Thursday, May 21, 2009

Incarceration in California and America

Of the many problems facing America right now, the number of us in prison certainly ranks near the top. Incarceration rates in America are quite horrible. While I've wanted prison reform for a long time, opposing the war on drugs and three-strikes laws, the current budget crises in California has made this even more apparent.

I'm normally somewhat in favor of unions, at least as they provide something of a counter-balance to corporations. It's somewhat more complicated than that but I'll look at that issue in more detail later. The point is that right now the Californian prison guards union, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, has earned my ire. Admittedly there are many organizations that wield disproportionate political influence and suck at the lifeblood of the rest of the society such as the farm industry, the automotive industry, the military-industrial complex and so on, but this one is directly involved with the trouble wrecking the state of California.

This organization directly benefits from criminalizing the activities of more Californians and putting more people in jail. Associated with the CCPOA on many of these issues are the California Peace Officers' Association, the California Police Chiefs Association and the California Narcotic Officers' Association. It's not that we don't need police officers or prison guards, but when our politics are decided by these groups we find ourselves in the situation we are in now, with almost as much money being spent on prisons as on universities, where we have the highest proportion of incarcerated people in the world.

I urge California to resist the influences of the CCPOA and similar organizations when it comes to further increasing the prison population. The prison population should be decreased dramatically and money spent on prisons should be correspondingly decreased. A good startin California would be passing Tom Ammiano's bill to reform marijuana laws, but further prison reform and other such laws are needed. As for America as a whole, I advise the ending of the war on drugs, the support of Webb and Specter's prison reform proposals.

1 comment:

  1. The Economist today had another good article on the subject: