It is a fact that the US has hit an all-time-high prison population and behind that awfully disturbing fact there are political, economic, social and historical reasons. An American ex-convict, known under the alias Scrang Bean, shares his personal experience with the problem and elaborates on the big part the system takes in it. It is a vicious circle, he says, where the affluent Caucasian population runs the system and the prisons all together.
In the late 1800’s, the US had one of the most lenient prison systems. Nowadays, my country is the world’s most incarcerated with 6 million currently in prison, and a total of 7.2 million Americans being under some kind of state or federal supervision. There are literally more Americans behind bars than there were in the Stalin’s Gulag Archipelago.
What happened you say?!? I think one of the main factors involved in the change of the prison system are mostly political and economic. There was all of this fear and hysteria instilled over drug abuse, also known as the war on drugs (more than half of my fellow inmates were in for drug crimes), deepening economic inequalities, and the decreasing demand for low skilled labor. As a response, the law makers introduced harsher penalties, increased jail time, increased monetary fines and began new prison construction. It is now at the point of being a filthy, corrupt, money making industry. And from what I’ve seen, it’s an industry that works for the few people that actually own it.
With the need for more security and laws, banks and corporations began to emerge, prosper and thrive. They were the ones (and still are the ones) that make our laws and now even more so than before, they make the laws complicated and hard to understand. Or at least hard to understand for the average person like me. I find it really hard to understand why I need a law degree in order to know and comprehend why and what I am being sentenced for? It’s like one law has all these different branches creeping out of it, with which they want to make sure, even if I am not guilty on one charge, they will be able to sentence me on another. It is a mass for profit business, and the only people that this business fears is the intelligent, the opinionated, and the ones who have a voice. But they got crazy laws and sentences for them too. Remember the newly emerged sentences and regulations against groups like Anonymous, Wikileaks, and the Pirate Bay? I do, and it just makes me mad.
A big problem of the prison I went to, and a big issue for many other privately owned jails, is the overcrowding. That happens because the prison owners get paid per capita, per person. And who the hell owns a private jail?!? In today’s capitalist world, where a corporation is allowed to equal one person, that would be your answer. How do they do that? Simple! In my experience, money has always talked and bullshit walked. Consequently, the more prisoners you “have”, the more money you make. And when that’s the case why wouldn’t you want me to come back over and over?
The first month in jail feels like an eternity. Unfortunately, it’s an eternity that hosts inhumane treatment and behavior. It’s an eternity during which you build all this anger up. Toward the system, towards the government, towards everybody. It’s a time when a properly working democratic society would have intervened with the correct measures and start treating us like human beings. Unfortunately, the US is eternally the host to inhumane treatment and behavior. They don’t treat us like human beings (there are no rehabs that can treat the mentally ill) and they don’t want to give us an opportunity to come out as “renewed” citizens, because they make money out of us. They definitely made money out of me.
Another problem is the crippling ignorance among prisoners and officers alike. I found out that there is no all seeing eye in there. The understood mentality in prison was-you’re black, I’m white. There was nothing more to it. When I entered the jail, it was very difficult to receive any reading material, but the bible. That is the only thing most of these “bumpkin” towns will let you have. Due to this procured ignorance, fear, lack of self discipline and the abundance of testosterone, the inmates had the potential to get violent at any time. They get so creative in there and there is never a shortage of self defense mechanisms, or weapons. I’ve seen a young man get his cap flipped back to the white meat with an iron and believe me, it wasn’t “pretty”.
Ironically we are know as the land of the free, but our laws are not even set around human nature, let alone treating us like free and equal beings. The penalty system is designed specifically to hold a certain caste of people, mostly African-Americans. Thus instilling racism in both whites and blacks. For one thing, the black males take up to 39.4 percent of the jailed, when they only comprise 13 percent of the whole population. Most of them are sentenced for crack cocaine and they get harsher and longer sentences than white males do. The only difference is that the whites use cocaine and the blacks bake it and call it crack cocaine. It is literary the same shit, that gets different sentences. No wonder my fellow African-American buddies were hating on the whites so much. I really don’t blame them; if I was treated the same way over and over by all these white folks I would be racist too. Guaranteed!
You know how many western developed countries have a probation period? Well even if you don’t, most of them actually do have probation periods. Well, I’ve tried to get a probation sentence in the US and I found out it was not even hard but pretty close to impossible. When a loophole appeared, it was either way too expensive or the rules and stipulations following along were impossible and you bet, stupid. Again they were made for the ones that could afford them. Furthermore, most of the jails are located in “bumfuck” towns, with predominantly redneck officers that treat the blacks like dogs. I think they probably treat their dogs better. It also does happen on occasion that they would call the homosexual inmates cruel and offensive names. Most of the officers do what they want anyways. Witnessing it all made me feel like going back in time. In those sensitive, slavery times you know?
Another big problem, I believe, are the lawyers. They all fit into the same system. My lawyer’s job was nothing more than to decipher the complex bullshit that comes out of all the “sub-laws.” He really proved to me that lawyers are a lot like actors, playing a certain role. They manipulate the system with the knowledge available to them and only them. Also, judges, lawyers and courtrooms everywhere are in cahoots and if I had a $5,000,000 back then my freedom would have been guaranteed. These type of scheme are known and available to the rich, and a taboo that is hidden from the poor. And I just so happened to be the latter!
On top of it all, there is the burdening stigma following a jail sentence; the stigma that comes from the rest of society and government alike. Again the laws and regulations are designed to make me, the ex-convict, different than the rest of the society, therefore I was/am subject to stereotypes and labels. It is the stigma that I did something “so wrong” and, you see, the society doesn’t know if I am not going to do it again. And the prison system will always be open for my next potential “crime” and drag me back where it thinks I “belong”.
Now you understand a little of why my white body is driven by some black power! I guess all I can do is argue and fuss about it, and as I remember it right– “if you argue correctly, you’re never wrong.”