Incarceration isn’t the solution to crime

The recent Herald article about Republican opposition to prison closures was a balanced review of what the prison system is up against (“GOP senators want prison closures, early releases halted,” The Herald, Sept. 19). There is a substantial segment of our population including many Democrats who agree with these senators. The problem is prisons are not a sufficient answer to crime.

The U.S. population is about 5 percent of the world population. The U.S. prison population is about 25 percent of the world prison population. If imprisonment solves crime this would be the lowest crime country in the world. If incarceration worked to secure safety, we would be the safest nation in all of history.

We need effective alternatives to prisons and our prisons need to do more than warehouse prisoners. We need a justice system that is truly transformed into the vehicle for the accountability, safety and justice everyone deserves. The question of whether to embrace a more dignified and humane approach to violence than the current system might be difficult if the current system were working.

We should not be asking whether there is an appetite for something new. We should be asking whether there is a moral or practical basis for continuing with the old. If we would sentence felons to intensive accountability sessions and intensive treatment of their deviant behavior, that might involve their victims, it would be a tougher response to crime than just sitting in prison. People who commit harm need to repair the damage they have caused. That seems obvious, but our criminal justice system not only fails to encourage repair; it often prohibits it.

The comments of state Sen. Manka Dhingra, D-Redmond, are a step in the right direction.

Richard Guthrie


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