Question 5: Reforming the Penal System – Joel Watts

Link to Question #5
Link to the response by Elgin Hushbeck
Link to the previous entry in this series (The President – A Debate)
What would you do to reform the U.S. Justice and Penal System?
The Justice System:
Unfortunately, to kill all the lawyers would be a terrible injustice; yet, we must understand that in many ways, our civil justice system has become a get-rich quick scheme.
One of the things we must work on, especially in the realm of restitution, either criminal or civil, is a metric whereby punishment or awards are meted out not on a case by case or judge by judge basis, but in accords to an agreed to system whereby it is objectively considered. If a metric is established, judges will have to treat all fairly.
The Jury system must be reworked so that a jury of peers is just that, a jury of peers. Again, an empirical metric must be established to examine and then set forth peerage.
In regards to the civil litigation/tort reform. I, for one, roundly support tort reform and would allow for something of a loser-pays rule, as long as it can be ruled that such case was brought with malice to exhort rather than an attempt at justice.
But, in civil cases, we must seek to change the philosophy of what is justice. This is not the point of this post; however, justice is not the amount of money received, but whether or not the cause of the tragedy is averted to prevent the accident from happening again.
The penal system:
There are no single issue, or first steps, to tackle. Therefore, I will state areas of focus.
The first is to overturn most, if not all, of prohibition laws and establish a review procedure for those who are currently incarcerated under first offenses. Ideally, those who were prosecuted only under prohibition would be released but those prosecuted under prohibition and other crimes, such as violence, would see their sentences likely reduced.
The second is to rid ourselves of the private prison industry. Period.
Along these lines, we must remake prisons into centers of rehabilitation. By this, I mean prisoners should be treated as if they owe a debt to society, rather than society owing them a debt. If at certain levels crimes are committed, the retention of rights is tenuous. While I support a small amount of education afforded to inmates, especially to bring them up to at least a high school level, most things in prison should be earned. Prisons should not create products, such as prison industries, but instead allow the inmates to turn their work into self-sufficiency. In other words, the bare minimum of goods and services needed to run the prison should be imported from outside the prison walls. This includes food.
Likewise, prisons should include some sort of social programs designed to transform the inmate into a member of society. Sentences should be given fairly, with some sort of metric designed to keep justice truly blind. Further, sentences should have as their end result (unless it is life) a release of a citizen, not a dependent.
I support the complete eradication of the death penalty.
I support a three-strikes-and-you’re-out rule for most crimes, although I’d settle for one strike for violent crimes.

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