The U.S. has a very harsh (and ineffective) criminal justice system, compared to other modern nations. Here is some information about Norway and Sweden that I saved from a few years ago:
Norway’s prisons are much better than the U.S.’s. Instead of dehumanizing their inmates, they help prisoners retain their human dignity, so they will become better able to reenter society. http://www.alternet.org/drugs/michael-moore-norway-prison-tony-papa-sentence?akid=13995.2186.s12ezx&rd=1&src=newsletter1051042&t=10
In 2013 Sweden acted sensibly to reduce prison populations. They accomplished this for several reasons including reducing sentence length and emphasizing rehabilitation. http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/11/12-0
I would like to see ordinary Americans (including taxpayers and conservatives) confront elected officials and ask why they are wasting our tax dollars on futile “big government” prison programs when lower-cost alternatives exist. Instead of using only “liberal” strategies (abolishing the drug war, etc.), we could devise strategies for a broader spectrum of voters to demand sensible reforms to our criminal justice system.
So long as ordinary Americans and politicians are fixated on punishment (instead of actually solving problems), this waste and ineffectiveness will continue. Fortunately, in the past few years more people of both political parties have started moving toward positive solutions.