Kurt Kerns, Attorney at Law
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Why incarcerate people?


Of course, public safety is presumed to be the primary reason. We remove dangerous persons from the street and send them to jail or prison. And then there is the punitive aspect of criminal justice. We want to punish those who have offended society's norms by committing crimes.

Then what?


What happens in the next scene of this drama? For those who are not sentenced in a capital crime or to a life sentence without parole, what happens when they are released? Do we, as the State of Kansas, provide them with the necessary tools to reenter society? '

Or do we pretend that they deserve nothing and should expect nothing? If so, we, as the taxpayers of this state, have built a large feedback loop, to cycle individuals back around through the criminal justice system, prison and ultimately back on the street. All on our dime.

As the federal system considers some reforms to undo the damage of 40 years of the war on crime, we still seem to want, as one writer puts it, to try to punish crime out of offenders.

The reason this continues to be a theme is that it is easy. Ineffective, but easy. There are no complex programs to assess why people wind up in prison, no programs to deal with mental illness, chemical dependency, or lack of economic opportunity and the host of other problems that combine to lead an individual into the life of a concrete cell.

While it satisfies the retributive element of human nature, it also means that we create inmates with high recidivism rates. Which undercuts the primary purpose of the criminal justice system, that of public safety, and producing inmates who are less likely to reoffend when they get out.


Source: thecrimereport.com, "Sentencing Reform: A Page From the Old Playbook?" William R. Kelly, October 13, 2015 

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