The United States, according to the New York Times , has 5% of the World’s population and 25% of all people incarcerated on the planet! In reality, in the United States, one in every hundred people are in some kind of incarceration. One may ask why we have so many of our citizens behind bars? There is no simple answer, but all of the answers point to money. Incarceration is big business in the United States.
Some private corrections companies such as Wackenhut and others, charge either the States or the federal government from $30 to $60 a bed. Billions are spent on the US prison system. Again, according to the times:
In 2007, according to the National Association of State Budgeting Officers, states spent $44 billion in tax dollars on corrections. That is up from $10.6 billion in 1987, a 127 increase once adjusted for inflation.. With money from bonds and the federal government included, total state spending on corrections last year was $49 billion. By 2011, the report said, states are on track to spend an additional $25 billion.
That’s a lot of scratch, bucks, greenbacks and Benjamins. The new way of building the prison population is putting people who fail to pay their debts in jail. Even though the United States outlawed debtors prisons in 1869, and passed a law so that debtors could not be incarcerated, it’s happening now.
According to Debt Solutions USA, a private company:
It’s not a crime to owe money, and debtors’prisons were abolished in the United States in the 19th century. But people are routinely being thrown in jail for failing to pay debts. In Minnesota, which has some of the most creditor-friendly laws in the country, the use of arrest warrants against debtors has jumped 60 percent over the past four years, with 845 cases in 2009, a Star Tribune analysis of state court data has found.
The United States ranks first in prison population. Where did we get all of these criminals? Well the answer comes from the reckless and costly War on Drugs, the new prohibition that makes convicts and criminals of those that have a substance abuse problem. In 2000 there were 74,276 drug related prisoners. In 2008 it was 95,079. In 2010 it was 95,205. This amounts to 50.7% of the entire prison population. It’s also an increase of 28.2% since 2000. We house those with substance abuse problems with professional criminals. What will we get when these people are released after serving an average 55 months in prison?
How many families have been broken up by the government? Other countries put these drug offenders in treatment. It all has to do with money.
This is what capitalism has done. People are now profiting by locking up other human beings. And the longer people are are locked up, the more profitable the industry is. It is estimated that 60 percent of all the current prison system is housing non-violent offenders. So, we are not necessarily locking up the “bad guys.” We are essentially detaining an entire generation, leaving them with the impossibility of obtaining housing or employment following incarceration, all for a profit. Yay for us.
Some states require inmates to pay for their incarceration. In Connecticut a family visit costs $10.00 and is charged to the inmate. In New Jersey, the state charges inmates for every day they are incarcerated.
Our prison system needs reform. This is almost impossible because so many are profiting from it. The prison guards and officials, the companies that run privatized prisons and the stockholders of these companies. In 2007, according to the National Association of State Budgeting Officers, states spent $44 billion in tax dollars on corrections. That is up from $10.6 billion in 1987, a 127 increase once adjusted for inflation. With money from bonds and the federal government included, total state spending on corrections last year was $49 billion. By 2011, the report said, states are on track to spend an additional $25 billion.
We need a more humane system. America’s answer to almost any social problem is to put people in jail. If you count those who are on parole or probation, the figures almost double. The prison system does not “redeem” those incarcerated. The facts are that they become hostile towards authority and pick up bad habits from the professional inmates. The recidivism rate for ex-cons is abysmal. We make criminals out of people that otherwise, with proper treatment for abuse problems, criminals.
Should we be proud that we imprison more people than any nation on Earth? Have we outsourced so many industries along with their factories that we need a giant prison system to keep people employed?
If we continue to allow such a disproportionate number of poor and minority citizens to be locked up, released without rehabilitation, and locked up again, modern slavery will continue to thrive. Corporations will continue to exploit and use men and women who are guilty of non-violent and largely drug-related crimes to further their profits which will further their control and influence over our democracy. The media uses fear, racism and hysteria to make us think that we are overrun with crime and dangerous criminals despite the evidence to the contrary. If we buy into this lie, then we have accepted that it is alright for so many of our fellow citizens and fellow human beings to be put in a cage and forced to work for nothing other than food and shelter. We are supporting a modern form of slavery if we continue down this path and do not, at the very least, lessen the punishment for drug offenses, do away with “three strike” laws and offer education and rehabilitation as an alternative.
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