes but no politician wants to be seen as “soft on crime.” I have a lot more I could say about why prisons do not work. I do not believe that people who are committing crimes are not deterred by the idea of punishment.

    Tiffany in the US

  100. 100 Kurt
    April 24, 2008 at 18:56

    It seems that if you look at prisons as a place for rehabilitaion then yes more prisons can work. If there is no rehabilition then more prisions means better criminals. In Prisons here with a population of 4000 inmates you have training/ skill positions for maybe 80 persons. That means you have 80 persons working learning and the rest are left sit about how not to get caught.

  101. April 24, 2008 at 18:59

    In the U.S. we have tried the retraining, shock programs, and all of that. But the criminals laugh at that and continue to repeat. Coming from a law enforcement person.

    Skip in Chesterland, Ohio

  102. April 24, 2008 at 19:00

    People who commit crimes should be punished but what good does punishment do if those people cannot rejoin society in some way–what good does it do a country to have more college-aged men in prison than in school? Keeping people in prison costs more money than sending those people to school to learn a trade and contribute to society. It is a business and a racket in the U.S.–prisons have more money and pay higher wages to employees than public schools. Unending prison sentences do not solve anything–just add to an unsustainable short term solution.

    Portland, OR

  103. 103 Tiffany
    April 24, 2008 at 19:02

    I worked in a California prison for about a year (in the business office). I worked as a public defender in California for about 4 years. I currently live in Oregon.

    Many of the people who end up in prison in California have mental health, drug addiction, and physical health problems. Prison is a very inefficient method of dealing with mental health. It costs a lot more to incarcerate than to treat the underlying causes but no politician wants to be seen as “soft on crime.”

    I have a lot more I could say about why prisons do not work. I do not believe that people who are committing crimes are not deterred by the idea of punishment.

  104. April 24, 2008 at 19:03

    I agree with James, prisons have become a profitable business dominated by private enterprise. As long as this fact holds true, there will always be a incentive/market to incarcerate those for even the most minor of crimes.

    Portland OR USA

  105. April 24, 2008 at 19:09

    I believe poverty in the face of media-hyped obscene wealth, along with dismal job prospects for our under-educated youth is a major cause for criminal activities. In the US, racial dis-proportions of our imprisoned reflects further societal inequities. A few years ago, private prisons were considered a blue chip stock. It costs as much to keep a person in prison as to send them to college. I believe that the 2% who own 90% of wealth and resources use these inequities to maintain their power. Crime is a natural consequence of such glaring inequities.


  106. 106 George in Ghana
    April 24, 2008 at 19:12

    Because of the rot in the Ghanaian judicial system, cases are always delayed to pave way for the people who can pay to influence the system. In Ghana, a case can remain in court for over six years without judgement being passed especially cases involving public officials like ministers. Infact it’s a worrying issue in Ghana. FROM GEORGE GAD ENIMIL, TARKWA- GHANA.

  107. April 24, 2008 at 19:18

    Rehabilitation is better than imprisonment. The UK should not try to transfer Nigerian prisoners to Nigeria.

    Pharm in Nigeria

  108. April 24, 2008 at 19:21

    The high US prison population has less to do with its approach to crime than it has the poor state of the US public education system. Children need to learn the skills to become responsible adults because crime is a social problem which can only be resolved by early social intervention. Research has shown time and time again that spending money on a child’s education is much less costly than locking them up as adults, yet the US has still not learned this lesson.

    Victoria BC Canada

  109. 109 Scott Millar
    April 24, 2008 at 19:21

    QUESTIONS: Is America a more violent place then others? Does legalization and proliferation of guns have an effect? Is America’s go-it-alone, consumerist, cowboy culture part of the problem? Is racial diversity or racial oppression part of the problem? Is there a problem at all or is America’s law enforcement better and more thorough then others? Or simply more severe?

    -Portland, Oregon

  110. April 24, 2008 at 19:25

    In Liberia, Prison sentences are not respected. Justice is barely sold, locked ups can be released if he/she has cash and contact.

    Chrispin in Liberia

  111. April 24, 2008 at 19:26

    In Nigeria it is almost the same case a lot of people are been detaind without trial or conviction & bail is almost impossible.

    Tony in Nigeria

  112. April 24, 2008 at 19:29

    In the U.S., the judicial system is no longer innocent until proven guilty. The assumption is guilt. Then a plea bargain is offered with the threat of exceedingly high prison sentences if one does not agree to plead guilty. Which means you go to prison, even if you are innocent because the stakes are too high that a jury will not believe you. Add to that attorney and court fees that are more and more difficult to afford, and…you have prisons full of people who have been accused and not tried–a major cause of overflowing prisons in the United States. I know. This happened to my relative and he can verify that tons of inmates suffered the same situation.

    Linda in Michigan

  113. 113 steve
    April 24, 2008 at 19:31

    @ Doug

    The schools are not responsible for the students dropping out. Cities likes detroit have a 25% high school graduation rate. That’s due to the students and the parents, not the school system. We cannot force people to do what they want to do. It’s like why we have so many crazy homeless people. We cannot force them into institutions because we believe in liberty here. People have the liberty to make stupid decisions, like drop out of high school.

