I have been paying more attention to my dreams lately. Last night I dreamt that I was a prisoner of four years, who hadn’t even been charged with anything yet.
So today, I will write a letter to a prisoner.
Prison is a really, really awful place. From Wikipedia:
According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) 7,225,800 people at yearend 2009 were on probation, in jail or prison, or on parole — about 3.1% of adults in the U.S. resident population. 2,297,400 were incarcerated in U.S. prisons and jails. The U.S. incarceration rate was 748 inmates per 100,000 U.S. residents, or 0.75%. The USA has the highest total documented prison and jail population in the world.
NPR recently did a story on prison towns. While they were critical of the idea of basing a town’s economy on a prison, they still stated the facts of the system a bit too matter-of-factly. They presented the story in such a way that we should feel sorry for the towns whose economies are being hurt by a drop in the prisoner population due to a recent drop in crime.
We have to remember that these are human beings, and they are being locked in cages for years at a time. Many of the folks in prison are there for drug offenses, which should be treated as the addiction that it is, not as a crime.
If we lived in a decent society, prisons would be one of many issues that we just wouldn’t stand for. We would say, OK, if you politicians aren’t going to fix the problem for us, then we’re going to march en masse to the local prison and tear the damn thing down.
But, the least I can do is write a letter. So that’s what I’ll do today.
This post has not been revised since publication.