Nonviolent Offenders Essay

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Nonviolent Offenders – Is Incarceration the Answer?      
“It’s really clear that the most effective way to turn a nonviolent person into a violent one is to send them to prison,” says Harvard University criminologist James Gilligan. The American prison system takes nonviolent offenders and makes them live side-by-side with hardened killers. The very nature of prison, no matter people view it, produces an environment that is inevitably harmful to its residents.
America locks up five times more of its' population than any other nation in the world. Due to prison overcrowding, prisoners are currently sleeping on floors, in tents, in converted broom closets and gymnasiums, or even in double or triple
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Approximately 240,000 brutal rapes occur in our prison systems each year (Lozoff). Most of the victims are young, nonviolent male inmates, many of them teenaged first offenders. They are traumatized beyond imagination. Most of these inmates are nonviolent criminals who cannot or will not defend themselves. Unfortunately, this results in many of those nonviolent offenders turning violent by the time they leave prison.
A gruesome example of the ill-effects incarceration they have on a nonviolent person. A young man was once arrested for participating in a peaceful march that turned ugly when some young thugs started hurling objects at police. In the commotion he was arrested and was jailed in lieu of paying a fine in protest for his moral beliefs. He spent a forty-eight hour period incarcerated, in this time he was savagely raped by numerous violent prisoners. This savage and inhumane attack occurred over twenty years ago, and since then he has had years of therapy, and yet he has never recovered emotionally (Lozoff). His entire life still centers on the decision of one prison superintendent to place him in a violent cellblock in order to scare him and teach him a lesson. He cannot function properly in society; he is mentally scared and still to this day suffers ill effects crippling him of a normal life. If this is a normal outcome of incarcerating nonviolent offenders then this is not the answer.

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