Bob Lankin, Northeastern Sunrisers Rotary club, past district governor
Bob discussed the inequities, cost, and possible improvements in mass incarceration in the United States. We currently have 2.3 million people in jail, 25% of the world’s prisoners. The cost is $81 billion to the government plus appreciable family costs.
In Pennsylvania there are 80 to 100,000 prisoners at a cost of $5 billion per year. These people are housed in 17 state penal institutions plus 62 County jails. Most of those incarcerated in county jails have not ever been convicted, but they cannot make bail.
Causes of the extremely high incarceration rate:
1. War on drugs – 25% of prisoners
2. Major cause – their sentences are too long, much longer than in other countries
3 Pennsylvania’s parole system is burdened by too many regulations – because of the intricacies of the regulations, two thirds of those on parole or sent back to jail often because they do not understand the regulations. Parole should be limited to three years. Cash bail should be eliminated.
We could reduce the prison population by half, and use the money saved for education. Prisoners who are educated in prison produce very few repeat offenders.