The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Prisons overflowing with drug criminals

Viewpoint by John Mayfield/reporter

It would usually be considered a good thing for America to be recognized as No. 1 in any given field.

Unfortunately, this time being first in one area is most certainly not a cause for celebration.

This year, in the land of the free, one in every 100 American adults is now behind bars.

A less-reported fact is that America has become the nation of incarceration. Our new claim to fame is that we house the most prisoners of any other nation.

Close to 2.5 million American citizens are currently incarcerated. But the prison population has not reached a peak. It will not recede over time unless the reasons for this spike are examined and actions to curb this horrifying growth rate are taken.

Incarceration has become an American industry. The clear trend is in the privatization of our prisons. Close to 1,000 prisons have been built over the last two decades with half of them owned and operated by private companies. These security companies are publicly traded with the price of their stock dependent on the number of prisoners they house.

Over the past 30 years the biggest growth in prison population has come from the war on drugs. Since President Nixon initiated the project, the number of prisoners serving time for drug-related offenses has risen exponentially every decade.

An estimated $60 billion per year is spent on the prison system.

The Office of National Drug Control policy’s annual budget is now upward of $20 billion.

The power of that money cannot be ignored. If the United States were to seriously re-evaluate its stance on the drug war and mandatory sentencing, a lot of very nervous and powerful people would stand in the way of change.

The yearly increase in prison population is in part because of the war on drugs, and with regular budget increases and more money being made every year by the private prison companies, no end to the problem can be seen.

President Eisenhower warned us of the growing influence of the military industrial complex, and we didn’t listen.

The prevailing mind-set was summed up by Steven Donzinger, who headed the National Criminal Justice Commission.

“If crime is going up, we need to build more prisons; and if crime is going down, it’s because we built more prisons—and building even more prisons will therefore drive crime down even lower,” he said.

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