[The following submission was penned by Synthesis Weekly columnist Julia Murphy. She can be reached at email@example.com]
Addiction, The Economy and Environmentalism
What does Rehab have to do with sustainability? It’s like a personalized Superfund site. We don’t have any money in the not-so-Superfund, either, just like we don’t have funding for rehabs.
If you’re a wanton garbagehead, something probably will fall apart to the point where you at least end up with a DUI. And that, my friends, is a long hard row to hoe, costing you an ass-pile of money and the humiliation of DrunkSchool. I’m not talking about some Jäger in your Kleen Kanteen in that boring evening class. You know what I mean. Money or time is what you’ll be out, and probably both.
Economy: Ever seen Rich’s crew on Saturdays and Sundays? Skulking, chastened youths and insouciant fun-loving criminals alike, sweeping up the cigarette butts of the previous night’s revelers? How much money would the City of Chico have to pay fools to do that work? [Ed note: Rich's Crew is a local organization where those arrested for misdemeanors like Drunk In Public, Minor In Possession, etc, clean the streets of Chico weekend mornings.]
How much do people make in California prisons? Well, from www.pia.ca.gov:
“Court-ordered restitution/fines are deducted from the wages earned by CALPIA inmates and are transferred to the Crime Victims’ Restitution Fund. CALPIA inmates receive wages between $.30 to $.95 per hour, before deductions.”
Companies get a 10 percent discount on taxes for using prison labor — plus, they get to put that awesome “Made in the USA” tag on their product! Yay!
Good for PIA for creating a reparations fund (speaking of which, when are black Americans to get theirs?) — but I bet they don’t exempt the prisoners who committed “victimless” crimes.
How many people are in jail on drug charges?
“Drug arrests have more than tripled in the last 25 years, totaling a record 1.8 million arrests in 2005. Drug offenders in prisons and jails have increased 1100 percent since 1980. Nearly a half-million (493,800) persons are in state or federal prison or local jail for a drug offense, compared to an estimated 41,100 in 1980. Nearly 6 in 10 persons in prison for a drug offense have no history of violence or high-level drug selling activity.”
Please — I mean it — check this Web site out: www.november.org/graphs. It’s extensive.
“In 1985, our incarceration rate was 313 per 100,000 population. As of December 2006 it was 751 per 100,000. The largest single factor contributing to this imprisonment wave is a ten-fold rise in drug convictions.”
More after the jump.
Drug addiction also happens to feed the GDP. Here’s an excerpt from an article in Harper’s by Jonathan Rowe.
“That term "the economy": what it means, in practice, is the Gross Domestic Product — a big statistical pot that includes all the money spent in a given period of time. If the pot is bigger than it was the previous quarter, or year, then you cheer. If it isn’t bigger, or bigger enough, then you call Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke up here and ask him to do some explaining. The what of the economy makes no difference in these councils [Congress]. It never seems to come up. The money in the big pot could be going to cancer treatments or casinos, violent video games or usurious credit-card rates.” (Or, privatized prisons and the companies that purchase their inmate labor.)
Do keep in mind Section 1 of the 13th Amendment: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime where of the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
Does this create an incentive to incarcerate for certain parties who stand to profit by slave — er, inmate — labor? I’m sure I don’t know. What do you think?
In the white-collar crime ring we affectionately call our government, and in the world of capital and speculation, money matters. The delicate ecosystem of a person’s psyche, and other natural wonders, do not. I’m trying, in my fumbling way, to draw connections between people’s desire to abdicate from this society through drug abuse and addiction, and the economic system’s profit from those non-participants, and its complete indifference to the spectacular failure of its penal system. If it’s making a profit, it’s not a failure, recidivism rates be damned. And this echoes the devastation of the larger natural world.
Tyler, you know I want to visualize a solution, but I’m still running around the problem with my measuring tape; that’s just how I work. So please, dear readers, get back to me with your thoughts on the subject — Mom, we’ll just talk about it when I come to do laundry, so you other two, git at me.