Sunday, August 30, 2009

Prisoners and Us and The Right Wing Nuts

I’m listening to John Rothman, KGO Radio show host, talking about the ordered California prisoner release. His question, “What are we going to do with these people?” pretty much sums up the problem; he assumes from the start that “these people” should not be in society. The facts, and I’m not well versed with the problem but do hear of disturbing trends about California’s justice system, will probably show that we have an inordinate number of prisoners incarcerated on minor drug charges, illegal entry in the U.S. or they are entirely innocent of any crime. Once in prison, however, they pump iron, associate with ruthless and violent prisoners, are raped or otherwise abused by fellow inmates and/or guards and they essentially learn how to be meaner. Many are illegal aliens. So, if we have to release 37,000 prisoners to save our budget, because we couldn’t manage that either, then it seems to me that we should release the least violent of the bunch; those druggies and illegal aliens and an occasional innocent person. Obviously, our idea of justice and punishment needs to be revised.

Our idea of justice has been, to date, to store people who violate our laws, or at least who are convicted of that, in prison warehouses, out of sight and mind. That’s how we keep our unemployment down. That’s how we feed the huge prison industry’s insatiable appetite for revenue. A prisoner is that industry’s sales statistic on its balance sheet. Oh, and should I say that one of the expenses on its balance sheet is paying off a politician? Or, can you extrapolate that yourself? Maybe I should say it, because I sure don’t see anyone out there, especially politicians, who are going to acknowledge that little tidbit. That balance sheet entry probably says “retained earnings,” but should say “payoffs” since that line-item is a “reserve fund” for lobbying.

So, our lack of foresight, and compassion I should add, i.e., to actually rehabilitate felons, at least those who can be rehabilitated, is finally biting us in the ass. We didn’t do that and the prison system is costing us more per prisoner than it would have had we rehabbed them. It costs less to keep a person on welfare than it does to keep them in prison. It costs our society more to shove a nonproductive person out into our society than it does to pay welfare. In fact, not rehabilitating our prisoners creates more welfare than rehab.

But, as long as we choose to be dumb about it, the cycle of people warehousing will continue. We don’t have a sustainable system of justice because we ignore society’s needs. We call it “socialism” when laws are made to support society, we demand “self sufficiency” for those trapped in a cycle of dependency and we insist on “take-your-lumps-responsibility” when victims of injustice are precluded from doing that. All of these "ideals" are the core of the new conservatism. It just means that we are a mean people. It’s ironic that we claim to be Christian too.

Speaking of the ignorant conservatives, have you seen the new magazine on the market; NewsMax? I see that it features David Limbaugh on its home page. I guess the Limbaugh name gives you an idea on who’s behind it, but, as usual, there is no mention of who the publisher is. It’s just another right-wing source of stupidity; a platform for Sarah Palin, Ann Coulter and Glenn Beck, the idiots of the right. I don’t think there’s a cure. I wish there was. As long as these idiots dominate the discussion, we will continue to warehouse people in prisons, among a long list of other injustices.


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