Friday, April 10, 2009

There's a war goin' on, kids!

Okay, so I may have forgotten a major piece of "free enterprise" that is running rampant in this country and absolutely *MUST* be stopped, at all costs. Before I discuss this in detail, I'd like to discuss a war that's raging in this country.

No, it's not the "War on Some Drugs" (even though it is the drug war's evil little bastard stepbrother) or the War on Terror or whatever other random bumper sticker slogan we're fighting against today. It's the war against America's freedom, being fought daily by agents of our own government against the citizens of this nation. Didn't we start a revolution over this bullshit a few hundred years ago?

I'm throwing this out there for two reasons. First, it's something everyone should know, if they know me. Second, I feel like I confused the hell out of my uncle the other night, and he probably thought I was merely on a drunken ramble...

This war, like all others our government is involved in, isn't being fought on the traditional battlefield. This war is what has been identified as a "Fourth Generation" war. Unlike traditional wars, a 4G war is typically split between two very unequal sides. On one side, you have a "superpower" that has all the technological advantages and nearly limitless funding. On the other side, you have the will and determination of a group of men who are willing to fight until the end using nothing but this determination and rudimentary equipment that can be purchased locally on a working man's salary.

Instead of having sophisticated equipment and a budget that never ends, these "underdogs" have nothing to rely upon but themselves and the knowledge that their fellow man understands their struggle and and will support it when possible. This ideological stand I choose to take is the idea that a man should be free, and a truly free man knows that he must fight to remain free.

When the underdog in this situation sees his freedom threatened daily, he can use this basic and relatively simple technology available to him in one of two ways. He can take the "fast track" route, kickstarting a revolution by firebombing police stations and sniping random government officials. He can also spread the truth about what's going on, using his mind to fight for this virus called freedom through non-violent dialogue, through every channel at his disposal. Since you're reading this blog instead of a front-page report about a crazy man who drove a U-Haul full of ammonium nitrate through the front door of the county courthouse, one thing should be fairly obvious here...I have chosen the latter option, in hopes that me and mine will never have to utilize the former. Make no mistake, however: I AM A FOURTH GENERATION WARRIOR, and I will never give up the fight to keep myself free.

Now that I got that little part out of the way, I'd like to discuss the biggest threat to American freedom that we have seen yet.

No, it isn't "radical Islam" that supposedly wants to kill us all "for our freedom" or any other random bullshit that the Faux News Channel wants to spew at us this week. It isn't the "War on Drugs" that has helped incarcerate so many otherwise completely innocent people.

The biggest threat to American freedom that we are seeing today is FREE ENTERPRISE. lolwut? Did he just say that? Free enterprise is a threat to freedom? Is this libertarian stoned out of his gourd? No, I'm not high. Yes, I said it...but with one caveat: Free Enterprise, when the business at hand is imprisoning people, is a serious threat to freedom.

The United States is now leading the world in two measurable categories, and I'm most certainly not proud of being on the top of either of these lists.

1) We lead the world in the number of people currently incarcerated, with ONE OUT OF EVERY ONE HUNDRED CITIZENS currently behind bars...and that ratio is getting worse every day.
2) We lead the world in the number of criminal statutes on the books. Seriously, we even kicked Singapore's ass on this one, and it's illegal to import chewing gum there.

Although solid data is unavailable, it is estimated that 1 in 12 American males are currently incarcerated, on parole, or on probation. RIGHT NOW. It is further estimated that 1 in 3 American males have been incarcerated, on parole, or on probation at some point in their lives. I'm one of them. This isn't "spent a few hours in a holding tank", but actually gone to court and sentenced.

You know, it wasn't always like this. There was once a time when this sort of thing wasn't true. That time has long-since passed. While our "War on Some Drugs" is certainly a massive part of this problem, it is also most certainly not the only part of this problem.

The problem stems from free enterprise mated with government spending. If there's one thing that everyone everywhere should understand, it's the concept of Cui Bono. Translated literally, "for the benefit of who?". Translated into reality, it's "for which account number?".

For every dollar spent on law enforcement, that money is going somewhere.

Private prison corporations are a huge part. GEO Group, Corrections Corporation of America, and the Cornell Companies are all major contributors to the American Legislative Exchange Council. For those who are unaware, ALEC was started 1973 by uber-fascists who opposed the Equal Rights Amendment, a constitutional guarantee providing equal protections under the law regardless of gender. Since then, they have become a bastion of corporate influence upon American law, and essentially line the pockets of politicians willing to sell out their constituents by passing legislation that harms America.

Privatized prisons were introduced to America as a method of decreasing costs associated with incarcerating American citizens. Study after study has found that A) there has been no reduction in cost to the American taxpayer, B) in many cases, private prisons actually cost MORE, C) the recidivism rate amongst persons incarcerated at private prisons is measurably higher, and D) the safety and well-being of NOT ONLY THE PRISONERS, BUT ALSO THE PRISON EMPLOYEES, is substantially decreased.

