Thursday, July 05, 2007

The American Police State

Starting with the concept of citizen government, United States has always been an innovator. Today, we are reinventing the concept of the Police State, oddly, mostly, with the consent of the governed.

The US is a Nation of Prisons
I've beat this drum before, more than once. If the American government sent out forces to round up the entire population (every man, woman, and child) of both Vermont and New Hampshire and threw them into massive concentration camps, it would not come close to equaling the total number of Americans currently held in the nation's prisons and jails. America holds 2.2 million of her citizens prisoner. That is 1% of the adult population of the country.

Twenty percent of all of the people held prisoner everywhere in the world are imprisoned by the United States. (Source: King's College London) There are more Americans in prison in the US than Chinese imprisoned in China (1.55 million). The ratio of imprisoned citizens (738 for 100,000 population) in the US is the highest in the world. That is nearly double Cuba's ratio (487) and way more than Iran (194). For comparison, Great Britain has imprisoned 142 citizens per 100,000 population, Canada 116, France 91, and Sweden 75.

The state of Texas (not chosen at random) holds 223,000 of its citizens in prisons and jails. That is more than live in the city of Plano. Adding in probation and parole, over half a million Texans are controlled by the state Department of Criminal Justice. The state prison system alone consumes almost 200 square miles of Texas real estate. The greatest concentration of prisoners is in Anderson County where almost 14,000 humans are imprisoned by the state. The entire population of Anderson County is only 55,000.

The reasons are two-fold, racism and fear. In some states, the number of African-American citizens imprisoned is astonishing. In South Dakota, nearly 5% of the African-American population is held captive. In 12 states, at least 3% are serving time. The nationwide average is 2.3%. An unthinkable 12% of young Black males (ages 25-29) are imprisoned. Laws that disenfranchise felons burden our nation's African-Americans. In Iowa, over one-third of the African-American citizens are ineligible to vote because of felony convictions. In Virginia the number is 20%, 208,000 individuals. Nationally, 2 million African-Americans citizens (8.25%) have been stripped of their right to vote by the government.

What, do you suppose, would happen to any politician who ran on a "reduce the United States prison population by 2/3 in four years" platform? For all of our bluster about being "the Home of the Brave," Americans are a timid, frightened people. When George Bush said that the 30-month sentence Scooter Libby got was "excessive" he was right in that almost every sentence handed out by the American justice system is excessive. We have demanded that our government throw people in prison for decades for petty crimes that might earn a maximum two-weeks confinement in Canada. Some examples:
American citizens have insisted on longer and longer sentences for more and more petty crimes. We have demanded mandatory sentences so "bleeding heart judges" can use neither compassion nor common sense. We have done it out of fear. Fear of crimes we have only seen on television fiction. Fear of dark-skinned people we've never met.

America has developed an unique form of Police State. It is not so much interested in protecting the power of the state as it is in suppressing minorities. And, we have done it to feel saver. It hasn't worked. We feel less safe now than we did in 1973 when the prison population was only 300,000 nationwide. So, we demand even harsher sentences and even more prisons built. All the while we grow even more fearful.

We have done this in a uniquely American way, developing a Prison-Industrial Complex to profit from the oppression (the linked article is a decade old and is out-of-date only in that the prison industry has grown exponentially since then). UpDate: NBC has this story about suicide at a squalid prison-for-profit in Texas.

Other Sources: Jurist (University of Pittsburgh), Families Against Mandatory Minimums, the Sentencing Project, Texas ACLU, Human Rights Watch (1997),


Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more. And laws are often based on valurd that people under 60, in the majority, do not share. The loss pf parents to children for status and victumless crime. the loss of comp;ex value systems, particularly by indigenous children--we are only beginning to see the damage.

Law enforcement often has contempt for the people they are supposed to be rehabilitating, so even AA, NA and other such programs--such as 90
meetings in 90 days are excluded from prison, despite yhr number of prople who commit crimes under the influence. I am not being sillogistic here, I don't know how many people under the influence commit non-vehicular non-status crimes. I doubt the number to be high.

Anonymous said...

