The US has too many people in prison, and too large a share of our population grows up in broken families, with failing schools just the last missed chance for a child to find guidance. I’ve commented on this in Real Life Hunger Games: Soft Oppression Destroys the Poor and The Social Decay of Black Neighborhoods — and Yours. A bipartisan reform movement is shortening sentences and giving judges more discretion after decades of “three strikes” policies and increasingly long sentences. While it’s good that politicians have noticed the issue, they are failing to address the underlying causes.
Punishment — the painful and public shaming of flogging and the like — evolved into long prison sentences employing large numbers of state-favoring employees to provide an artificial environment which nurtures and supports a criminal underclass. If all that is done is shortening sentences, the same underclass members will just cycle through the system faster and be out on the street more, requiring even more state employees to process them.
Shrinking the underclass only happens when they are deprived of any means to survive unless they learn to work with the rest of society in a job where reinforcement of productive habits is immediate. And cutting off support in the form of social assistance programs and prisons would do that. The fatherless children and husbandless mothers that fail to socialize them for the greater community would have to find a new way to live. “Helping” people by giving them things in the long run hurts them and keeps them from maturing into happy, productive citizens.