Incarceration Country: How America Is Rotting Internally From Lockup Mentality

The economy remains stubbornly and mercilessly stagnant, and it is suffocating already beleaguered states fiscally. States are learning — as they lay bruised and battered beyond recognition from the beat downs the ornery marketplace is handing out — that there is a steep price to pay for piling people into jails and prisons like dirty clothes in a laundry basket.

The NAACP’s Ben Jealous released a report, “Misplaced Priorities: Under Educate, Over Incarcerate,” a 57-page condemnation about how America invests more in the prison system than education. This disastrous policy revved into overdrive over the last quarter century, and resulted in an abominable trend: The neighborhoods with the lowest rates of education have the highest rates of incarceration, with generations being spit out of horrid school systems before entering right into the mouth of the criminal justice system.

America’s correctional system costs the country almost $70 million each year. During the last two decades alone, funding for prisons eclipsed spending for higher education sixfold.

“Largely as a result of the War on Drugs — which includes police stops, arrests, and mandatory minimum sentences — more than half of all prison and jail inmates — including 56 percent of state prisoners, 45 percent of federal prisoners, and 64 percent of local jail inmates — are now those with mental health or drug problems,” the report reads.

You can call it self-immolation or social cannibalism, but America’s nefarious and unjust judicial system is tantamount to a wild beast eating itself out of existence. The prison-industrial complex is in revolt against itself because it is asking us to pay for the decimation of the ranks of young black men in our own communities.

When corporate reptiles found a new and rich feeding source to gorge on, meaning its minority male and the disenfranchised, it was so busy gulping down the new food supply that it didn’t take time to discern the rapid, stealth approach of another hunter — debt — bearing down on them.

African Americans are imprisoned for drug offenses at 13 times the rate of their white counterparts, despite repeated studies  that whites’ drugs rates are equal to or greater than ethnic minorities. According to Unlocking America: Why and How to Reduce America’s Prison Population, if African Americans and Latinos were incarcerated comparable to whites, the prison and jail populations would decrease by nearly 50 percent. And with it, the immense cost of housing them that otherwise would better be appropriated toward education, infrastructure, rehiring furloughed police and fire personnel and other costs of running state and city governments.

–terry shropshire

Terry Shropshire
Terry Shropshire

A military veteran and Buckeye State native, I've written for the likes of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Atlanta Business Chronicle and the Detroit Free Press. I'm a lover of words, photography, books, travel, animals and The Ohio State Buckeyes. #GoBucks

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