Sunday, March 2, 2008

An Ode to Texas

One of the bloggers that I subscribe to, HackLawyer, put up a post on February 29th that I believe hits home for everyone. And since I have critical issues with the judicial system overall, this infuriates me. Here is a quote from the post, and if you click on the quote itself, you'll be taken to the post in its entirety. The title of his post is 'One in 100 U.S. Adults are in jail,' this should say it all.
The nationwise prison population grew by 25,000 last year, bringing the grand total to 1.6 million behind bars. Another 723,000 are in local jails. The number of adult Americans is about 230,000,000, meaning that for the first time in history, one in every 99.1 adults is in prison.
And guess who's the leading state in incarcerations? Texas. My home state. Unbelievable.
Texas' school system is in underfunded and in shambles. The high school I attended and graduated from in 2006 went from being one of the best schools in the district to being classified as the worst school in two short years. Drop out rates are rising all across Texas, nothing relevant is being taught in the schools; I can't even remember being taught about Desert Storm in my American History class (because it was a government sanctioned massacre, no matter how you paint it, eh?)

Rapes, murder and violent crimes are on the rise in metropolitan areas, especially in my hometown: Amarillo. The economy is taking a swan dive akin to the one Rush Limbaugh takes every time he opens his mouth (and sweet Jesus in a handbasket of gardenias I hate Chris Matthews), the judicial system is clogged to high heaven. The police force is too busy stopping every vehicle for minor infractions to feed money into their county systems instead of actually providing public safety in the terms of catching rapists, murderers and violent criminals. And what's the solution to all these problems? Throw more people in jail. Yes, convicted criminals that the state of Texas' taxpayers feed, clothe and build more jails for.

To quote the report: in 2005, it cost $23,876 to house an inmate. $23,876?!?!?!! This is more than I make in a year. For the most part I am a law abiding citizen (meaning I follow a set of ethics that the state laws seem fit not to prosecute me for), I work 35 hours a week if I'm lucky and I'm about to try to put myself through college on a $12,000/year salary. That's a pretty steep price for punishment. Most people would say "then don't spend that much, cut back on their provisions." The problem with this is, no matter the criminal, they are still human beings--as violently as some may disagree. They deserve all rights of a human being: food, water, clothing and shelter. The fact that $23,876 on average is spent on an inmate a year is not quite the issue, it's the number of inmates that this money is spent on. It's common knowledge that most convicts in a prison are in for a nonviolent crime. This is $23,876 spent on a person who is not a physical menace to society. This is why people should be outraged. We basically pay $23,876 for a person convicted of insurance fraud. This alone should infuriate anyone who pays their taxes.

And not to mention that the prison system is inherently racist. There are higher imprisonment rates for blacks and Hispanic males as a whole. Read the article yourself for further facts. This common knowledge and common sense, but the bare bones facts, printed on paper in a federal report are revolting. The report shows as a whole how exploitative the judicial system has become, both financially and socially. It's a parasite, funneling money from taxpayers to support a burgeoning prison population, and it's a population in which at least 1/3 of the inmates are not violent and should in all actually not be in prison.

United States citizens as a population are fueling this problem. Why? Because they do not recognize this problem in its entirety. Prison has become a cultural norm. Why? Because everyone knows someone who is or has been in prison, or they have been in prison themselves. So they accept the fact that people are given lengthy jail terms for the most minor drug infractions (concerning marijuana, hash, etc.), credit card as well as other types of fraud, and other non-violent crimes. And in stark contrast, rapists are given probation. A man who physically and sexually assaults a woman can be set free back into society under the terms of a probation while the victim looks over her shoulder for the rest of her life. For ever rapist that is given probation, three third strike offenders for marijuana are given life sentences. Yet the average person does not address this issue. Or they protest, but shell out their tax money and keep their mouths shut when their opinion is called for in the legislative system. There is something vastly wrong with this situation.

For this, I call for civil disobedience.

Yes, it's a funny picture, but it's a serious situation. I recognized the situation of prison system overpopulation but now it's crucial that Americans do something. I have problems with the concept of prison and how it's supposed to keep society safe. But for the sake of the argument, I will concede to violent criminals being committed to the prison system. But that's the Anarchist in me, and like I said: the concepts of Anarchy are for the future. I do not believe drug offenders should be incarcerated, nor should any offender of a non-violent nature. We live in a democracy now, and we as citizens have the ability to change our system as a collective- and believe it or not that is a very Anarchistic concept.

I do plan on becoming active in movements to reduce the number of non-violent criminals put in the prison system. And I am toying with the idea of Civil Disobedience as demonstrated by Henry David Thoreau. If I'm paying taxes to Uncle Sam against my will, I sure as hell am not going to pay for someone who committed insurance fraud to sit in jail while a rapist is free on probation. There are many things wrong with today's world. But this is something that United States citizens can fix, if they can just put their voices out where the judicial, legislative and executive branches can hear them. With the sad state of today's economy, school systems and society as a whole, the last thing we should be doing is unjustly contributing to the social carnage that prison causes.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I work as a c.o & I can't disagree with your blog it hits the nail right on the head.