Who Hijacked Our Country

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

America: a Nation of Prisoners

You probably already know that the United States has the world’s largest prison population. But even more staggering: Twenty-five percent of the world’s prisoners are in American jails. WTF?!?!?!

We have five percent of the world’s population, and twenty-five percent of the world’s prisoners! Something has gone terribly wrong here.

The author of this article says: “How can you tell when a democracy is dead? When concentration camps spring up and everyone shivers in fear? Or is it when concentration camps spring up and no one shivers in fear because everyone knows they're not for ‘people like us’ but for the others, the troublemakers…”

About 2.2 million Americans are behind bars and another 5 million are on parole or probation. And yes there are huge racial inequalities. Among Black males between 25 and 29, one out of every eight is behind bars. Who won the Civil War again?

Non-violent drug offenders make up one third of our prison population. Non-violent perpetrators of other victimless “crimes” make up another large segment of America’s prisons.

This article describes our prison system as a “G.I. Bill in reverse.” “Just as the original GI Bill laid the basis for a major social advance by making college available to millions of veterans, mass incarceration is laying the basis for an enormous social regression by stigmatizing and brutalizing millions of young people and ‘de-skilling’ them by removing them from the workforce. America will be feeling the effects for generations.”

Actually, these prisoners aren't being “de-skilled” in prison. When they come out they’ll know how to pick a lock, hotwire a car, how to make a shiv out of almost anything…

If this situation had happened overnight, there’d be mass anger and fury. There would be riots unlike anything ever seen in this country. Millions of people would take to the streets, demanding their country back. But since we've gradually oozed into this situation over the past few decades, we barely notice.

But something terrible has happened to this country. Is this what our Founding Fathers had in mind?


Blogger enigma4ever said...

Okay...definently the most disturbing thing I have read all day...

August 21, 2007 at 8:53 PM  
Blogger PoliShifter said...

I'm pretty close to declaring Democracy in America DOA

When's the last time we had honest elections?

When's the last time we had a mainstream media that concerned itself with reporting the truth and facts to the American People?

We are building internment camps. Some of us have heard about them and blogged about them. Some major US newspapers have covered them.

But the broadcast media won't touch it.

And most Americans who hear about think they are for "the other people, the trouble makers".

America has fallen. I don't know what it is, but it's no longer what the Founderd intended it to be.

August 21, 2007 at 10:23 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Enigma4ever: And that's saying a lot, with all the disturbing news out there.

PoliShifter: Honest elections, mainstream media concerned with reporting the truth? Hmmm, it's been awhile. At some point the public will have to move beyond the kneejerk reaction of assuming that every prisoner "deserves it" or is "just a troublemaker." If not, it's just a matter of time before we're just another banana republic; just Guatemala with a bigger army.

August 21, 2007 at 11:29 PM  
Blogger Candace said...

When Ann Richards was governor of our state, she tried, unsuccessfully, to invest money in building drug rehab facilities instead of more prisons. The neocons, of course, accused her of being "soft on crime," and Dubya defeated her in the next election. Idiots. The crime rates would have dropped dramatically if thousands of drug addicts could have gotten the proper treatment, and then been mainstreamed into society. Instead, they are sent to prison where they learn to be REAL criminals.

August 22, 2007 at 8:38 AM  
Blogger Candace said...

P.S. This is off the subject, but does anyone know what happened to Kip at OneFiveTwo? The link to his blog says it's been deleted.

August 22, 2007 at 8:39 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Candace: Ann Richards had the right idea. From what I've read, everything Rove is famous for, he was already doing in Texas in the mid '90s to get Bush elected governor. All of his famous smear tactics, he had them perfected a long time ago.

I don't know what happened to Kip152. I noticed the same thing yesterday when I clicked on the link. I've been wondering if he's the same guy who had a blog called My Peace a few months ago. I don't remember his screen name, but it was on WordPress and there just seemed to be something similar. He also posted frequently, had lots of comments, visited other blogs regularly. And they both suddenly deleted their blogs after the wingnuts started visiting. I don't know if that had any connection, but one of Kip's last posts had comments from Jenn and Mike's America, among others.

August 22, 2007 at 11:06 AM  
Blogger LET'S TALK said...

I am sure this is not what our founding fathers had in mind tom. It is strange to me that our jails are filled with the poor and disproportionate people. While we see blue collar and government crime going on and not much done to imprison these type folks.
We are quick to jail the poor and in some ways quite justifiable but we let the rich and government type walk free.

