Rethinking the Prison-Industrial Complex

While some Democrats are advocating prison camps, others are pointing out the prison-industrial complex is claiming too many Americans.

Some conservatives think that drug laws are necessary and others have a more “libertarian” approach. But there is no way to deny that some of the penalties imposed have been insane. Weirdly, at the same time that a prominent Democrat is advocating “segregation” in camps for what amounts to pre-crime, many Democrats and Republicans are reconsidering the way the government has been feeding the prison-industrial complex with human lives and tax/debt dollars.

Some of this could be horribly misused. Robert Knight wrote a good editorial about how Barack Obama will use this to try to expand the Democratic electorate. Conservatives need to be wary. But he also insisted the issue is real and needs to be addressed. He even called the need “Biblical.”

The Washington Post recently published an example of what has happened: “From First Arrest to Life Sentence.”

Sharanda Jones — Prisoner 33177-077 — struggled to describe the moment in 1999 when a federal judge sentenced her to life in prison after her conviction on a single cocaine offense.

She was a first-time, nonviolent offender.

How do you get life in prison with no possibility for parole for a non-violent offense when it is your first conviction?

Notice the blatant attack on the Second Amendment that is involved in the explanation:

Because of her role as a middle woman between a cocaine buyer and supplier, Jones was accused of being part of a “drug conspiracy” and should have known that the powder would be converted to crack — triggering a greater penalty.

Her sentence was then made even more severe with a punishment tool introduced at the height of the drug war that allowed judges in certain cases to “enhance” sentences — or make them longer.

Jones was hit with a barrage of “enhancements.”

Her license for a concealed weapon amounted to carrying a gun “in furtherance of a drug conspiracy.”

Enhancement.

When she was convicted on one count of seven, prosecutors said her testimony in her defense had been false and therefore an “obstruction of justice.”

Enhancement.

Although she was neither the supplier nor the buyer, prosecutors described her as a leader in a drug ring.

Enhancement.

By the end, Jones’s sentencing had so many that the federal judge had only one punishment option. With no possibility of parole in the federal system, she was, in effect, sentenced to die in prison.

Jones committed a real crime and would still be sentenced today, but the sentence would not be to die in prison. She actually got a harsher penalty than the cocaine supplier that she bought from.

In my opinion, life sentences without possibility of parole should be reserved for cases that deserve the death penalty when that option is blocked for some reason. Jones should not be burdening the tax payers forever. Her offense against society is simply not as great as offense of the prison-industrial complex in consuming our resources to lock people up because they happened to have a concealed carry permit when they were convicted of a non-violent drug crime.