• Simply GenZ

Failure of the American Prison System

It is no surprise to most people to hear about the prison system in the United States and its flaws; especially when it comes to overcrowding. The other system I have chosen to analyze is Norway, and has infamously been named the probable “most successful prison system in the world”. Norway offers a variety of things that have given them such a wide victory comparatively to so many other countries. One of their plans is that instead of automatically sending some nonviolent drug addicts to prison, they redirect them to treatment facilities. This turns some drug crimes from a criminal justice issue to a public health issue.

“The goal is that more addicts will rid themselves of their drug dependency and fewer will return to crime,” Anundsen continued. “But if the terms of the program are violated, the convicts must serve an ordinary prison term,” (Broomfield, 2016). Personally, I think this strategy is extremely intelligent and has proven effective for them thus far, as many Norwegian studies have shown that the number of drug deaths was limited, and the number of people in prison decreased especially when it came to drugs because of their new decriminalization standpoint. Norway is also part of something called the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, or the CPT.

The CPT visits places of detention in the member states of the Council of Europe to see how persons deprived of their liberty are treated. Examples of places of detention are police stations, prisons, juvenile detention centers, immigration detention centers, psychiatric hospitals or social care homes,” (CPT, 2020). Members of this committee can individually ask inmates questions and have full access to detention facilities.

This is extremely advantageous because they actually take time to analyze these prisons and their efficiency, and take the input of prisoners. One thing they did for Norway was to encourage them to give even better treatment to inmates in solitary confinement- which ultimately did happen. Having a committee like this that actually advocates for the lives of people in prison is extremely refreshing than say the United States prison system.

Norway also has reduced sentencing; they average around a 6 to 7-month average sentence, while the United States is about 2.6 years for average sentencing. This reduces overcrowding drastically because people are not spending near as much time in these facilities. Another thing they did to reduce overcrowding is that they have a strict one person per jail cell rule, and in some United States prisons we double-maybe even triple bunk inmates which clearly leads to excessive overcrowding.

I think that the United States should absolutely consider taking major parts of its prison system and using it for our own. We have such a large-scale war on drugs, as do so many other countries, and I think we could directly benefit from making some nonviolent drug offenders a part of a public health matter instead of a criminal justice issue. As of September 2020, The Federal Bureau of Prisons reported that 46.2% of inmates were in for drug-related offenses. That is almost half of our system, and that is a colossal problem.

If we were to redirect some of these addicts or offenders to a rehabilitative treatment facility, not only would it reduce prison overcrowding, it would help the number of drug addicts we have in the U.S which would, in turn, help the war on drugs. I also think that Norway’s perspective on prison reform is so much stronger than the United States, and we should adopt more amelioration when it comes to our own prison/jail system.

We need to be able to hear from prisoners because though they have committed some sort of crime, they are still people who deserve basic human rights and services. I think the United States should always continue to evaluate our systems in place and take influence from other countries like Norway’s successes.

Research Coordinator - Kelsey Stitch

Editor - Priyam Kusundal

Illustrator - Lily Tan

Graphics - Angeline Saleh