More People in Metal Cages = A Better America
EXCERPTED FROM “How The Revolution Started: Essays & Impertinent Thoughts (Eggy Press, 2016)
The new rankings just came out. We win again!
Of all the nations on Earth, the United States of America incarcerates the largest percentage of its population. Out of every 100,000 people, we put 716 in some kind of jail. No other civilized country is even close.
Nor are the uncivilized ones. Almost 25% of the entire world’s behind-bars population is housed in an American corrections facility – so named because we’re correct to warehouse unwanted blacks, druggies, and other assorted losers in human zoos.
Let’s be clear: We don’t have the world’s largest prison population because America is a nation of criminals. It’s not that we have more bad people than they do in other places. It’s just that we’re better at apprehending, convicting, and sentencing our bad people than everywhere else.
This is something to be proud of. Just when it seemed no one could take America seriously anymore — what with our hypocritical doublespeak on Egypt, our inability to bully other countries into handing over our political enemies, and the general creeping suspicion that people in India, Brazil and other “developing nations” might soon have as much buying power (and all the cool stuff that come with it) as us — the prison results came in. The winner, by a mile, was a beautiful country known by the moniker “the land of the free.”
Hooray and huzzah.
Other nations try to pass themselves off as havens of civility, places where Law and Order is a way of life, not a television program. China, Russia, various Central American dictatorships – they all claim to respect the Rule of Law. But none of them have built entire industries out of storing away undesirable citizens. They bandy about the honorific “police state,” but they haven’t really earned it.
We have. Rwanda (527 per 100K) is nipping at our heels. But they simply don’t possess our wealth. They may have plenty of naughty citizens in need of jailing, but Rwanda just can’t build as many prisons as us. Plus, they’re busy rebuilding their nation after a couple of genocides, so we forgive them if they don’t show as much devotion to law enforcement as America.
The Cayman Islands, what’s their excuse? At only 382 per 100K (good enough to sneak into the top-20), this little Caribbean nation might want to tighten up their notoriously loose banking laws. That is, if they want their governmental authority to be taken seriously.
Last week, bowing to pressure from the increasingly powerful Cannabis Lobby, Attorney General Eric Holder, addressing the American Bar Association, announced plans for drug-sentencing reform. Holder’s blueprint includes plans to divert low-level drug offenders to treatment programs and to release elderly, non-violent offenders. Holder clearly has no interest in upholding American prestige in the incarceration community. Indeed, Holder, who previously could be counted on to raid state-approved medical marijuana dispensaries, sounded as though he might be playing for another team: “We need to ensure that incarceration is used to punish, deter and rehabilitate – not merely to convict, warehouse and forget,” Holder said. “Although incarceration has a role to play in our justice system, widespread incarceration at the federal, state and local levels is both ineffective and unsustainable. It imposes a significant economic burden — totaling $80 billion in 2010 alone — and it comes with human and moral costs that are impossible to calculate.”
Impossible to calculate? If we had a dollar for every sweet child sleeping safely in the security of their parents’ home, able to dream sweet dreams and awake without the threat of violence from some violent marijuana user – well, then we would be very rich, indeed.
Some radical provocative types discern a nefarious link between a nation with the world’s largest military budget, the world’s largest prison population, and a dual justice system for rich and poor. We don’t. What we see is a country that realizes the more people you put in metal cages, the better off everyone who isn’t in a metal cage will be.
If you’re an American who cares about American Values, the question you’ve got to ask yourself is: Do you want to be a winner, or do you want to be a loser (loser being defined as anything that’s not a winner, winner being defined as first place)? Do you want America to be a nation where drug users are free to walk the streets, as though they were upstanding bankers or politicians?
Or do you want America to be a place that knows where to throw its filth?