|We Spend More On Prisons|
And This Is What We Get?
If our decades-long rush to imprison people is spurred by our urge to punish them, we've probably succeeded. But if keeping our state safer is part of the plan, we've failed. And an expensive failure it has been. The National Institute of Corrections says that in 2017 South Dakotans spent $20 thousand a year per inmate in our state's prisons. More prisoners + more money = more crime is an equation that makes no sense. It's time to come up with a smarter approach.
South Dakota's American Civil Liberties Union has just published a plan that should be considered. Whatever your political inclinations and attitudes toward the ACLU may be, they should be set aside for a moment while you consider the practical, essentially non-partisan elements of this proposal, called "Blueprint For Smart Justice." The blueprint's overall theme is to replace incarceration for many non-violent (including drug abusers) prisoners with locally developed counseling and assistance programs designed to change their behaviors. The aim is to cut our prison population in half, which at $20k a prisoner will make for some sizable cost reductions that can either be passed on to taxpayers or spent on some productive ventures like infra-structure repair and development, education, enhanced internet access--you name it. Given the fiscal and social failures of the status quo, I think the ACLU is on to something. This approach needs to be given a chance.