Archive for prisons

Letting Ex-Felons Vote -- A Racial Thing


voting booth

What is the purpose of sending those convicted of crimes to jail? Is it punishment? Yes. Is it rehabilitation? Yes. So it's two mints in one as the Certs commercial goes.

And are most felons guilty of violent crimes? Actually, no. Most are incarcerated for non-violent (yet still serious) felonious crimes like embezzlement, tax fraud, mail fraud, auto theft, racketeering, drug possession charges, burglary, counterfeiting, possession of restricted pornographic material, spying, and various drug-related offenses.


7.9% of sentenced prisoners in federal prisons on September 30, 2009 were in for violent crimes.

Nearly three quarters of new admissions to state prison were convicted of nonviolent crimes. Perhaps the single greatest force behind the growth of the prison population has been the national "war on drugs." The number of incarcerated drug offenders has increased twelvefold since 1980. In 2000, 22 percent of those in federal and state prisons were convicted on drug charges.

Then why, if so many of these felonies are non-violent, is it that when you become an ex-felon, all of your rights aren't returned to you? According the the ALCU, ten states severely restrict voting from ex-felons (seven require long waiting periods, applying for reinstatement and review; three others - Iowa, Florida and Kentucky - ban it lifetime for these ex-felon offenders -- most of whom are non-violent). I can understand restrictions on getting a gun, but on your vote?

So far in the 40 states that allow for ex-felons to vote there haven't been any issues at the polls. So why not make voter reinstatement upon completion of incarceration national?

We non-felons take voting for granted. But it's majorly important. Look at the crazy people that are getting elected these days. Their choices and legislation affect all of us. Yet if you're an ex-felon, chances are you are obstructed from casting a vote.

With the racial make-up of our prisons today, that appears to be a punishment that affects minorities disproportionately. And the Justice Department, led by AG Eric Holder, wants to fix that. And surprisingly he's meeting resistance on both sides of the political spectrum. Many Republicans are against it because they see the reality that minorities are the overwhelming majority of  the prison population. Minorities, for good reason, tend to vote Democratic. If you unleash hundreds of thousands of potential voters after they do their time, GOP'ers will have a tougher go of it holding their political offices. So the Republican reasoning is understandable: keep minorities away from the vote. It's wrong, but you can see their reasoning: self-preservation.

But for those Democrats on the fence, this is purely a heinous act of villainy. Why should non-violent convicted felons be subjected to lifetime sentences after they're released? It flies in the face of just punishment -- that fitting the crime. C'mon Democrats, you know better. You stand for social justice. Now promote it. Make "inclusion" more than just a catch word.


The States Plot To Subdue Black Votes - It's Criminal


No vote

Why are 4.3 million US voters being denied their right to vote? It's not that they lack the proper identification. It's that 31 states have decided that if you've committed a felony, you lose your right to vote -- forever.

Is that fair? Is it right? Well, there's more behind it than just a form of continuing punishment in perpetuity.

The right to speech, to religion, the right to due process and the right to own property are not denied to the formerly incarcerated. So what's really behind this? You probably won't be surprised. Race.

The fear that a felon can't reintegrate into society is the great misconception. Felons are people too. What separates them from us is they're people who made a mistake. We may hate their crime, but we don't have to hate them forever... unless of course, you're a crime and punishment Republican. In that case, take out the fuel and the matches to stoke the flames of fear.

Racial fear.

Consider this: one in three Black men in the US, of voting age, is denied the right to vote by state restrictions for felons. In 2010, that was 5.8 million men. They made a bad decision somewhere in their lives. And they paid for it, whether it was murder or simply drug possession. If you do the time you should be fine. In less than half the states, that's true.

In those places when they're released, they're not whole. They're stigmatized as second class citizens. That opens the door to recidivism, not an incentive to make the best of a second chance. It builds up resentment and a disenfranchisement. Hardly the desired effects of the deterrent of prison.

Isn't it time to let a man or woman pay his/her debt society and welcome them back? Watch this segment from The Cycle. Restoring voting rights isn't a risk. It's a reward for making amends and paying one's debt to society.


