March 3rd, 2009
06:00 PM ET

How can U.S. reduce prison population?

How can U.S. reduce prison population?

America's prison population has increased 274% over the last 25 years. (PHOTO CREDIT: MIKE SIMONS/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

From CNN's Jack Cafferty:

7.3 million people in the U.S. were in jail, prison, probation or parole in 2007. That translates to one in every 31 adults in this country in the corrections system. This is very, very expensive.

The Pew Center is out with a report showing that America's prison population skyrocketed in the last 25 years, increasing 274%. We now have the highest incarceration rate and the biggest prison population of any country in the world. But we're a long way from solving the crime problem, and with the economy getting dramatically worse, look for crime to go up even more.

The report also shows blacks are more likely than whites or Hispanics- and men are 5 times more likely than women- to be in the corrections system. Southern states have higher correctional rates than other parts of the country, with Georgia topping the list.

The Pew Center says that it's choices in state policy that lead to having more people in prison - and that Southern states choose to give out longer sentences and put more people behind bars.

Also, the record prison population is getting more and more expensive for taxpayers. At the state level spending on corrections systems ranks second only to Medicaid. One expert says prison costs 22 times more than community-based corrections and suggests that states focus on supervising people with technologies like ankle bracelets or GPS.

Here’s my question to you: What should be done to reduce America's prison population?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

Casey from Sebastopol, California writes:
How about legalizing marijuana, creating truly GREEN jobs, taxing the hell out of it and letting all those pot smokers out of jail? Not only do you reduce prison populations significantly, you create a massive industry to boost the economy. And you'd do it without endangering the public, since the only crime associated with pot smokers has to do with trafficking an illegal substance. And, by the way, you'd also go far in reducing the force that drives the HUGE criminal activities on our Mexican borders.

Don from Las Vegas writes:
Go back to hanging criminals. Ever since we quit hanging people for crimes, crime went up. Steal a horse and you swung on a rope. Rape a woman and you were hanged! No real punishment and you are merely operating a housing community for criminals!

Griff writes:
If you make them bigger, they won't look so over-crowded.

I. writes:
Start chain gangs, deport the illegals, secure our ports and borders. Make these criminals earn their keep by working behind bars and on chain gangs. What about tent cities like in Arizona where inmates wear pink clothing?

Gustavo writes:
End the war on drugs. We need to reflect on whether preventing someone from getting high is worth all the trouble it entails.

Bruce writes:
Throw non-violent offenders out of jail. Find other punishments, like making them deal with FEMA or the IRS.

Zach in Jackson, Wyoming writes:
Give everyone ankle bracelets and let them stay at Bernie Madoff's house.

Filed under: Crime and Punishment
soundoff (146 Responses)
  1. will charleston,sc

    We should offer these guys a second chance. After release they have no job, no home, and they can't vote. We should restore their rights as a citizen once they have served the time.

    March 3, 2009 at 12:38 pm |
  2. John

    Well it wouldnt hurt to let go people that are put in jail for smoking or selling pot because if you ask me smoking ciggs or drinking alcohol is just as bad but thats legal. Shouldn't people be allowed to smoke pot if they wanted to as long as they arnt harming anyone? Why waste time, effort, and MONEY on catching and arresting people that are smoking or seeling pot. This coming from somoene who has never smoked it.

    March 3, 2009 at 12:39 pm |
  3. Kevin in Dallas, TX

    We should commit fewer crimes.

    March 3, 2009 at 12:50 pm |
  4. Ray

    Legalize drugs, treat drug addiction like a health issue instead of a crime

    March 3, 2009 at 12:53 pm |
  5. Richard, Syracuse, NY

    The US has a 3 star Hotel for our Prison System compaired to the rest of the world. That is why there are so many repeat offenders. Remove the TV's, remove the free weights, remove the Basketballs.

    In almost every other country the Prisons are places that people do not want to return to. Lets look back to 25 years after the signing of our Constitution. Look at our Jails then and see how people are treated. If the signers of the Constitution felt that no entertainment, sitting in a cell all day long is Cruel & Unusual Punishment than they would have done something about it then. So how can we sit back and second guess the signers when they did not feel the prisons violated civil rights then.

    March 3, 2009 at 12:54 pm |
  6. Katiec Pekin, IL

    Our prisons are filled with non violent criminals. The laws need to be changed and many who have been arrested released. We have spent billions and totally lost the war on drugs and are spending billions more on incarcerating the little people who are victimns. The whole
    system needs to be revamped.

    March 3, 2009 at 12:55 pm |
  7. Pablo in Tejas

    I do not know but I should think getting rid of mandatory sentencing would help. A more visible police presence could help. Improved educational and employment opportunities could not hurt either. And while we are about it giving every state a top line standardized forensics system and better training and support for police officers would not be a bad idea.
    Of course all this would cost money so don't bet on any of it happening anytine soon if ever.

    Arlington, Texas

    March 3, 2009 at 12:59 pm |
  8. Steven Bradley

    I say send them to "Survivor: Elba" or Attu or something they wouldn't want to do again.

    March 3, 2009 at 1:02 pm |
  9. M. Leah Davidson Vancouver B.C. Canada

    Abolish the three strikes you're out laws.

    Release every prisoner incarcerated for simple possession of any drug and prostitution..

    Legalize and tax drugs. Prohibition of anything has never worked, not ever..
    If the US did that they would get out of their #3 war, the never ending drug war, empty the prisons and start to replenish their coffers.

    It would create jobs, lots of jobs, the crime rate would plummet.

    There would be enough money for comprehensive education about the effects of drugs and treatment for addicts.

    The farmers would be able to grow hemp for industry (it has a million uses) and cannabis for the government.

    March 3, 2009 at 1:02 pm |
  10. Robert Trumbo


    Reducing prison population is a no brainer. Stop criminalizing and imprisoning poor minorities, who can;t defend themselves, for possession of marijuana. We all know who uses the heavy expensive drugs in this Country. Place some of these people in a blue collar prison for 10 years and see how fast the demand side subsides. Fat chance of that happening.

