It almost goes without saying that the human brain is a remarkable computing machine. It stores everything we’ve ever heard or seen, and can process more than 2 million bits of information per second on average. But with so much potential to impact the world, it is now more important than ever that we as a society do all we can to direct the use of the mind toward constructive activities If left in the wrong hands and for the wrong purposes, the brain’s potential for harm is equally as powerful.
This is why it is a good thing to have structured planned activities for developing minds, so that as their brains develop in capacity, they are also guided to use that capacity to do the right things. One of the amazing functions of the human mind is its ability to learn from the observed behavior of others. That’s why placing positive role models before our children to demonstrate the appropriate use of that intellect can only be beneficial to our society at large. The same is true of individuals who have been incarcerated for illegal activities.
The recidivism rate in U.S. prisons is alarmingly high, especially given the lengthy sentences that the justice system has increasingly given out. One would think that going to jail for a long time would be a deterrent to crime. But the problem is that criminals go into prison, where they are merely warehoused with other criminals, and actually have to become better criminals to survive the environment. Prison should not just be a place to punish people by taking away their freedom. It’s just too expensive an option to house over two million people (roughly the current U.S. incarceration rate), at a cost over $150 billion dollars annually.
The recent Supreme Court case in Brown v. Plata California brought this latest reality home. California was infamous for its ‘three strikes’ law – a punitive measure that many credit with significantly reducing crime in the state over the past 20years. Though the immediate issue in the case was whether prison overcrowding conditions violate prisoners’ constitutional rights – the Court ruled that they do – the real issue was money. California, a state with a huge budget deficit and declining tax revenues, just can’t afford to pay for housing and medical care for such a large prison population. The Supreme Court’s decision paved the way for the California Bureau of Prisons to release over 30,000 ‘non-violent’ prisoners.
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