4th Largest City In America Is Prison, USA
If all the people in U.S. prisons at the moment were placed in the same city -- that city would be the fourth largest city in the country. Prison, USA would be larger and more populous than Nashville, Denver, Boston, San Francisco, Dallas, Philadelphia, Phoenix, and Houston. However, Prison USA would NOT be larger than the following three cities -- Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York City.
4th LARGEST CITY IN AMERICA IS PRISON, USA
by Gary Wood
KENTROVERSY COMMENTARY: The numbers and statistics that are contained in Gary Wood's article below are truly frightening. They show just how far along we have come down the road towards the Orwellian Police State foretold in the predictive book entitled '1984,' which is in and of itself -- a house of horrors of police state proportions.
Why are so many Americans -- some of them innocent -- imprisoned?
The numbers of people who are non-violent marijuana users are huge -- which tells us that their big DRUG WAR efforts are NOT working.
And, they probably never will, either.
Do you think we’re free? Every day we hear that is the reason for fighting wars, to protect our freedom. Ask 100 people why we are fighting any war and the majority will answer in a single word, freedom. We believe this because our leaders and mainstream media continue to tell us we must fight to protect our freedom and win the freedom of others who desire to be free yet are not strong enough to stand on their own in defense of their freedom. Remember then Mayor Rudy Giuliani, on November 11th, 2001 telling us why we were attacked. “They attack us because we’re free.” On September 20th, 2001 President Bush had this impassioned statement before Congress and the country, “Tonight we are a country awakened to danger and called to defend freedom.” It rings well to the ear, we are free, they hate our freedom, we must defend our freedom against the hate so we may continue to remain free and war is a small price to pay in defense of freedom. I will not attempt to deny the importance of defending our land from those attacking us, what I will attempt to do is raise a serious question, are we really free?
I’m not going to tackle, in this brief article, the more illusive ideas of our freedom under attack from the many demands and requirements we face to use the private property we think we own. Nor, will I look into the debate over recent invasions on our personal freedom as a direct result of such heinous acts as ‘The Patriot Act’ or the ‘Military Commissions Act’ which combined place our basic right of habeas corpus in jeopardy. This article will not address the many attacks we face daily on our 4th Amendment violations, just dare be a veteran entering a VA Hospital for a small sample of this. Among the many directions I could take my focus for now will be on the prison population and the reasons it has reached the levels it has.
With all the wars we’ve entered in defense of freedom it became quite alarming for me to realize the United States of America has more of its population locked away in prisons than any other country in the world today. In the recess of my mind I knew this but to hear it confirmed on Sunday as a part of the promotion for an upcoming documentary by Ted Koppel it raised the reality to my conscious level once again.
I had to do a bit of research and what I found proved amazing. Based on 2005 population figures for both our prisons and U.S. cities the prison population would rank as the 4th largest city behind New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago while beating Houston out by over 200,000 people. I’ve been to Houston, have family in Houston, Houston is huge! Yet, it would be relegated to fifth place if we considered the population of our prisons.
Not only that, population growth shows the prison population outpacing the top cities’ growth figures which means it will only continue to rise in rankings and within a few years can pass the population of Chicago! Taking the 2005 prison population and comparing it against the 2005 U.S. population figures we see that nearly 1% of the population is locked up! 1 of every 100 citizens, according to our justice system, must be incarcerated. This does not begin to look at the numbers which are arrested, on probation, face charges which result in something other then confinement, this is just those incarcerated.
Well, I said to myself, these are the violent criminal minds among us that deserve to be locked away so they don’t interfere with my family or my personal freedom by harming us. The violent criminals need to be incarcerated, right?
So I further dug into the Bureau of Justice Statistics provided by the U.S. Department of Justice. It was not pretty; the numbers are too large to be comforting but the number of violent criminals’ incarcerated represent 52% of the total population. Just over half are violent criminals that have harmed another of our neighbors in the criminal conduct they pursued which led them to being incarcerated. This would mean the violent population represents the 10th largest city but it also meant there were enough non-violent criminals incarcerated to also represent the 11th largest city.
