Time for Prison Reform
by Anthony Stasi
Feb 21, 2012 | 10710 views | 0 0 comments | 310 310 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Prison populations, even in this bad economy, has lowered in states like California and New York in recent years. It does not mean that crime has dropped necessarily, but that would be an obvious first reaction.

What some writers who follow this area of policy suggest is that states with aggressive prison prevention programs are seeing results. Two weeks ago, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey called for a change in how the state manages drug offenders.

Typically, this kind of enthusiasm comes from those who sympathize with the incarcerated. Now, however, calls for change are coming from a different source: those who make state budgets.

Writer Mike Maciag (Governing magazine) has explained that analysts look at the number of prisoners serving at least one year, and then compare that to the total population.

Maciag was not talking specifically about drug offenses or any other particular crime, but it is fair to say that drug policy is an area where governments can make adjustments to penalties and free up prison space for violent offenders.

Dealing drugs will never be a legal, or even decriminalized, activity in any state that is serious about reducing crime and addiction. The penalties around possession, however, could be tinkered with in order to lower prison populations.

As it stands, possessing more than 16 ounces of marijuana can land someone upwards of 15 years in prison, although it probably does not get to that point often. Having that much marijuana may be inventory for which to deal later, and that is a different ball game, but if it is not, perhaps there are alternatives to prison time.

Prison reform is never met with open arms. Who are the people who would benefit? Prisoners? They don’t vote. Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) introduced a bill that would transform our prison system. It was dead on arrival. I was asked by two of his staffers to help with the project, but it was shot down so fast, there was no time to get involved.

For the longest time, the old progressive chants to keep young men out of jail sounded like apologist policies that were flimsy as far as crime fighting is concerned. But the country has over one million people behind bars, and states can no longer shoulder the cost of keeping an inmate behind bars.

Non-violent, first time offenders need to be re-purposed, and the system needs to be revamped.

The Enemies of the Volt

I cannot believe it took this long, but sure enough enemies of the electric Chevrolet Volt are in full swing with claims that the car catches fire and is unsafe.

How did critics miss the chance to squash this idea sooner? Even with relatively slow reporting, the word is out that the Volt is unsafe, even though not one has yet to catch fire.

Alternative energy nerds, and I count myself as one, have been waiting for this car for a long time. Now, it’s here, and it is not selling so well. But it is not the failure that the media is making it out to be. It has plenty of pick-up, and it was given a 5 stars (out of a possible 5) by the National Highway Safety Administration.

So why the bad press? Well, the car is still in its infancy, so there are going to be kinks to work out. Second, there is a misconception that this car is an Obama green energy idea as part of the bailout of the auto industry.

In fact, the first president to subsidize hybrid cars as a means to encourage alternative energy was George W. Bush. Bush was also president when the government decided to bail out General Motors.

The Volt was in the works before Obama was elected (although probably not before he actually started running for the job). In fact, even Bob Lutz, former vice chair at GM, has even said that the project was a GM idea, not a government idea.

The Volt could be ridiculed off the market, but perhaps this will work in favor of the embattled car. The price could get bumped down, which would make it more appealing.

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