    The other option is to legalize all drugs and save $50 bil a year in interdiction and payoffs to South American Governments to fight loosing battles to curtail drug production.


    March 3, 2009 at 1:06 pm |
  11. V.K. Raman, Sparks

    1. Deport all illegal immigrants
    2. Release all those who are not murderers, and drug traffickers

    March 3, 2009 at 1:08 pm |
  12. Tom in Dubuque Iowa

    Too many non violent inmates incarcerated; look for alternate means of dealing with these folks.

    March 3, 2009 at 1:09 pm |
  13. Spencer from Virginia

    Let the non violent criminals free and give them probation.

    March 3, 2009 at 1:15 pm |
  14. Joe in DE

    Could try outsourcing – reduce costs.

    March 3, 2009 at 1:30 pm |
  15. Rick Medina,OH


    First, we need to invest more to prevent crime and recidivism. This includes, (among other things,) improving the economy, education, and substance-abuse prevention and treatment. It also does not make sense to me that someone convicted of domestic violence or those that are clearly mentally ill can go to a gun show and buy a weapon. I'm not a zealous gun control advocate, but there needs to be some common sense.

    Secondly, our county jails and minimum-security prisons are laden with drunk drivers, other substance abusers, and folks who need anger management therapy. As a society, we need to comprehensively consider alternate reactions and punishments. For example, more than half of serious drug abusers are middle or upper-class citizens. Large fines combined with treatment requirements might be a better reaction than incarceration for first-time convictions.

    Rick, OH

    March 3, 2009 at 1:37 pm |
  16. David Gerstenfeld

    Good question. Next question ?

    March 3, 2009 at 1:38 pm |
  17. Rob, San Diego

    3 easy ways:

    1) Send illegal immigrant prisoners to their home countries for incarceration there. Send a bill to the home country for housing and deportation costs to increase revenue.

    2) De-criminalize drug possession. Regulate and tax drugs (like we do with alcohol) to increase revenue.

    3) Monitor non-violent criminals using a parole/house arrest system.

    March 3, 2009 at 1:41 pm |
  18. Philip from Toronto

    The government could buy some $7,000,000.00 Penthouses and put them under house arrest?

    March 3, 2009 at 1:43 pm |
  19. Ken in NC

    Put them all in Million dollar New York Penthouses and properties owned by Wall Street and Banking Officials. Then close down the prisons. The Penthouse system is already in place and up and running.

    March 3, 2009 at 1:44 pm |
  20. Den

    Take away privliges like TV and A/C and make them work 8–10 hours a day manual labor busting rocks for new roads all modeled after the sherriff of Maricopa County in AZ

    March 3, 2009 at 1:44 pm |
  21. Steve in Las Vegas,NV

    There are way too many people sitting in prison for having small amounts of pot, or have sold a small amount of pot or have done something stupid deserving something like community service.

    There are the drunk drivers who have hurt someone, who instead, should be doing community service in a hospital or morgue to let them see the results of DWI. That would do more than just sitting behind bars, learning nothing. If one if forced to see the results they would realize the horror and damage their action has caused.

    There are those who have stolen or robbed someone, who should made to work to repay their victims in full. Like the drunk drivers, these people must work off their debt in public, such as cleaning up the roads or whatever needs it, no matter how long it takes.

    Prison should be the place for those who commit really serious crimes. Crimes with the use of a gun or other weapon must be imprisoned for the longest possible time. Nonviolent criminals must attend schooling to get the education they need to help them be able to be employed.

    March 3, 2009 at 1:50 pm |
  22. Russ in Johnston, IA

    Get rid of all the illegal aliens. This should be one of the requirements for California – if they want federal $$ for their budget problems, then get rid of illegal aliens in prison, and flush them out of the state as quickly as possible. Then, take the Mayors of LA, SF, and whatever other CA cities are sanctuary cities and charge them with SOMETHING for allowing/encouraging more illegal immigrants to come to their state.

    March 3, 2009 at 1:53 pm |
  23. Paul Austin,Texas

    A system should be put in place to parole only the people with most minor of crimes. It would have to be an national program that could monitor that only petty prisoners are placed on parole. Not one person that committed a crime with a gun or other weapon should be released or any violent crime. Also increased deportation of non-americans in our jails costing us money send them back to their country of origan no matter where that may be.

    March 3, 2009 at 2:02 pm |
  24. Jim, from Las Vegas

    The obvious answer is legalize pot! Beyond that, get back to the basics of the Constitution and repeal any laws that take away an individual's freedom to do what they want so long as others aren't harmed. The long term solution is an education that teaches the core values of our Founding Fathers and a society that practices them.

    March 3, 2009 at 2:05 pm |
  25. David,San Bernardino,CA.

    Close the prisons and have the CIA rendition the convicts to other counties. It worked for bush/cheney.

    March 3, 2009 at 2:17 pm |
  26. Dave in Saint Louis!


    March 3, 2009 at 2:20 pm |
  27. Ed Reed

    Do the same thing we do about torture. Say it's all in the past, that we're forward-looking and let everybody out.

    Ed Reed
    Port Aransas, TX

    March 3, 2009 at 2:23 pm |
  28. Kirven

    First, stop putting drug users behind bars and start helping them like other countries do.

    Second, improve the K-12 education and make college more affordable

    Third, build more after school buildings and have more after school programs.

    Kirven Dunham
    Rancho Cordova, CA

    March 3, 2009 at 2:28 pm |
  29. HD in AZ

    Well Jack...I hate to advocate the use of concepts such as...actually enforcing our laws and truly punishing people who break our laws to others but,...its always worked for me!

    HD in AZ

    March 3, 2009 at 2:32 pm |
  30. Matt Young


    That’s easy, stop the war on drugs! I don’t understand why it is called a war anyway; if I had a family member addicted to crack or meth I wouldn’t want them to suffer in prison! They need love, education and treatment not incarceration. The whole war on drugs is a waste of tax dollars and clogs the system up with petty drug users; we should be after the violent criminals and thieves!

