I was guilty of using this term. You probably have been too; maybe still are.
As in, (1) "Why don't those people just get their sh** together?" or (2) "We can't just let those people run amok?" or my favorite, (3) "Those people got exactly what they deserved." Who are "those people" I am referring to? Those people who are incarcerated.
Wll the reasons they can't get their sh** together include: because they don't have the tools to, can't get a break from the system to, or are battling substance use disorder and have no chance to.
Really? They're running amok now with no safety net. Yes, it's only a matter of time before they are incarcerated or reincarcerated, but they will be back out in almost all instances. In fact, 95% of them will be released at some point.
What they and their loved ones deserve, the 95% who are reentering our communities is a chance to be redeemed. Frankly, our communites deserve for them to be redeemed. That takes retraining, respect, and resources...and therein lies a massive hurdle for many.
Were you aware that 82% of state level defendents use a public defender? Who pays that attorney? We, the people do. So, if we pay to defend the accused, what else do we pay for? Well, for those who can't afford bail, we house them and feed them while they await trial. It can take months even for nonviolent cases to work their way through the system. 51% of male inmates have minor children and 68% of female inmates do. Who replaces child support and paychecks to house, clothe, insure, and feed these children? We do of course through welfare food & direct payment programs, free & reduced lunches, and Medicaid.
We need to be asking why we aren't rethinking how we prosecute and punish people with mental health challenges and substance use disorders. It would cost us less to get them help. If they are in a program and working then we aren't paying to house them and feed them. And for the 51% or 68% with children, we aren't doing the same for their kids.
So, you don't even have to be empathetic or compassionate to support the idea of transforming how we think about "those people". You could be a fiscal conservative and still support this approach.
Here's some further reading on the subject of incarceration...