Land of the free is world�s top jailer
By Jerry Mazza
Online Journal Associate Editor

Mar 11, 2008, 00:50

Don�t let the anthem fool you. The land of the free says �Go to Jail� to more than one in every 100 adult Americans, actually 99.1. What�s scarier is that one out of every 34 of the 230 million adult Americans are under the correctional system�s �guidance,� in jail or out on probation. This makes the US el numero uno jailer in the world, ahead of China, Russia, Brazil, India, Mexico, South Africa, England and Japan.

Yes, prison is a growth industry in the US, what with residents rising by 25,000 last year, bringing it to almost 1.6 million. Local jails suck up another 723,000 people. Naturally, jail rates are higher for minorities. One in 36 Hispanics is behind bars according to 2006 Justice Department figures. One in 15 black adults is in the slammer, one in nine black men between ages 20 and 34. Also, one in 355 white women between ages 35 and 39 are behind bars, but one in 100 black women are, you naughty girls.

These statistics came from the Pew Center on the States. And so, in the big Monopoly game of life, it�s pretty clear where the dice are landing as to �Go to Jail.� If you�re wondering about the tab, the National Association of State budgeting Officers tell us states spent $44 billion in Corrections (not the novel by Jonathan Franzen).

That costs are up from $10.6 billion in 1987, a 127 percent increase adjusted once for inflation. Funding from bonds and the federal government plus state spending on Corrections rolled in last year at $49 billion. By 2011, we�re looking at another $25 billion on top of the $49 billion. But hey, they say it creates jobs. One in every nine state government employees works in Corrections, and all the jobs aren�t filled. California spent $500 million plus in overtime in 2006.

But California�s prisoner number dropped by 4,000 last year and that makes the Texas prison system numero uno at 172,000. It also had the highest execution rate under George W Bush. Recently, drug treatment programs, drug courts and revised parole practices have been approved, probably before Texas goes broke and has to jail the judges for imprisoning so many poor people.

In fact, the average cost per stay per year runs about $23,875. That�s derived from a high of $45,000 a year in Rhode Island and a low of $13,000 in Louisiana, where New Orleans is still swimming in the Katrina apocalypse. The bottom line, according to the FBI, is that violent crime rates (whatever that specifically applies to) have fallen by 25 percent in the past 20 years.

Some other reasons for all these jails

Obviously, the US produces an unhealthy share of rapists, murderers, child molesters, thieves and what all, serious criminals who should be locked up for a long time. Unfortunately, as John Whitmore, a Democratic state senator from Houston and the chairman of the state Senate�s Criminal Justice Committee pointed out, �The problem was that we weren�t smart about nonviolent offenders . . . We have 5,500 DWI (driving while intoxicated) offenders in prison,� which includes people driving under the influence who had not been in an accident.

But that�s the teensy tip of the iceberg that floated in with our fabled War on Drugs under Nixon, and the Controlled Substances Act in 1971, and the Drug Enforcement Administration in 1973, which caused the incarceration of millions of people for victimless crimes. The billions allocated for Corrections accelerated in 1988, towards the close of the Reagan administration, which also brought us the Office of National Drug Control Policy, and the idiotic �Just Say No� campaign, in New York called �Just Say, Yo!�

Notably, in a Wikipedia article, the �Effects� section on how marijuana and cocaine had increased fivefold between 1972 and 1988 (as methamphetamine and ecstasy have today) the truth is that the volume of imported drugs began ballooning in 1968 with the Vietnam War and the CIA flying in major tonnages of grass, heroine and opium to supplement their income for black ops and personal profit. Drug smuggling by people in high (no pun intended) places became a way of life.

George H.W. Bush�s 1989 burning of marijuana fields in the US gave US growers the urge to go underground, literally indoors, cloning, hybridizing more potent forms of marijuana for stronger effect with less volume. Arrests and long jail sentences increased exponentially, even for users caught selling or using small amounts of marijuana.

