The struggle to get adequate funding for the Columbia County jail has an eerily familiar ring to it. For those who believe that history has a habit of repeating itself, consider the following.
The gulag prison system of Stalinist Russia was created to punish dangerous criminals, but expanded into an institution that punished just about everyone who was convicted of anything, including petty criminals and political dissidents. Very soon after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Soviets abandoned the gulags, not because they ran out of dissidents, but because they ran out of money.
According to 2013 data from the Federal Bureau of Prisons, 50% of all federal prisoners are incarcerated on drug-related charges and 10.6% are in for immigration-related crimes. Throw in all the white collar crooks and very quickly you will see that fully two thirds of the prison population is made up of non-violent criminals. Although these numbers cover only federal prisons, it is important to remember that virtually every person arrested on suspicion of (take your pick) begins their incarceration in a county jail.
A buzz phrase like “Let’s Get Tough on Crime” fits neatly on a bumper sticker. It may generate some heat, but it provides no light. We’ve been locking up otherwise law-abiding citizens for drug crimes since the Nixon administration, yet the addiction rate is roughly the same today as it was then. Same story for people entering the country illegally. Albert Einstein was correct in saying that repeating the same thing over and over while expecting a different outcome amounts to insanity. Read More