Prison as an engine for recovery?

Poor peoples value

Bill Maher was during the 2012 Election cycle using the term “bubble” to describe the Republican candidates for President, and often Republican voters.. They held ridiculous views because they were in a bubble, they either did hear, didn’t see, or didn’t know the truth behind the issue.

I’m like that with Prison. I’ve done a few things I’m not proud of; written a few blog entries that when I look back on, I wish I hadn’t written; I’ve never done drugs, unless red wine counts; speeding, yeah some; have not been in a fight since, well probably 1979, etc. So I’ve never really been exposed to prison, the prisoners, staff etc. It turns out on bike rides I do cycle near two pretty decent size prisons, but thats it.

I’d heard the claim that “America has the highest rate of incarceration in the world” and that the Womens rate on imprisonment for drug offences had gone up a staggering 828%. I guess thats what equality really does. Among the US States with the highest percentage of their population jailed, they are all southern states, with Texas at number 4, with some 639 people out of every 100,000 in jail. Doesn’t seem a lot until you understand the implications, cost and business behind that.

This American Life, episode 501 on July 26th carried a remarkable interview. You can hear the full 1-hour program here, but I’ve taken the liberty of editing just act-1 “Weeds of Discontent” and posting it .

It is, as their website says, “A recording of a very unusual conversation that came about in an unusual way. Filmmaker named Eugene Jarecki made a documentary about the drug war, prisons and the criminal justice system called The House I Live In. He’s been taking it around the country and showing it in prisons, and producer Brian Reed went to one of these screenings where an inmate and a corrections staff member ended up talking face-to-face.”

Until I heard this, I’d been ambivalent about the cost and impact of the war on drugs, notwithstanding Bill Maher often “banging on” about it. This has changed my mind completely. And then today, in that way things seem to inexplicably link themselves together, The Texas Tribune posted an article on how Texas is leading the US in looking for alternatives to prison. That has to be applauded. The article was written by Brandi Grissom, who coincidentally cycled with us last Saturday, when I was last riding by a prison. I never knew Brandi was a writer for the Trib’ and by that part of the ride we’d split-up.

In her article, Brandi writes

More than half of the 20,313 Texas prisoners serving time for drug-related crimes were convicted of possession, not delivery or other offenses, according to a February report by the coalition. Texas spends more than $500,000 per day to incarcerate those offenders

Author: Mark Cathcart

Formerly an Executive Director of Systems Engineering and a Senior Distinguished Engineer at Dell. Prior to that, an IBM Distinguished Engineer working for the Systems Group in NY and Austin. I'm currently "retired until further notice".

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