When I was a youngster we would sometimes happen upon a slug, a counterfeit coin. Most that I remember were the same size as a quarter but they had no markings; they were faceless. According to “rural myth” they had the ability to procure a cola. We would optimistically place them in coke machines only to have them trickle down into the coin return.
Can we draw parallels to incarceration? We all have opinions about criminals but for most they are faceless. At times they are simply a problematic statistic. They are seldom associated with families, friends or any sign of worth. Like a coin or even a slug they have another side to their nature. (Excluding sociopaths) As a society we deposit them into the penal machine and expect them to turn into something else. The system is filled with individuals with mental illness, addiction and brokenness. Without treatment they land back on the pavement only to be picked up by someone else once again. Many simply trickle through the system and are even deposited again and again with the same expectation. Einstein’s definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
When I was in jail a fellow inmate was released one morning. Within five hours he was back on the range. He was a “speed” addict. He was not addicted to the speed with which he was apprehended but he might as well have been as that was more dependable.
Put the face of a neighbour or fellow citizen on the criminal. Etch on their surface the face of addiction or mental illness and they may catch on a gear within the system and return as something else.
Obviously not all crime is related to illness or addiction but incarceration does little to reduce crime, mental illness or addiction. If we spent the same quarters on treatment that are spent on incarceration for these individuals maybe we could turn the slug into something of value. Just for the sake of argument put aside your belief in retribution.
“Building more jails to fight crime is like building more cemeteries to fight cancer.” Author unknown