What can be said for a country that has more citizens locked up behind bars than any other nation on the planet? Furthermore, what can be said of that country, when most of those prisoners are non-violent offenders, all while it promotes itself as the land of the free? And finally, how does that country live with itself when it can’t even feed those poor souls it captures?
There’s only one thing that can be said. It’s unjust and despicable, plain and simple.
A recent story from Alabama perfectly illustrates the absurdity of our prison system, and may serve as a warning for what we can expect from it in the future. The Jefferson County Jail recently had to release 3-4 prisoners from their dilapidated facility, because they couldn’t feed them.
The Fairfield city Mayor, Kenneth Coachman, supported the move, noting the criminals were all guilty of minor misdemeanors and the jail facilities were in bad repair.
Those guilty of more serious crimes were sent to the nearby Jefferson County Jail, and will not be receiving any sort of reprieve.
The funding shortage came about when local council President Darnell Garner failed to sign a prepared check.
Chief Davis quickly warned would-be criminals that his jail would be back in business as soon as funds are received to provide meals. Indeed, with the local City Council struggling to put together the necessary funds, an anonymous donor stepped in. Fairfield City Jail is now back in operation.
Can you believe something like that could happen in America? This frightening development is reminiscent of when a prison in Greece ran out of food due to austerity, and the inmates were left starving in their cells. They wound up having to rely on the charity of nearby communities to stay fed.
While this situation isn’t nearly as bad, it says a lot about our prison system. While the article makes it sound like this was merely a clerical error, does anybody really believe that? That sort of situation could have been remedied with a phone call. It sounds like they were genuinely out of money for a period of time, and don’t want to admit it.
It also makes you wonder if these people should have been incarcerated in the first place. We don’t know what crimes these inmates committed, but if it was so easy to release them, why were they in jail? Isn’t prison for housing people who are a genuine threat to society? It’s certainly not for reforming bad behavior. If it were, then our prisons wouldn’t have such a high recidivism rate.
These people were reportedly incarcerated for minor misdemeanors. I can only hazard a guess, but one could assume that these were crimes like being drunk in public, petty theft, vandalism, or drug possession. It’s high time we ask ourselves if these are crimes we should be putting people in jail for.
Maybe this is a controversial opinion, but I don’t think any of those crimes should be punishable with caging a human being. If someone was drunk and belligerent in public, I want the cops to give him a ride home or send him to AA, not throw him in the drunk tank. If someone stole or damaged something of mine, I want them to pay me back, not rot in a jail cell. I think our society would be better served with a system of restitution, rather than a system that automatically throws people in jail for everything under the sun. And if someone is selling or using drugs, I really don’t care. As long as they’re doing it in the privacy of their homes and not in front of a school or in a park, does it really matter?
If these people were so non-threatening that they could be released at the stroke of pen, then why were they in jail? And why would you arrest them in the first place if you can’t afford to house them? It’s time for law enforcement to start focusing their energy on real monsters like rapists and murderers, instead of generating revenue and caging petty criminals, especially now that real crimes are going unpunished at increasingly higher rates. I’m sure there are numerous opinions on what crimes should send someone to jail and which ones shouldn’t, and I’m sure many of you reading this would have a different criteria than what I explained above. But what’s important is that we start having this conversation now.
Our prisons are bursting at the seams, while at the same time our local and state governments are running out of money. It’s time to overhaul our entire justice system, and decide if we really want to become the sort of society that takes freedom away from people for minor transgressions.
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Contributed by Joshua Krause of The Daily Sheeple.
Joshua Krause is a reporter, writer and researcher at The Daily Sheeple. He was born and raised in the Bay Area and is a freelance writer and author. You can follow Joshua’s reports at Facebook or on his personal Twitter. Joshua’s website is Strange Danger .