    K-Zoo, MI

    March 3, 2009 at 2:32 pm |
  31. Andrew Duncanson

    We've arrested tens of millions of Americans for nonviolent drug offenses. Since 1971, when Richard Nixon pronounced drugs "public enemy number one" and declared all-out war on them (or, more accurately, on the people who took them), we have spent $1 trillion prosecuting that war. Eight Nixon successors and 38 years later what do we have to show for our investment?

    Ending the drug war, diverting funds from drug busts to prevention and treatment, taxing (and rigorously controlling) a regulated market would help pull the U.S. and the global economy away from the precipice of depression.



    March 3, 2009 at 2:59 pm |
  32. dee from Dallas, Tx

    Send the prisoners to Iraq/Afghanistan to fight the war and bring our troops home!

    March 3, 2009 at 3:01 pm |
  33. mac from traverse city Michigan

    Take a serious look at legalizing Marijuana. Do a hard Shut down on drug trafficking and illigal immigration at our southern border. Make prison life hard and what it's supposed to be, punishment.

    March 3, 2009 at 3:01 pm |
  34. Griff...... The Truth

    Make the prisons larger..

    March 3, 2009 at 3:06 pm |
  35. Roland (St George, UT)

    Call me a nutcase but hear me out first. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. I'd say this: Turn off the TV and read to your children. Spend time with them, show them how much you love them and value them as people. Help them to get educated. On a national level, let's not be so vigilant about excluding God/faith from schools. Have a section where the ten commandments is displayed, but also in that section display something meaningful from other religious books if those groups ask, such as the Quran, or Tao, or whatever. If atheists want something displayed, be respectful and put up some info on Darwin or whatever they ask. The main point is co-exist, not remove one for the other. Public schools belong to everyone, not just religious and not just atheists. But...you can't deny that things started going downhill when they started trying to remove God from our culture. Finally, I'd say let's bring back A LOT of after school specials and public service announcements. Those after school specials really had an impact when I was growing up, as well as did the public service announcements and commercials on pollution, non-smoking, don't do drugs, etc. Why are they not there now? Oh yeah...no profit in it. How sick are we?

    March 3, 2009 at 3:06 pm |
  36. Charles

    I can tell you how! 30% of all prisoners in Federal Prisons are Illegal Immigrants! Secure our border and send them all back! I am tired of my taxes going to secure them, feed them and give them health insurance!

    March 3, 2009 at 3:22 pm |
  37. Tripp Mechanicsburg, PA

    That is too tough a question, Jack. Unless you just want a snappy answer to please your viewers, I suggest that CNN take some time and really study the socio-economic and political realities of "Who is in prison?" and "Why are they there?" We need to protect society from those who would do us harm, but we haven't adequately defined too much of what harm is or how we protect society from it.

    March 3, 2009 at 3:25 pm |
  38. Mike S., New Orleans

    There are too many people in prison for minor possession of drugs. There are too many people in prison because they could only afford to smoke crack and couldn't afford a lawyer, while those who could afford cocaine and lawyers walk free. It's time to rehabilitate those who can contribute to society instead of just warehousing everyone.

    March 3, 2009 at 3:26 pm |
  39. Terry in Iowa

    Legalize drugs and its distribution. The criminalization of drugs has driven it to be a multi-billion dollar industry that can’t be solved through law enforcement or legislation. It can’t even be contained. We’re reaping the rewards of our inept “moral” high ground and fueling the underground drug lords by our lack of courage to address the issues head-on. Drugs are a symptom, not the problem. The problems we have are a bunch of mixed up souls who believe that these chemicals will help them find what’s missing. We can continue to put some of them away or push them to the edges of our society where we don’t think we have to face them, but all we do is perpetuate their misery and, if we are real lucky, postpone ours.

    March 3, 2009 at 3:26 pm |
  40. Mike Syracuse, NY

    Expand the death penalty to include all murders, rapes, and drug trafficking. Televise the executions and use the proceeds to lower the debt.

    March 3, 2009 at 3:36 pm |
  41. Scott, Wichita

    I think the late, great George Carlin had some pretty good ideas about this, Jack.

    March 3, 2009 at 3:37 pm |
  42. Jenna Wade

    What should be done to reduce America’s prison population?

    Release those who did not do personal injury to others, unless the injury was in response to self defense or years of abuse.

    Release those who are in prison for pocession of small quantities of drugs.

    Release those who are in for petty theft – not including identity theft

    Release those whose DNA or new witness testimony release those from crimes they did not committ.

    Deport foreign inmates to their own nations for incarcerations.

    This would be a good start

    Roseville CA

    March 3, 2009 at 3:37 pm |
  43. Peter Wolfe

    The U.S. has fought the drug war since "reefer madness" in the 30's. All the war on drugs has done is build a huge underground of untaxed and unregulated money. Oh wait, isn't that what the conservative values are. Less taxes and less regulation. Decriminalize drugs, get the users out of prison. Get the drugs regulated and deal with problems of addiction or abuse of drugs, alcohol and tobacco with the billions saved and gained.

    March 3, 2009 at 3:43 pm |
  44. karen-phoenix

    NO MORE private prisons! DO NOT pay people to "house" humans like cattle!!

    March 3, 2009 at 3:45 pm |
  45. Deacon in Grand Rapids

    two words: LEGALIZE IT.

    March 3, 2009 at 3:57 pm |
  46. Leah (Seattle, WA)

    Decriminalize Marijuana!

    March 3, 2009 at 3:57 pm |
  47. John in Arizona

    Jack, every state should merge their department of corrections with their departments of education, recognizing that our prisons are stuck in the business of housing our educational failures. Education reform is the key to prison reform.

    March 3, 2009 at 4:00 pm |
  48. Bruce, Georgia

    I think Obama has the long term solution – education, training and good paying jobs.

