Taoist mythology, Lanna history, mythology, the nature of time and other considered ramblings

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Location: Chiangrai, Chiangrai, Thailand

Author of many self-published books, including several about Thailand and Chiang Rai, Joel Barlow lived in Bangkok 1964-65, attending 6th grade with the International School of Bangkok's only Thai teacher. He first visited ChiangRai in 1988, and moved there in 1998.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

prisoners of (lack of) conscience

Maybe it hasn’t been calculated yet, but it seems possible the USA now spends as much on incarceration as on higher education. Are 1% of the USA population enrolled in institutions of higher learning? That many, according to Adam Liptak of the NY Times (Feb28, 2008) and the Pew Center – that many are behind bars. Others are under house arrest, in mental institutions, on probation or on parole…
“We aren’t really getting the return in public safety from this level of incarceration,” said Susan Urahn, managing director of the Pew Center on the States, which issued a report on this, quoted in Liptak’s report. “Ms. Urahn said the nation could not afford the incarceration rate documented in the report.” No shit, Sherlock.
“One out of every 100 adults is behind bars because one out of every 100 adults has committed a serious criminal offense,” according to Paul Cassell, a law professor and former federal judge. Hmmm… marijuana a “serious criminal offense”? Shouldn’t the mental health of these people be taken into consideration (not to suggest more psychological hospitalization a good idea…)?
The United States imprisons more people than any other nation in the world – Liptak points out, failing to mention that this is a historical record too. China comes in second, with 1.5 million people behind bars – a huge gap in population percentage terms. Germany has never even come close to 1%.
States in the US now spend almost 7 % of their budgets on “corrections” – which hardly correct anything. This totaled $49 billion in 2007. By 2011, the Pew report said, states will spend an additional $25 billion. One of nine state government employees works in corrections. And the cost per prisoner is enough to send a kid to college.
The Pew report recommended diverting nonviolent offenders away from prison and not re-incarcerating for minor or technical violations of probation or parole.
Not to get into thought control, but, what about education, reform, skill enhancement in acceptable trades, work on self-image issues? Or is that socialistic, like libraries, community centers, and environmental protection?

The same issue of the Times quotes President Bush as saying again that renewing surveillance legislation is “a very urgent priority.” And that legislation must include controversial provisions that would shield telecommunications companies from lawsuits over their assistance in monitoring phone calls and e-mail messages without warrants.
Sounds like more new prisoners to me… Senator Edward Kennedy, meanwhile, was quoted as saying, “The President’s position has nothing to do with protecting Americans and everything to do with sweeping under the rug illegal activity by his administration and his corporate partners.” Sounds right to me – those who make the laws (for their own benefit), are free to break them, at will.

It seems this is what we get for ignoring the “rights” of native (indigenous) people, and the injunctions of our religious “leaders” (prophets, holy men, purported corner-stones of faith) not to kill. We’re stuck in a (bad) pattern, where power (guns, money) makes right, and not being part of the dominant power-system is a crime.
But now the expense of “crime” isn’t just the damage the “criminal” does – and “privatization” won’t change that, not at all. The criminal system (pun intended?) hardly makes the incarcerated less crime-prone, and hardly helps society-at-large to deal in a sane manner with issues of responsibility.
But the world has its self-adjusting techniques. We simply cannot go on as is, and must adjust to reality – or perish. W Bush may say the US is not in recession, but even he admits he can’t talk right, that dumb things come out of his mouth. The dollar simply isn’t sound anymore. Changes in environment are dangerous and beyond control, and our self-image, if only subconsciously, is no longer positive. Until we become more responsible, we are all prisoners.



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