‘This is from a suggestion from a small town student to Barack Obama’s town hall in Allentown PA. To the question about decriminalizing non violent felonies , Obama responded “praising the student’s courage” and “appreciated his thinking outside the box, as a young person”. The country has come far when the first african american president patronizes someone with a worthy if politically incorrect suggestion from his small town white audience.
The suggestion is not as inflammatory as it sounds, and it has substantial merits…from economic to civil rights to being change that people can actually believe in.There is Historic precedent to this. every time there was a change from an oppressive regime, people would free prisoners of concience. It is argued in this piece that non violent felonies are really prisoners of concience to policies that would be more suitable to ideologies that caused the mortgage crisis.
This is not a plea to free every nonviolent felon either(some , like bernie madoff would treat this as a manna from heaven if there was a general pardon.) it is a case being made that many non violent felonies are really police oppression in racist places on minorities(you can throw the book at people (mis)using laws from the jim crowe days still on some books) or use marijuana incarceration laws to put poor people in jail..or criminalize them, indeed in many communities it IS defacto, a crime to be poor homeless or a hobo. In fact selective felonizing of people you don’t like seems to be the American way. This does not cut the poor alone.I know of at least one person who, along with me was offerred a job in a major wall street firm and had the offer rescinded because he had a “felony” from unpaid traffic tickets somewhere in texas.
We are not talking chump change here either. A quick estimate of the number of felons in the US is staggerring. There are 8 million people currently serving a sentance in the US(incarcerated, on parole or on probation in the US. In the last ten years people that have passed as felons through the criminal justice system are easily three times as many. that means there are at least thirty million people in the US who have a felony in their background. That is ten percent of the US population. if half(and that is a conservative estimate) of them are non violent offenders with “crimes” such as traffic tickets and possessing and selling a little pot(as opposed to being a proper crack dealer working the inner cities to fund Noriega’s regime in panama or something) , we are talking about five percent , fifteen million people , in the US population who have been made useless for kosher minimum wage work, simply because a police officer in some neighborhood decided that the poor person has to be in jail so thatthe cop may work.
Am I being soft on crime here? I doubt it. Lets look at the realpolitik of the issues here. The US is , as we speak, doing deals with multiple mass murderers(meaning they have participated in multiple mass murders, and everyone knows this) in Iraq in the name of making its “surge” work. there is talk of pardoning “our” taliban , a bunch of heroin growing weapon whielding warlords who ruthlessly repress their own populations , including women, whom they treat like chattel , simply because it makes life easier for the CIA and the US army. and meanwhile in the US , we empower swat teams to gun down and mow down car stealers, small criminals and other suspets in the name of being tough on crime. Yet we harden our attitudes towards non violent offenders in a waythat they have no out back into civil society? why don’t we just throw them all on an Island already?! (oh wait that’s how we got rupert murdoch!). Im not even talking about the whole original crime that was the Iraq war , where they gave automatic weapons to 17 and 18 year old kids and got them to kill for Oil and geopolitics, and when these traumatized kids came home,blood on their hands, gave them freudian psychobabble (post traumatic stress counselling) as treatment for their feelings of guilt (of killing civilians in iraq).
So please dont lecture me on being soft on crime , it seems to me that the civil society that did not turn violent is entitled to ask all those with bloody hands to account for their crimes. This article is an attempt to hold people accountable for the violent world they have created because the army and police have an instinct for self preservation.
I have been in forums where the Unions and the teachers have been deamonized for being so clingy to their jobs. the undesirables and unwanteds in a profit motive based economy. It seems to me that these are far less undesirable than the armed forces person(I include the intelligence services and the beurocracy here) that manufactures enemies to keep their jobs, and the police / lawenforcement person that manufactures felons to keep them in business.
Im not even talking about private prisons or the paramillitary conractor industry which needs a heightened threat level to keep their jobs. Im talking about small towns where there are seventeen squad cars in every street corner, simply because they had to find jobs for every high school football player that didnt make it to the big leagues.
The benefits of decriminalizing non violent felonies:
1. Civil rights benefits : This is a method of cleaning out the augean stables of America’s jim crowe era. Most felony convictions in the US are in southern States. The highest incarceration rates are in Louisiana texas and missisippi. These contribute to the highest incarceration rates in the World. No wonder there is a private jail industry in the US!
2. Economic benefits : Apart form making about 15 million people capable of doing kosher jobs (these people are no more criminals than the average soldier in any country’s army) which would make them the size of the fifth biggest state in the US,
3. Law enforcement benefits :the move will release law enforcement’s muscle and let them concentrate on real criminals..for example people who imprison children in dungeons, people that indulge in white collar crime looting billions from the banking system, or other horrendous crimes that seem to go unpunished today because law enforcement seems to be geared to protecting property and prosecuting people.
4. Judicial benefits : This will also release the judiciary from 15 million people worth of caseload. I know the US judiciary can benefit from its criminal caseloads cut in half. The biggest benefit will acrrue to california where the “three strikes” law can be applied to actual real criminals instead of to people that steal pizza and ice cream(or posses non medicinal pot.)
5. Anti vigilante benefits : This would be the biggest benefit, in my mind. The biggest challenge law enforcement faces in the US is of not being hijacked by vigilantes espousing causes that are simply NOT law enforcement causes, really (such as Anti abortion, church and state issues, racist issues, anti immigration issues….etc) . By decriminalizing some categories of non violent felonies, it takes the teeth out of the “klan remenents” in the US and makes America look a little less like Australia.
As a disclaimer it should be noted that the Author is a soft bourgouise without a thouth in mind that can be categorized as criminal or felonious by any hardcore regime. (Dick chaney would give me a job if I asked).
But Obama, you ..expurgated.., at least consider the ideas in this article as a possiblity, if rahm emmanuel has not chicago realpolitiked all the integrity out of you!