August 22, 2007 at 1:23 PM  
Blogger Larry said...

Good post and with the faltering economy, lack of jobs, Bush's sending the country to kill for no reason, it's no wonder the prisons have a waiting list.

August 22, 2007 at 1:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Years Ago we predicted the solution from this problem would come when the fiscal conservatives realizing what the Law and Orders have done, would come up with another solution because of the drain prisons were putting on the economy.

It almost worked.

Then came the conservatives circling the wagons and passing draconian laws for drug's and 3 strikes that guaranteed over crowding. Then (of course) blaming anyone with another opinion (hello Liberals and other rational minded people who've been predicting this dilemma long before it happened) as "Soft on....."

When the Prisons did get over crowded they blamed it on big government (the same big government that is too inept to run our healthcare) and passed more stringent laws. Now with the war on Terror and the Big Industry cashing in on Prison Contracts that is not going to go away. So much for "Big Government" which conservatives claim to hate but just keep managing to create (imagine that).

So some Liberals and some Conservatives have tried a new tactic that replaced "Big Government" and "Soft on Crime" with a phrase that Conservatives hate even more -


It has been well pointed out, that by taking poor kids off the streets off the street and giving them free room, board, heathcare, a gym, crafts, work, a library, TV, A Johnny Cash Concert, and all the same sex, sex they could want - tax payers are taking better care of them then they ever could out of the streets, especially since the same conservatives cut welfare (which is much cheaper then prison).

A friend of mine went through rehab and is now a professional making a good salary. When I went to visit him I figured out the charity was spending about 20K a year on him versus the 45K in State Prisons and the almost 75K in Federal and Maximum Security had he been arrested.

15 years after Jessie Jackson protested and was called a lunatic, serious people are finally asking why the penalties for Crack Cocaine are many times that of regular Cocaine when you need one to make the other?

The Great Lawyer Clarence Darrow made a speech at a prison in which he said "you are only here because you don't have any money!"

As I understand it he was escorted out!


August 22, 2007 at 5:34 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Let's Talk: It's true, often the wrong people are in jail. Too many corporate and government criminals get off scot free and too many victimless criminals are doing hard time. This certainly isn't what the Founding Fathers had in mind.

Larry: Yeah, I think that "GI Bill in reverse" that the article talked about is a good description. It's like we're just paving the way for millions of people to have a criminal record and no job skills except for hotwiring a car and picking a lock.

Erik: Yup, those 3 Strikes laws sure aren't helping. California's is the most extreme and wacky of them all. Life in prison for burglary, forging a check and then shoplifting. Sure that's worth some jail time, but life in prison??

Unfortunately the "private sector" that conservatives are so in love with, is playing a huge role in this. The prison-industrial complex is almost as lucrative and powerful as the military-industrial complex. Powerful people are benefitting from this and it isn't likely to change soon.

August 22, 2007 at 6:03 PM  
Blogger Lizzy said...

No, this is definitely not what our founding fathers had in mind.

I'm trying to hold out hope for our next election, however sometimes I think it's too late to save our country.

This quote says it all:
“How can you tell when a democracy is dead? When concentration camps spring up and everyone shivers in fear? Or is it when concentration camps spring up and no one shivers in fear because everyone knows they're not for ‘people like us’ but for the others, the troublemakers…”

I heard Canada is nice.

August 22, 2007 at 9:48 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Lizzy: I too am holding out hope for 2008. If the Republicans keep the White House, it will be clear that most American voters are dumber than dirt. And then what do we do?

August 23, 2007 at 12:13 AM  
Blogger Robert Rouse said...

Hi Tom, I thought I would stop by and let you know that your blog was one of the featured spots on the very first BWR at my new place. Drop by any time!

August 23, 2007 at 5:41 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Robert: Thanks. Appreciate it. I added Blog World Report to my links.

August 23, 2007 at 7:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, the "Incarceration Industrial Complex" is almost as large an potent a lobby as the Military Industrial Complex.

August 24, 2007 at 1:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Kvatch: Absolutely. The phrase "Incarceration Industrial Complex" isn't part of the general vocabulary (maybe it should be) but they're right up there with the military industrial complex when it comes to having a stranglehold on the country.

August 24, 2007 at 5:59 PM  

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