Many people believe that laws exist in society in order to keep its citizens safe. When a person commits a crime, they should be penalized accordingly. However, there are some that are questioning if punishment is the appropriate way to keep people safe. After all, if the punishment cripples a person’s ability to return to being a productive citizen, is it really the best option?

According to the Los Angeles Times, community reinvestment is the key to reducing crime and violence. Instead of locking up the people who break the law, they are assigned projects or summer jobs to improve their community.

“Indeed, there is now sufficient evidence to support an entirely new model for countering violence — one driven by investment,” said Professor Patrick Sharkley, the writer of the article Community investment, not punishment, is key to reducing violence.

Sacramento County Sheriff Service Center

In Sacramento, organizations such as the California Endowment encourage restorative actions rather than punishment. One reason to choose reinvestment is the much lower cost. According to the New York Times, the average cost of locking up one inmate annually is $168,000, The prison population of California in 2015 was 112,300 people. According to the Orange County Register, California could save half a billion dollars by introducing new rehabilitation programs for inmates and ex-convicts.

In the Sacramento City Unified School District, there are some educators who hold similar views. Often, the teachers and school administrators have to strike the balance between restorative programs and punishment.

“I definitely think that the balance should tip in the favor of, restorative, reinvestment, supportive, as opposed to punishment,” said David Van Natten, Principal of John F. Kennedy High School. “Particularly in the context of school, sometimes a consequence is appropriate but that it’s a much better learning experience and it’s more likely result in long-term change if there is a restorative component.”

The American prison system has become one of the largest in the world. It is up to the people to decide what happens next.