04/08/2011 11:31 am ET Updated Jun 07, 2011

Cut the Federal Prison Budget

News about the possibility of a government shutdown later this week strikes me as being a lot of hot air. As a federal prisoner, I live in a system that is the epitome of government waste. Legislators could easily cut a billion dollars from the federal prison budget with changes that would not compromise public safety one iota. In fact, I suspect introducing changes like the concept of earning freedom would make society safer.

Certainly, our country needs to incarcerate predatory offenders. Some prisoners may need incarceration for life. But our federal prison system incarcerates more than 200,000 people. Is it really plausible that none of those prisoners have earned freedom? Is it really plausible that the only way to serve justice is for taxpayers to waste billions to lock 20 percent of his federal prison population in unsecured prison camps?

Our federal prison system may represent only one symbol of government waste. Its budget rests somewhere between $6 and $7 billion each year. By creating programs that would allow nonviolent prisoners to work toward earning freedom through merit, legislators could cut this budget by more than a billion dollars. That would represent only 20 percent, enabling the system to keep predatory offenders locked up.

Not surprisingly, however, legislators don't discuss the wastefulness that exists inside the federal prison system. The prison guard union keeps such discussions off the table. It's the reason that despite my having served more than 8,600 days already, taxpayers will continue to spend tens of thousands each year to pay for my food, clothing, and shelter. Is justice really being served by my serving another 1,000 days?