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Why All Judges Should Spend One Week in a Prison




Before an individual becomes a judge, it should be required that any future judge be locked up in a prison for one week. I am not suggesting that our future dispenser of justice should be incarcerated with other inmates. The week of incarceration can be in a completely segregated protected unit or in a closed prison. The point being–judges should experience the actual living conditions of a prison or jail before they start sentencing defendants to long prison terms.

The judge will experience the unheated cell with a broken cell window (since September) in the middle of winter, the toilet that works sporadically, unidentifiable food, and the very long minutes of every day. Of course, they will not have to worry about coping with other inmates or ending on a gang’s to do list. The one week will not include the intense experience of wondering if your bunk mate will attack you in the middle of the night because he is simply crazy.

After reading about the teacher’s scandal in Georgia and their sentences, I thought of this unique requirement for all judges–before they wear the black robe. We are not condoning the teachers and administrators that were found guilty, but three educators were sentenced to seven years in a state prison. There are dangerous inmates, who have committed violent crimes, who will spend less time in prison than the three educators.

The three educators and society would have benefited far more from a sentence of  seven years  community service. In this instance, the judge may not have had any leeway regarding the sentence, but I cannot help think that our judicial system is addicted to incarceration. Our national addiction to incarceration has  produced the world’s largest inmate population ( 2.3 million inmates). The United States has 25 % of the world’s inmates, despite having only 5% of the world’s population. If a future judge experiences just part of the harsh reality of prison before presiding in a criminal court room, the judge’s prison experience may help reduce our incarceration addiction.


By Bradley Schwartz
Founder of prisonpath.com

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6 Responses to Why All Judges Should Spend One Week in a Prison

  1. PrisonPath April 21, 2015 at 8:08 pm #

    Willy– Yes – Some should spend a week and some a lot more – However the are some really good judges that are decent and honest!!

  2. PrisonPath April 21, 2015 at 8:09 pm #

    Of course, there are many fine judges. I am not recommending this requirement as a punishment, but rather a means by which judges will be able to make more reasonable dispositions that affect so many lives.

    By: Bradley Schwartz
    Founder of prisonpath.com

  3. PrisonPath April 23, 2015 at 12:23 pm #

    Extended Family Home Provider

    I think you are barking up the wrong tree. I think you are going after the messenger where instead
    you should be going after the people that enforce the jail and prison standards in each state.

    In 2008, as a Correctional Officer with two other officers, I co-wrote all of the policy and procedures for a new 300 bed facility. While doing so, every policy and procedure was implemented in accordance with Nebraska Jail Standards.
    Prior to this, I worked in an old jail facility that had several structural areas dated back into the early 1900’s. Although our new facility policy book and building passed with flying colors, I find it amazing that our old facility that I worked in for 7 years also was able to pass year after year.
    We had several isolation cells that would have frost on the outside walls during the winter and we just passed out extra wool blankets to the inmates, a very poor cooling system, a kitchen that would of never passed in the food industry sector but all was grandfathered in.

    Nebraska has a Jail Standards Board which is one of the states to have its standards and inspection program administered by a “grassroots” representative board, giving those affected by the standards ample opportunity to have input into the process. Although JSB operates as an independent governing board, the Crime Commission’s Jail Standards Division provides staff and administrative support. JSB is composed of 11 members, 9 of whom are appointed by the governor for 3-year terms. Statutorily, the state fire marshal and director of the Department of Correctional Services serve on the board. Appointed board members include two county commissioners or supervisors, a county sheriff, a police chief, a juvenile detention facility administrator, an administrator of a large jail (average daily population greater than 50 persons), a member of the Nebraska State Bar Association, and two laypersons.
    Perhaps these are the people that should spend one week in a jail or prison.

  4. PrisonPath April 23, 2015 at 12:24 pm #

    Bradley Schwartz
    Prison Path Founder

    Hi Alan, you have a good point.

  5. Leslie Sammis May 15, 2015 at 2:46 pm #

    Let’s add all prosecutors and criminal defense attorneys. I think that is fair – so sign me up (if everyone else is going). I’ve often thought of that – would I actually be able to do a week in jail and what would that be like. I can’t think of anything better for our criminal justice system than that.

  6. PrisonPath May 15, 2015 at 4:55 pm #

    Leslie, I agree completely with your recommendation. One week for all judges, prosecutors, and criminal defense attorneys in a real prison–jail. A strong dose of reality will give all participants a better appreciation of their impact in our criminal judicial process.

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