Kenmare ND - Upside Down Under

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Upside Down Under

By Marvin Baker, a new weekly column in The Kenmare News


Chillin' at the Crowbar Hotel

Posted 6/07/16 (Tue)

There’s been a lot of talk in North Dakota, as well as around the United States, about what to do with prison overcrowding.

The prison populations continue to grow and there doesn’t seem to be a logical solution.

So what is the answer?

Many people say private prisons are the problem, but they don’t explain why.

Prison has become too easy and some people don’t even mind it because they will have more in prison than they do on the streets.

Get a thug off the streets, rehabilitate that individual and turn him loose five years down the road when the street gang subculture has changed dramatically. That’s a good thing.

But there are others, countless others, who use the system, even from behind bars, and this is where things ought to change to send a strong message to those who break the law bad enough to go to prison.

People in prison have cable TV, exercise equipment, three nutritious meals (they don’t have to taste good, they just have to be nutritious) a day, access to libraries, some have access to college courses and some get out on work release.

Folks, I don’t have cable TV, I don’t always get three square meals a day, I don’t have 100 percent free medical care and I’ve never had access to free college courses.

So what am I doing wrong? I’m trying to be a productive member of society, that’s what.

There’s also the drug culture inside prison walls. Several weeks ago we published a report that stated 23 percent of people in state prisons have access to or have used heroin and 17 percent of federal prisoners have either had access to or used heroin.

How is that possible? How is heroin, most likely the most dangerous drug available, that widely accessible in prisons?

The trouble is, prisoners have become just too comfortable in their surroundings.

In order to reduce prison population, a strong deterrent must be created that makes people think twice about committing a crime.

There are some, of course, who know nothing other than crime and they will commit that act regardless of the consequence.

But many can be swayed, or deterred, especially when it comes to felony offenses.

Think about Dzhokhar Tsarnaev for a moment. At 18 years old, he was one of the Boston Marathon bombers. He was sentenced to spend the rest of his life in solitary confinement. Would he have committed the same act had he known where he would end up?

The harsher the crime, the harsher the penalty and maybe, if some “privileges” were taken away, there may be second thoughts about robbing a liquor store or shooting up a public school.

The key here is to make sure American society is well aware that living in a prison is as bad as it gets. If our public schools would teach a social studies class on prison and how harsh it should be, I guarantee you in three to five years, the prison population would begin to drop.

Whatever happened to the chain gangs in the deep south? Imagine that. Chain eight prisoners together, send them into the hot and humid Alabama sun and have them make little rocks out of big rocks from sun up to sundown.

Unfortunately, it’s considered cruel and inhumane. But think about the guy who shot up the movie theater in Aurora, Colo., wasn’t that cruel and inhumane for families regardless of whether he was mentally ill or not?

Fourteen people died and their families will never be the same. Does that not count for something in society?

Sometimes people get sucked into the wrong crowd and make mistakes. It’s those people who should be rehabilitated because they will most often become productive citizens.

But how do you sort them out from the real bad guys? That’s something for prison psychologists to figure out. If we can get a spacecraft to Mars that sends pictures back to Earth, you’d think we could figure out the psyche of common criminals.

Make it harsh, really harsh like Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Let’s get the word out and make it obvious to everyone. What ever happened to the bread and water diet anyway? Bring it back, it might make a certain percentage of people think twice about what they might do.

Prison is prison, there shouldn’t be any of these “conveniences.” Even if you are busted for some minor crimes that require minimum time in prison, the only thing to look forward to should be the end of the sentence.