Sunday, March 29, 2009

A Swing Through the Sunday Stories

Some quick thoughts, starting with my perusal of today's paper.

I didn't have to go any further than the first page to see the first example of absurdity. The story was prompted by the recent incident in Passaic county, NJ regarding the 14 year old Clifton girl accused of distributing child pornography, because she posted nude photos of herself on MySpace. So who exactly is she victimizing? Herself - so she should be designated with a Megan's Law label, and be forced to stay away from ..... herself? To be clear, I am not suggesting that 14 year olds should be posting nude pics, nor should they be having sex but guess what? They do, and they are. Should a 14 yr old who has sex with her boyfriend be arrested for statutory rape? Do we lock up both participants if they are under 18, and only one of them if they are older. This is the problem with a reactionary society, and it is the mentality behind everything from Megan's Law, DARE, MADD, Danielle's Law, etc. Of course we as a society want children safe from predators, drunk drivers, inappropriate use of dangerous drugs, but draconian laws and societal crackdowns have never been, nor will they ever be, the true solution.

So further into the paper we come to the Parade section. Basically this is the USA Today equivalent of the local paper. It usually is a nice piece of the paper to head into the lavatory with, as it really doesn't require more than 5-10 minutes to garner the useful portions. This week's was pretty good. The article was about the prison system in the US, and what an absolute mess it is. Here are some amazing numbers: The U.S. has 5% of the world's population yet houses nearly 25% of the world's reported prisoners. (Certainly there are many countries in which the people are not reported, but that can not possible account for the full discrepancy). This doesn't include the more than 5 million people who have left jail but remain under "correctional supervision", ie parole, probation, and other sanctions. This adds up to 1 in every 31 adults in in prison, jail, or supervised release. Price tag for US taxpayers = 68 billion per year. So some of the less enlightened of you (okay, the idiots, but you're reading my words of wisdom, so there is hope for you) are thining hey, I want the criminals, the violent, the dangerous locked up. I'm right there with you pal, but our tale becomes more depressing. Drug offenders, usually harmless users and their so called "connections" (which the police call dealers, because in the black/white world of the ignorant, you either are... or you are not. No nuance, no subtlety, because their puny brains begin to hurt when forced to... think. The pct. of prisoners locked up for drug offenses rose from 10% in 1984 to 33% in 2002. ( Congressional Joint Economic Committe, and yeah, the name is funny if you think about it in this context).

It gets worse. 47.5% of the drug arrest in 2007 were for marijuana. Also, almost 60% of the people in state prisons serving time for a drug offense had no history of violence or on any significant selling activity. 4/5 of the arrests were for possession. 75% of the drug offenders in state prisons were there for nonviolent or purely drug offenses. Is this really something that helps society? (Once again, for the unintelligent out there; the answer is NO!

Furthermore, in a time of economic crisis, this approach is even more dangerous. Legalization, with structured rules, regulation, and taxation would remove this enormous revenue source from the underground, allow for a potentially lucrative revenue stream, and put more people into the productive segments of society, as opposed to someone labeled with the "ex con" status, often pushing them into the underground economy in order to simply make a living.

Oh, and before I get too nuts and climb high on the soapbox, let's be real. Nicotine, big pharma, and alcohol are all are more powerful and damaging to society as a whole than Cheech, Chong, Harold, Kumar, Bill Maher, the Pineapple Express fellas, Cypress Hill, and Willie Nelson put together.

1 comment:

Kate said...

Great post.