  114. April 24, 2008 at 19:34

    In America it is the “War on Drugs” (failed war in my opinion). Every statistic I have seen shows that the vast majority of all prisoners in America are non-violent drug offenders. Depending on the state one can spend time in jail for simply smoking a joint of marijuana. A large corporate industry of privatized jails has bloomed because of this…And one criminal committing a crime against another is a FAILURE of the criminal system – the victim of that crime just ends up bitter and more likely to commit crime if he or she gets out of jail. Another failure here is that wealth buys one better defense and thus the poor are the ones who end up in jail. This furthers the racial and other social problems.

    Noal in Portland

  115. April 24, 2008 at 19:35

    I would like to hear your guest discuss whether or not privatization of prisons has an influence on the American system. It seems to me that a lot of money is being made and that may influence policy decisions.

    Portland, Oregon, USA

  116. April 24, 2008 at 19:38

    Civil offenders are sent to prison in Nigeria.

    Auwal in Nigeria

  117. April 24, 2008 at 19:43

    95% of prison inmates in Nigeria have no business there. They are there due to the whims of security officials & personal vendetta.

    Israel in Nigeria

  118. April 24, 2008 at 19:44

    In Uganda you spend years in prison even if you are confirmed a criminal. If you have money you go home easily.

    Martin in Kampala, Uganda

  119. April 24, 2008 at 19:44

    The problem is that, as someone said on this station some time back: “we still prefer to punish people rather than help them change”. It’s so much easier, isn’t it? People are just thirsty for “legal revenge”. But when are they going to realise that prisons are counter-productive, by driving people deeper into crime?

    Pablo, London

  120. April 24, 2008 at 19:45

    I think the United States has a democracy and a bill of rights that guarantees a true system, despite the crime. Unfortunately, since it’s guaranteed every case has a standardized option, we are forced to find a way to take care of it. If the media, the leaders of the community, and the parents could set good examples, imprisonment would go down drastically.


  121. April 24, 2008 at 19:46

    In my country prisons are for the poor and the less previlaged. While people from this class get long prison terms for minor offenses, the rich and government officials get titles corruption and graft.

    Ada Calabar, Nigeria

  122. April 24, 2008 at 19:50

    People spend more time awaiting trial than they would if convicted.

    Grant, Sapele, Nigeria

  123. April 24, 2008 at 19:51

    I think there is no uniformity as to what constitutes crime. In Uganda only women can be charged for prostitution, not men! one is more likely to go to prison for stealing a goat rather than stealing millions of dollars.


  124. April 24, 2008 at 19:52

    Prison is inhumain there are other ways of punishment

    Tahl in Cleveland, Ohio

  125. April 24, 2008 at 19:52

    Prisons are to make political opponents dance to the tunes of those in power.

    Ephraim in Uganda

  126. April 24, 2008 at 19:53

    The situation of my country s prison is very bad because there are thousands of people that are awaiting trial,where some spent more than ten years without trial.

    Nasir in Nigeria

  127. April 24, 2008 at 19:54

    I actually worry more about trials than prison. Rapists and armed robbers roam the streets because courts get clogged. These two groups are a plague in Monrovia these days. Prisons are okay but fair and speedy trials would be better.

    Frederick in Monrovia

  128. April 24, 2008 at 19:54

    Zambia is on average to arrest,and court but poor People always lose.But Zimbabwe is very fast to arrest and delays to court.

    Sydney in Zambia

  129. April 24, 2008 at 19:55

    It is my understanding that up to 65 percent of the people who are jailed in the U.S. are mentally ill. They are mentally ill before they are incarcerated, but since there are too few programs for them, they are put in jail, further exacerbating their illness, and exposing them to abuse from fellow prisoners… The funding goes to bigger and better jail and prisons rather than the all inclusive programs which will help the mentally ill. In California we spend more on keeping each person in prison than we spend educating each of our children. We cut existing programs for the mentally ill in order to fund more jails and prisons.

    Oakland, CA

  130. April 24, 2008 at 19:56

    It is very unfortunate that the Nigerian Judicial system is very slow & which in turn affect inmates. Some inmates rot in prison without trial or are even forgotten. But recently there is prison reform & the rule of law in place by the present administration of President Ya adua which need recommendation .

    Shuaibu in Nigeria

  131. April 24, 2008 at 19:57

    In California, prison guards have a powerful union. This year, prison guards will get a raise while education and health care will be cut by 10%. Nationwide, many prisons have been privatized: prisoners for profit. These companies lobby heavily for harsher penalties and policies such as “three strikes you’re out” (or in). Justice counts for nothing. Prisoners are a commodity, as is justice itself.


  132. April 24, 2008 at 19:57

    In Nigeria prisons are for the poor. Because the rich pay there way out. And most prisons are overcrowded, undermanned and decayed infrastructure.


  133. April 24, 2008 at 19:59

    In Uganda you can buy your way out of any prison sentence. With enough money you can even get a trials.


