Sometimes, the most harmful offenses to society are nonviolent. When people think of crimes and criminals the first thing that comes to mind is most likely assault and battery or manslaughter or even murder. But some of the biggest criminals of the past century have been financial criminals, sapping money from the poor.
I think people should be able to go to prison for nonviolent offenses, but I also feel like it should depend on just what that offense was. Some offenses are worse than others. Dealing drugs knowing it will cause someone problems and health issues is a big offense, but just downloading something illegally would not really be prison material.
The idea of prison is not to punish offenders, or at least it shouldn't be, but rather to place people deemed to be dangerous to society in a place separate from society. Nonviolent offenders, especially drug offenders, do not need to be put in prison as they are only doing harm to themselves. What they need is rehabilitation.
I do not believe people should go to prison for non-violent offenses. I believe we would be far better off to put these people on house arrest where they are forced to provide their own necessities. Prison should be a sentence for people who are a threat to society and generally non-violent offenders are not a threat.