    Of course nutty me, I'ld also end the War on Drugs and legalize Marijuana at least but hey I'm just not compassionate I guess.

    March 3, 2009 at 4:12 pm |
  49. patty

    Hi Jack
    Send them to Michigan. Our governor is letting them out by the thousands. Let's see if crime goes up by the by the same. But its okay, we'll be opening more casinos to make everyone feel better.

    March 3, 2009 at 4:18 pm |
  50. Jake, Oregon

    Empty death rows by carryinig out sentences.
    Transfer all illegal immigrants in prisons to the South..... of Argentina.

    March 3, 2009 at 4:20 pm |
  51. Bonnie in Arkansas

    Release everyone whose crime was marijuana possession.

    March 3, 2009 at 4:21 pm |
  52. Ron from Chicago

    Someone tried to steal my car stereo last night and broke my window that will cost about $300 to fix. Lock them up, that's what will happen to me if I did wrong.

    March 3, 2009 at 4:29 pm |
  53. D - Atlanta, GA

    If its a third (serious) offense – back them up against a wall and try not to use more than one bullet to put them out of their misery. Cuts down on future recidivism, hence overpopulation

    March 3, 2009 at 4:32 pm |
  54. Lynne

    Education, equal opportunity and having better prisoner re-entry programs.

    March 3, 2009 at 4:33 pm |
  55. Alan-Buxton, Maine

    Stop jailing people for smoking pot and jay-walking. Our laws need to be reviewed and corrected. Prison should be for violent criminals who need to be separated from the general population. Far too many people are there for victimless crimes and far too many have been convicted who are not guilty. Our justice system is broken.

    March 3, 2009 at 4:35 pm |
  56. Joe Kent Island, MD

    Real hard time, and boot camp as in the Marines. They are criminals that owe society for their crime.

    March 3, 2009 at 4:36 pm |
  57. John

    Use restorative justice.

    March 3, 2009 at 4:40 pm |
  58. Ryan, Philly

    Each state should re-evaluate their policies. So, there are probably 50 different things that should be done.

    March 3, 2009 at 4:43 pm |
  59. Lynn

    It appears as if the new AG needs a task force to look into the "jailing laws" in the South – my son, home from Iraq with a three week leave and a pregnant wife, drove through S.C., he was not speeding but his CA registration with Hispanic name got him stopped and thrown in jail – they took every penny the kids had on them before they turned them lose – the threat was 6 months. I don't say the South is the only problem but with your statistics and our experience, it wouldn't be a bad place to start. – I also think it was a BAD idea to "farm" out prison cells to private business, they don't do the job out of public duty – tracking systems are an excellent idea for non-dangerous inmates.

    March 3, 2009 at 4:43 pm |
  60. Susan from Twn Falls Idaho

    Jack, we need to take a lesson from Singapore. I’ll throw in a donation for a few canes. My guess is the repeat offenders there are few and far between. If they want to belong to a gang chain them all together and let them work it out. It’s almost a status symbol for some of these young men to be imprisoned. We have to change the way the penal systems do business. If a man or woman is sentenced to a prison term it shouldn’t be a walk in the park.

    March 3, 2009 at 4:44 pm |
  61. Natalie

    Very simply: Repealing the 1980's "war on drugs" and "three strikes" rules that disproportionately and unceremoniously created disparate treatment of inner city minorities causing the largest increase in prison population in the history of this country.

    I am not suggesting drug dealers and users should not be penalized. Rather, I'm making reference to the fact that we pay millions each year to warehouse and feed petty criminals in the name of "rehabilitation" instead of cutting costs by focusing on those operating below the radar simply because they are not as readily visible and are not the focus of over burdened, inner city task force measures.

    March 3, 2009 at 4:45 pm |
  62. Ben from Boston

    We need intermediate forms of punishment that entails working on public works projects rather than being in a prison. Such senstences would not be appropriate for all infractions but they could relieve the pressure on the prisons.

    March 3, 2009 at 4:46 pm |
  63. Donna Colorado Springs,Co

    There needs to be programs in place for first time offenders to help them to blend back into society. They need training and support. If they got help instead of nothing, then maybe they wouldn't become repeat offenders and add more to the prison population.

    March 3, 2009 at 4:46 pm |
  64. rpb Viburnum Mo

    Well for starters stop privatizing the prisons. A very small amount of people are getting realy rich from the prison system. Second stop putting people in jail for pot a fine would be much better.An illeagle alien can bring 500 pounds of pot in and if caught they just get deported. An American citizen gets caught with an ounce it's off to jail. I don't support pot smokers but I don't think they belong behind bars.

    March 3, 2009 at 4:48 pm |
  65. susi learn

    put more emphasis on education and community involvement for the young in impoverished areas.

    release all the petty drug users and go after the dealers.


    March 3, 2009 at 4:49 pm |
  66. Beth

    I am a 45 year old mother of two, a teacher, someone who has led a very straight laced life. That said I think they should legalize maraujna. It is no more potent than alcohol and takes up countless hours of police time and jail space. Think of the tax revenue they could make from it by selling it legally with a high tax like alcohol and cigarettes. The sales in Hollywood alone would wipe out the national deficit.

    March 3, 2009 at 4:50 pm |
  67. Jay

    Good one Jack! I have always been a proponent of sending minor criminal offenders who are serving prison terms to the military. At least we are actually putting citizens to use instead of hoarding and housing those inmates at the expense of hardworking taxpayers. Also, sending some to college and technical schools besides the military is an option as well. Lil Wayne said it best it costs less to send those people to college than it would be to incarcerate them. Of course major criminal offenders would have to be imprisoned! The major problem I believe is how can we prevent them from even getting there, that's a question that opens up a big can of worms!

    March 3, 2009 at 5:20 pm |
  68. Dave in Maryland

    In these economic times it makes more sense than ever to look at legalizing AND TAXING some of the milder drugs. I heard that California was looking to make pot legal and generate millions and millions of tax dollars in doing so. Of course, that would cut down on the prison population and make it so we could keep the really dangerous criminals behind bars.