In researching raw numbers of prisoners I noticed an inordinate number of those serving time were non-violent offenders incarcerated for drug violations, property violations, tax violations, and more. Within the drug numbers lie the bulk of those who are categorized by ethnic race. Are Hispanic or African American citizens, by human nature, worse humans than those classified as white? Or are these segments of categorized society merely tempted into the non-violent economic opportunities created by prohibition laws attempting to regulate morality on all citizens.
We know the dangers created by prohibiting acts which violate a majority view of what is and is not moral. History taught us the lessons of prohibiting alcohol as this attempt gave significant rise to underground mobs preying on the desires of all members of society. The temptation was too great, the violation too many, to deny the fact our attempts to police morals simply fails. Yet we as a society continue to attempt to control the lives of citizens through the failed, expensive, and dangerous war on drugs.
No matter what race classification is assigned to humans, there is no race worse or better than any other. We are equal in our propensity toward good and toward what society may deem to be not good. By judicially enacting constraints on human behavior, by attempting to regulate morality, the creation of underground economic gain surpasses the good of a law. Any and every time we enact such moral restriction we fail; whether the restriction is on alcohol, drugs, prostitution, or any other aspect of human behavior desired and sought by humans. The only result is the laying of a trap for those in an economic position willing to risk now illegal activities to satisfy the demands of mankind. Is it a question of nature or is it a question of failed focus in our judicial desires to control the non-violent activities of our neighbors?
In the Koppel report the focus is on the California prison system. It was designed to hold a maximum of 100,000 inmates yet is strained with the overcrowded number of 178,000. The cost per prisoner for one year of incarceration is $43,000.00 (compared to a Harvard education costing $43,200.00) and there is no relief in sight for eliminating this strain. There is no wonder why the criminal justice system and prisons are among the fastest growing segment of our economy today. We are building more prisons to house more non-violent criminals every day.
Let us assume there are 52% of the California prison populations incarcerated for violent crimes, crimes that harm people. The population drops to 92,560, not comforting yet below the threshold of the maximum numbers California prisons are prepared for. By altering the laws to focus on the violent criminals not only does the State of California have the room for the prisoners it would save over $3 billion dollars in direct costs associated with housing those prisoners. Extrapolated out to all 50 States and the savings and benefits become much clearer to the eye.
More important is the question, are we free? Freedom’s definition is easily debated. The fact is we incarcerate more of our citizens than any other country. Is the root cause because our citizens are just worst among world citizenry? Or, rather, is it possible our judicial system and law making system is out of control and busy enacting laws that limit freedom? Are we, as a people, actually less free than the many countries we occupy, defend, and fight today?
We are entering the heart of yet another election year. There are voices on the Federal, State, and local level who understand we are not the free society we claim to be. There are voices of reason among the candidates who understand the root of our problem is not a larger number of bad people but a larger number of bad laws. I encourage each voter to seek out and vote for the candidates who recognize the root causes of our challenges and will work to reverse this assault on the very freedom we are so proud of. We need legislature focused on the needs of society and not focused on the greed of enacting laws which ultimately bind and incarcerate our freedom, which most of us will willingly die to defend.
© 2007 Article - Gary Wood
© 2007 Commentary - Kentroversy Papers
All rights reserved. Used with permission.
The following sources were used in the creation of this Kentroversy Paper . . .
Hear My Thunder - Gary Wood '4th Largest U.S. City is Prison, USA' (October 8, 2007)
List of U.S. Cities By Population - Wikipedia (accessed on: October 12, 2007)
Prisons in the United States - Wikipedia (accessed on: October 12, 2007)
Kentspiracy Kronicles Newsletter
Non-Violent Drug Offenders
U.S. Prisons Population