Commentary: What Is The Point Of Prison?
Chad Flanders May 6, 2014
The saga of Mike Anderson, a man convicted of armed robbery 13 years ago and amazingly never put in prison (except for a few months at the time he should have been released), is seemingly at an end. A circuit judge decided that making
sentence would “serve no purpose” and released him to live the rest of his life
a free man. Anderson
The series of events raises troubling questions on the front end of the
justice system: How could a person guilty of a serious crime be able to escape
punishment without anyone noticing? Missouri
But it also raises important questions about the point of punishing people with prison.
From all available evidence, the Mike Anderson who was not in prison for 13 years led an exemplary life. He married, had kids, started a business, and paid his taxes. He fully rehabilitated himself. Indeed, his behavior after his conviction was crucial in the judge’s decision to let him go. Punishing him wouldn’t do him or society any good.
We don’t know how
would have fared in prison; thankfully. Anderson
doesn’t have to know, either. Maybe he would have also led an exemplary life as
an inmate. Some inmates do. But many inmates do not. Anderson
We do know that sending people to prison very often doesn’t make them better, it makes them worse. In 2011, the
released a study
on recidivism rates in the 50 states. Pew
had the third highest re-offense rate in the country, with well more than half
(54.4 percent) of those imprisoned committing new crimes upon release and
returning to prison. Again, we don’t know what would have happened had Mike
Anderson gone to prison for 13 years and been released. But we know he would be
at a high risk of reoffending. Missouri