Monday, February 21, 2011

Prisons, Politics, and Prisons

The Jackson Citizen Patriot, in Friday's editorial, seems to herald a demise of politics in the prison debate. It points to Governor Snyder's efforts to restructure Michigan's parole board as proof. Not so fast. (Taking politics out of the prison system is like taking the sweet out of honey.)

When it comes to the prison debate, it is all politics - whether it is decisions driven by budget concerns, public safety, or issues of human rights.

Politics, simply put, is the art of influencing and guiding governmental policy. There are good politics and bad politics, which should not be confused with honest politics and dishonest politics. Each has its niche - they can stand alone, or they can metastasize into one. For instance, dishonest politics can be good politics, but only in the short run. Regardless, there is never "no" politics when it comes to prisons.

Governor Snyder justifies downsizing the parole board by saying, "A smaller parole board makes sense because there are fewer inmates who are eligible for release." (According to recent CAPP statistics, there are 10015 inmates in Michigan's prisons who are eligible for release. Snyder makes it sound like - thanks to Granholm's parole boards - there are only hundreds.)

That, folks, is politics - the kind that misleads the public into thinking the government has exhausted a reservoir that truly has barely been tapped.

The Citizen Patriot then contrasts prisoner releases for purposes of cutting the budget to those based upon thoughtful policy, as though they cannot be one and the same. Of course, they can be. (Since when is cutting an over-sized budget not "thoughtful"?)

Michigan's parole process founders on a faulty premise, which helps to make it inherently unjust. First, it seems convinced that all inmates, once released, will commit the same crimes again. (The B&E will commit B&E's, the drug dealer will deal drugs, the murderer will murder.) So, they must only return prisoners to their communities whose crimes can be more easily absorbed.

All crimes are threat to public's sense of well being. If you assume that all criminals will repeat their offenses - and that is your basis for holding them as long as legally possible - then let no one go until you have squeezed every possible minute of out of all of them. Of course, that will not save a single community. (There are two million men in America's prisons. If you could execute them all today, 30 years from now, there would be two million men in America's prisons).

Certainly, there are inmates in Michigan's prison who are incorrigible. But the State must not pretend to not know who those men are as a precept for treating them all as if they were. Painting with such a broad brush punishes entire families out of unfounded prejudice.

The prison debate is a complex mix of rights, laws, and budgets. There are many victims: people who are directly (and indirectly) affected by crimes, school budgets that become victims of prison budgets, even criminals, themselves, who become victim when, after endless "flops", their parents and children languish in endless despair.

Politics are with us, for better or for worse. Within the prison debate, those politics must be good and honest. How else to insure lasting justice for all?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yo Cuzzo! Thanks for postin'up like you do, and as usual you stand toe to toe up close & personal with it. I'm thinking what aspect of human life is without politics...and concluded with...NONE! All it takes is two people existing in the same time of life for politicing to start. Even the life that's (supposedly) secluded on a desserted island will be governed by territorial 'powers that be', especially when it's discovered that someone is workin'it there. When it comes to addressing a prison system, the dominate politician's spirituality and value of human worth dictates policy changes (be it good or bad), and that's until the next dominating politician ia appointed. It's definitely not a game, but some politicians are so out of touch with reality that it becomes necessary to attach strings to the 'human puppet' for the sake of the GOOD human rights fight (the BAD guys do it). It's ashame Bro, even when the numbers imply more of a need to help the victimized of the governed base system, the decisions are like salt being poured on the wounds - and that's it...but not so in other parts of the world. Another great post from Bangga! Keep sharin' the faith...PEACE. Tico