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Behind bars 

With more than 2 million people in prison -- 702 for every 100,000 citizens -- the United States has overtaken Russia as the country with the highest percentage of its population incarcerated. Here in El Paso County, the outdated Metro Jail, which houses the most dangerous inmates, was recently deemed unsafe to keep open -- meaning taxpayers will undoubtedly be faced with building more prison beds. Are we on the right track?
click to enlarge Lynn Davis   -  - High school science teacher  -  - Briargate -  -  -  - What's your response to the fact that the percentage of - the population that is in prison is higher in the United - States than in any country worldwide? It tells us - that something in our society isn't working. -  - Which is the better alternative: putting more and - more people in jail or reforming the penal codes? - Getting inmates educated, treatment and help. Many - can't function on the outside because they've become - institutionalized, and they're released onto the streets, - without meds, to sink or swim. -  - How can we convince politicians to reform the - system? Politicians, judges and attorneys should be - taught to take things like medical depression into - account in sentencing. -  - Should our priority be bigger and more jails? I - will never vote for more prisons. The emphasis should be - on drug rehabilitation, on mental treatment, on social - work.
  • Lynn Davis

    High school science teacher

    Briargate

    What's your response to the fact that the percentage of the population that is in prison is higher in the United States than in any country worldwide? It tells us that something in our society isn't working.

    Which is the better alternative: putting more and more people in jail or reforming the penal codes? Getting inmates educated, treatment and help. Many can't function on the outside because they've become institutionalized, and they're released onto the streets, without meds, to sink or swim.

    How can we convince politicians to reform the system? Politicians, judges and attorneys should be taught to take things like medical depression into account in sentencing.

    Should our priority be bigger and more jails? I will never vote for more prisons. The emphasis should be on drug rehabilitation, on mental treatment, on social work.

click to enlarge Jerome Carter  -  - Software engineer   -  - West Side -  -  -  - Why is such a large percentage of the U.S. - population incarcerated? Many are in prison for the - wrong reasons. A lot of it involves the illegalization of - marijuana. -  - Should we build more prisons or reform the penal - codes? We can't just keep throwing more and more - people in prison. It's a drain and it turns salvageable - people into hardened criminals. -  - What would you change? Shift the emphasis - from punishment to rehabilitation. -  - How would you convince politicians to support that? -  It's difficult because those in prison have no voice. - We should explore solutions other countries have tried. -  - What's a better funding priority than prison - building? Education. We always give more money - for prisons, but when school districts ask for money, it's - tooth-and-nail to get it. Children are our future, and - that's where the emphasis should be.
  • Jerome Carter

    Software engineer

    West Side

    Why is such a large percentage of the U.S. population incarcerated? Many are in prison for the wrong reasons. A lot of it involves the illegalization of marijuana.

    Should we build more prisons or reform the penal codes? We can't just keep throwing more and more people in prison. It's a drain and it turns salvageable people into hardened criminals.

    What would you change? Shift the emphasis from punishment to rehabilitation.

    How would you convince politicians to support that? It's difficult because those in prison have no voice. We should explore solutions other countries have tried.

    What's a better funding priority than prison building? Education. We always give more money for prisons, but when school districts ask for money, it's tooth-and-nail to get it. Children are our future, and that's where the emphasis should be.

click to enlarge Brandon Bayne  -  - Deli worker  -  - Vista Grande -  -  -  - Why is the U.S. prison population so high? The U.S. - doesn't want to look at the lowest denominator of the - population. Instead of dealing with and rehabilitating - those in straightened circumstances, we put them away - where we don't have to think about them. -  - What's the alternative? Prison building hasn't - worked. We need to try something different. -  - What change would you institute? More - consistent sentencing. The same crime should always get - the same sentence. -  - Wouldn't it be political suicide for lawmakers to - tamper with the penal codes? It would take - somebody who doesn't care about getting re-elected. He - or she would just do the right thing and then get fired. -  - What's the alternative to more prisons? An - ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Reduce - the need for prison systems. Put our money into Head - Start, into education programs -- even into law - enforcement as a deterrent.
  • Brandon Bayne

    Deli worker

    Vista Grande

    Why is the U.S. prison population so high? The U.S. doesn't want to look at the lowest denominator of the population. Instead of dealing with and rehabilitating those in straightened circumstances, we put them away where we don't have to think about them.

    What's the alternative? Prison building hasn't worked. We need to try something different.

    What change would you institute? More consistent sentencing. The same crime should always get the same sentence.

    Wouldn't it be political suicide for lawmakers to tamper with the penal codes? It would take somebody who doesn't care about getting re-elected. He or she would just do the right thing and then get fired.

    What's the alternative to more prisons? An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Reduce the need for prison systems. Put our money into Head Start, into education programs -- even into law enforcement as a deterrent.

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