  134. April 24, 2008 at 19:59

    What about restorative justice? It’s shown to increase empathy in criminals and healing for victims while preventing escalation and new crimes. It’s time to discuss progressive solutions instead of recycling the same stale platitudes about crime.

    C.Jones, Pennsylvania

  135. 135 Nick in USA
    April 24, 2008 at 21:02

    Ok, I think most of us agree that the current prison system is not working. What do we do about it? I email my senators and representatives about once a week at congress.org (sorry, I don’t know if it’s ok to linkdrop here), but so far I haven’t been able to convince them to take up instant run-off voting. I know that there are a lot of politically minded people here, but does anyone know how to actually make a difference? It would be nice if the USA presidential candidates went on WHYS, so people could ask them real questions in real time. It would be nice to see a candidate forced to answer real questions over and over. That would weed out the weak candidates pretty quickly.

  136. 136 Shakhoor Rehman
    April 24, 2008 at 22:19

    Yes. Otherwise the jails would not be overcrowded.

  137. April 25, 2008 at 06:30

    Like any problem with a system, and I mean the whole system not just a narrow perspective on just criminal justice, to get back to the basic. With a computer they have what they call a “minimum system configuration” where you look at it with only the things it needs to operate.

    We need to start with a look at the situation at its roots. Start with a pregnant teenager. She is the fatherless daughter of a 3rd generation welfare recipient. She has 4 brothers and a mother who does nothing but collect a check. Her brothers are all in gangs. Every adult she knows id just like her. Her walk to school is a dangerous social gauntlet. Once at school she is in unruly classroom with a 1 to 40 or more teacher to student ratio. She is a teenager and like every other teenager wants to just “fit in”. The question at hand is this. When her baby is born, whose fault is it that it grows up the son of an uneducated teenager. Where is the problem in the system that leads this newborn child to eventually turn to the life of crime?

    I have met many people who tell me, “My parents were poor. We had very little growing up. I still made it.” To you I say, you didn’t live in the jungle these people live in.

  138. 138 michael
    April 25, 2008 at 07:51

    If we go back to the practice of the early 1800s in England, when anyone above the age of 10 who committed theft is hanged and other similar tough measures are in place, you would definitely see a stop to those “prison is full, we’re sending too many to prison” nonsense that is being churned out by (ex-?)criminals and their sympathizers.

    The murder of Gary Newlove demonstrate precisely that. If the teenager who was earlier released on bail (against the wish of the prosecution) had actually been hanged, Gary Newlove would not have been murdered. The panel didn’t address this point in the programme eventhough the presenter raised that question. The panel is pathetic!

  139. 139 Will Rhodes
    April 25, 2008 at 15:25

    I was sent to prison in the UK 15 months for working illegaly & but my fellow inmate from Romania was given 7 months for bank fraud..where’s the justice in that?

    Richard, UK

    Is that true? I hope you come back on WHYS and tell us more about that situation – are you British? Were you on the dole when you were working?

    This is a story of interest.

  140. 140 Alan
    April 25, 2008 at 15:41

    To Steve:

    You are quick to mention that 30 people were killed in Chicago, but you failed to mention the specific
    The City of Chicago has labeled all these killings “gang-related” with no decent explanation. It has been proven that the majority of guns that come into Chicago come from White males in downstate Illinois. The majority of drugs are brought in by white males. Yet NONE of thses people are arrested. In the city, blacks and Puerto Ricans are arrested for possesion of an ounce, while in the subur\bs kids are sent home to their parents fro possesion fo up to one pound. Now we find that the police are given a free pass aftering mudering Sean Bell. I don’t have to guess that the government is out to kill blacks, it is right in front of my face!

  141. April 25, 2008 at 21:46

    Prisons are built to protect society from criminals. How can prisons be safe for prisoners as strong prisoners subject weak prisoners to their authority? Or should this be seen as a deterrent for would-be prisoners that should be warned of the treatment they can get from their inmates?

    How can prisoners be protected from violence in prisons from their inmates or the prison guards?

    From time to time we hear of spectacular prison escapes. One of the latest news about prisons in Morocco is the escape of nine Islamist prisoners convicted of terrorist offences: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/7335740.stm . How can this be prevented?

  142. 142 Ambo Fidelis
    April 26, 2008 at 15:27

    My country takes pride in sending people to jails and prisons. Reason why there are many detainees who are kept for Months and even year without haven appeared before a judge. even when they do, the judges keep on adjioning the case for one reason or the other. My brother has been a victim. There is another case of 7 waisted years by someone who was innocent but it took the court 7 years to pass a judgement. Somebody with money can send you to jail with no prove of crime. Our prisons are filled with innocent souls why the criminals go free.

  143. 143 Adam
    April 27, 2008 at 10:01

    The problem in America is that the “criminal justice system” is more of a BUSINESS rather than governmental structure. Thus, the more people (prisoners) involved (imprisoned), the more money that it is involved. Never forget that in America, the Almighty Dollar is truly king.

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