Wednesday, September 1, 2010

In Case it Wasn't Clear that the Prison Population Has Exploded

In case the graphic isn't clear, that's bouncing around between between 0.15% 0.2% from 1925 to and 1973, then 0.2% of the male population to 0.9% by 2000. And with the prison population being 44% black, what do you think the effect on the black community has been? How many fatherless families has this created? How does a community survive with almost 10% of its young men in prison? How does it survive when those men, after they get out, will face legal discrimination and disenfranchisement for the rest of their lives?

Why Are So Many Americans in Prison?

I read this post by Michelle Alexander:

How the War on Drugs gave Birth to a New Permanent American Undercaste

Then I remembered this passage from Atlas Shrugged (Dr. Ferris is basically Dick Cheney explaining the system to an honest but naive industrialist)

"Did you really think we want those laws observed?" said Dr. Ferris. "We want them to be broken. You'd better get it straight that it's not a bunch of boy scouts you're up against... We're after power and we mean it... There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What's there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced or objectively interpreted – and you create a nation of law-breakers – and then you cash in on guilt."
I'm no Ayn rand fan. There is much wrong with her writing and ranting. But she's positively prophetic when it comes to the means by which those who control the government will extend that control to specific populations of people. She also nailed the reasons: the love of money and power.

The imprisoning of poor black men is not some unplanned byproduct of prison profiteering. It is intentional. We have to deal with this latest, and quite successful, attempt to enslave us. But we also need to address, head on, the fact that "they" are using our inability to connect with poor and working class folk who aren't black (e.g. white, Latino, Asian), to harm us. We are outnumbered and outgunned (we're trending to 10% of the population and have much less than a proportional share of wealth). We always w
ill be. We need to form alliances or we face permanent slavery.

One place to start is in the effort to overturn the prohibition on cannabis. It is the first step to dismantling the war on drugs. It's a great step. It will help us disproportionately and it's the right thing to do.

Put 5 (50, 500 or 5000 works too) on it. Do it today. Do it again tomorrow.