Saturday, September 29, 2007

Correctional Institutionalization Under the Jim Webb Scope

Recent news accounts reported that prison population in the United States increased from 1990 to 2006 more than two-fold. Two million adults live in correctional institutions with three times as many blacks living in prison cells as in college dormitories.

Indeed, crime became the cottage industry for late-20th century capitalist. But now, at long last, the correctional gravy train may be over. Virginia's junior senator wants to find out if the social and economic costs to nation are worth the price.

On Oct. 4, Democratic Sen. Jim Webb is convening a Joint Economic Committee meeting to examine the "economic consequences and the steep increase of the U.S. prison population."

You see, the United States incarcerates 25 percent of the world's prison population although it only makes up 5 percent of its people.

Howling Latina believes a major root cause for this reprehensible rate is the institutionalization of crime in the United States, which in its latest expression began with Willie Horton. For those too young to remember, Willie Horton was the convicted murderer and parolee from Massachusetts who pistol whipped a man in Maryland, gorged him 22 times with a knife and then brutally raped and killed his fiancée.

At the time, former President George H.W. Bush was running for president against former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis; and in the race to White House, Bush and his allies used the brutal case to impugn Dukakis, under whose unfortunate watch the Willie Horton case had unfolded.

Equal to the current phony hysteria about illegal immigrants and crime, Republicans during the 90's gamed the system with their tough on crime electioneering, labeling Democrats as teary-eyed, weak-kneed liberals, who were woolly soft on crime and directly responsible for crack cocaine, drive-by shootings, soft judges and over-all lawlessness.

Virginians may recall how former Sen. George Allen won statewide office with his truth in sentencing bullshit mandate, which regrettably for many families snagged their teens and adult kids into the criminal system that knew no political allegiance or class.

And as judges were forced to obey mandatory sentencing laws, punishment, of course, grew lengthier, more prisons had to be built and new constituencies cropped up demanding ever larger pieces of the economic pie from which to gorge at.

Crime may not have paid for criminals but it certainly paid for correctional elites as an ever-increasing portion of local, state and national resources went to fight the hyped threat.

But with the surprise upset of Webb over Allen (a senator who does not suffers fools gladly), the old adage by Laurence J. Peter that “you can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time” is verily seen by the number of people who overwhelmingly supported Republican paradigms but in 2006 finally wizened up.

There is a new sheriff in Virginia and the crime issue is about to be nationally revisited.

Webb has promised to call on "[e]xpert discuss the costs of maintaining a large prison system; the long-term labor market and social consequences of mass incarceration; whether the increase in the prison population correlates with decreases in crime; and what alternative sentencing strategies and post-prison re-entry programs have been most successful at reducing incarceration rates in states and local communities."

Each passing day gives more and more evidence how wise Virginians were to elect a thoughtful, high-principled and cerebral man who actually keeps his campaign promises and then SOME!

Now, let's hope the soporific media takes notice.

H/T to Corrente Wire.

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