Should you be in jail for being poor or being disabled? Jails are now a place where they are housing lives with no rehabilitation or even hope of getting out of jail. That costs a lot of money and really doesn’t help anyone. Our jail system needs reform. Chicago had the largest number of murders last year of any major city in the country. So, it also has one of the largest jails in the country. Each year 70,000 pass through Cook County Jail. Many prisoners are sent there more than once. Most of the people there are either poor, mentally ill or members of a gang. One of the few things Republicans and Democrats agree on is the need for corrections reform. Trump never talks about prison reform even as a way to save tax payer money. We need a new approach to break the cycle and to reform people from committing crimes.
Many prisoners shouldn’t even be in jail. In the minimum security division you can find that all of the prisoners were charged with low level nonviolent crimes. That jail in Chicago has a population of about 7,500 inmates. The Sheriff, Thomas Dart believes that half of them shouldn’t even be there. People that don’t pose a danger to anyone shouldn’t be in jail. Many are in jail just waiting for a trial. These are people that haven’t even been convicted of a crime yet. Many simply just don’t have enough money to make bail. On any given day about 300 people, if they could come up with $500 dollars would be let out. It is the violent criminals that are involved in gangs or involved with criminal elements who eagerly provide the bail money so they can give the people more criminal jobs to do. The individual who just got into a bad spot ends up staying in prison.
It is so bad that people have been in prison longer than their sentence. Lengths of stay can go from a week or less to 9 years. The mentally ill make up about 1/3rd of the prison population. The mentally ill can go in and out of jail as much as 37 times. What kind of re-habilitation is that? The mentally disabled do not have a job, they don’t have anywhere to live and are not getting treatment. So, jail just houses them. So, if jail is now the new mental institution they need to have better services to help the mentally ill folks. In 2012 Chicago closed down half of the mental health clinics. So, untreated people were just wandering the streets. They need medication, visits with psychiatrists and group therapy and most could then function normally with this kind of help. It would be cheaper than to house them in a prison. Prison guards now need advanced mental health training.
Prisoners need to learn a different way of thinking so they do not become repeat offenders. Most prisoners have children who are left without a parent to guide them or to even provide a living to take care of them. So, welfare costs rise too. In most cases a little reform can put families back together again. Prisoners need help and not to just be warehoused. Frustration is high with the prisoners as well as with the prison guards. Fights erupt daily. Moral needs to be lifted on both sides of the law. Instead of providing just weight rooms and TV’s, provide job counseling and training or education to at least achieve a high school education behind bars. Teach them how to cook so they can work in restaurants. Work with the community so a job will be waiting for the non-violent criminal when they open the door to the real world. Save the people from becoming costly repeat offenders. Help them to succeed in society and never go back to jail or even think of committing a crime again.