Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The New Frontier: Can't Beat 'Em, Jail 'Em

Wikipedia: Incarceration in the United States

Here is something to contemplate: the US has the highest rate of incarceration in the world. And it has inclined in that direction mostly since the eighties when the free-market-cheering, corporate-welfare-clinging Republican Party, along with their trickle-down-demi-god, Ronald Reagan, came home to roost.

Wikipedia: Incarceration

Feast your eyes on that big, red, US-shaped smear on the map of the world. We are way out in front on this big negative, while we trail industrialized countries in most every positive: income distribution, education, health care, infant-mortality, environment, and infrastructure.

But do not despair. The US only locks up outliers from the fringes of civilized society. The worthless, irredeemable, reprobates who, despite all of the glittering opportunities thrown at their feet, choose instead to sell dope on a trash strewn, traffic-polluted street corner. Or, they concoct methamphetamine in a moldering, abandoned camper, parked on the edge of an abandoned farm in some godforsaken neck of nowhere. Why do this, despite all the comprehensive education and gainful employment opportunities offered to them? Why would they pursue these risky livelihoods rather than clickety-clack on laptop keyboards in well-appointed, air conditioned offices where a lifetime supply of inviting beige cubicles await them? Well, it must be true what our great social benefactors, titans of industry, tell us: these lost souls are just too addle-minded and undisciplined; too un-ambitious; too lacking in level-headed aspiration to make it in this fair-minded Anglo-Saxon, Judeo-Christian, e pluribus unum culture of ours. And most are too brown-skinned. At least the statistics say as much:
According to the US Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) non-Hispanic blacks accounted for 39.4% of the total prison and jail population in 2009.[37] According to the 2010 census of the US Census Bureau blacks (including Hispanic blacks) comprised 12.6% of the US population.[38][39][40] Hispanics (of all races) were 20.6% of the total jail and prison population in 2009.[37]. Hispanics comprised 16.3% of the US population according to the 2010 US census.
Our little drug problem, which we seem so good at making everyone else's problem, mostly explains why so many of our citizens are locked up. Our "war on drugs" is a war we have lost. Miserably. Unless you happen to be a proud recipient of a federal or state contract to operate a private, for-profit prison. Then the war on drugs goes just fine by you. The more folks we lock up, the fatter your balance sheet grows. And that fatter balance sheet means fatter bonuses and a swelling salary for you, Oh Captain of Finance.

And that fatter, for-profit prison balance sheet means richer stock appreciation and dividend yields for capitalized shareholders -- the good folks, the most prominent and influential of whom -- wait for it -- do not produce anything, do not work for a living by most definitions, but instead live off their capital gains, taxed at the gentle rate of 15% (investments held > 5 years, 20% beginning in 2013). Yes, the cream of US society, those most eager to condemn those shiftless tenement dwellers, partly suck their parasitic succor from the bodies of prison inmates. The more the merrier. We must never surrender in our war on drugs, they will tell you, these capitalized idle who inherit their wealth and influence, just like their inmates inherit their lack of wealth and lack of influence. We must defend our little babies, they insist, against the perils of predatory, dope dealers: brown-skinned denizens of the dark, forbidding, urban enclaves of iniquity; and inbred, pale-skinned, country, trailer trash hid out in back road honky-tonks. If you are poor, you are a candidate for the big house.

Yes, Sir. The war on drugs goes just fine, as long as the rich get to toss the powerless "other" in prison, for a profit, along with the complicity of our political machine. And there are always plenty enough of accommodating, "tough on crime" Republican politicians willing to dip their snouts in the lobbyists' money trough. We can rest assured, failing a major shake up of the well-oiled political meat-grinder, that the prison-industrial-complex will never be legislated out of existence for so pitiable a cause as morality.

And make no mistake, the "tough on crime," mandatory sentencing ruse of Republican office seekers is what dooms most inmates:
A 2008 New York Times article[31] points out:
Still, it is the length of sentences that truly distinguishes American prison policy. Indeed, the mere number of sentences imposed here would not place the United States at the top of the incarceration lists. If lists were compiled based on annual admissions to prison per capita, several European countries would outpace the United States. But American prison stays are much longer, so the total incarceration rate is higher. ... "Rises and falls in Canada's crime rate have closely paralleled America's for 40 years," Mr. Tonry wrote last year. "But its imprisonment rate has remained stable."(source: Wikipedia -- Incarceration in the United States)
No, the prison-industrial-vacuum will continue to suck up poor men by the truckload and make a good buck snuffing out any hope these officially disenfranchised chattel might have for a meaningful, human existence.

And yeah, the corporate drones do it for the money.

Update: "We're in the jailhouse now", The Economist, 22-Jun-11 :: Lots of useful links to more, and more current, info. Even the conservative, but reasonably objective, Economist points out the "thin" evidence on the economics of prison privatization, not to mention the inherent conflict of interest created by for-profit prisons.

source: democratic underground::orwellian_ghost -- United States Prison Industrial Complex
Update 15-Jan-12 -- Democracy Now reports:

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