It is absurd to suggest 'racism' is the reason for the make-up of the prison population. Answer these two questions :

1) Why are Asians under 1% of the prison population, despite being 4% of the general pop.?
2) Why are black women not in jail, just black men?

This demolishes the leftist 'racism' shibboleth. As with most leftist bumper-stickers, it is not based on even minimal logic.

Now, ask yourself who commits the most crimes :

1) Men
2) Within men, black men.

Thus, jails are filled with black men.

All this is quite logical to the normal, non-leftist mind.

Geese said...

Q) Why are Asian Americans under 1% of the prison population although they make up 4% of the general population?

A) Because in Asian American as well as Asian society overall, they DO NOT report crime, period. Especially domestic abuse and rape. You should actually study the culture of people before you make a statement about something that Asian Americans themselves are trying to deal with.

You will see as Asian Americans continue forward and become more and more included in American society, a rise in the reports of crime, especially domestic abuse, rape, extortion and human trafficking.

Q) Why are Black women not in jail just as much as Black men?

A) In actuality, Black women's prison conviction rates have been quietly climbing and it receives little to no media attention. So the answer to your question is actually; they are increasing in number as far as convictions and incarceration.

Q) Who commits the most crime?

A) White collar corporate and White collar petty criminals (forgery, etc). We just saw Enron take the fall didn't we with Ken Lay. Did you magically forget about that? How about the Halliburton contracts that are constantly argued over and talked about in Iraq and have since been dropped by the corporate controlled news media's. How about the Lobbying groups that are constantly exposed, such as Abramoff and Rove? Where exactly are you looking at, that people are being robbed of millions at a time and you can only see the small time crooks and ignore the people who destroy entire communities and peoples lives?

I have found a huge trend of claiming left/right/whatever, while problems go unsolved so that agenda's can be pushed.

Mark Twain said...

What I think about why their is not as many Asians in Prison as others is if you take a look at a normal Asian family they are so boring and the parents keep a strong structure, versus other cultures where their isn't as much discipline and structure, but like one of the guys said above the structure in Asian families is deteriorating as the become Americanized.

Tojo said...

I am am an Asian American ex con. I pretty much moved out of America because of the police state. Although Asians don't play a major role in America's prison scenes, I think we are all affected by the police state in one way or another. Many of the Asians who go to America are rich, and come from the upper class of their original society, because American immigration standards are amongst the strictest in the world, and you can't even get into America if you don't have a certain amount of money, education, and connections. When you are rich, and well connected, there is less of a chance for you to be convicted of a crime.
I am not someone who lives a life of crime. I don't go around assaulting people, or robbing them. However, even for someone who doesn't live a life of crime, it can be a risk and gamble to live in America. Like the casinos, you can win big (economically), but when you lose (human rights), you will lose big. Geese has a point about the white criminals. You have to remember that white people are the ones making the laws usually, so obviously they are going to tailor the laws in their own best interest, and the blacks don't have much of a say. There is no doubt there is a lot of white collar crime going on out there, and it is much bigger than the small crimes that the blacks and Mexicans commit. The white collar caucasians are cheating people for huge amounts of money, but it is not really money that is important. Americans seem to place too much value on money, maybe that is why we miss the real crime that is going on. The real crime is violations of human rights. Can we honestly say that a black guy stealing a tv from someones house is more important than an aggressive cop who enjoys tasing people? If you go on youtube, you will see a cop tasing a student at UCLA because he didn't show his ID. Tv's can be replaced. Even a diamond ring can be replaced, but how do you replace someone getting tased? Go on youtube again, and this time search for cop pushes cyclist. In this instance, a cop pushes a cyclist off his bike, roughs him up, and then accuses the cyclist of assaulting him. Now there are a few issues here. First of all, the cop assaulting the cyclist. Second of all, the cop lied and accused the cyclist of assaulting him. Third of all, the cop was not jailed. Those are three very wrong acts. Do we really want to live in a society where cops can assault people, lie about being assaulted, and not go to prison? Unfortunately, most Americans do accept these circumstances. If this cop had been anyone else, he would definitely be seeing the inside of a jail. Are all cops crazy like this? No, but Americans are allowing for activities like this to continue.

evision said...