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5 myths about putting people in prison and what actually works.

Why putting people in prison might not be the best way to keep us safe.

5 myths about putting people in prison and what actually works.

I used to think the prison system was just a fact of life.

One of my relatives spent 10 years in prison when I was a kid, and I would visit him with my mom several times a year.

So as I grew up, I understood prison as just another place: You go to the grocery store when you need food, you go to church on Sundays, and you go to prison if you do something bad.


Is this the best way to rehabilitate people? Photo via tiegeltuf/Wikimedia Commons.

It wasn't until I got older that I started really thinking about the criminal justice system.

And the more I thought about it, the weirder it sounded: When people commit crimes, we send them away from their families and communities to become better by locking them in cells.

That idea really starts to fall apart when you consider the number of people who abuse drugs, people with mental illness, and people of color in the prison system.

Sometimes society's most egregious myths are right in front of our faces.

But because they're so integrated into our realities and systems, we don't even notice them.

Thankfully, as a society, we're starting to take a second look at the parts of our criminal justice system, especially prisons, that might not be working well.

Photo via Jess Judd/Wikimedia Commons.

Here are some things that we're learning along with the actual facts about what really keeps communities safe:

Myth 1: Higher incarceration rates cause corresponding decreases in crime.

Truth: Imprisoning people isn't always a good way to fight crime.

A study by The Sentencing Project found that simply putting more people in prison isn't an effective strategy for fighting crime.

In fact, states that imprisoned fewer people actually saw significant improvements in crime reduction compared with states who were more aggressive about incarceration.

In the words of the study's authors, "Increasing incarceration while ignoring more effective approaches will impose a heavy burden upon courts, corrections and communities, while providing a marginal impact on crime."

Myth 2: Downsizing prisons makes surrounding communities unsafe.

Truth: Research proves otherwise; just look at California.

In 2011, California decided to address prison overcrowding by shrinking the state's prison population by 30%. Some people feared that downsizing prisons (basically, putting fewer people in jail) would cause a jump in crime rates, but that wasn't the case. Researchers found that in 2012, 2013, and 2014, rates of violent crime and property crime stayed the same in California.

Myth 3: Prisons make communities safer by reforming criminals.

Truth: Recidivism rates (people returning to prisons) are high in the U.S., in part because prison doesn't prepare people for life after their sentences.

In theory, prisons exist to rehabilitate people who commit crimes. But in practice, prisons don't usually provide healthy rehabilitation programs. Plus, there aren't enough resources for people who want to get a job, a home, and a stable life free of crime after they serve their sentence.

A U.S. marshal guards prisoners. Photo via US Marshals/Wikimedia Commons.

Myth 4: Even if prison isn't an ideal solution, it's the only solution we have to deal with crime.

Truth: There are a lot of alternatives to incarceration.

These other alternatives help prevent crime and are actually cheaper than prison, including drug courts, halfway houses, and restorative justice programs.

Particularly for drug-related crimes, there are so many alternatives to incarceration that actually improve the lives of offenders. Drug courts prioritize addiction treatment and accountability over punishment, and they actually save taxpayer money.

Incarceration doesn't have to be the only option on the table when someone commits a crime.

Myth 5: Alternatives to prison aren't worth the money.

Truth: Other solutions, like the above, are generally more cost-effective. They're also healthier for offenders and their families.

A prison sentence doesn't just affect the prisoner. Incarceration can be devastating for a whole family, both emotionally and financially. And the emotional strain prison puts on the children of incarcerated individuals can cause significant developmental delays as well.

60% of fathers and 39% of mothers in the U.S. hold full-time jobs, so losing that paycheck could push a family into poverty. In short, incarceration can cause lifelong harm for not just incarcerated people, but families of incarcerated people too.

Photo via jmiller291/Flickr.

As citizens, it's our job to think about whether our criminal justice system is actually just!

Looking at the evidence is just the first step. But to actually achieve progress, we need better policies for mandatory minimum sentences, alternatives to incarceration, and reintegrating prisoners to the outside.

Let's get to it.

True

When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."

This article originally appeared on 12.02.19


Just imagine being an 11-year-old boy who's been shuffled through the foster care system. No forever home. No forever family. No idea where you'll be living or who will take care of you in the near future.

Then, a loving couple takes you under their care and chooses to love you forever.

What could one be more thankful for?

That's why when a fifth grader at Deerfield Elementary School in Cedar Hills, Utah was asked by his substitute teacher what he's thankful for this Thanksgiving, he said finally being adopted by his two dads.

via OD Action / Twitter

To the child's shock, the teacher replied, "that's nothing to be thankful for," and then went on a rant in front of 30 students saying that "two men living together is a sin" and "homosexuality is wrong."

While the boy sat there embarrassed, three girls in the class stood up for him by walking out of the room to tell the principal. Shortly after, the substitute was then escorted out of the building.

While on her way out she scolded the boy, saying it was his fault she was removed.

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One of the boy's parents-to-be is Louis van Amstel, is a former dancer on ABC's "Dancing with the Stars." "It's absolutely ridiculous and horrible what she did," he told The Salt Lake Tribune. "We were livid. It's 2019 and this is a public school."

The boy told his parents-to-be he didn't speak up in the classroom because their final adoption hearing is December 19 and he didn't want to do anything that would interfere.

He had already been through two failed adoptions and didn't want it to happen again.

via Loren Javier / Flickr

A spokesperson for the Alpine School District didn't go into detail about the situation but praised the students who spoke out.

"Fellow students saw a need, and they were able to offer support," David Stephenson said. "It's awesome what happened as far as those girls coming forward."

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He also said that "appropriate action has been taken" with the substitute teacher.

"We are concerned about any reports of inappropriate behavior and take these matters very seriously," Kelly Services, the school the contracts out substitute teachers for the district, said in a statement. "We conduct business based on the highest standards of integrity, quality, and professional excellence. We're looking into this situation."

After the incident made the news, the soon-to-be adoptive parents' home was covered in paper hearts that said, "We love you" and "We support you."

Religion is supposed to make us better people.

But what have here is clearly a situation where a woman's judgement about what is good and right was clouded by bigoted dogma. She was more bothered by the idea of two men loving each other than the act of pure love they committed when choosing to adopt a child.