The reason for this? It's quite simple. A private corporation is in business for one reason...TO MAKE MONEY. When you are in the business to make money, your goal should be the maximization of business with a minimization of expense. Under normal circumstances, this is extremely appropriate. Unfortunately, where FREEDOM is concerned, this is extremely dangerous to a free society.

The biggest cost of operating a prison is labor...specifically, prison guards. Private prisons operate with a bare-bones crew, utilizing the minimal amount of people. The result is uncontrollable prison riots, rampant physical and sexual assaults upon inmates by not only other inmates but also guards themselves, and a whole host of other problems.

When prisons are privatized, they often remove inmate-oriented programs that have been repeatedly proven to reduce recidivism rates, due to the costs associated with these programs cutting into the "bottom line". The biggest cut is in the form of drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs. Considering that one in five state inmates is incarcerated for drug possession, and the majority of other inmates are incarcerated for crimes related to drug addiction, helping an addict understand the nature of his problems and overcoming them is an important step in reducing crime. Under Governor Ann Richards (herself an admitted recovering alcoholic), the State of Texas required that state prisons institute manditory drug and alcohol rehab programs for all inmates who needed treatment. Not "early release", not "rehab instead of jail", but striking the heart of the problem instead of sitting around watching television. Recidivism amongst these inmates was drastically reduced. After Ann Richards left office, she was replaced by a man long-known to have ties to private industries that made billions from tax dollars. Soon after taking office, our new governor immediately did away with this program. Its removal was touted as being "tough on crime", as "treatment instead of punishment" (even though it was more like "treatment AND punishment") was supposedly some big liberal hoax or something. It was supposed to reduce the amount of money spent on our prison systems, while simultaneously reducing recidivism by making our prison system so unbearable that people wouldn't want to come back.

Yeah, that worked. Just like executing more people per capita than anywhere in the free world has reduced our murder rate. Riiiiiiight.

Okay, so I think I've covered the "minimizing expenses" portion of this topic. Moving right along, let's get down to the nitty gritty about MAXIMIZING BUSINESS.

Remember that ALEC organization I was telling you about earlier? They're responsible for "truth in sentencing", "mandatory minimum sentencing", and "get tough on crime" legislation.

"Truth in Sentencing" laws are aimed at curbing and/or eliminating parole. On the surface, this sounds like a good idea. Our prisons are overcrowded RIGHT NOW, and our parole boards are faced with the task of releasing people to ease this overcrowding. A BETTER WAY to ease overcrowding in our prison system would be to do away with the drug war, and immediately release every single inmate incarcerated for possession or sale of drugs...because that's an instantaneous removal of 20% of our prison population. However, as it stands, "Truth in Sentencing" laws take away the ability of our parole board to make individual determinations about which individuals are allowed to rejoin society.

"Mandatory Minimum" and "Three Strikes" laws also sound like a great idea, until you really start thinking about what that means. Take, for instance, the circumstances of my half-brother. Drug wars be damned, the law couldn't stop him from trying cocaine before he was old enough to have a driver's license. After being released from a court-ordered rehab that was the result of an arrest for burglaries committed to pay for the cocaine being sold to him by our stepfather, he was charged with three other burglaries committed prior to the original arrest. Due to his status as a "prior offender", he'll likely die in prison for these crimes, as he is facing 99 years of incarceration if convicted of his crimes. He's 21 years old. The combined total value of everything stolen, in every case, was less than $400. Aside from beating the crap out of our stepfather when our mother came home with a black eye, he's never been involved in any acts of violence other than junior-high school yard fistfights. He's been off the coke for three years now, with the help of a successful stint in a rehab facility, as it should be. He should do some time for stealing the property of others. He shouldn't be doing a life term. Because there are people willing to make money from his stupid youthful mistakes, he's probably going to die in prison. Before you talk about how horrible of a person he is, look within yourselves. What did YOU do when you were 17 years old?

There's something to keep in mind here...if it's going to make dollars, it's going to make sense. To someone, anyway. If there is a profit motive for ANYTHING, there will be an active participant willing to make that profit. When the profits are derived from the incarceration of an individual, you can be certain that people are willing, able, and wanting to ensure that people are incarcerated for as long as possible for no other reason the almighty dollar.

You don't have to go pick up a gun, playing Rambo every time you hear a politician spew bullshit about getting "tough on crime". That gets you labeled as crazy...and if you're anything like me, it's merely adding napalm and dynamite to a raging fire. What you need to do is grow a set of balls and a conscience. Demand liberty and common sense in our government. Money and free enterprise is great. Money and free enterprise, when coupled with SLAVERY, is unconscionable.

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