Pot Deaths In The US? Oh, About Zero



Drug overdosing is a horrible thing. Death of any kind is terrible. But when it's attributed to abuse it makes this such an unnecessary loss. Well, on the heels of AG Eric Holder announcing the Justice Department was not going to enforce federal anti-drug laws over states laws, the US bureau of statistics released this amazing conclusion.

The number of human deaths from overdosing on marijuana is -- ZERO.

That's right. A giant goose egg.


Yeah, not a single person has ever died from a weed overdose. We don't have numbers on pandas, but we're guessing it's about the same. According to one frequently cited study, a marijuana smoker would have to consume 20,000 to 40,000 times the amount of THC in a joint in order to be at risk of dying.

The decision opened the floodgates for other states to pursue similar legalization efforts and outraged police groups apparently not excited to see a shift away from the failed war on drugs.

So why have police enforcement across the country come out against this ruling? Money. You see when a bulk of police arrests are attributed to drug infractions, legalizing the number of arrests will go way down. Cops will have to find another reason to justify stop and frisk. And we know that's not going to be guns, because the NRA won't allow that to happen.

Taking guns and cannabis off the table poses a conundrum for the police. So they've taken to another attack.

The police groups also make a number of additional controversial claims that marijuana use itself leads to violent behavior, suicidal thoughts and interest in harder drugs. Scientific studies have not been able to prove this causation conclusively, however, and research has also suggested that THC has significant therapeutic value to patients suffering from cancer, AIDS or glaucoma.

So, without public opinion or science on your side, what's left?

police donuts

Police use drugs as a reason to apprehend people. Now it's going to require another cause. Then there's also the reality that there won't be as many cops needed as a bulk of their arrests were drug related -- and Marijuana arrests tops among those apprehensions.

From Drug War Facts:

US Marijuana Arrests Percentage Share of Total Drug Arrests
- Year - Marijuana% Total Drug Arrests Marijuana% Total Manufacturing & Sale Arrests Marijuana% Total Possession Arrests
2011 49.5% 6.2% 43.3%
2010 52.1% 6.3% 45.8%
2009 51.6% 6.0% 45.6%
2008 49.8% 5.5% 44.3%

Basically, Marijuana is half of all drug arrests. And it's not growers who are being arrested, it's users. And many of them were legal users under state laws. Medical and recreational.

How does this relate to the stop and frisk numbers: According to the NY Times:

New York City spent one billion dollars and one million police hours prosecuting 440,000 marijuana arrestsFifty percent of those arrested were under the age of 21. Eighty-five percent of them were black or Latino.

Looks like racial profiling is going to take it on the chin with this DOJ declaration.

Now the cops in many states are going to be able to concentrate on real crime, not quota's of arrests for harmless usage. In those states where it's legal, life is about to change. Less fear. Less police interference. And watch for crime statistic numbers to drop. Eliminate the Mary Jane arrests and we're going to see the numbers fall -- and big time.

And also dropping will the the cost of jails and prisons. We're not going to see the populations grow, but rather fall. And so will the costs. Less prisoners to feed and house, less tax payer money allocated to these non-violent "prisoners."

So complain all you want, police officers. You do a good job when it comes to crime. Marijuana is not one of them. Good luck apprehending real criminals. Perhaps toke up before you go out on patrol -- cut down on your edginess.


Why Are Prisons Burgeoning And Who's Profiting?


Federal Prisons

This past week, I met a Latino fellow who had done some time, about three months in jail, for a non-violent drug related crime. He had been caught with three ounces of marijuana, twenty Vicodin pills and an ounce of cocaine. He didn't have the resources for a private attorney so his public defender represented him. In a plea bargain, he got six months in country lockup for a felony possession of narcotics charge and he served his time.

It turns out he was very interesting to talk to, because until then, he had been a law abiding citizen. And if you saw him on the street, you'd never know this man was a felon. I always thought these guys were seedy, easy to pick out of a crowd types of people. He was an engineer. And he really poses no threat to us. But his "crime" did cost a lot of tax payer money to keep him behind bars. It got me to thinking, especially when I read this article in Friday's HuffPo.

