November 23, 2004


Republicans say Democrats are weak on Law & Order Issues. We need to respond with a strong plan that represents our beliefs. I believe one aspect of Law & Order that is often ignored is prison. Prisons have three purposes - deterrent, punishment, and reform. What plan do Democrats offer to deter others, to punish crime, and to reduce recidivism?

I believe there are several avenues that should be approached.

1. Deterrent and Punishment. Today's prisons offer little in the way of a deterrent. We must make the entry into prison life uncomfortable and hard if we wish it to become a deterrent. At the same time, I feel very strongly that no human deserves to be raped or tortured in prison. One major tactic for accomplishing this would be the transformation of all prisons into working prisons. This should include the transformation of all rural prisons into working farms. In Great Britian, agricultural prison farms have been converted into horticultural farms. The main idea being that prisoners with skills in horticulture are more apt to find work than prisoners skilled in milking cows. Farming is hard work that can't be described as cruel and unusual punishment. Prisoners should get up at 4am, eat breakfast and head out to work. Work until dusk, then back into the prisons for cleanup and dinner.

2. Reform. All prisoners must perform physical labor for the first one-half of their minimum sentence. The next one to two years of the inmates sentence should be focused on gaining a high-school diploma. In state prisons, 79% of inmates are dropouts, while in federal prisons 59% of inmates have no diploma. Whether this is causative or not is up for argument, but learning to read, add, and do basic class work couldn't hurt when an inmate is released.

3. Reform. The remainder of the sentence could then be served in a community release program working to learn a trade. This could include day-release programs, halfway houses, or house-confinements for the prisoner. We must put inmates back into society with the tools to succeed. It is cheaper to train them than it is to imprison them.

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