I wrote a letter this morning to our local newspaper commending reports of recent decisions by local Judges that apply sentences other than prison for crimes that do not risk community safety. Judges have a difficult assignment and need our prayers and support.
We also need a nationwide revision to our tendency to use prison as a one-size-fits-all consequence for crime. We’ve created a serious and often overlooked national crisis in overcrowded prisons. The average citizen is unaware of how bad things are and of the growing tax burden it creates.
Many people view prison as a place to put people for protecting society but, as recidivism rates show, protection of public safety requires more than putting criminals out of sight for a period of time.
According to recent statistics, one out of every 100 Americans is behind bars. One in 36 Hispanic adults and one in 15 black adults is incarcerated (including one in 9 black men between the ages of 20 and 34). A report from the Pew Center found that one in 355 white women between the ages of 35 and 39 and that one in 100 black women is in prison.
More importantly, overcrowded prisons make it far more difficult for prison staff to provide efficient and effective environments with positive reforming outcomes that help to reduce recidivism. We need more community interest and involvement in seeking solutions and providing alternatives.
We especially need to address the crisis of broken families in our communities. It saddens me to see young people in prisons largely because they were never given the kind of nurture and discipline that could have fortified them against criminal activity. I pray for our Judges as they face daily decisions that most of us would not want to make. I commend the board of directors of our prison, the warden and his staff, and the Adult Probation & Parole officials for finding alternatives to prison for non-violent criminals.
We need more community conversations and action plans for implementing better solutions to this nationwide crisis.
Millersville Bible Church
58 West Frederick Street
Millersville, Pa. 17551