    March 3, 2009 at 5:22 pm |
  69. Michelle

    Let non-violent offenders (writer's of bad checks, minor shoplifters, etc.) serve sentences on home-monitoring, and perform productive work for the state instead of going to prison. Instead of paying more and more for incarceration, perhaps we could actually get some benefit from the "free" workforce while they pay their debt to society in positive way.

    March 3, 2009 at 5:23 pm |
  70. Tony in Michigan

    Jack, you're looking in the wrong direction. We need to fill the prisons with these Wall Street bandits and then put prisoners back to work stamping license plates or other useful work to help offset the costs of keeping them locked up.

    March 3, 2009 at 5:23 pm |
  71. Virginia, Michigan

    Easy. Execute all the murderers and child molesters. That will free up a lot of cells. I live in Michigan, a 'no execution' state. They need to re-think that.

    March 3, 2009 at 5:26 pm |
  72. Jay, Niagara Falls, Ont

    Stop putting people in jail for smoking pot. What a waste of time, money and resources. We are talking about hundreds of thousands of non violent people that are costing the taxpayers billions to lock up. If prisons were overcrowded with jaywalkers, you wouldn't even ask this question, as the answer would be obvious; let 'em go. Well, at least part of the answer in this case is obvious; focus on real criminals and leave Tommy Chong et al alone.

    March 3, 2009 at 5:29 pm |

    Take the luxury out of it and re-educate the prosecuting attorneys and the Judges so that they can stop innocent people to jail.

    March 3, 2009 at 5:30 pm |
  74. Ron frorm Missouri

    Outlaw and disband the ACLU, then execute anyone on death row more than three years immediately. It would also help the economy by hiring large groups of embalmers, grave diggers and carpenters who make pine box coffins.

    March 3, 2009 at 5:33 pm |
  75. frank

    any one who does the crime should put to death

    March 3, 2009 at 5:37 pm |
  76. david

    Its simple, Dont break the Law.

    March 3, 2009 at 5:40 pm |
  77. Al from SoCal

    Legalize drugs, Legalize all types of guns and legalize vigilantism

    March 3, 2009 at 5:47 pm |
  78. Eric Bracke, Fort Collins, CO

    Deport them to Mexico and don't let them back in.

    March 3, 2009 at 5:54 pm |
  79. Scott in Texas

    Stop giving them money and see how many non-violent criminals they want to hold. As long as you continually write checks to hold non-violent criminals, they will keep building prisons.

    March 3, 2009 at 5:56 pm |
  80. Jay from PA

    Just don't let criminals out. Too dangerous.

    All prisons need to be privatized, with state and federal oversight.

    If companies can make a profit and also fulfill our obligation to incarcerate criminals, so be it.

    March 3, 2009 at 5:58 pm |
  81. Jeff in NC

    Carry out death sentences within 1 year of sentencing or make the lawyers pay the costs of those on appeal for years.

    March 3, 2009 at 5:59 pm |
  82. Paul From Hawaii

    The answr is obvious Jack, we need to build more prisons.

    March 3, 2009 at 5:59 pm |
  83. Carlo Moody

    Offer non-violent prisoners option of volunteering in military.

    March 3, 2009 at 6:03 pm |
  84. uchenna

    By raising education standards.. the more you go to school...the less likely you are to do foolish things


    March 3, 2009 at 6:04 pm |
  85. Joe from Tennessee

    Jack, a good start would be the immediate deportation of ALL illegal immigrants in prison.

    March 3, 2009 at 6:09 pm |
  86. james

    set them free

    March 3, 2009 at 6:10 pm |
  87. B.Ross

    I say that I am sick of paying for prisoners and i feel that we should just round up all the prisoners and send them to a remote island and let them sort it out cause they are lost and forgotten anyway...

    March 3, 2009 at 6:11 pm |
  88. Steven Dooley JR

    We could always legalize marijuana since more people are arrested for that than all other violent crimes combined.

    March 3, 2009 at 6:11 pm |
  89. Simon, NY

    Legalize pot.

    March 3, 2009 at 6:11 pm |
  90. Lynn Martin

    Legalize and tax cannabis.

    March 3, 2009 at 6:11 pm |
  91. Steve - CA

    stop throwing our young people in jail for stupid crimes that are not a menace to our social structure,..
    or go back to optioning military service as an option

    March 3, 2009 at 6:12 pm |
  92. Thomas

    Reinstate the death penalty. Even states that do have the death penalty are reluctant to use it.

    March 3, 2009 at 6:12 pm |
  93. Ali

    Immediately execute all prisoners on death row and those sentenced to life in prison. Exile of all prisoners sentenced to 20 or more years from U.S soil. Rougher prison life. No televisions, barely enough food, and brutal work days.

    March 3, 2009 at 6:12 pm |
  94. Jessica from Louisiana

    Stop making prisons big business. Take away the ability to generate revenue by having a full prison, you take away the inherent need to fill it.

    March 3, 2009 at 6:12 pm |
  95. Ron

    Legalize & Tax Pot. Go after threal bad guys and pay for it with pot taxes.

    March 3, 2009 at 6:13 pm |
  96. Dan Leahy

    First, do away completely with privately run prisons. If there's profit to be made by incarcerating people, more people are incarcerated. Privatized prisons are just another shameful result of Reagonomics.
    Dan in Santa Barbara

    March 3, 2009 at 6:13 pm |
  97. Andrew

    We could easily reduce the prison population by decriminalizing drug use. People wont stop using drugs they never have and they never will. Stop putting people in prison for drugs!

    March 3, 2009 at 6:14 pm |
  98. Thor Karlsson

    It's simple Jack. Education, Education, Education...

