What are the “true costs” of incarceration? It’s complicated.
It’s ultimately a contrarian lose/lose/lose game.
People try to simplify the question of the growth of mass incarceration as a Good Guy vs. Bad Guy problem. Or as a good vs. evil problem. Or as a safety problem, like how we used the Sheriff out west to solve the range wars before we had modern day crime-fighters.
No. These are all false hero-villian misnomers that have been cultivated by decades of avoiding the original class or racial biases that arose from from slavery and genocide and developed into mass incarceration.
They avoid examining the misuse of the law and justice system as it has been commandeering and by a big business economic game that runs the power grid of a civic community. It is a game running below the surface, hidden in plain sight in polite, privileged social circles – where people don’t want to talk about the misery of conflict and the devastation of their family members by a flawed system.
So instead, leaders of commerce and industry, of institutions and the law deny, avoid and coverup to pretend that it is ok to keep doing the same thing. Typically because we don’t know how to solve such a huge, systemic problem.
The problem has been covered up by the story that punishment is the antidote to crime, and that increasing taxes are the antidote to a failing business model. The story has sold and propped up entire market segments. And it has worked to help us stay busy so we, the people, don’t have to address the debilitating fact that abuse addiction, punishment, jail to prison pipeline business patterns have been formed in our marketplace and they are truly business patterns, sales systems, and dramas that do not work for a country that prides itself on the ideal of freedom.
This story that people are “criminals who deserve to be punished” is a flawed belief that is unsustainable.
It is a story this is debilitating, and it is harming people for real.
It has taken years to examine and diagram the sales, marketing and business problem up close and personal in our local jail and justice system. It started as research into how it was that our top three elected law enforcement officials kept striving to pass a huge jail tax to build a big prison-like, (but supposedly local jail). But they did not have a true Needs Assessment and the plan did not pass muster, so over time the voters kept raising objections and resistance and we kept voting it down.
But these officials (with a 44 year veteran prosecutor) kept trying to bully us into buying it. So our Coalition started researching it. We went deeper and deeper into the social and political psychosis of the problem. Today we have finally diagrammed the flawed business model to our satisfaction.
This illustration is the story of how the money drives the hidden dynamics of the game. It is a diagram of how the big money is extracted from citizens to flow through and drive a highly complex tax addictive and abuse driven business model. It illustrates how the market for government and jail services locally is just one conversation. That spawns the demand for state and regional business growth in different sectors,. Then how it guts and consumes the people and the families who get caught in the system.
In other words, the business model (sold as being tough on crime, or as public safety) is underwritten by the people through our taxes and our trust of the legal authorities. The people who become the prey are those who are poor, abused and broken by trauma and fear become the commodity. that churns through the system repeatedly. Each person who fails increases in value to the economic system. So as the recidivism rate increases, the mass incarceration industry expands. It is a vicious and closed loop system that profits on the destruction of people.
The good news is that the story is a poor habit. Fear a poor habit, the business model is a poor habit.
And destructive habits can be changed and replaced by regenerative habits that yield a different result.
Over decades as the costs of jailing people have escalated and the criminal justice system has failed economically and socially, the politicians, the media and the industries that profit from mass incarceration have covered up the problem. WE can change the habit when we understand it.
Hear is the habit of behavior we can change, as people across the nation:
- The problem has been an emotional hot potato. So people are vulnerable to manipulation. So, lets simply talk about it.
- Fiscally it has been a nightmare for the local, state and national economy. So let’s stop putting money into jail expansion and instead invest iin people, in health, in recovery. We will get a better return for the taxpayers dollars.
- It is a political nightmare since leadership has been lacking solutions. Well, the next few years are significant times to bring up innovative solutions and implement them. Let’s do that.
This whole thing is a trillion dollar media, marketing and political self-destructive business economy that is profiteering off the self-destruction. So let’s stop buying into it…let’s build an economy that revitalizes our local communities, our people. Let’s start healing people from the grassroots up. Start looking for solutions in your community, and share them.
Invest in people, instead of extracting from them. It works. It is a self-renewing business model. We will be sharing more soon.