Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Are We Incarcerating the Wrong Americans? Incarcerated Veterans?

Homeless and incarcerated veterans.

I am advocating for a seamless transition in which VA doctors communicate with the physicians at the local, state, and federal level charged with providing medical care to prisoners and ensure Veterans receive the treatment they require," he said in a statement. "We cannot leave them alone in prison until we have made every effort to help them become well and whole again."

In a letter to Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki, Sestak urged that incarcerated veterans get medical care that is coordinated with the Veterans Administration.

All four veterans who met with Sestak today said they struggled with alcohol or substance abuse. One Marine Corp veteran who served a combat tour in Vietnam, said some veterans weren't prepared for what they witnessed in war.

"You develop an attitude that everyday could be your last day," said the veteran, who gave his name as Paul. "The only way to relieve that was to go to town and drink some beer. It was accepted. No one said there was anything wrong with that."

During the Vietname era, the military had fewer resources for veterans suffering mental health problems, and many turned to drinking, he said. Paul, a Lebanon County native who is now 61, is serving 3 to 7 years in SCI Chester prison for vehicular homicide after a drunk-driving accident.

What does the direction of criminal justice policy in America tell us about our nation, ourselves, and even the world in general?

According to a recent study by PEW, prison spending now outpaces everything in the US but Medicaid. That's a lot of money to spend on a bunch of prisoners.

However, when you consider some of the crimes committed, such as, stealing kids’ videos to give away as Christmas presents; lifting a bottle of vitamins; shoplifting a car alarm; creating fraud to obtain undeserved food stamps; robbing a couple of unoccupied houses; possession of four ounces of cocaine; grabbing a slice of pizza from some kids on the beach; taking four chocolate-chip cookies (homeless man); stealing a $3 magazine; possession of 0.03 gram of methamphetamine, etc... our only choice is to lock up the perpetrators of these dangerous crimes and throw away the key. Right? And, that's just what our criminal justice system did. Locked them up and threw away the key, because the aforementioned crimes all have one thing in common...the perpetrators were third time felons.
One in every 31 adults, or 7.3 million Americans, is in prison, on parole or probation, at a cost to the states of $47 billion in 2008, according to a new study.
Conviction for three crimes in a row warrants a life sentence, in twenty-six states, with varying degrees of harshness, even for the most minor crimes. The federal government also has "three-strikes and you're out" legislation in place, and there is no judiciary discretion in sentencing these repeat offenders.

As I blogged before, decades of tough-on-crime laws, without any additional financing for prison programs have left prisoners stacked three bunks high in prison gymnasiums and hallways throughout the state of California (National Geographic's Prison Nation), in particular. Nevertheless, growing prison populations and increasing a national trend.

An article on the MA Criminal Defense Attorney blog, about a 23-year old pharmacy tech, who turned himself into the police for stealing 200 Oxycontins. After confessing this and that he took and shared them with friends, he was "charged with trafficking OxyContin and possession with the intent to distribute oxycontins."

Now, there is no doubt this guy made a big mistake, but does he deserve anywhere from two to ten years in the state prison? Does he pose more danger to society than, let's say, Dick Cheney? I don't know...ask the guy who took one of his bullets to the face, or the people over in Iraq. What about W? A Wall Street banker? Or the pharmaceutical industry?

Well, the answer is yes to all of the above. Why? Because, he didn't win the gene pool lottery. He should just be grateful the state of MA is not one of the 26 "three strikes and you're out" states, just in case this was his third offense.
"My brother was put away for half a gram of cocaine. He was an addict, but he had a job, he had a family, and he never hurt anyone. Now he is buried alive, and he won't get out until he is 80." Jose Verduzgo, a warehouse laborer.


Jeff 13:56  

As this article says, we lead the world in producing prisoners. I think that says that either we're extremely punitive or our nation is a bunch of fuck-ups.

Either way, not a good thing.

Anonymous,  15:46  

Is it any coincidence that these idiotic "get tough on crime" laws just happened to occur in the 1980s? During the Reagan years? "Get tough on crime" translates to "Get the lower class off the streets".

Especially, in light of what's going on right now, it's kind of obvious who the real criminals are, and that possession of .03 oz of whatever the substance cannot compare to the impact that possession of inordinate amounts of access to wealth and power the Reagan years encouraged.

Yes, in answer to your question.

Roth's stepchild 11:57  

Good point. I never thought of it that way before.

I guess we'll never know whether the powers that be, at the time, conspired to incorporate "Get tough on crime" as a way of bolstering their elitist agenda, but it wouldn't surprise me if it were true.

More than likely, rather than planning it out, it kind of just followed naturally, as it's obvious what they thought of "lower class" Americans.

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