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James Schaller: Prison Ministry Makes Obvious American Jail Solution Is A Failure

I have not trained to be a warden and I have not spent the time many leaders in state and federal corrections have spent reflecting on the prison system. I have however been involved with a number of individuals involved in looking at our culture and our jail system, and who feel we are in need of a radical make over. My own involvement talking to many inmates each week, and through other contacts over many years is not the point. It is the need to rethink jails and prisons as solutions.

  1. We are 5% of the world's population and we have almost 25% of the world's prisoners.

    I may or may not agree with everything the Rev. Jessie Jackson says, but when he said this years ago, when our prisons were at a million and now they are over 2.2 million inside, I was stunned. But prisons are one of America's big industries. As top gun former FBI agent in charge of murder investigations, Dale Carson, writes in the required book Arrest-Proof, he explains the massive economic benefits for both policing money, jail money and social services money being gained and employing so many people. So other countries invent and make products and we make jails?

    Simply, nothing more needs to be said. Nothing can offer a good reply to this insanity of the USA leading the world with roughly 25% of prisoners. We cannot afford to have millions in these locations, and we cannot afford to show massive impotence on crime and legal systems.
  2. The poor can never offer any real defense because public defenders are unable to defend a billion people. It is simply a lie. The poor are not defended, and the prosecution has police or sheriffs who are a unified witness making calm presentations that are hard to shake. But times have changed. No one yells insults at police. You do not yell threats at a military force.

    It is only the increasing experience of average Americans experiencing police or sheriffs as no longer acting like peace officers, but as para military and pro prosecution, and not reporters of naked facts, that would allow an OJ Simpson to be found innocent. The white members on that jury did not trust some police testimony either. Why? It used to be the black community, often lead by Christian or other religious leaders, would protest possible abuses in their neighborhoods such as police killings with minimal threat or no threat. But now we see whites who report "cooked reports" by police, abuse of force, adding charges if you are not submissive and obedient in all manners, etc...
  3. Education in all areas of the country must be seen as an act of war against ignorance and made appealing, safe, dynamic and seductive. If a child sees school or education as a place of failure you may have just made them a criminal. If the material taught does not produce a love of learning, it is not going to make the person able to have a job. It they hate writing, and cannot do advanced math, why not teach them how to repair computers and air conditioners, or 50 other real world jobs, so they have two trades, and teach them how to bid, and run a business and keep a check book?

    Any child not functioning in school at 2nd, 4th, 6th and 9th grade needs an emergency intervention. I am not sure if a standardized test is the way to measure their education. But if a drop off is missed for years, you might not get on track unless you have longer and longer school days, Saturday and summer school. So prevent fall offs before they happen. If they are not going to be able to be employable due to profound defects, then other options for real meaning and success must be found. Make a youth a failure and make a criminal. If they love anything, make them a master at it, but be sure they are going to have a skill that is able to earn income or offer serious satisfaction.
  4. I am a full convert to keeping marijuana associated actions out of prisons. But I would never imagine touching it. Pot is far safer than a legalized liquid neuro and liver toxin--alcohol. It is the most powerful anti-nausea agent ever made, and I do not care what any lawyers practicing medicine, and is amusing how many do, say it is without medical use. Jailing someone for the use of pot is not something I can afford, and we cannot afford.

    However, pot has one of a number of dangers. It is not that it increases fighting--it reduces fighting in contrast to the neurotoxin alcohol. But it also makes you lazy if the dose is too high or too routine. This is not a DEA lie, it is a stone cold fact. Pot is amotivational. And if you know your Greek, you know that an "a" before motivation, means it can make you lose action and effort. This is a fact, and do not waste time ignoring it.

    Now I do not worry about the worker doing 16 hours shifts that has a few puffs before bed, instead of a couple diabetes making beers which deplete neurons of good magnesium, I worry about his kid getting D's and the kid's friends with one type of fun--smoking pot. This kid will be able to function and be able to support a family?

    I think this needs to be handled like nitro, but can be done. But sending any user to prison is not affordable. Perhaps that billion would be better spent in a rigorous quality rehabilitation program that also offered things that might add meaning to their lives. I know some hate education in prison God did not give everyone a brain, but if you do not give an addict of criminal a skill or skills, please just set the trial date for a few months or seasons once he is released. I once worked with a man that was educated in prison, and he was the most intense learner I have ever met. He was able to make a very good living in his business area, and was stunningly gifted.
  5. The sentences given out for paper crimes, lack of appearances, lateness to probation or parole hearings or bad checks is utterly insane. If someone is not dead, severely damaged from an attack, raped or burned in an arson, why do we have time for paper trivia crimes? If you need a lawyer to know the crime, then we have a super trashed country, because good law is clear and reasonable law. Crime experts from all over the world are stunned at paper crime or drug use crime sentences. They are also stunned at all the tiny infractions once you are in the prison system that keep you in it.
  6. The United States has a relatively recent and now entirely distinctive American approach to crime and punishment. Our distinction is in part that the answer for so many issues is jail. It is a pretty stupid approach for an advanced first world society. We should lead the world in low numbers of prisons.

    America even beats Communist China in prisoners.
  7. Serious sociopaths should be placed in prison. Repeat violent offenders do deserve serious penalties.
  8. The issue of gun control is complex. The law on the street is that any citizen that has the legal right to carry a fire-arm is a criminal until proven otherwise. If you buy and sell fire arms you are a terrorist in some unusual police locations. One can quote the second Amendment, but many police and sheriffs do not believe in it. Of course sociopaths hate it also, because they do not want to attack or rob people who are armed.