    March 3, 2009 at 6:14 pm |
  99. Collin S. in Glenwood Springs, CO

    Legalize it Jack, that would free up some space for our true criminals. White collar CEO's that have ruined our country (Thanks Reagan Era De-regulation!) through corporate malfeasence and outright greed. That would put us back at even, then review out-dated laws and eliminate them. Next create jobs by re-viewing questionable convictions and freeing innocent Americans.

    March 3, 2009 at 6:14 pm |
  100. Dane

    Stop the war on drugs! A vast majority of those in prison have been convicted of non-violent possession charges. That's possession, NOT dealing! Approaching the drug problem as a public health issue as opposed to a law enforcement issue would not only drastically reduce the prison population and substance abuse rates, but would also save considerable amounts of money.

    March 3, 2009 at 6:14 pm |
  101. Sly, Alpena, Mi

    If they are 35 years old and below, and in good health, they should get Drafted by the Military and send them to Afghanistan.

    March 3, 2009 at 6:14 pm |
  102. Jim


    What is the percentage of people incarcerated that are serving time for nonviolent crime or cannabis crimes? The U.S. AG took the first step in turning Marijuana enforcement over to the state. California is about to tax and regulate Marijuana. It's time to end the failed war on drugs.

    March 3, 2009 at 6:15 pm |
  103. pamil

    allow the non-felons to opt for military duty

    March 3, 2009 at 6:15 pm |
  104. marcus top

    begin with decriminalizing marijuana. too much money is being wasted on prosecuting something that one american state wants to make legal. we can no longer ignore a multi-billon dollar tax base. the consumers that use it will not stop no matter what is done.

    March 3, 2009 at 6:15 pm |
  105. mike,iowa

    Secure our border, Legalize Marijuana and speed up the court process instead of making people wait months and even years to go to court while they sit in a cell. I also like the send our prisoners to war like on the dirty dozen movies.

    March 3, 2009 at 6:15 pm |
  106. Carla

    Legalize the recreational use of marijuana! Then release all those in prison for the NON crime of having some weed.
    The worst this would to would be to endanger the welfare of twinkies all over the country

    March 3, 2009 at 6:15 pm |
  107. Marc S. Cohen

    Legalize marijuana already. Sentence crack cocaine offenders the same as powered cocaine. Early release for non-violet and drug user offenders if they have a job and a a curfew.
    Thank you,

    Marc S. Cohen
    Jenkintown, PA

    March 3, 2009 at 6:16 pm |
  108. Greg/ Ohio

    we need to legalize marijuana!

    March 3, 2009 at 6:16 pm |
  109. John stone

    Its way past time that we have to de-criminalize drugs and empty out the drug related prisoners. We are destroying our education and health care systems and other needed organizations because too much money is being spent on prisions.

    March 3, 2009 at 6:16 pm |
  110. Patrick

    Raise education spending,... responsibly. This in conjuction with parents' personal actions to influence their childrens lives positively will significantly reduce inmate populations.

    March 3, 2009 at 6:16 pm |
  111. tom kemp

    We outsource our jobs to India. Why not outsource our prisoners to India? Seems like a win-win solution for both sides.

    March 3, 2009 at 6:17 pm |
  112. kim in Austin Tx

    The death penalty.

    Punishment should exceed the crime THEN it would be punishment.

    March 3, 2009 at 6:20 pm |
  113. Howard Ball

    Do away with the marajuana laws.
    Mendocino county is loaded with it. It is a big money business.
    Instead of locking up a lot of poeple, lets tax the hell out of it and solve California's money problems.

    March 3, 2009 at 6:20 pm |
  114. A. Ahmad

    This is a problem that can be solved in the public schools. A noted psychologist quoted a government statistic in his book that said close to 90 % of the male prison population had some form of ADHD or learning disability or both. The special education in public schools is sub par. If these kids don't get the right kind of help early they disengage and drop out of school. They can't hold meaningful jobs and can end up self medicating with drugs and alcoholic and eventually end up entangled with the law. Kids without proper parental and school support, and those without health care end up in the system. Think of it, more money on education and special education and less money on prisons, police officers and court time. Seems like a no brainer.

    March 3, 2009 at 6:20 pm |
  115. Mike, FL


    Justice Kennedy himself says we are oversentencing and taking laws to far. Our Prisons and Local Jails have become so much a part of local and state economies its sad. Every person in the system on average allows local jails to get $15 a day from states, in prison they get $30 a day.
    Work Release Programs get up to 25% of your paycheck and you pay for drugs tests etc... Vending companies get 2-3 times more and phone cards are 50 cents to $2 a min to call out.

    Petty crimes is big business!! Especially when they go out and keep arresting the same people over and over again.

    Public Intox arrests around colleges up 2000% in ten years!! These kids have money or parents who pay fines etc... Probation Depts employ many people. Sad!

    March 3, 2009 at 6:20 pm |
  116. Lucidream

    Legalize marijuana. Many of our current prisoners are drug offenders and of those drug offenders the majority are there for Marijuana. Moving away from a prohibition on marijuana would make space in prisons, provide tax money for the government, and help reduce the the american drug demand fueling mexican drug cartels.

    March 3, 2009 at 6:20 pm |
  117. Jane

    Dear Mr. Cafferty,
    If we made marijuana legal, and hard drugs accessible to addicts through decent healthcare programs, we would not only lighten the load on the prison system, stem the tide of aides contracted through drugs,eliminate the ridiculous role of the DEA in policing our national forests, undermine the drug cartels of Mexico and abroad, but we would also gain needed tax revenue generated from legal consumption of a drug no worse than alcohol. Wasn't prohibition repealed during the Great Depression-gee I wonder why?

    March 3, 2009 at 6:21 pm |
  118. Mary Kelly

    Jack, my late husband worked in the Maryland Correctional System . He headed a tactical unit and worked in medium security prisons. He often told me that the best hope for less incarcerations was that parents would realize that it is their job to teach their children right from wrong and to obey the law and then maybe the population of prisons would drop. In other words we have to start from the bottom up. I think that holds true today even more than when he was alive. Mary

    March 3, 2009 at 6:21 pm |
  119. Latoya

    Individuals who participate in crime in America, should be punished by mandatory community service, once a misdemeanor crime is committed, a convicted criminal should have only one option work at a rate less than minimum wadge and the other half of what the convicted criminal has earned, should go towards the national debt, convicted felons should have the same punishment for a longer amount of time, (while working to lower the national debt) Violent offenders, murderers, sex offenders must serve jail time.

