Over 30 years ago when I was traveling in SE Asia, I was scared by the awareness that, in many of the countries I visited, a death sentence was imposed for possession of drugs. There were big signs declaring Death for Dadah on walls and road sides. I heard the horror stories of kids, like me, serving life sentences for possessing weed. Their parents would spend every penny they had, sometimes selling their houses, to buy their children’s freedom, all for naught. I did not possess any drugs but I was always alert to the possibility that some scurrilous individual could put their drugs in my backpack. I said I did not possess drugs. I knew people who possessed drugs and, unlike Bill Clinton, I did inhale some Thai stick. It may not seem like it to you now but I was quite cautious regarding drugs while I was traveling. Once, I had to leave the house where I lived because someone named Rodney was running heroin from Chaing Mai back to Australia. All through that time I was grateful to be native to a country where justice prevailed and people were not sentenced to death or life in prison for non-violent, drug related offenses. That was over 30 years ago.
I know I’ve carried on about the privatization of the prison system in the US here. It really frosts me. We cannot expect justice to prevail in a country where incarceration is a profit generating industry. Let’s keep in mind that the People are paying for this. We’re paying for Three Strikes and we’re paying for minimum imposed sentences. We are not paying some poor slob employed by the state or the federal government to put in her/his 30-40 years until retirement. No, we are NOT. We are paying the shareholders for Corrections Corporations of America. Look at this revealing little nugget I found on Wikipedia- In a 1990s report, Prudential Securities was bullish on CCA but noted, “It takes time to bring inmate population levels up to where they cover costs. Low occupancy is a drag on profits… company earnings would be strong if CCA succeeded in ramp(ing) up population levels in its new facilities at an acceptable rate”.
My oldest and dearest friend hooked me up with this opinion piece from NYT.com, which just managed to piss me off all over again. The country I grew up in no longer exists. It’s primarily people of color and poor people who are getting locked up for good. We know how that works don’t we? Handicapped people and white women will be next in line, if there are any middle class white men left they’ll be next.
I don’t do anything any more. I don’t drink, I don’t take drugs, I no longer smoke, I work all the damn time, I pay my taxes and I wear my effing seatbelt. For several years I’ve been plagued by the unsettling notion that I am no longer innocent until proven guilty. Neither are you.