In this flashpoint in history, it’s imperative we address genuine prison reform. Not lip service. Action. And now.
One of the only good things to come out of the current pandemic crisis has been a thinning of incarceration numbers nationwide in order to stem the spread of COVID-19. Cramped, overcrowded federal and state prisons, county jails and metropolitan detention centers are petri dishes for the virus.
Many state justice systems and the Bureau of Prisons have recognized the dangers inherent in the environment of their respective facilities and taken action – thousands of inmates have been released to home confinement or all together in the months since the pandemic landed in the U.S. back in March. In 2019, the White House signed in the First Step Act to help non-violent drug offenders get resentenced. It’s a good start. But we need to do more.
The “Cut 50” movement, an initiative to cut the U.S. prison population by 50 percent in the next 10 years, is something legislators in Washington and state government’s need to get behind. The data and research done on recidivism supports the effort to trim the prison ranks. Studies show people “age out” of crime and non-violent offenders are five times less likely to return to prison than those convicted of violent offenses.
Even certain violent offenders, if they’ve served enough time and do the work necessary to remold their behavior, should be getting consideration for compassionate releases, pardons and commutations. Frankly, not every murderer deserves to spent the rest of their lives behind bars. Especially so, if they have something to contribute and an authentic desire to change their ways.
There is a huge gap between first and second-degree murder. Should a man found guilty of manslaughter in the his early 20s be forced to lose his entire life for one horrible decision made in the heat of the moment?
Take for example, Gangster Report correspondent Ricardo Ferrell. He’s 62 and going on year No. 40 of his sentence for second-degree murder for an altercation that occurred in downtown Detroit in 1981 when he was 23. His work with other inmates in prison is more than commendable. His successful transformation from convicted felon to published writer should be a tale of inspiration for the masses. Does Ricardo still need to be locked up after four decades when he could be on the outside, making amends with the community by making a positive impact?
I think the answer is pretty easy. The inmate population needs to shrink. And starting to let the Ricardos of the world out is an important next step.