    March 3, 2009 at 6:21 pm |
  120. Andrea

    Admit that The War on Drugs is a sham, redirect the $50 Billion+ a year they are getting to continue this sham back into the communities most affected by America's unjust incarceration blueprint to get rich off its people.

    March 3, 2009 at 6:22 pm |
  121. mike from colorado springs

    Stop putting mentally ill people in prison. There is a place for offenders who break the law when they are mentally ill, a prison is not it.

    March 3, 2009 at 6:22 pm |
  122. Fred Heyer

    In the long run, all those laws throughout the country (certainly in California) requiring judges to impose prison sentences where they had not done so before will have to be rolled back. This effort will, necessarily, require the action of state legislatures which will be a slow process. In the meantime, we have no recourse but to let some of the current prison population out. Let's hope we do that judiciously.

    March 3, 2009 at 6:24 pm |
  123. Raymond Ferguson

    Stop Making Prison like the holiday in. Most of the people i know
    that have been there dont even mind going back. Prison should be ball and chain, hard labor rock breaking daylight till dark except for the beans and water they should get. Prison today seems to be worth the risk of doing whatever you did to get there the first time , again.
    I'm also for the death penalty but thats probably apparent.

    March 3, 2009 at 6:24 pm |
  124. Marilyn

    I can think of 2 ways immediately. Stop Illegal immigration. Stop
    prosecuting misdemeanor drug use. Misdemeanor drug users
    should not be in jail. These are non-violent offenses that require
    so much of our tax dollars beginning with time and money our Police
    Dept's use pursuing the offenders all the way through to the Courts
    and then our Prisons. Let's use today's technology and community
    service to punish non-violent misdemeanor offenders.

    March 3, 2009 at 6:24 pm |
  125. Jerry in Massachusetts

    Life without parole means you are unsuitable for society. So euthanize those persons like we would a "mad dog". To pay their debt to society and victims families use his or her good organs to benefit those good citizens in need. That would do a lot for our medical needs and solve a lot of problems with our lack of organs and health care. I don't mean the guy who sold fifty dollars worth of crack rises to the level of "life in prison without the possibility of parole". But those who would willfully take the life of another.
    Just think, If one could grow his own pot he would not need to "buy" it substantially reducing drug profits. what would drug dealers do then, pull a gun on you to make you buy pot you already grow in your back yard?

    March 3, 2009 at 6:25 pm |
  126. Kevin in Gettysburg

    Depending on the locations of the state or local prisons, taking the prisoners who have not committed crimes that involved serious acts of violence, could we not give them a sense of working their way back into a community by using the inmates as a substantial labor force for building infrastructure?

    March 3, 2009 at 6:26 pm |
  127. Daniel Miami, Florida

    Here's an idea Jack!
    Let's change the mindset of national politicians and local community leaders to increase budgets for more rehabilitation programs in prisons rather than build more bars, more walls and more guards.

    Instead of trying to "get tough on crime" by promoting to put a hundred thousand more cops on the streets like Clinton did, or sign more death warrant executions like George W. Bush did to get rid of inmates when he was then governor of Texas, (more than any other governor in history I might add), how about boosting the economy by creating more jobs for therapists, drug counselors and work-relief programs in state budegets to create more jobs and in turn, reform ex-cons, and consequently reduce prison populations. How's that for an economic stimulus package?

    March 3, 2009 at 6:27 pm |
  128. Theresa


    Save money and send all the non americans back to
    their countries – in the prison system they receive free a
    education – GED, college or vocational school training. The
    taxpayers can barely get their own kids in college(some have more
    than one family) and they receive aid when a parent is in jail – the taxpayers footing this are clipping coupons to put food on their
    tables. The gangs and drugs these criminals bring into
    our Country are causing huge costly problems.

    March 3, 2009 at 6:28 pm |
  129. Bruce

    Regulate cannabis. Allow the sale to adults. We arrest more Americans for cannabis possession than for all violent crimes in total. Cannabis is nearly 90 percent of the black market and the war is being waged on our southern border. We haven't learned the lessons of prohibition yet and the proof is the explosion in the prison population. Bring liberty to other wise law abiding citizens and reduce the pressure on the probation and parole system by 25% and let's lock up some serious prisoners instead of early parole.

    March 3, 2009 at 6:28 pm |
  130. Tony W.

    I like Rush, but he is simply a civilian with a microphone to air his discrepancies of the country. If he was the leader, he'd run for some office. There are two ploys here; the ability for the Democratic party to create the potential disarray of the GOP and the ability for sepratists to dishonor Michael Steele's appointment as the RNC. I'd like to see Rush made up as a black man for one week, to see if he'd have the same opinions of what's going on in America. I love him, but he's out of touch.

    Tony W.

    March 3, 2009 at 6:28 pm |
  131. patti

    most in jail are drug addicts, treat them and make them go to a boot camp kind of prison re-program them. they do it in the military, these young kids go into the military and when they come out they call everyone madam and sir,we have a major drug problem in this country. that's where the crime begins.

    March 3, 2009 at 6:29 pm |
  132. Korie

    I think the first step to reducing the amount of prisoners is to take the prisons out of the hands of private corporations. Its insane that there are people out there making millions of dollars off of prisoners. As long as there is someone getting rich off of someone else being imprisoned the laws will not change. This is no better then slavery.

    March 3, 2009 at 6:31 pm |
  133. Vern VW

    I believe a few things would help. One would be to limit the number of times prisoners can file for a mistrial for new information and another would be to make the jails more like jails and less like a massive luxury hotel. Just take a look at the new jail built in Cook County (Chicago). It is beautiful with all amentities like large screen TV's, huge fitness rooms and cells for one person with great surroundings. This does not discourage people from wanting to stay out of jail.

