Currently, over 2.3 million people are imprisoned in the United States. Of those 2.3 million, nearly 3,000 are on death row. The San Quentin Prison in San Quentin, Calif. holds 4,223 prisoners, with nearly 700 of on death row. Death row prisoners may wait for decades until their punishment is carried out. This results in unmotivated prisoners who, when the time comes, are depressed and ready for death, because they feel they have served no purpose in life by sitting in a prison for decades.
However, a prison in Norway has a different approach to the treatment of prisoners. The Norway Bastoy Prison is more like a resort than a prison. Inmates hold keys to their rooms, and there are no armed guards or fences. Inmates are also paid for working on the farmlands surrounding the prison. With the money, prisoners can buy goods from a local shop or save it for food.
Though the idea seems outrageous to some people, Norway Bastoy Prison organizers argue that prisons should focus on rehabilitation instead of punishment, and that the goal of their prison is to make inmates feel that they have worth, despite their current situation.
“It’s good to have a prison like this. You can learn to start a new page again,” one Bastoy prisoner said in an interview with CNN.
The results of this prison show a drastic improvement over most United States prisons. Only 16 percent of the inmates re-offend after leaving the prison, contrary to a disconcerting 43 percent average for United States prisoners.
California is one of 31 states that allows the death sentence to be carried out. California is also the state with the most death row prisoners. Since the death sentence was put into place in 1978, taxpayers have spent over four billion dollars on the death penalty and death row prisoners, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. The death penalty causes many problems including high costs, negative effects on prisoners, and general ineffectiveness when it comes to reducing the rate of homicides.
California is spending 137 million dollars on the prison system each year when it could be spending just 11.5 million dollars by abolishing the death penalty. Costs of the trials, appeals, and holdings adds up. Prisoners must be proven guilty before they are killed, and the process is extended when appeals are filed. Because of these delays, inmates sit in prison for decades before their sentence is finally carried out.
In the time that prisoners wait, they lose motivation over time and eventually lack any drive to improve. This is why I believe that the death penalty should be abolished. In its place, prisons should strive to rehabilitate the prisoners through therapy and engagement in everyday life. Though all United States prisons do not have to be as liberal as the Norway Bastoy Prison, keeping inmates involved in life outside of prison drastically improves their drive to learn from their mistakes.
It has never been proven that the death penalty is an effective deterrent to crime. The main purpose of the death penalty is to deliver closure to a victim, but I believe that rehabilitation is a better answer than death. By abolishing the death penalty, the United States can create prisons that help inmates while cutting costs and encouraging tolerance.