Stop Sending So Many Nonviolent Criminals to Federal Prison

Target: The United States Federal Bureau of Prisons

Goal: Stop sending so many nonviolent offenders to federal prison, where they will likely share cells with violent criminals, and are at risk of becoming violent themselves.

It is obvious today that prison reform is extremely difficult. It is also obvious that information about what goes on in prisons is pushed under the rug. Some facts: only 13% of federal prisoners have been convicted for violent crimes. Overall, almost 75% of the federal prison population are criminals serving time for non-violent offenses with no history of violence. Also, as of 2003, more and more people are being incarcerated (an 81% increase from 1995). One-third of the population are first time, non-violent offenders. Also, from 1992 to 2002, the average sentence served in prisons for drug offenses has increased from 32.7 months to 42.9 months, a 31% increase. Also, racial disparities in sentencing are growing.

Therefore, what we have is a federal prison population that is made up of mostly non-violent offenders having to share cells with violent criminals. They are serving longer sentences for their non-violent incarcerations, and more and more minorities are being incarcerated disproportionally in federal prisons while serving longer sentences for the same crimes.

The Federal Prison Bureau Nonviolent Offender Relief Act, written in 2011, was passed this year. The Relief Act called for shorter sentences for nonviolent offenders and, upon strict review, the release of nonviolent criminals over the age of 45. However, the Relief Act was faced with much opposition, and it did nothing to alleviate the insanely high incarceration rates themselves for nonviolent offenders.

Having nonviolent offenders right alongside violent criminals in federal prisons seems counter to the ‘correctional’ process. Sending nonviolent offenders back out into the world after they have served long terms for their offenses and after being locked up with violent criminals for years, seems to perpetuate the cycle of criminal activity and violence in this country.

Why send so many nonviolent offenders to federal prisons when many of them shouldn’t even be in there in the first place? Wouldn’t it be more cost-effective to decrease their sentences while taking part in other types of ‘reformation’ activities that could be much more practical and effective?

The federal prison population is and has been overcrowded  and corrupt for decades. The United States incarceration rates far exceed the rates of any other nation in the world. One way to alleviate this problem is to stop sending so many non-violent offenders to federal prisons in the first place.


Dear U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons,

It is unjust and unfair to incarcerated criminals and tax-paying Americans to lock up as many non-violent criminals in your correctional facilities as you do. The Federal Bureau of Prisons must push to reform incarceration policy that alleviates some of the burden of incarcerating so many non-violent criminals, such as small-scale, first-time, drug offenders (whom are often criminals committing crimes as victims of the system in the first place).

It is clear that racial disparities are increasing, prison time for non-violent criminals is increasing, and the federal prison system is overcrowded as it is. Much of this can be blamed on the war on drugs. You must push to stop wasting valuable correctional facility resources and saving them for prisoners that truly need to be reprimanded, such as violent offenders and murderers.

Other than the Federal Prison Bureau Nonviolent Offender Relief Act of 2011, more needs to be done. You must push for less incarceration of nonviolent offenders to begin with.


[Your Name Here]

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  1. It costs less to rehabilitate for the future and avoid the dependency of prison. Our system is outdated, and we must work toward the productivity and abilities of all people in our society. the system at present just fosters recidivism because they have no place to go and nothing to do when they get out.

  2. If they simply re-instated parole for these first time non violent offenders they could virtually affect over 100,000 inmates saving approx. $30,000 per inmate. Lowered sentences with a possibility of parole at half the time served could save about 3 billion dollars a year. It would also cause a huge job creation for parole officers that could be paid for by the parolees. How do we wake up Congress? Lets give more tax breaks to oil companies instead.

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