We lock up far too many of our citizens.
Of course, I’m writing from New Orleans, Louisiana, which some call the “incarceration capital of the world.” Even ardent law-and-order types have come to realize the problems with this approach. Efforts are underway to reduce incarceration rates in both our city and state. Meanwhile, Oklahoma is playing catch-up, so perhaps we won’t hold this title for much longer.
Even so, it’s shameful.
Yet this is not just a local problem. Across the nation, we lock up too many folks. According to The Sentencing Project, our country is the world leader in incarceration. We have 2.2 million people in our jails and prisons, a 500% increase over the last four decades.
Most of this comes down to policy changes, such as tougher sentencing laws — not rising crime rates. Nevertheless, our prisons function as “seminaries of vice,” where casual offenders become hardened criminals.
Plus, it’s expensive. The whole system stinks.
But we can fix this. If we change our laws, we can reduce crime through the expedient of legalization. Take something that’s illegal and make it legal. Voila! You just reduced crime.