What is the summary of "Fixing America's Broken Prisons"?

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This article is made up of seven paragraphs, each with its own title or heading.  I will summarize each paragraph.

Paragraph 1 is entitled “What is the U.S. prison population?”  In this paragraph, we are told that the prison population of the US is very high relative to that of other countries.  We also learn that a disproportionate number of American prisoners are African American and that American prisoners tend to reoffend at very high rates after being released.

Paragraph 2 is entitled “What’s the alternative?”  It tells us that Texas has been trying out programs that keep drug offenders and others out of prison if they are not really dangerous.  This has reduced incarceration rates in Texas.

Paragraph 3 is entitled “Why are so many people locked up?”  This paragraph says that there are so many prisoners in the US because of tough sentencing laws including “three strikes” laws that put people in prison for life.

Paragraph 4 is entitled “Do prisons work?”  The answer is that it is not clear.  Some states have rising rates of incarceration and dropping crime rates.  Others see their crime rates declining even as their prison populations decline.  Again, the majority of people released from prison end up going back, which is more evidence that prisons don’t rehabilitate people.

Paragraph 5 is entitled “What are other states doing?”  It says that some states are trying programs to keep probation violators and drug users out of jail.

Paragraph 6 is entitled “Why not?” and it asks why the states’ efforts are not enough.  The answer is because most of the people in prison are not there for drug offenses.  If we are going to reduce prison populations appreciably, we will need to stop incarcerating so many people and for such long periods of time for other crimes.  We would need to experiment with more things like electronic monitoring outside of prison and halfway houses to help convicts readjust to live in freedom.

Paragraph 7 is entitled “Norway's prison utopia.”  It tells us that Norway has prisons that seem very lenient to Americans.  They allow prisoners a lot of freedom and still have low recidivism rates.  However, the article ends with an American prison official saying he does not think that would work in the US.