Chris Kirkham reports:

Because of punitive drug laws, drug offenders still make up more than 46 percent of the federal prison system, according to the Department of Justice. Immigrants are the third-highest category of offenders, at 11 percent. But this year, more than 60 percent of all federal criminal convictions have been for immigration-related crimes, federal data show.

So, with a little help from the National Association of State Budget Officers, I found this interesting bit of information:

In 2007, around $74 billion was spent on corrections. The total number of inmates in 2007 in federal, state, and local lockups was 2,419,241. That comes to around $30,600 per inmate.

Let's put that in perspective:

In the past two decades, the money that states spend on prisons has risen at six times the rate of spending on higher education. In 2011, California spent $9.6 billion on prisons, versus $5.7 billion on higher education..... The state spends $8,667 per student per year. It spends about $50,000 per inmate per year.

I understand the need for incarceration, especially for violent crimes. The guy or gal who embezzled money, received child pornography or sold some marijuana doesn't quite rank up there as the same risk as armed thieves, rapists, and killers.

Here are some numbers from the Office of National Drug Control Policy:

Violent crime was not responsible for the quadrupling of the incarcerated population in the United States from 1980 to 2003. Violent crime rates had been relatively constant or declining over those decades. The prison population was increased primarily by public policy changes causing more prison sentences and lengthening time served, e.g. through mandatory minimum sentencing, "three strikes" laws, and reductions in the availability of parole or early release.

Maybe there's some logic there -- book  more of them and keep them longer. Well, we do need to be protected.

These policies were championed as protecting the public from serious and violent offenders, but instead yielded high rates of confinement for nonviolent offenders. Nearly three quarters of new admissions to state prison were convicted of nonviolent crimes. 49 percent of sentenced state inmates were held for violent offenses.

Huh? Our policies are increasing the number of non-violent offenders? At $50K per prisoner, per year? I'm not so sure I like that. The huge increase in what we tax payers are coughing up and seeing spent is money to incarcerate mostly drug users, sellers, and undocumented men and women.  In many cases, people who've committed one of two crimes -- a drug offense or crossing the border without the proper papers. These non-violent discretions hardly call for multi-year incarcerations. I'm getting a whiff of scam here -- and I'm feeling like the victim.

Again, from Chris Kirkham's expose:

The Federal government is embarking on an unprecedented campaign to criminally prosecute undocumented immigrants crossing the border. The result: A new wave of non-violent offenders are flooding the nation's prisons.

"This is the crime du jour," said Judith Greene, director of the nonprofit Justice Strategies, which has focused on the private prison industry's growing reliance on incarcerating undocumented immigrants. "It's the drug war all over again. It's what's driving the market in federal prisons."

Damn, that translates to a lot of money. My money. Your money. Smells like someone's making big bucks here. But whom?

Immigration offenders represent one of the fastest-growing segments of the federal prison population, providing a lucrative market for private prison corporations that largely control these inmates in the system. Over the last decade, revenue from the federal prison system has more than tripled for the GEO Group and nearly doubled for Corrections Corp. of America -- the two companies that dominate the private prison industry.

This is outrageous. We're supporting private prisons? For undocumented entrants to our country? Isn't it cheaper to  just deport them -- which the Obama administration is doing at a record pace? I'm not a big fan of deportation, but I do realize that a "crime" has been committed. But do I have to overpay for their discretion? I think not.

Let's consider some alternatives, and more money for education and less for rounding up undocumented people who are not costing us nearly what the US government is charging us to incarcerate and deport them.


Some common sense here -- Prisons in California (alone) are allocated $9.6 billion. Education in California receives $5.7 billion. I'm for tipping the scales the other way.

Yes, by all  means incarcerate violent criminals, and probably recidivists of non-violent crimes. But let's not put drug users and undocumented visitors in the same cages or categories. We all expect protection. Not subsidies for private prisons. With a sane justice code, we wouldn't be building more prisons, we'd be building more schools.

Ask yourself this, do we need more prisoners of non-violent crimes or more teachers and schools which lower the numbers of violent crimes? Prevention, not overpriced incarceration, is my suggestion.

Speak up and speak out. Revise justice. Improve education.