The United States Supreme Court heard two cases this past Monday dealing with the question whether it is cruel and unusual punishment to give juveniles life imprisonment without any parole or chance of early release. The Court has already decided that is is cruel and unusual punishment to execute juveniles. These two cases caused a spirited session of the Court. This is probably a question that will cause a substantial divide in the country. There are those people who say if you do the crime, do the time, no matter what it is or how long it is. Then there are people who believe in forgiveness, second chances, and rehabilitation is the preferred method for handling juveniles.

I think there is a bigger question lurking here that we all need to confront. The Legislature will not confront the issue because politically it is a “hot issue.” The issue is this: What role should the corrections system play in the criminal justice system. Should it be for punishment only? Is the corrections system for rehabilitation? Or is it for retribution? Right now our corrections system in Mississippi is geared toward warehousing an inmate and very little else. In those cases of violent crime that is adequate. But what about all those minor drug cases and minor property crimes.

Does it make any sense to spend around $30,000.00 a year warehousing a person for a non-violent crime. Doesn’t our country contain enough smart doctors, psychologists, social scientists, and corrections experts so we could create a new system that rehabilitates and punishes without warehousing a person. The Federal Corrections System is far ahead of the State of Mississippi in its Corrections System but the Federal System still incarcerates too many non-violent offenders. The United States has more people in prison that any other Western Nation. Are we a country of criminals or do we incarcerate too many people. I don’t know.

Merrida Coxwell is the Managing Partner of Coxwell & Associates, a five (5) member law firm dedicated to helping people solve their legal problems. For a consultation call or e mail one of the attorneys.

Disclaimer: This blog is intended as general information purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Anyone with a legal problem should consult a lawyer immediately.

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