Wednesday, November 19, 2008
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?