The U.S. makes up 5% of the world's population but locks up 25% of the world's prisoners, more per capita than China and Iran.
Today's prisons hold men whose only "crime" was to buy a large quantity of legal cold medicine that "can be" used in meth manufacturing. Do we want the government to have that kind of power? There are people in prison for drawing out "too much" money from their own accounts. They call that structuring. Why is that a crime in the land of the free? There are people locked up who told a lie, or deemed so by a federal agent, when questioned by an agent, not in Court, nor under oath. Do we want a single agent to be able to lock us up for what he deems a lie? What happened to due process and to the Bill of Rights?
Government agents and prosecutors are not perfect, and we need the shield of the Constitution to protect us from them. Some in the Justice Department have told Congress that they don't believe in Habeas Corpus. Either you believe in the Constitution, or you don't. Someone said, "The Greatest Homeland Security is Liberty."
When I see young men growing up in prison for 20 years, I ask what chance do they have? When I see elderly men in wheel chairs, I ask who are they a threat to? When I see first time offenders for non-violent crimes locked away and their children placed in foster homes, I ask isn't there a better way to hold people accountable without destroying them and their families? 72% of federal inmates are in for non-violent crimes. 34.4% are first time non-violent offenders. Why not divert them into alternative sentencing? The prison population is busting the budget and overwhelming the capacity of the government. We can't sustain this financially or morally.
Inmates need a chance at parole to have hope and to be rewarded for good behavior. It would also help hold down violence in prison. A Christian I know was assaulted inside, his jaw shattered. He was nearly killed. Bringing back parole would save billions a year at the Federal level. That doesn't include the savings on food stamps, social services that families now need or lost tax revenue. Throwing out sentencing guidelines would reduce some of these very long, punitive sentences. Let the Judges set sentences again. Under the present system, prosecutors, not Judges, have determined what a person will get under the sentencing guidelines by the varied charges they bring against a citizen. They have been accountable to no one, and have unbridled power that no one person should have in a "free" country.
Now prosecutors level a shotgun spread of charges at a person. The giant sentencing guidelines book shows the points, months, years to add on each count. If you violate this, it says you are subject to this range of sentencing, and see section so and so to add more time for some related section. This goes on and on, and you wind up with a very long sentence determined by a book of guidelines made over 20 years ago by ideological bureaucrats, with no leeway for first-time non-violent offenders, no discretion by judges. This is 'Big Brother" at it's worst.
Making victims whole and compensating them, was a primary means of justice in the Bible, not incarceration. Thousands of people are serving life sentences for non-violent offenses. That is not just, and is not a wise use of our tax dollars, and contrary to the message of Christ. Basic human rights are not a gift from government, but existed prior to government as an endowment from our Creator. I pray that my fellow Christians examine their hearts, and rethink this "Lock them all up, and throw away the Key" philosophy that some adhere to.
As Augustine said, It is always a war between "the city of man, and the city of God."
For thirty years, we have spent over $500 billion to lock people up and attack foreign drug production. Drug use remains virtually unchanged and the drugs have been cheaper and more potent. This "war" has been a complete failure, and has been used like the terror threat to scare the public into surrendering civil liberties. As Benjamin Franklin said, "He who trades liberty for security may soon find he has neither."
Why do we tell people that they have paid their debt to society, but when they get out, they can't vote, own a gun to hunt, or protect their family; can't get many government services they paid into, or hold certain licenses necessary to find work. Where in the Constitution does it endorse depriving someone of their vote, their gun to hunt or protect their family, or their right to work?
There are men in prison now who have paid into Social Security all their lives. They are old enough to draw checks for their families who are starving, but the government says no. Current policy punishes the family.
Veteran benefits are also denied to family members, who are hurting, even though their husbands and fathers served faithfully in our wars and many were wounded.
Our current policy creates a permanent underclass, a revolving door. Who are these people to tell my friend who had his nose blown of in Vietnam that he can no longer vote, no longer own a gun to protect his family, that all the good he has done is canceled by one mistake? They also forcibly collect the man's DNA as he leaves prison so the government can track him forever, when does it end?
Our founding fathers believed that the greatest threat to liberty was a central government grown too powerful. Freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, freedom to petition your government, the right to be secure in your home and freedom of religion are under assault by warrantless searches; by laws that allow doctors to be imprisoned for treating their patients with legal pain killers the government's executive branch views as inherently evil; by laws that allow citizens to be locked up for a minimum of five years for having a gun when they are arrested not in the act of a crime; and by laws that allow hearsay information to be used to calculate imaginary "drug weights" and imprison drug users or street level dealers for 20 to 30 years to life.
A prominent minister was given 10 years on a tax case plus 3 years extra to serve and denied bail to appeal because he prayed for a federal agent on a radio program. The agent felt "threatened." Yes, this happened in America. The Assistant U.S. Attorney who prosecuted him was then arrested himself for attempting to have sex with a 5 year old girl. He hung himself in his cell. The minister prayed for the man's family from his prison cell.
A man is dying of cancer. Before he came to prison, he was in a cancer support group. His fellow cancer patients said they weren't given adequate meds to stop their pain. He got pain pills from a doctor friend to give to the cancer patients. The government showed up to arrest him. He informed them he had a permit to carry a gun, and had one in a locked bag at his residence. They ignored his permit, trashed the second and tenth amendment, and charged him with illegal possession of a firearm. He was given 10 months for the drug charge, and 5 years for the "evil" gun.
He now awaits his fate in prison with terminal cancer, multiple heart bypasses, diabetes, and spinal injuries he suffered as a Navy diver in Vietnam. His doctor friend pled to a 2 year sentence, but made the mistake of telling the judge at sentencing that he would like to serve some of his friend's time since he feared he wouldn't survive with his cancer. The judge then doubled his sentence and cut none from the cancer patient.
People tell me that this can't be, that "their government" wouldn't do such things, but they do. The public just doesn't know.
The grand jury was designed to be a sword for prosecutors but also a shield, standing between the accused and the government. After the seizure of power by the federal government, the grand jury is just a rubber stamp for prosecutors. By 1991, grand juries said "no" only 16 times to almost 26,000 indictments. In the rare case where a grand jury says no, the prosecutor sends them home, and empanels a new grand jury until he gets his indictment. This is called "grand jury shopping." The conviction rate for federal cases is 98%. That should be a red flag to all who love liberty.
We must distinguish between the violent recidivist and first-time non-violent offenders. No one disputes that you should pay for your transgressions, but what we have now is cruel and unusual punishment. Some countries won't extradite violators to the U.S. because they deem our sentences too severe. The founders would roll over in their graves to see what has become of their America.