May 28, 2008

Column 45

I read a Newspaper article recently. It was about the USA’s prison population and it’s quite sobering to see the statistics it quoted in this article. The title of the article is ‘America Leads World in Inmates’ and was written by Adam Liptak in The New York Times (April 2008).

The article said that United States has 5% of the world’s population, yet it has almost a quarter of the world’s prisoners. It went on to say many prisoners in America are locked up for crimes, which would not be worthy of prison in other countries, for identical crimes.

I mention these facts because in California there is a budget crises and politicians are cutting the budgets for basic needs of school children. They aren’t cutting the frills, like music and sports, but the basic necessities like books and even teachers are losing their jobs.

On the other hand, the prison population keeps growing. A few months ago I saw a story on the news about the Governor (that would be Governor Arnie) exploring the possibility of releasing over 20.000 prisoners from California prisons. The news story did not mention the prisoners would be minimum risk prisoners who, in most cases, had only months left on their sentences. All the news media emphasized was that the Governor is exploring the possibility of releasing over 20.000 prisoners in order to cut costs in the state budget. Most of the prisoners who were being considered for release wouldn’t even be in prison in other countries (for identical crimes). The irresponsible news media seemed more interested in trying to scare people and ignored the essence of the story.

I saw something on a public affairs TV show recently. It said the prisoner early release in California was not going to happen, because of special interest groups (that would be the Prisoner Guard Union and the Victim’s Rights Group) putting pressure on the Governor to not release any prisoners. You have to wonder, if there are over 20.000 prisoners who could qualify for early release or could be released because their crimes were not very serious, why are they in prison in the first place? It boggles the mind that politicians would rather keep prisoners locked up and cut the budgets for schools and school children. Last night I saw a story on the news about parents in one of the poorer school districts, having fundraisers to try and raise money for their school. Money to fund the basic necessities, not for anything that would be considered frills.

It seems in regards to American (and California in particular) prisons, it has become a case of the tail wagging the dog. A couple of special interest groups lobbying Politicians to fund prisons, rather than providing funds for schools and school children. I guess the school children can always grow up and turn to crime and become prisoners, since they won’t have the education to pursue anything else in their lives. Talk about a case of cutting off your nose in spite of your face.

It is important to let politicians know how you feel about this sort of thing. If you want money to go to prisons, let them know that. If you want funding for education, let them know that as well.

That is all I have to say this time. Feel free to check out the Letter Section on this site.
Send a letter in yourself, it might make it into the letter section too.
You can also write me by regular mail. My address is listed on this site.

My best to you all.
Take Care

Dean Carter 
p.o. Box C-97919
San Quentin Prison
San Quentin, California 94974

Soon after I wrote this – the Court has ordered the Californian Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to release at least 40.000 prisoners to relieve overcrowding in the Prisons.
The State of California can either comply with this or can try to fight this order in the Courts.
The Court didn’t order the release to save money, but to help fight the horrible prison conditions such as lack of healthcare and overcrowding.