Tuesday, July 21, 2009

June 24, 2009

Dear Readers~

I misplaced this blog entry so it's late, but at least I found it :} Lisa

Dear Sis~

I don't need my calendar to know that the summer solstice just passed. It's unbearably hot in this hulking, oven-like building which absorbs the heat all day long and radiates it back all night long. We have extremely poor ventilation so we bake, day and night, constantly covered in a sheen of sweat. It's common to awake at 2:00 am with wet sheets, panting like a dog.

Anyway, I was just watching another news program where the talking heads were pontificating on Obama's proposed closure of the military prison in Guantanamo. The Republicans have turned this into a political football with their energetic campaign to enlist as many politicians as possible to denounce the possible move of 200 or so of the alleged terrorists/prisoners to prisons in America. They've whipped up a wave of hysteria, abetted by the mainstream media which, sheep-like, has yet to question the basis for the resistance to the move. The self-righteous politicians have been quick to go on TV to announce that there is no way they'll stand for these detainees to be place in American prisons because, they claim with a straight face, they might escape! The absurdity of this stance, which is patently laughable, is never questioned by any moderators or reporters. What makes this so ridiculous (not to mention hypocritical) is that America is PRISON NATION. With almost 3 million of our fellow citizens imprisoned, we have the highest incarceration rate in the world (it isn't even close). We love our prisons and love to fill them! The United States has 5% of the world's population, yet we house nearly 25% of the world's prisoners. We incarcerate 756 inmates per 100,000 residents, about 5 times the world average (the ratio is much higher in the southern states, a relic of the plantation mentality). One in every 31 American adults is in prison, jail or some form of supervised release. Total spending on corrections (federal, state and local) exceeds $70 Billion per year and has increased over 40% over the last 20 years (even as our crime rates have steadily decreased). Moreover, America incarcerates more people for drug crimes alone than the European Union does for all crimes, even thought the EU has 200 million more citizens than the US. Few Americans understand (or care) how the prison industrial complex has, with its strong profit motive, come to dominate in this country, especially with the privatization of our jails and prisons. Incarceration long ago ceased being about public policy and morphed into an economic imperative. Building prisons (and filling them up) is all about creating jobs (and pleasing voters who will presumably vote for the politicians who brought the prison into their town). Many, many prisons (both private and public) are built on speculation, with the certainty that they will be filled (Build it and they will come!) The huge and highly profitable private prison corporations (Wachenhut, GEO, etc...) are very politically connected and those politicians ensure the passage of laws guaranteed to keep prisons filled. A tiny, but representative insight of the profit motive can be gleaned by a recent Newsweek article wherein a municipal employee of Hardin, Montana was crying about how their 5-year old, $27 Million dollar prison, built on spec, has remained empty. The town wants the Feds to fill it with the Guantanamo detainees. "We had hoped Two Rivers Detention Center would create jobs," he wrote. "Filling our prison would create desperately needed jobs for 200 or 300 people", he lamented. "Hardin spent $27 Million to build the prison, and now our town's bonds are in default...The town's business community is committed to exploring every last opportunity to get the prison up and running." Note how it's all about business, money and jobs, not whether it's good social policy to fill up another prison with our fellow citizens. Now, the same economic reality that hit the condo speculators is hitting communities who chose to build prisons on spec in anticipation of big profits and permanent jobs. (In reality, that prison would already be filled if it wasn't built in a tiny, remote town in Montana. The government(s) always ensure their prisons remain full).
Anyway, getting back to the Guantanamo detainees, we have over 3,000 death row prisoners here, and the nation is chock full of super max prisons that nobody is escaping from. America has perfected the art of super maximum security confinement on a massive scale. It's laughable that a politician (especially a Republican...they love our prisons!) could, with a straight face, claim that these 200 detainees cannot be safely confined anywhere in America. But, I've yet to see one single reporter on TV question this premise; instead, they just help whip up the frenzy, happy to have a "story" to report (which is really a non-story). Here's a real story: the shame of a nation which locks up almost 3 million of its citizens without a clue or care as to the ramifications. This would be a scandal in any other country, but here, it's called business as usual (with the emphasis on business).

Love, Bill

No comments: