Thursday, November 03, 2005

America the Prison State

Over at Crooked Timber this post

notes that the number of us in prison or on parole is now around seven million.

Yep, seven million Americans in the prison system.

Among other things, anyone want to reckon what that costs? How much we're spending to keep seven million of us in jail or under state control? And where that money is being drawn from? (As I say to my students when I go off on this rant in the classroom, as I sometimes do, if we're building prisons, folks, we're not building biology labs, we're not building libraries, we sure as shit ain't building new high schools or art museums or day care centers.)

And why, do you think, so many Americans are in prison these days?

Are we just wicked? Is that it? Too many bad, bad children? The sixties, was it? Not enough spanking going on? (Ha!)

War on drugs, folks. There's your answer. Go have a look at the stats. Over half the people in prison are there on drug charges. And? Mostly? Stupid drugs charges.

Look. I know some drugs are bad drugs. I live in Arkansas. I know meth, for instance, does really awful things to people's lives. But putting meth users in prison? Really isn't useful.

Rehab. That might help. (I admit it probably doesn't help much.)

Prison and jail -- they don't help at all.

What would help, you wonder? I tell you what would help: really good daycare, really good schools, really good jobs waiting for the sixteen year old who, because she has nothing else to do with her life and nothing to look forward to, gets in the car with Jim Bob and takes that hit of crank. If crank is all there is, crank is what she'll choose. Here in Arkansas, for these kids in the hills, it's crank or playing bingo and the slots over in Oklahoma, hoping to score big some day. Most of them aren't, in fact, stupid -- at least not until the meth has eaten out their brains. Why wouldn't they choose the meth?

1 comment:

zelda1 said...

It amazes me how our system will lock up meth users, put them on probabtion, and then never give them treatment. They never go to a drug rehab. It seems to me, the prudent thing to do is to take those first time drug users and put them in an in house drug problem for 2 or 3 months and get it out of their system. If, after that, they go back to using, maybe they need to be locked up or left alone. Some people are going to do drugs, the criminal activity comes with how the acquire the drugs. I think pot should be legalized, it's not a bad drug, bad if you have bad lungs, but it's okay. Meth. well, it's too bad they can't just give the meth users an upper, give them their uppers, that's what they want, most want them to keep weight off, most want them for greater sex, few want them to be all strung out, the srung out comes from the crap they buy off the street. I'm bipolar and I remember when I was in my twenties and self medicating and I used anything I could do bring me down from that mania and if I got too far down, I used the uppers to get me up. It wasn't until I started taking good prescription drugs that I felt normal and was able to leave the self medicating alone. Maybe most of those meth users are trying to self medicate to rid their minds of depression. Too little money is spent on solving the problem. The war on drugs should not be about locking them up, it should be about making them better.