Wikipedia also points out, �A number of economically-depressed Colombian farmers in several remote areas of their country began to turn to what became a new, illicit cash crop for its high resale value and cheap manufacturing process. Local coca cultivation, however, remained comparatively rare in Colombia until the mid-1990s. Drug traffickers originally imported most coca base from traditional producers in Peru and Bolivia for processing in Colombia, continuing to do so until eradication efforts in those countries resulted in a "balloon effect". The coca base was used to derive the alkaloid cocaine. And Air America had a major hand as ever in delivering it to the USA.

Says Wikipedia, �Despite the Reagan administration's high-profile public pronouncements, secretly, many senior officials of the Reagan administration illegally trained and armed the Nicaraguan Contras, which they funded by the shipment of large quantities of cocaine into the United States using U.S. government aircraft and U.S. military facilities.[7][8] Funding for the Contras was also obtained through the illegal sale of weaponry to Iran.[9][10] When this practice was discovered and condemned in the media, it was referred to as the Iran-Contra affair.�

So, drugs in the Reagan/Bush era became plentiful on American streets, thanks to their use as barter for weapons and funding to overthrow an unwanted Nicaraguan government; also to negotiate for hostages with Iran behind standing President Jimmy Carter�s back. That�s treason. And no administration member went to jail for any of it. Huh!

Wikipedia reports, �Another milestone occurred in 1996, when 56 percent of California voters voted for Proposition 215, legalizing the growing and use of marijuana for medical purposes. This created significant legal and policy tensions between the federal and state governments. Courts have since decided that neither this nor any similar acts will protect users from federal prosecution (e.g., see Gonzales v. Raich).� So, you cancer victims seeking pain relief from marijuana, you may be felons yet. But why can�t you just suffer? What wusses.

The article goes on say, �Regardless of public opinion, marijuana could be the single most targeted drug in the drug war. It constitutes almost half of all drug arrests, and between 1990-2002, out of the overall drug arrests, 82 percent of the increase was for marijuana. In this same time period, New York experienced an increase of 2,640 percent for marijuana possession arrests. As of 2006, marijuana has become the United States of America�s biggest cash crop.[11]So it looks like we�re back in the growing business. What goes around comes around.

Thus, the greatest part of the surge in arrests, creation of prisoners and prisons needed to hold them, came as effects of massive government criminality, oversight, and misconstruing �victimless,� even minor, drug abuse as crime. One could safely say that the government�s criminality and interference in the personal habits of Americans is largely responsible for our overcrowded, ever-growing prison system today. And no one went to jail for that, huh?

Beyond that

The United States Department of Defense spent $30 million in June 2005 with a unit of defense contractor Halliburton to build a detention facility at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base for �enemy combatants� in the �War on Terror.� Since the start of the war in Afghanistan, 775 detainees have been brought to Guantanamo. Roughly 420 have been released. As of August 9, 2007, 335 detainees remain for whatever is being done to them.

On Feb 9, the media notified us that six of the detainees from Gitmo would be prosecuted for the conspiracy in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. You don�t think any of those six were possibly tortured, like our friend Zacarias Moussaoui, who took credit for planning that event even though he was in jail at the time of 9/11? This while wearing an electronic stun belt under his shirt in the courtroom. He subsequently recanted his confession.

I can�t find a dollar figure on the cost to maintain and staff Gitmo, nor the many torture and rendition facilities operated, leased, time-shared around the world in willing countries. Who knows. We may be number one in international prison systems as well, with a tab that adds more billions to our domestic $49 billion prison rap sheet.

Ah well, what price freedom, or should I say incarceration, or the more delicate word, Corrections (not the novel by Jonathan Franzen). I guess I�m waiting for that special prison for war criminals, like those that started and carried out the illegal war in Iraq, including Blackwater and all the privately contracted criminals who aided and abetted them.

I�m also waiting especially for those members of the US government, Dick Cheney, George Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Richard Myers, Condi Rice, Colin Powell, et al, who had a hand in the planning and execution of 9/11, the Inside Job and false flag operation that killed nearly 3,000 Americans, to go away for a long, long time, too, maybe even get crisped in the chair or sent to meet their maker by lethal injection. That would be a priceless gift to justice and democracy.

Jerry Mazza is a freelance writer living in New York. Reach him at

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