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Greatest Correctional Myth: Winning the War on Crime Through Incarceration

NCJ Number
Federal Probation Volume: 53 Issue: 3 Dated: (September 1989) Pages: 21-28
J W Rogers
Date Published
8 pages
The punitiveness and increasing use of incarceration that dominates current political attitudes and policies toward corrections are based on myths regarding the effectiveness of incarceration and should be reassessed through the establishment of a President's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice and through consideration of a moratorium on State and Federal prison construction.
Imprisonment is not a solution to crime, because 99 percent of those entering prison eventually return to society. In addition, the actual time served is generally much less than the maximum sentence length and averages 15 to 30 months. Moreover, most offenders are never caught, much less convicted or imprisoned. Furthermore, recidivism occurs among one-third to two-thirds of prison inmates. The current emphasis on incarceration should also take into account at least eight major prison issues: overcrowding, cost, litigation, the disproportionate imprisonment of racial and ethnic minorities, the increasing numbers of long-term stays, AIDS, correctional officer stress, and the effects of the war on drugs. These issues need consideration through informed and balanced debate that would generate productive and acceptable solutions. Establishing a national commission and funding its efforts with the money saved through the construction moratorium might generate imaginative, innovative, and comprehensive policies on behalf of the nation's citizens. 69 references.