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The strategy that seems most viable for dealing with America’s crowded prisons is the strategy of reducing the number of people who are sentenced to prison. This would ease crowding without incurring huge costs that must be borne by taxpayers who are already unhappy with the amount of taxes they are paying.
There are really only two strategies that can be used to ease crowding. We can build more prisons or we can incarcerate fewer people. We already incarcerate far more people than any other rich country. We also are generally unhappy with the amount of taxes that we have to pay. Therefore, it seems unlikely that building large numbers of new prisons is the best answer.
Instead, I would say that we need to reduce the number of people being imprisoned. There are a number of ways to go about this. We could use things like drug courts to prevent nonviolent offenders from being incarcerated. We could sentence nonviolent and other petty offenders to things like drug rehabilitation programs and/or home confinement. This would make it so we would not have to pay to incarcerate them. It would also help them to remain as productive members of society. We could emphasize rehabilitation in our prisons and in our parole and probation programs. This would make it less likely that we would have high recidivism rates. Reducing recidivism would reduce the number of people we need to incarcerate.
These strategies would reduce the number of people we incarcerate, thus easing the problem of crowding without spending more than we can afford on prisons.
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