On page one of today’s San Francisco Chronicle, above the fold, is another article concerning California’s prisons.  If I did the math right, California’s prisons hold 7.2% of the nation’s prisoners, which currently number about 2.29 million.  (Today, with more than two-and-a-quarter million prisoners, the United States has the world’s highest documented incarceration rate. Even with its supposedly-high level of political oppression, China is number two with only 1.5 million.  The United States holds just 5% of the world’s population, but 25% of the world’s incarcerated population.)

Why so much?

The reason can pretty much be summed up by California Attorney General Jerry Brown’s quote in the Chronicle story.  Brown said the court “does not recognize the imperatives of public safety.”  (San Francisco Chronicle (February 10, 2009) p. A16, col. 2.)

Maybe Brown is just practicing his debating skills and making a stab at doing the job of showing the California public that he can be “tough on crime.”  The statement is otherwise fairly idiotic.  If anyone has shown a lack of recognition of the “imperatives of public safety,” it’s California and its citizens.

Public safety, among other things, means that we have safe roads on which to drive, safe schools where our children actually learn things and a robust system that protects and improves the health of our citizens.  We pretty much have none of these things because California is verging on bankruptcy.

Ironically, the reason California is verging on bankruptcy is connected with our prisons problem.  California’s “get-tough” stance on crime has increased our prison population by 82 percent over the last 20 years.  During the same time, the state’s population has increased by only about 50 percent. Thanks to “Three Strikes,” California’s legislature simply can’t get a budget past home plate.

So, as I said, the basis of our problem is pretty much summed up with Brown’s quote: Californians’ obsessive zero tolerance, lock-’em-up-and-throw-away-the-key mentality, rather than actually considering whether a parolee who comes home 15 minutes after curfew requires another 8 months in prison, or whether someone who steals a few videotapes or three golf clubs should be put away for life, makes it impossible for us to determine what is necessary to ensure public safety.

Worse yet, it makes us unable to afford public safety.

It makes others wonder: “Are Americans completely devoid of any kind of common sense?”  Or “are Americans just mean and stupid?”

0 comments

  1. Americans are mean. They mock, they attack you at work. I hate Americans more than any culture, other than the British who are just as snarky. Imperialist self-righteous capitalist

  2. Americans are mean. They mock, they attack you at work. I hate Americans more than any culture, other than the British who are just as snarky. Imperialist self-righteous capitalist

  3. Nothing wrong, but everything is right about your so-called “vegan hippy wackos”. The United States Americans are very angry and rude folk today. There are some good exceptions though.

  4. Nothing wrong, but everything is right about your so-called “vegan hippy wackos”. The United States Americans are very angry and rude folk today. There are some good exceptions though.

  5. Americans are very unreasonably demanding customers, especially those who spend little and they are loud, arrogant, rude, obnoxious and very “competitive”. Plus a vast majority of Americans will not keep their promises and have little self-respect. The expressway folk, who drives on a speed lane and does not let you pass is an overwhelming majority of the USA-ians. Sad, but true.

  6. Americans are very unreasonably demanding customers, especially those who spend little and they are loud, arrogant, rude, obnoxious and very “competitive”. Plus a vast majority of Americans will not keep their promises and have little self-respect. The expressway folk, who drives on a speed lane and does not let you pass is an overwhelming majority of the USA-ians. Sad, but true.

  7. Kids get suspended for drawing pictures of guns or solders kid cant talk about hunting becuae it upsets some whinny little doofusduff brainwashed on watching BAMBI or OPEN SEASON and probibly her parents are a couple of vegan hippy wackos

  8. Kids get suspended for drawing pictures of guns or solders kid cant talk about hunting becuae it upsets some whinny little doofusduff brainwashed on watching BAMBI or OPEN SEASON and probibly her parents are a couple of vegan hippy wackos

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