Broadening the Criminal Net

English: Concertina razor wire at a prison
English: Concertina razor wire at a prison (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We have an overcrowding prison system, and we don’t see how we’re the cause.

Our members of Congress have been cutting not only budgets, leading to understaffing, but also grant programs for degrees so prisoners can actually have a life on the outside.  A  “just don’t do it,” in complete hindsight.

We don’t want to create or promote actual hell on Earth, do we?  These are human beings we’re talking about.

With the failure that is the “War on Drugs,” and now, easy “terrorism” labeling, more and more people are treated like numbers.

And as dollar signs, in particular.  With for-profit systems, it’s become more about broadening the criminal net to arrest and house more people.

The Bad Shape of the U.S. Incarceration System

Statistic: 1% of all adults in 12 months will be incarcerated.  (Source: Ted Dekker.)

Per capita, the incarceration rates for the U.S. is five times higher than Canada or any European country.  Only about one in seven are in for a violent offense, yet the prison population in the last forty years has multiplied by seven.

Most are in for newer laws, such as drug use or possession, with no intent of harm.

When budgets and staffing are stretched thin enough already, tougher sentencing doesn’t help.  In Texas, 5-99 years?  Double-digit mandatory sentencing for first time offenses, and small ones at that: a man sells his seven-month-old pain pills gets 35 years.

We voted people into office that promoted the resulting overcrowding, a problem big enough to prompt major releases.  Sadly, that end-result is the only way some can leave.

Getting tougher on whom we deem “just criminals”…

“Just be done with it,” says an inexperienced, misinformed public

According to just after words’ Steve Cottingham, “we have cut prison budgets so much that no prison is fully staffed.”  Gangs control “everything but the gates.”

Segregation is alive in prison this way.  And difficult to escape for new inmates.  He also goes into modern slave labor, due to a loophole in the Amendment that abolishes slavery: prisoners can be treated like slaves.

Dramatic recidivism exists as no crime-free life—or life at all—exists outside prison.  With percentages typically in the 70s, the three-year average for California is 67.5%.  Individuals that got a college degree within prison, however, below 20% —according to two studies, 11.6 and 18.9%.  Hear it all here.

Know what you’re cutting.

Cottingham got the correlation between lack of education and crime— with kids in Texas schools being skipped a standardized test or grade for “higher district marks.”  Top that off with a city in the state announcing 50 school closures due to failing budgets.

Breeding crime from that kind of thing.  The difference in crime between a child with a parent lacking education and a child that is mentored: 50 to under 5%.

Already a writer, but now severely unemployed because of a criminal record, writing helps Cottingham during his dark days.  Check out his free podcasts, colorful, sometimes vivid stories and poetry (also in compilations you can buy to help pay bills in the struggle he’s been given).  He’s been answering questions in-podcast as well.

Failure of the “War on Drugs,” the Longest U.S. “war”

During these past forty years, 45 million arrests, $1 trillion in government spending.

Three ounces of meth alone, life without parole.  That actually happened to a man featured in the documentary “The House I Live In,” covered by Independent Lens, and proceeds As I Am, a great short by the Emmy® winning filmmaker Alan Spearman.

After the collapse of the labor market, getting into narcotics has been far easier than getting a real job, especially getting a real job for someone with a drug offense…

Another Class System: the real lives of the poor go ignored unless “other,” “them.”

The environment of these poor neighborhoods are so held back, it’s not just “the shiny new toy,” but getting rent money, food to live—it can become synonymous with dealing.

And where political sound bites drive the order of things…

Officer Mike Carpenter: those in for drug crimes get “so much time for so little … It’s almost like they’re paying for our fear, instead of … their crime.”

Read more about The House I Live In’s filmmaker, Eugene Jarecki: “I’ve been thinking about making this film for over 20 years. … When we started trying to find funds for The House I Live In several years ago, it wasn’t a good time for documentaries.  Public television stations around the world were the only outlets interested in supporting difficult and important projects.  Without public television (in the U.S. and U.K. in particular) this film probably would never have been made.”

Considered “Ecoterrorism” to Film Animal Abuse

How about this serving as a narrative for irrational fear?  Again, treating people—and, in this case, animals—like numbers.

New laws in several states make it “an act of ecoterrorism” to film the practices of animal farms, undercover.  This comes after footage of animal cruelty brought people to court.  Footage that includes: the processing of chicks, “de-beaking”; keeping injured animals walking in extreme pain; even the hanging of a pig by tractor crane.

Serious enough to close a plant or two, despite the public “need” for processed foods.  “Video of veal calves skinned alive and tossed like sacks of potatoes ended with the plant’s closure and criminal convictions”—AP.

But now, the language of arrest and harsh penalty go to those willing to expose abuse in states like Indiana, Arkansas and Pennsylvania.  In California, you get only a 24-48 hour legal window, before what you are doing is considered a crime regardless of intent.

The American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative business “think tank,” “has labeled those who interfere with animal operations ‘terrorists,’ though a spokesman said he wishes now that the organization had called its legislation the ‘Freedom to Farm Act’ rather than the ‘Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act.’ ”

Yeah, to continue a horrible trend where horrible pieces of legislation are given great names.  “Comforting,” this one size to fit all in feeding a corrupting machine; just look at how red the gerrymandered incarceration map is


Expecting lawmakers, surrogates, to do everything for us will not and cannot improve underlying problems, only worsen them.  We must improve ourselves, and reach out to those who need help.  This is a personal battle.

The moment that we all take full responsibility for ourselves and help our neighbors is the moment that all corrupt government ends.

It’s that simple, and that difficult.


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