Good morning, y’all. We are dealing with the cold, a little frozen precipitation and a general malaise. I know it seems like just yesterday I was complaining about the heat, but now I’m tired of the cold. I am ready for Spring. It appears my daffodils are too. Poor things are confused by the Spring like days interspersed with snow. I’m hoping we don’t get a late snow storm that kills everything off.
I am particularly fearful of a snow day next week. A week from today, February 24th, I go in for a hearing to determine if I am fit to return to the world. Testimony will be delivered to determine if I am able to travel freely about this world without monitoring. Fingers are crossed. It is my sincere hope that the trend in the United States to incarcerate everyone will be ameliorated in my case.
Now, in case you think I’m overstating because of my personal situation, let me spout some facts at you. The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. At year-end 2009 the rate was 743 incarcerated per 100000 population. This means that 1 out of every 135 U.S. residents was incarcerated in prison or jail. That is roughly 7.3 million people. I find myself asking the question, “are we as a people really that immoral, or is our court system just extremely good at locking us up”?
Roughly 52% of those incarcerated in state prisons were for violent crimes. I’m certainly not one to make an argument for allowing those harming others the opportunity to walk free. But, what can be said about the other 48%? Can we explain why half of the prisons’ populations are made up of non-violent criminals? We already know it’s not the white-collar criminals from the housing meltdown. To my knowledge only one of them has been brought to trial. He was a man of color, though. That might be a key.
From 1980 through 2003 prison populations quadrupled. Can we explain why such a tremendous surge during this period? As the old saying goes, “follow the money”. The two biggest factors, the war on drugs and for profit prisons.
The U.S. federal government spent over $15 billion dollars in 2010 on the War on Drugs. That’s right, one year, $15 billion dollars, and it is estimated that state and local governments spend about another $25 billion per year. 40 billion dollars of taxpayer’s hard earned money to incarcerate 1,663,582 in 2009, a little over half of them for marijuana. Based on those numbers, marijuana could be America’s number one cash crop.
I’ve formulated some basic questions that I think everyone should be asking themselves as we are headed to the polls this year to pick out our new leaders.
First, is the War on Drugs working, are there less drugs available? Even the uninitiated could find anything they wanted on the street in an hour. Therefore, the answer is no, the War on Drugs is not working.
Second, is incarceration a viable solution for drug offenses? California estimates to spend $47,000 a year to jail a person. Using $30,000 as an average for all states, the total comes to $2,694,000,000 (2.7 billion) each year to lock up just drug offenders. Every year, on and on.
Third, is the punishment being meted out fairly? Looking at information compiled by the FBI, it shows that over a ten-year period, from 1995 to 2005, whites made up 68.9 percent of the total arrests and blacks made up 27.8 percent. Of the 2,131,200 incarcerated in all facilities in 2004, 42.7 percent are black, 18.5 percent are Hispanic, and 36.5 percent are white. To me, it appears that, while justice may be blind, it is not color blind.
How did we get turned away from rehabilitation to incarceration? The beneficiaries of the “War on Drugs” are obvious. It’s the same military industrial complex outfitting our excursions into other countries. When we look at who benefits from having a country engaged in an endless, unwinnable “war”, the answer is easy. When you lock people up for a profit, you’ve created an unstoppable juggernaut for filling prisons, building more prisons, and then filling them up.
Currently the Lite family can boast there are no family members incarcerated. My status as a parolee is the only blemish on the family. I credit good genetics, we’re all white. One more thing for Mom to be proud of, along with no harelips and any “serious” mental disease. Unless you count the occasional Democrat here and there.