Army or Jail?

Posted on 15. Nov, 2009 by in Uncategorized

This weekend I met a young lady who just graduated from the US Military Academy at West Point.  Sitting along side of her was another older woman’s whose husband was once a career soldier.  As we three discussed the young graduates propsects for the future and her fears about possibly being sent to Iraq or Afghanistan at some point (she’d scheduled to go Germany in the Spring), I had a thought about an out dated Military policy.  Whatever happened to giving convicts the choice between the Army or Jail?  While I can’t figure out when the policy actually ended, there was a period of time when the military was understaffed that convicted felons would be given the choice to serve their time in prison or to serve in the mililary.  What I have found is that even though the military abandoned this policy decades ago, that the military has increasingly been handing out waivers to men and woman who would like to enlist, but are unable to do so given their past criminal history.  According to an article printed on, 17% or 21,880 of the Army’s new recruits in 2005 were granted waivers to qualify for military service.  It was also suggested in the same article that the aformentioned statistic grossly underestimates the number of recruits enlisting under these circumstances.  

With many state and federal prisons suffering from over crowding and the military suffering form such low enrollment that troops are now forced to serve multiple tours at war, why not reinstate the program fully? Instead of giving waivers, allow all non-violent criminal offenders the opportunity to serve in the military in exchange for a reduced or commuted sentence, particularly in the case of those that have never been to jail before.  It is clear that prison is not the great rehabilitator it is often made out to be and that most of the education inmates recieve in prison is how to be a better criminal.  Why not give the less violent among the prison ranks an a real possibility at an opportunity for a better life in the form of the discipline and training that the military can provide?  At the same time joe tax payer will get a greater benefit than the production of license plates and should the convict survive past the war, he or she will have acquired a set of skills that will allow them to return to a more productive way of life than would have been offered to them apon their prison release.

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