Incarceration is an overused and misused form of discipline within the criminal justice system. Crimes involving murder, rape, child molestation, robbery, and kidnapping should have mandated periods of imprisonment.  Simpler crimes such as passing a bad check, shoplifting, and simple possession charges are causing the penal system to become less effective and overburdened.  Other avenues of retribution should be examined in order to protect the integrity and level of impact that the prison system so badly needs.
Each state has put into effect statutes and laws requiring convicted offenders to serve a specific amount of time in jail for certain offenses.  This is legislations way of putting a muzzle on society.  It creates the illusion of the problem having been solved.  Inmates are serving up to five years in prison for passing up to three bad checks, while another inmate could be serving less than two years for an involuntary manslaughter conviction.  The legislative branch has taken upon itself the task of making mountains out of mole hills for public approval, but society is paying for it in full every day.
The current prison system in the United States is in need of reconstruction.  States that have discontinued a parole or probation system should be allotted the necessary grant funding in order to rekindle the programs.  These programs should take on new provisions and guidelines.  Alternatives to serving time should be given to each state.  Research grant funding to study the use of work release programs, community based services, reporting centers, and other methods for alternative punishment should be made a top priority.  Prisons are becoming institutions for criminal higher learning.  The effectiveness and lessons that should be learned are being reduced to mere ink on paper.  Offenders are viewing their sentences as laughable due to the overcrowding problems.  These convicted offenders know that their stay in any jail or penitentiary will be short lived at best.


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