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Klesti Cela
Mr. Leidecker
English 12
29 April 2016
Outline for Prison Reform Paper
I) Introduction
A) The United States contains 5% of the worlds overall population but has
25% of the worlds prisoners. (World Prison Brief)
B) Clearly, there is something wrong with our prison system, and it is in
dire need of reform.
C) Prisoners are members of our society, and by improving the way our
prison system works and how it affects the lives of prisoners, society as
a whole will see positive changes.
II) Brief Overview of Opposing Position: Counterargument
A) View of the opposition
1) Some would argue against reforming the US prison system.
B) Counterargument and facts
1) People would argue that our current system exists in order to incite
fear into people so they do not commit crimes.
2) Programs such as social reintegration are not effective because
those who commit crimes do not function well in general society
regardless of what we do.
C) Summary of perspective
1) People against prison reform believe that our current system is
doing a good job at keeping criminals off our streets.
D) My thesis
1) Yes, our prison system might keep criminals off of our streets.
However, we need reform because the current system gives out

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long sentences for petty drug crimes, our prosecutors have too
much power, and alternatives such as rehabilitation are better for
society in the long term.
III) Main Point #1 Drug offenses
A) Big idea
1) One of the biggest flaws to our prison system is how we dish out
long sentences for petty crimes such as drug possession.
B) Supporting argument and facts
1) Nearly half of all people imprisoned in federal facilities are there
through drug offenses. (BOP Statistics)
2) More than one third of offenders had little or no criminal history at
the time of imprisonment. (Adams)
3) 99.5% of those who were imprisoned on drug charges were there
because of trafficking. (Adams)
4) Possession of any amount of marijuana can result in incarceration
for a year. (Federal Laws & Penalties)
5) The sale of any amount of marijuana under 50kg can result in five
years imprisonment, and larger quantities can lead to life. (Federal
Laws & Penalties)
C) So what?
1) It is clear that our prisons are filled with prisoners who are there on
drug charges, and many of their sentences are very long relative to
the crime.
D) Closing sentence
1) It is very obvious that our punishments for drug charges are too
severe. Decriminalizing some drugs or reducing the length of
sentences would help solve some of our prison overpopulation
IV) Main Point #2 Alternatives such as rehabilitation work better
A) Main Point

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1) Alternatives to imprisonment, such as rehabilitation or social

reintegration programs, are better for society in the long run.
B) Arguments for point
1) Imprisonment has social, economical, and healthcare related costs
that are difficult to measure but immense in the long long term.
(Prison Reform and Alternatives to Imprisonment)
2) Within five years of being released, nearly three quarters of exoffenders come back in contact with the criminal justice system.
3) Compared with the general population, these offenders are less
educated, less likely to be able to hold employment, and more likely
to have a history of substance abuse or mental illness. (James)
4) Over 40% of prisoners will be arrested again within a year of being
released (Durose)
C) So what?
1) These figures clearly show that simply releasing prisoners back into
society will often result in them reentering the justice system and
will leave harmful long-term effects on society.
2) Programs such as rehabilitation or social reintegration might be
more expensive to institute initially, but the long term benefits
socially and economically outweigh any initial costs that might exist.
D) Therefore, I believe that it is important that we invest in programs that
will help prisoners properly integrate back into general society.
V) Main Point #3 Prosecutors have too much power
A) Description
1) Within our criminal justice system, our prosecutors have too much
unrestricted power.
B) Supporting Facts/Evidence
1) The power of a prosecutor is rarely brought up within discussions on
prison reform.

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2) Adam Foss, a prosecutor from Massachusetts, speaks in a TED Talk

of an instance where a black teenager stole 30 laptops from Best
Buy and sold them.
3) Foss had the power to send the boy to prison if he wanted to, but he
realized that this would make it harder for him to find a job or
housing later on in life. This would set in motion the cycle that
describes the criminal justice system today.
4) Prosecutors are the most powerful actors in the criminal justice
system. Our power is virtually boundless. (Foss)
5) Foss would end up meeting the young man years later, to discover
that he had went to college and become the manager of a bank in
C) So what?
1) Foss story brings to light just how much power a prosecutor holds
over a person who is convicted of a crime. They have the
opportunity to completely ruin a persons life, and there is nobody
to check over their power.
D) Closing sentence
1) The current justice system grants too much unchecked power to
prosecutors, and if we want to reform the prison system, we must
add checks and balances to restrict their power.
VI) Conclusion
A) By changing the way we punish drug related crimes, limiting the power
of the criminal prosecutor, and instituting more rehabilitation and
social reintegration programs, we can positively reform the American
prison system.
B) The vast majority of prisoners are not serving life sentences and will be
reintroduced into society at some point. By creating a justice system

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that will help them become functional members of society, many

aspects of our society as a whole will see benefits.
C) People always have and always will commit crimes. However, if we can
institute long term programs that will help minimize many of the
circumstances that lead people to become criminals, the future of our
world will be a better place for everyone.
"Highest to Lowest - Prison Population Total." World Prison Brief. Web. 02 May 2016.
"Federal Bureau of Prisons." BOP Statistics: Inmate Offenses. 26 Mar. 2016. Web. 02 May 2016.
Adams, WIlliam, Julie Samuels, and Sam Taxy. "Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS)." Bureau of
Justice Statistics (BJS). Urban Institute, 27 Oct. 2015. Web. 02 May 2016.
"NORML.org - Working to Reform Marijuana Laws." Federal Laws & Penalties. Web. 03 May
"United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime." Prison Reform and Alternatives to Imprisonment.
Web. 04 May 2016.
James, Nathan. "Offender Reentry: Correctional Statistics, Reintegration into the Community,
and Recidivism." Congressional Research Service (2015): 1-33. Web. 4 May 2016.
Durose, Matthew R., Alexia D. Cooper, and Howard N. Snyder. "Recidivism of Prisoners
Released in 30 States in 2005: Patterns from 2005 to 2010." Bureau of Justice Statistics (2014):
1-31. Web. 4 May 2016.
Foss, Adam. "A Prosecutor's Vision for a Better Justice System." TED. Web. 5 May 2016.