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Crime Pays

The taxpayer foots the bill and what are you buying?

By James B. Currier, prisoner of the war on drugs

Crime pays. It pays for hordes of lawyers, law enforcement, judges and prison officials. It pays for people who build prisons, for the companies that provide goods and services to prisons and for the politicians who win votes by whipping up public fear of crime. And it pays big-time for drug kingpins, mob killers and millionaire white-collar criminals who are willing to trade the lives of others for their ill-gotten gain.

The tax payer foots the bill, however. What they buy is for the most part a revolving door and this is why.

Physical brutality is not the major problem in jail or prison. It is the failure of the guards to understand how significant his or her authority is. Resentment among prisoners is most clearly traced to the guards manifesting an attitude wherein the inmate is regarded as something less than human. This negative, hard-line attitude towards inmates is not working. After release, the revolving door cycle is often the case. I believe that this is partly due to humiliating treatment they received while doing their "time."

The purpose of incarceration is to isolate the offender from society. Loss of freedom is intended as punishment and this time should be one of personal reflection. Prisoners with comfortable cells and a few amenities are still confined - they cannot go home at the end of a day. This is their punishment. Where in our laws has it been determined that constant humiliation be a part of punishment?

Another key factor that keeps the revolving door turning is this: You can't cure a spreading disease by not giving treatment. Lack of education, and job training is why many find themselves in prisons in the first place. It is the same reason that they end up returning to prison.

Instead of humiliation, why not offer compassion and consideration? Who is considering the spiritual part of a man or woman incarcerated? Most people that go to prison are lost and confused and have little understanding of who they are in the first place.

A system of justice that relies on punitive measures alone simply mount up the cost. Lives lost to the revolving door is the price of crime that no one can afford.

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