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Essay By H.J Coddington, Death Row, California
Prisons were once used only to silence political dissidents. Non-political types received fines, banishment, or corporate/capital punishment. Prison is too costly compared to these other punishments.
American Quakers expanded prisons into places of punishment, thinking it would be better than the above solutions in certain cases. No one seems to realize that prisons are a continuing experiment. There are alternatives.
The idea of prison as an internal "banishment" spread from the US to the world. But it is an idea that failed miserably in its birthplace. While halfway houses, boot camps, electronic bracelets, and a few other small experiments are being tried, none will eliminate the fortress prison and its terrible toll on the US. Prisons breed crime, gangs, harden cons, depress staff and community.
New inmates cost an estimated $50,000 a year each to house. Prison is thought of, wrongly, as a "growth industry.", and a sancrosanct institution. Its neither.
It produces broken and warped humans, drains billions from your pockets, and has a recidivism rate approaching 85%. Thats 85% we catch again, so even more return to crime, but learned to be better criminals in prison.
Would we willingly finance an industry recalling 85% of its products as dangerous ? Or can we admit it isn't sancrosant, and try something else ?
We have two choices for our future : a new path, or the cancer of a gulag system dotting our land, draining taxes from industry, schools, clinics, etc.
Already, among males 20-29, 1 in 3 Blacks, 1 in 10 Hispanics, 1 in 25 Whites, are on probation, parole or incarcerated. We're losing a generation.
As these numbers grow, will we sit by like a compulsive gambler, throwing good money after bad ? Our culture must stop producing so many misfits, one way is to change how we deal with the ones we have, so they stop serving as mentors, role models, to each next genberation of young potential thugs.
In addition to greatly expanding current alternatives, we need to try new ones, quickly, before the billions marked for new prisons are wasted.
One idea that has worked in the past is using criminals to colonize and reclaim land considered useless. Harsh cold or desert, polluted, deforested or overmined areas could be made habitable, like the Isreali Kibbutzim have made deserts bloom.
Aside from local use, the US could bargain with the recipients of its foreign aid, or countries deep in debtto allow US colonies to reclaim such foreign areas (eventually returning them,) thereby benefitting world ecology and relations. Laws can easily be changed to prohibit the release of certain types of violent or repeat offfenders, except to such colonies or other areas isolated from normal society. Even after their time was up, they lose rights to ever walk among us.
They'd have the same rights that released felons now have to jobs, families, own homes, etc. But not the right to emigrate; except to other similar areas.
This totally eliminates the problem of criminals repeatedly preying on the law abiding and ends the jail crowding and limited opportunity for self-improvement that now frequently turns small time offenders into career criminals.
The money not spent on prisons could provide cash incentives to kids to improve themselves in school, and other preventative steps to stop them from ever turning to crime. Such payments are proven effective and the economy would benefit both from their spending and later from their better educated talent pool.
Those with vested interests in the prison system will claim that the above won't work. Don't listen; they're just trying to hang on to your tax dollar. It can : The present system obviously doesn't and something must be done!
Copy this to lawmakers,
get addresses at library, post office, or off internet. Ask pols
to change their stands on how to prevent crime to this "colony" idea, or
lose your vote !!!
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