Thanks to a conversation with a friend the other day I learned about a documentary that was released late last year called “The House I Live In”.
Written and directed by Eugene Jarecki and produced by grammy award winning singer John Legend, the movie tackles the massive failure that has been America’s ever expensive and never ending “war on drugs.”
According to the film, over the past forty years the United States of America has arrested more than 45 million of it’s citizens over illegal drug use and/or sales, making it the world’s largest jailer, however for all of the country’s unfair and unjust punishment drugs are cheaper and more available than ever.
The war on drugs is also a stream that runs into the river that is the prison for profit system that now exists in the U.S.
Over the last decade, the two largest for-profit prison companies (Corrections Corporation of America and GEO Group) saw their annual revenue double as a result of the spike in incarcerations, making them both billion-dollar companies.
Between 1990 and 2009, the total number of inmates in federal and state prisons doubled, while private prisons saw its business explode — the private prison population in 2009 was 17 times larger than 2 decades earlier.
There is also the practice of the “school to prison pipeline” a widespread pattern in the United Statesof pushing students, especially those who are already at a disadvantage, out of schooland into the criminal justice system.
For a nation that brags about it’s exceptionalism the U.S. certainly does a lot of non-exceptional and quite frankly ass-backwards things. White collar criminals can literally ruin the country financially, bring it to it’s knees and face absolutely no consequences, but a seventeen year-old kid (more than likely black or brown) can get up to forty years in prison for selling as little as two rocks of crack cocaine.
The system is stacked against these individuals, law enforcement policies like New York City’s “Stop and Frisk” policy, which it’s architect Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been proud to stand by are designed to place poor disadvantage youth into the criminal justice system for something as inconsequential as having a nickel bag of marijuana.
As he took the oath that officially begins his second term this afternoon there is no doubt that President Barack Obama has a lot on his plate. Immigration Reform, Gun Control, and a continued economic recovery are all issues that are pressing and need to be addressed. Let’s hope that he will be able to carve out room to take on this issue before a lot of other families are ruined over non-violent crimes.
This should also be a lesson learned by the supposed (and I do mean supposed) party of fiscal responsibility. The Republican party spent money like drunken sailors during the last Presidential administration, but have been calling for the most draconian austerity measures imaginable since the beginning of the current one.
If they were really interested in cutting government spending they would do something about the $63 billion dollars we are spending to lock people up each year.
Incarcerating the masses to enrich ALEC, The Koch Brothers, and the billionaires who’s bidding they do has a devastating effect on millions. Elected officials should now be taking steps to put an end to it, anybody who thinks otherwise should view “The House I Live In”.