American prisons are being filled to the brink. With new prisoners being transferred in daily and few being released back into the world, it is no wonder why the most important issue with today's prison system is the mass overcrowding taking place in our prisons. Prisons in America are being overcrowded with small time criminals. The majority of the incarcerated is due to violent crimes. However, another large group of those imprisoned are the drug offenders that were convicted for either possession or use.
I find the situation of jailing people for the possession of marijuana ridiculous. Yes, having marijuana is illegal; however, I hardly see it as a reason to serve years in a cage. Instead, as Gopnik mentions in his essay, "When the New York City police stopped and frisked kids, the main goal was not to jail them for having pot but to get their fingerprints." This system would work well since it keeps those with a lesser charge out of the already-crowded jail but keeps it easy to get them into the system when a more serious crime is committed.
Prisons need constant upkeep to make sure dangerous prisoners are secure in their cells and unable to escape into society where they then have the opportunity to harm innocents, but what if we are putting these innocents into the prison right alongside the more dangerous prisoners. Just because people are convicted of minor crimes does not mean they deserve a punishment that will put them into a system which would potentially ruin their lives. The possessors of drugs, embezzlers, con artists, all of these petty criminals, are currently sentenced to prison time if caught in many states. Instead of putting those that made small mistakes in prison with murderers and rapists, why not sentence them to community service or a large fine which would make anyone think twice about committing a petty crime. With the implementation of such an idea, many states will see a drastic decrease in the incarceration rate. In 2012, a study reported over 222,000 prisoners in the system due to drug charges. This is over 16 percent of the incarcerated that were sentenced to jail time for drugs. With this large amount, it is not difficult to see why our prison system is filling up at a drastic rate.
One could argue those that break the law deserve to go to prison. This is true in certain instances. Some of these instances are murder, rape, trafficking, or other violent and truly harmful crimes. However, the fact that 16 percent of our prison system is being filled with people serving time for minor drug crimes is ludicrous, especially when that space could be used to house more dangerous criminals who are sent to private institutes that don't adequately supervise prison behavior. If the continued incarceration of those charged with minor crimes continues, eventually the prison system will break down and we will be unable to deal with the amount of crimes committed. We will also be unable to properly house those that commit...