Two common responses to the problems Mississippi faces with its prison system have been to provide a massive infusion of funding, which is an unlikely move given the state’s reluctance to increase taxes, and freeing nonviolent offenders.
A recent letter to the editor printed in the Commercial Dispatch raises legitimate concerns regarding the latter solution. In it, Kerry Blalock claims that an elderly relative was conned out of a quarter million dollars and that four of the five people convicted for the crime are already out of prison. All five are drug addicts. Blalock’s relative will never be made right by those who stole from him.
Two issues immediately arise: shy of restitution, what punishment should be exacted from nonviolent criminals? Second, because state-provided mental health services and addiction treatment are as underfunded as the prison system, I think it’s fair to anticipate that the recidivism rate for those convicted of drug-related, nonviolent crimes would be high. How can the state protect those with property from those who would steal it to fuel their addictions?
I don’t think that there is any solution to prevent addicts from stealing the property of innocent people, except to fund more addiction and rehab programs, especially in prison. I feel that people that have committed crimes, whether violent or non-violent, should be punished so that the criminal knows that this is not something that they should do. Plus, given the correct circumstances, any situation can become violent, without a person meaning to cause harm or not. The only solution I see is for more funding to go to the prison system and rehabilitation centers,
I agree. Though a person has committed a crime, violent or nonviolent, funding towards these systems could raise a little of the tension. If the crime was committed, there is no doubt that the person who did the crime should be spending time in prison. I feel there’s nothing that can be done, but to provide mental health services for these prisoners. They are going to get the time regardless, so the attempt to help them learn while imprisoned is better off then just letting the time pass by.
In order to protect those with property from addicted thieves, I believe that we must first recognize that we do have an issue. Although the likelihood of obtaining financial aid for the public health services and rehabilitation centers are slim, bringing more attention to the significance of our situation can slowly lead to a more understanding, forgiving attitude towards nonviolent criminals. While each case is subjective, we can grow a more open mindset to sentence a more just punishment for a greater deal of crimes. I digress, but as Ayden Dusek expressed, I feel that providing a superior prison system and addiction treatment is one of the handful of approaches to protect against further robberies and that starts by adjusting the people’s attitudes. Due to our state’s reluctance to increasing taxes and freeing nonviolent offenders, I feel that our choices are limited. Some nonviolent offenders do deserve their positions or worse in prison; however, many more suffer from recoverable conditions. I am not blaming anybody for this, nor am I saying that my solution is the only definite solution. However, I suggest fostering an environment that gives the criminals an opportunity to become better is necessary. Unfortunately, with my knowledge, I feel that there is not much other methods to resolving this issue.
A possible way to accomplish what Jesse described:
The problem at hand is one that has many different variables at play. I believe that helping those in need is what the government should prioritize. When an addict is convicted for nothing but their addiction, then it is the government’s responsibility to provide rehabilitation. If rehabilitation works, then it will be less costly for the government in the long term in that the rehabilitated now can responsibly care for themselves. At the same time, as soon as the addict puts others in danger, the government’s role shifts from primarily protecting the addict from themselves to protecting the populous from the addict THEN to protect the addict from themselves.
With this being said, convicts in this nature can be separated into two categories: those who only put themselves in danger and those who put both themselves and the populous in danger. As the judicial system sorts out how the convicts are sorted, the money saved by rehabilitation can be used to fund the other convicts rehabilitation while in prison.
After the convicts leave prison/rehabilitation , if the rehabilitation works, then the addicts will become a functioning part of the economy. The goal to convert convicts into functioning parts of society after their sentence has been served is one that isn’t being accomplished right now, and it is a goal that should be sought after.
The issue lies in available rehab and not just funding prisons, but funding actually effective correction without and within those facilities. Maybe if we adopted a more effectual system within prisons, instead of needing to lessen prison times or release prisoners with less severe crimes to free up space, the system itself would speed up the recovery and reentry of those people back into society. I think that we, the people outside of these situations, have given up on prisoners and not fully understood that they are a substantial side to our community and deserve the respect and humanity that comes with supportive mental health and rehabilitation actions. There’s a sense of “other,” a mindset that if we can just sweep the most defective pieces of our society into the dark corners then the problem will just go away, but there really isn’t that solution. There just isn’t one way, but funding more mental health support in our communities and removing the stigma of mental conditions and addiction, would at least be a start to lessening the need for a solution to the issue of what to do with nonviolent criminals.
Those with property will always be seen as a target for these thieves, there is not a specific solution for this since people tend to find other ways to get what they want. As Jesse Tran and Ayden Dusek express above, a better prison system as well as more clinical treatments can prove to be very helpful against thieves. Our state fails to see that many of the offenders that are being released should have received the right medical care as well as a better understanding for morals. Some criminals should receive a longer sentence, however, the sentences that are given should be changed for the fact that being sent to prison does not do much but put them in a worse environment, which does not let them train their minds of what should be done. Jesse Tran expressed a solution that should be implemented, that criminals should be released to a better and more suitable environment that caters to their mental needs as well teach them morals. Going based off this, there is limited solutions to what they can do about these incidents.
It’s essential for the state to find a way to fully commit to the promises they made for prison reform. To uphold the idea of sending offenders to drug courts for treatment/intervention rather than sending them back to prison and to offer adequate resources for these offenders to better transition from a life of confinement to a life of freedom would be a major asset towards reducing their rates of recidivism. However, despite their earlier compliance, this plan may have been too radical for the Mississippi legislation to fully execute. A majority of the inmates who return home from drug-related crimes do so unsupervised, easily allowing for a cyclic turn back to the same crimes that incarcerated them in the first place. To break the cycle, our attitudes about prison reform need to change. It’s exactly as Jesse says–we need to foster an environment that gives released offenders an opportunity to actually change, and we need to actually start believing in their ability to change. The prison reform system has been put on the backburner because our society doesn’t truly desire the modifications we appear to press for. If we can change our attitudes on prison reform, then we’re much more likely to have a greater impact on seeing this reform come into completion.
There is no absolute way to prevent your property from being stolen by anyone. I believe that the only way to keep addicts from stealing to feed their addiction is to increase funding so that not only do we let the addicts go through rehabs but so that they also have a support system once they get out to help them get on their feet and stay away from drugs. But this can only be achieved with more funding and support, and the only way to get more funding is to increases taxes, which no one is a fan of. But we cannot sit here and throw people in jail without even trying to help them get back on their feet and support themselves because it is wrong to expect someone with no support, no home, and no help to stay away from drugs when that is the only thing that brings them comfort.
I feel that the key isn’t necessarily to increase funding, but to allocate the resources we already have better. Make prison for these nonviolent offenders a learning opportunity where they can learn alternative ways to living their life rather than taking from others. So many criminals can say “It’s the only way I can survive or provide for my family” and some of them actually believe this. They should be taught how to function in society because these people that actually believe its the only way are willing to change given that it’s an option but most of the time they are not provided these options. Also mental health should have its resources handled more effectively and regardless of what people want done with taxes, it simply needs more funding.