What Needs To Go Right by Bill Sharon
Click the titles below to read them.
- The Price of Ice Cream by Bill Sharon
- After Lehman
- 11/24/08 Getting Hit By a Bus
- 11/23/08 Too Big to Survive
- 10/16/08 Deleveraging
- 09/17/08 Taxpayer Bailout
- 09/10/08 Worrying
- 08/28/08 Frick and Frack
- 08/20/08 Incarceration
- 08/11/08 From The Head To The Heart
- 08/01/08 Who We Have Been Waiting For
- 07/21/08 Ecology, Security and Economics
- 07/18/08 Karma
- 07/18/08 Einstein
- 07/11/08 Being Right
- 06/25/08 Getting Hit By A Bus
- 06/23/08 The Market
- 06/12/08 The Price of Ice Cream
- 06/02/08 The Lesson Derived From Derivatives
- 05/26/08 Senator Clinton, Fear, and Assassination
- 05/21/08 Shareholder Value
- 05/10/08 It's not easy being Green, or even truthful it would seem
- 05/06/08 Lunacy and Freedom
- 04/23/08 Moody's Blues
- 04/07/08 We are all African
08/20/08 Incarceration by Bill Sharon
In one of Pastor Rick Warren’s questions to Senators Barack Obama and John McCain last week in a two hour televised set of interviews, he said that the
There is a strong argument that the reduction in crime that we have experienced is a direct result of the lengthy sentences that people receive in the
These statistics brought to mind an experience I had during the first week of my first job. In 1969 I got myself hired as a teacher in the children’s unit at
Instantaneously the racket stopped and everyone quickly got into their seats. I was surprised with the reaction but pleased that I had found something that I could threaten to take away that had such a dramatic change in behavior. Then the smallest child in the class, a little boy named Glennie raised his hand and said “Wild Bill, what’s recess?”
In that moment I understood that I was standing in front of a group of kids for whom not having the experience of running around in a playground was the tip of a very big iceberg of deprivation. In that moment I knew that I was never going to punish them into changing their behavior.
One in a hundred of us adults in this country are in jail at an annual cost of $60 billion. That’s 2.3 million people. That’s more than any other country and we are less than 5% of the world’s population. 500,000 of these inmates are in jail because of drug crimes – most of them are there for possession, not distribution. There are additional numbers there for writing bad checks and other forms of larceny. They all far outnumber the members of organized criminal activities – there are clearly a significant number of those people and they are very dangerous. While our rates of most crimes are parallel to other western nations we murder each other at level not experienced by any other country.
The American public has expressed and reaffirmed their desire for harsh sentences in poll after poll. It would seem that the people are getting what they want. But regardless of our political orientation or moral stance, the direction that we are headed in does not look like it will ultimately result in a safer, more law-abiding society. The number of people in prisons keeps going up and the crime rate is beginning to move in that direction as well in a number of urban areas. The economic situation, a downturn which now is predicted to extend into 2010, twice as long as it was supposed to be a few months ago will undoubtedly create more desperation and more criminal acts.
The solution to crime is certainly not to throw open the prison gates but we need to look at what is happening and what is likely to happen. Right now we are on a path to incarcerating more and more people. The alternatives to that are many; we have examples of diversion programs that work and drug treatment programs that cost less than putting people in jail and have a lower recidivism rate.
We just need to decide whether the cultural value of punishment is worth the price that we are paying.