As writers, we become sensitive to certain words and phrases. Just ask me to go 12 rounds on the word folks, and you’ll see what I mean. One phrase that is increasingly starting to bother me isindustry. It’s a sad commentary on the state of our union when we have to industrialize incarceration.
During the Great Leap Forward, Mao Zedong oversaw the deaths of some 48 million Chinese peasants. Stalin – combining the Terror Famine and the Great Purges – was responsible for 30 million. Hitler and the 3rd Reich are credited with 14 million deaths, 6,000,000 of which were Jews. The only difference – and the true horror of the Holocaust – was that the Nazis industrialized murder. They actually built death factories. And they provided profit incentives to private corporations for facilitating these systems. People became units and murder became processing.
Industry is the wrong term – and the wrong mindset – to employ here. We are supposed to be the shining city on the hill – the bastion of freedom – the beacon of light that leads the world.
America – the world’s jailer – has 5% of Earth’s population, and 25% of her prisoners. Recently, the New York Times stated the following:
Indeed, the United States leads the world in producing prisoners, a reflection of a relatively recent and now entirely distinctive American approach to crime and punishment. Americans are locked up for crimes — from writing bad checks to using drugs — that would rarely produce prison sentences in other countries. [And] they are kept incarcerated far longer than prisoners in other nations.
From manufacturing Robotic guards to dumping the problem in the laps of private corporations such as C.C.A., we’re creating an entire economic sector devoted to caring for those unfortunate enough to end up behind bars. At the same time, we’re creating an entire 4th class – a criminal class – beginning in early childhood and ending up in dotage. A grand social experiment is taking place, wherein people are raised and schooled for lifelong prison careers. This insatiable machine preys primarily on the poor, the disabled and people of color. It begins with the school to prison pipeline and ends in the graying of America’s prisons.
I would like to see us take the money that we’re spending on paying guards and private prison corporations. I would like to see us take the money we’re spending on prosecuting the insane war on drugs. We can use that money to create paid – college level – training programs that could actually help some of these people break this cultural cycle and rebuild their broken lives. I’d like to see a national effort on the level of the 1960s Space Program, dedicated to ending prison recidivism. Above all, I’d like to see us actually put our money where our mouths are, and indeed become that beacon of hope and light that we claim ourselves to be. A country where we rehabilitate and educate our dwindling prison population while helping our lost and forgotten non-prison population build lives for themselves that don’t include – and in fact mandate – incarceration.
Dismantle the school to prison pipeline. End the abuse cycle that leads to violent crime. Disarm the drug market by using education and social intervention to help prevent addiction before it starts. Remove any kind of profit incentive from the incarceration of human beings and the destruction of families and communities. Make the educational minimum for prison guards a Bachelor’s degree. These people have jobs that are as demanding and complex as doctors or airline pilots. Any goon with a club and a hard-on shouldn’t be the bar we set.
We have a problem in this country, and its reaching epidemic proportions. If we don’t fix our overzealous need to imprison an entire class of Americans, it will eventually destroy us.
BitcoDavid is a blogger and a blog site consultant. In former lives, he was an audio engineer, a videographer, a teacher – even a cab driver. He is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and a Pro/Am boxer. He has spent years working with diet and exercise to combat obesity and obesity related illness.
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