Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Caged America

Photo: Jenn Vargas

There is this air of superiority we emit when considering our prison population.

“Do the crime? Do the time.”

"Animals belong in cages.”

And my personal favorite:
“They MUST have done something, or they wouldn’t be in such trouble.”

As the prison population climbs, we feel safer. The beasts are locked away, and the world is a better place. We don’t stop to wonder: Why are the numbers rising? What are the real crimes? Why are they increasing? Who are the criminally branded? We don’t take into account the politics associated with determining who goes to prison, and who is given a pass. Financial resources, race, geographic location, social forces all factor into who is incarcerated and who remains free. We care nothing about the source of these prisoners; we simply support the building of more prisons, and switch the channel on our flat-screen TVs.

Hey, it’s just the times, right?

If you run afoul of the law, and have the money to hire a competent lawyer (read that: not a public defender buried in too many cases, and not an assignee lacking motivation), then you’re as golden as OJ: The Murder Trial Years. If not, you’re in Plea-Bargain Hell, wondering why judge, jury, bailiff and spectators surround you in a circle of glare, faces illuminated with that menacing Twilight Zone spotlight. And, if you are brown or black, be prepared for a dose of extra judgment based, in part, on the near-hysteria of the local evening news.

“Gosh! We’re surrounded by criminals!”

Commit a crime in the South or Southwest? Decision point: Does your Daddy have pull? No? Get in that cell, son.

Yes, I know. I know. The violent and recalcitrant exist. The greedy and immoral plague us. The psychotic and incorrigible walk with impunity. We need protection and punishment, and that slippery dream of rehabilitation. But, when some are given a pass based on class or an arbitrary ruling on the significance of their crime (ghetto crack vs. middle-class cocaine, white collar vs. blue collar, high profile vs. low profile when the profile is determined by the media), while others receive a wink based solely upon who they are, we can safely call the system corrupt.

And, the times? The times, they are intolerant. This is not the time to be a prisoner in these United States, but it is certainly a good time to own a prison. Yes, I said: “Own a Prison.” Because, we all know that the private sector is highly competent in making enterprises work, while the government is a collection of boobs who could not find their asses in their underwear. It’s all about efficiency, right?

So, Hey! Let’s privatize prisons! It’ll be like mortuaries! There’s never a shortage of the dead or the wicked! And, let’s sell stock. It’ll RAIN MONEY! And, then we can incarcerate more prisoners, and keep those already incarcerated behind bars longer, and – Did I mention that it will positively RAIN MONEY??

You see, those people gave up their rights when they picked up a gun, or copped a rock, or stole a chicken, or car-jacked, or smacked their wife, or robbed our neighbor or …

Hell, who ARE these people, anyway?

Geez! Who cares?


One Red Horse said...

Do we heal? Remediate? Nope. We wage retribution. Education for immates SUCKS. Special Education? Double Sucks. Texas study of 253 inmates found 47.8 had difficulty with word attack skills (sign of dyslexia).

Spartacus Jones said...

Very astute.

Prison is for poor people who commit crimes that poor people commit.

It appears that Mr. Obama plans to give Bush et al a free pass on a list of crimes longer than your arm.
You can paint these crimes with a coating of political semantics, but what they boil down do is fraud, extortion, kidnapping, assault, robbery, rape and murder -- didn't miss a single malum in se.
(I'm not speaking "poetically" here.
I'm speaking legally.
Look it up.)

But the Ghost-of-America-Yet-to-Come doesn't seem particularly keen on prosecuting these bastards.
Too "divisive?"
We want that "broad coalition" to fairly represent the interests of rich criminals.

It's business as usual with the wealthy & politically-connected granted de facto impunity no matter how heinous their crimes.

So much for "change."


CoyoteFe said...

Hallooo, Cherie -

Great point about education (or the lack of) place in all of this. We treat education like a great prvilege, when it is clearly (to me) a right. What society can hope to prosper and claim justice without proper and (dare I demand) customized education? There I go with my gossamer dreams again.

CoyoteFe said...

Greetings, Spartacus Jones -

Glad to see that you were in fine form this morning!

Every once in a while, they make an example of a rich person, but that seems to be more of a cautionary action than a purely puniative one, so agreed.

How about if we call a truce on Obama until he actually takes his oath of office?

rebecca said...

I took a Criminology course a few years back. Reading your very astute "on the money" post, what I learned is right there in black and white. And black and white is the issue. Prisons are mostly filled with many that come to court with a lifetime of serious home/economic/ethnicity/education problems behind them. And, add to to that, the "three strikes and you're out" (or in, in this case) law that has many behind bars for doing petty crimes. Plus, let's not forget the ones that were set up. That's why the death penalty does not work. Too many on death row that have no right to be there. And, yet, some serious killers still roam the streets. I'm not saying that prisons are filled with people who shouldn't be there - no - but many, do not belong there. But, hey, if you have the money, then the American Dream that rings of freedom is yours for the right price.

Another good one....

Ken Mac said...

as much as I dislike MSNBC's prison TC series, it does humanize the prisoners. Poor education, poor parenting, no hope.

Anil P said...

This reminds me how some prisoners in India have spent time in prison awaiting trial. It's hard to imagine what it must be like to undergo such cruel twists in fate but this is not to say that the guilty should not be meted justice.

CoyoteFe said...

Halloo, Rebecca -
Way to sum up the criminal imbalances in the criminal justice system! And, I cannot help wondering how many people would benefit from counseling, therapy, and someone ANYONE in their lives who could help them find their path. But, that is true of us all, yes? It's just that those who need the most help too frequently get none at all.

CoyoteFe said...

Greetings, Ken -

Are you referring to that "Locked Up" series? I don't get it. It is on so often that I consider it a magnet for voyeurs. I suppose you are right about the opportunity for prisoners to sound their voices, but it can only be a cautionary tale, right? Junior, watch this so you too will not end up behind bars ... Ugh!

CoyoteFe said...

Greetings, Anil -

You are correct. Society must protect itself, and criminals must be punished. But, when justice is meted out unevenly, when the punishment is overboard, when justice can be bribed, when the innocent routinely suffer from injustice, and when the voices of the persecuted are ignored (like how I pull all the comments together? - Ha!) then the system (and we) are cruel.

Lori Skoog said...

Hey woman!!! You are being read!!! I'm very impresses as usual. And thanks for all the comments.
Have you read the latest?

GrannyRivers said...

I share the angst, but for balance at Thanksgiving . . .

Give us, O God, the vision which can see your love in the world in spite of human failure. Give us the faith to trust your goodness in spite of our ignorance and weakness. Give us the knowledge that we may continue to pray with understanding hearts. And show us what each one of us can do to set forward the coming of the day of universal peace.

by Frank Borman, Apollo 8 commanger.

But, you do really good work darlin'.

Luv you.

CoyoteFe said...

Thanks, Mom! :-)