Is incarceration the solution to crime?

September 03, 2003

Dear Editor:

A recent commentary in The Advocate-Messenger criticized those who complain about public funding for prisons rather than education and other services. Without consideration for the factors associated with crime, the commentator implied that the only means for reducing crime is incarceration.

However, let us consider the facts:

* 30 to 50 percent of the incarcerated have diagnosable learning disabilities. Some studies show that up to 75 percent of young offenders have a cognitive deficit (mental retardation, learning disabilities, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.)

* Most incarcerated have no job skills and only a small percentage receive marketable job skills while in Kentucky prisons. Without job skills, these people are at high risk for recidivism.


* Approximately 80 percent of the incarcerated were seriously neglected, physically abused, and/or sexually abused as children.

* 80 percent of the incarcerated were reared in poverty.

* 17 to 20 percent of the incarcerated are mentally ill. Jails and prisons have become holding facilities for the mentally ill since the 1980s movement to close mental hospitals and establish community mental health services for the severely mentally ill. This movement failed miserably.

* Education has been shown to be highly effective in reducing recidivism.

* Most prisoners are released to society whether or not they can acclimate. Thus, incarceration alone will not prevent someone from committing another crime.

* Incarceration is much more expensive than preventative services. In 1998, the cost for housing and caring for one prisoner for one year was between $60,000 and $100,000. Preventative and habilitative services in the community are considerably less expensive.

Now, is incarceration the solution to crime? No! If we as a society could successfully address the issues mentioned in this letter, we would not need as many prisons and more people would be productive citizens and taxpayers.

Billie Jones Stockton


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