In life there are some clear paths that we can walk down today to reach a better place, while others are less clear, dangerous even, yet no less important for us to travel.
When it comes to creating jobs for veterans, it’s clear we can act now to feed people using the modern technology of hydroponic, organic farming. As you know, an increasingly large group of us are acting to do just that by taking Archi’s Acres to the national level.
Other problems are more intractable, seemingly insurmountable. Beyond jobs, food and our vets, few things keep me up more than the disastrous functionality of our prison system.
It is, after all, no secret that the U.S. houses 25 percent of the world’s inmates, while representing a mere 5 percent of the world’s population.
In my opinion, this is a direct byproduct of “fear politiks” practiced by both parties — holding power by way of first scaring the broad population and then offering superficial relief by assault on some minority, or “other” population. Too often, that population is “young black men.”
In fact, as I have reported in the past:
Since 1971, there have been more than 40 million arrests for drug-related offenses. Even though blacks and whites have similar levels of drug use, blacks are ten times as likely to be incarcerated for drug crimes.
“There are more blacks under correctional control today — in prison or jail, on probation or parole — than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began.”
In 2005, 4 out of 5 drug arrests were for possession not trafficking, and 80 percent of the increase in drug arrests in the 1990s was for marijuana.
The development of for-profit prison companies and their vast lobbying and political apparatus doesn’t help.
Prisoners now manufacture and assemble products for Microsoft, Starbucks, Victoria’s Secret, Boeing, as well as body armor for soldiers and handcuff cases for law enforcement officers.
In 2007, taxpayers spent 74 billion on prisons, with the largest percentage increase of prisoners going to for-profit prison companies.
Putting people in jail and keeping them there is good for business. So, of course, that’s what for-profit prison companies lobby do. According to the Justice Policy Institute, these companies “have contributed $835,514 to federal candidates and over $6 million to state politicians.”
What’s the alternative? David Kennedy, the director of the Center for Crime Prevention and Control at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, has highlighted a very simple common sense approach known as “hotspotting.” He advocates for sitting down the gang members that perpetrate most of the violence, police, prosecutors, and community leaders to talk about their shared problems and the consequences of crime.
Such an approach has dramatically reduced homicide rates in Boston and Baltimore, and across the country. Yet these programs and programs like them with proven success in reducing crime are the first to go on the chopping block because they don’t provide the budgetary incentive that forfeiture laws do.
Changing our criminal justice system is an issue I intend raise awareness around so we can act. It is why I was so proud to sign a letter assembled by Russell Simmons and a coalition of thousands this week and delivered to President Obama Monday evening. You can help by spreading the word.
Onward and Upward,
P.S. Vote for Archi’s Acres to become Mamma Chia Entrepreneur of the Year.