US Has More Than 7 Million Under Criminal Supervision

I wish to digress for the purposes of this article from being your Florida D.U.I. Lawyer to that of simply a lawyer. Recent statistics suggest that in the United States of America there are roughly 7.2 million individual under supervision either in state or federal prison, county jails or on probation or parole. In a country of approximately 300 million this would mean that you either know someone under this supervision or you know someone who has a family member or friend under supervision.

Why the dramatic increase in incarceration rates? Both the US Congress and the individual state legislatures pass more and more laws designed to incarcerate individuals for longer terms of imprisonment. Another reason is that theses elected officials in their rush to look and act tough on crime are increasingly stripping judges of sentencing discretion. Example, I bet most of you think that President Bill Clinton was a liberal. Did you know that under his presidency, black men were lock up at a faster rate and for longer periods of time than at any other point in the history of the United States!

What do you think it means? Well, for one thing it means that law enforcement almost always gets the increased budget that it wants (similar to the U.S. defense department). This is because law enforcement is always screaming that more money is needed to keep the population safe (similar to the defense department or Fatherland Security) from criminals. It also means that essentially a permanent sub- class is being created! In this day and age when an individual leaves prison (same with a county jail or parole and some probationers) he leaves with a record. This means that when a job search is conducted and application is filled out for employment the potential employer becomes aware of the status. How much weight will a potential employer actually give to an individual with a conviction on their record? In all probability the employer will hold it against the individual and not give the person a chance. So consider a person is released, perhaps without a support system in place, he is unable to gain employment, and since he is unable to gain employment he is unable to feed himself or unable to afford a place to live. What do you think he will do next? Do you think it is possible that a criminal act might be committed?

Another reason for the increase in prison population is that this country continues to build prisons and county jails at a rapid pace. Often the contracts to build and run a jail or prison are handed out to private companies. So millions upon millions in taxpayer money are handed out to build jails and prisons that maybe we don’t need!. So when the prisons and jails are finished what then? Well you have to fill them up! There are actually counties in the State of Florida where the main source of employment is the prison system! It is the old use them or lose them argument!

It just seems to me that maybe it’s time for another approach. Maybe something new needs to be tried. Maybe if more money was spent on education and job training and job creation. For example, while in prison the offender earns a Microsoft certification certificate and upon release the state has contracts with private employers to employ the offender for up to two years. At the end of two years an evaluation is performed by both the private employer and the State to evaluate the performance of the offender. Do you think that maybe the recidivist rate may go down? It just seems that a country that can spend 12 billion dollars a month on a meaningless conflict can find alternatives to the present system.

Timothy Foster