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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Prison Reform

There's been a lot of talk lately about prison reform and I couldn't be happier about some of the buzz. Senator Jim Webb has been pushing hard for a re-evaluation of our policies with several speeches and op-eds. The Washington Post also printed this article about possible closures and what they would mean to small Upstate towns that house prisons.

Being from Upstate I have often heard the tired cry that weakening sentencing laws and therefor having fewer prisoners would be bad for the Upstate economy. Rarely is it discussed whether weakening sentencing laws (particularly the onerous Rockefeller Drug Laws) is actually sound public policy.

Here is my proposal. Along with legalizing marijuana and eliminating mandatory minimum sentences in New York, the legislature should also pass a bill which gives civil service points to prison employees applying for similar work in public schools or the State University of New York system. Economic incentives can be offered to private schools that hire former guards as campus police officers.

Not only does my proposal offer sensible solutions to an intensely costly system (in lives and treasure) but also offers a real symbol that education rather than incarceration is the priority of the Empire State.


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