    March 3, 2009 at 6:31 pm |
  134. Jazherah MacMornna

    A big part of this problem? Southern states putting people in prison for having a little marijuana. Another part? Refusing to even consider using house arrest combined with community service whenever feasible. And there are cops who arrest someone merely because that person is black or Latino. Put an end to this stupidity and the prison population will be drastically reduced

    San Francisco

    March 3, 2009 at 6:31 pm |
  135. Mike, FL

    Americans want to drink alcohol , but dont want people to drink and drive.

    We dont stop the drugs comng into america.

    Where is the responsibility of bar owners , manufacturers who make the alcohol? You go into a bar , have one drink in an hour, your legally drunk, walk out the door , your now Public Intoxicated!! So where is the rule you can have one drink an hour but have to wait another hour to let it wear off or pay the guys fines and legals fees?

    Tobacco got sued for killing people, alcohol has much more deadly and human injustices then cigarettes ever have.

    March 3, 2009 at 6:32 pm |
  136. Ted Hogan

    They need to stop all the arrest for marijuana. That law is so wrong. We got much more issues that needs attention. All the gangs etc. I'm 70 years old. Marijuana has always been around since I was a kid. The only differance now is that it comes from Mexico. Just make it legal and tax it. Same laws as drinking.

    March 3, 2009 at 6:32 pm |
  137. Daniel

    look at the big dog with power not the little guys; their is bad judge's and no good cops in Southern states that target blacks, that's a known fact from a close uncle and grandfather of who is on the force. "Georgia the top of the list", do the math people

    March 3, 2009 at 6:34 pm |
  138. Sam

    Very easy;

    stop these problems;

    1. State Prisoners are not pro-rated , for the time spent in prison.
    so if they spend two months for a violation, the state will receive a check for a whole year, imagine this on each one being violated three to four times a year?
    It happens more often.

    2. if the prisoners are to be given rehabilitation , than only released then we can expect less crime less money spent and less recidivism rates of returning prisoners only to be warehoused and released to do the same.

    3. Most Crimes are committed due to poverty, the other is emotional/mental behavioral health issues.. find solutions to these two issues, and theres the answer, we are civil people. and can still profit.

    4. there are solutions to these... rather than job security in the prisons for profits to ensure those prison beds are kept full to justify tax paying dollars are being spent well.

    5. Many jobs are created for the criminal justice system, and far too many laws have been created making it a felony for crimes that should be misdemeanors. many laws are created in mind of these states to fill these prisons they plan to build and bill the tax payers,, a big revenue...

    March 3, 2009 at 6:35 pm |
  139. Gary

    First of all, release non-violent crime offenders. There are better programs for these offenders.

    Next, admit the war on druds has been a failure. We to regulate alcohol commercials as we did ciggarettes. TV commercials show how much fun people have drinking and impressionable young people don't see what comes along with alcoholism and drug abuse such as domestic violence, jails, institutions and death.

    And finally, we need to get the Federal Government either on board with the state's individual marijuana laws, or just let the States decide for themselves. Change Marijuana from a Class 1 Narcotic (which it obviously is not) and get the Federal Government to wake up and realize the positive medical values of our most replentishable, renewable natural energy resource. Get over it.

    March 3, 2009 at 6:36 pm |
  140. Mackenzie

    Money may well be the mother of evil, but it is bad parenting that is slowly destroying the fabric of our society. The best way to reduce America's prison population is to prevent our children from ending up on the wrong side of the law to begin with. Perhaps if the parents in our society actually embraced the privilege of being parents instead of letting "pop" culture raise their children, and the would-be parents thought twice before becoming parents, we wouldn't have so many young lives infested and consequently ruined by the daily garbage they see and experience all around them every day. As the old saying goes, Jack, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."


    March 3, 2009 at 6:36 pm |
  141. Trev

    Hi Jack,
    Rather than trying to reduce the American prison population maybe the US should think about how to make it more productive. Since new clean energy sources are all the rage nowadays why not give each inmate one of those exercise bicycles. Collect the energy / electricity generated by each bicycle and solve the US' energy problem. The most productive and zealous inmates could actually receive privileges and time off or early parole for good energy production. The US would get cheap, clean energy, and the inmates would get exercise, other than just pumping weights. Human rights activists could hardly complain at a policy that keeps inmates healthy. Or does all this just seem too Orwellian?

    March 3, 2009 at 6:36 pm |
  142. Robbie

    After receiving a DUI 2 years ago I finally went to court and was given probation, community service and a hefty fine. I lost my job in November and am relying on unemployment to get by. I have a family and bills to pay I must pay $46 dollars every probation visit plus $124 in fines, and on top of that I must attend drug and alcohol classes, 24 of them at $35 a week, not to mention $15 for each random drug test at the probation office and $20 for each one at the drug and alcohol class. If I fail to pay the fines and fees I will be locked up for violation of probation. Judges and the system need an overhaul.

    March 3, 2009 at 6:43 pm |
  143. xavier575m

    Legalize marijuana and crack down on illegal immigrants. That would take care of a huge chunk of the current prison population. Some estimates state that 30-33% of the prison population is illegal immigrants. As far as marijuana arrest... ridiculous. Locking people up for growing a plant, I don't get it.

    March 3, 2009 at 6:44 pm |
  144. joe

    If this country respected the Constitution we would,t have that many people in jail.most are in jail for lifestyle not crime read your constitution.legalize marijuana

    March 3, 2009 at 6:46 pm |
  145. Robert Heintges

    The only way to reduce the prison population is to drastically increase funding of education, starting with pre-K, and programs that engage parents in the process.

    March 3, 2009 at 6:50 pm |
  146. Bryan

    Legalize drugs! The war on drugs is wasteful, immoral, and nonsensical.

    March 3, 2009 at 6:50 pm |