A while back, I had written this: “One in 31 Adults”. As this was one of my first posts, Dan was kind enough then to post it on Angry Bear.
“One in 31 Adults” (~2.3 million) are under the control of the correctional system according to a March 2009 Pew Center Report of the same title. 1 in every one hundred adults are imprisoned in jail, state prison, or federal prison. 25 years ago, those under the control of the correctional system was 1 in 77 adults as compared to 1 in 31 adults. If you factor in the numbers on parole or probation (~5.1 million ), the numbers in jail, prison or on probation swell to ~ 7.3 million under some type of correctional/probationary control (2007).
What does the then growing prison and correctional population cost taxpayers? To support the then growing state prison population, costs ranged (it has only gone up) from ~$13,000 in Louisiana to ~$45,000 in Rhode Island annually (2005). The average was ~$23,000 annually, “US Imprisons 1 in every 100 Adults” NYT. The cost of imprisonment compares nicely to a state or private college education (another story which then I had not written about). As a whole the US imprisons a higher percentage of its population than any other nation in the world (and we still do such) from which the cost burden of housing prisoners has become an issue for states with a decreasing/stagnant economy and decreasing tax revenues. Paradoxically while costing the state more, jails and prisons for many communities are a stable and growing business employing people, services, and a fast growing part of the rural community economies.
If you want to see how prisons impact local communities, go visit Ionia, Muskegon, Kingsley, etc. Michigan; prisons/jails are the major employer in small communities and Michigan courts keep them full. Livingston County is building a $15 million extension to its jail to overcome crowding. Just like building a warehouse to house inventory, the county will fill it up. “If you build it, they will come.” Whack the prisons/jails and the towns dry up. The laws such as three strikes and drug possession for imprisoning nonviolent prisoners are antiquated. Fast forward to 2014 and this story of a man who was sentenced to prison and how they never came to get him while he was out on bond.
“Back in 1999, Anderson helped rob a Burger King assistant manager in St. Charles, Mo., with what turned out to be a BB gun. In May 2000 he was convicted of armed robbery and sentenced to 13 years in prison — but because of a clerical error, he never did the time.
While out on bail, he went on to become a law-abiding, happily married man with four children. After training as a carpenter, Anderson started a small businesses and built his own home from the ground up. On the weekends, he volunteered at his church, went fishing, fixed up old cars and helped his kids prepare for their spelling tests — ‘just normal, everyday, good stuff,’ he told Snow.
At first, Anderson lived every day wondering whether law enforcement might arrive and take him to prison.
‘For the first couple of years, yes,’ he said. ‘When I’m in the shower, I hear a noise, outside somebody closing the door, I’m thinking it’s them at the door every single day.’
Despite that anxiety, he did not turn himself in.
‘That was not me,” he said. “Prison is not me.’
Then, early one morning in July 2013, that day came, as law-enforcement officials descended on his home and hauled him away for failing to serve his sentence all those years ago. Anderson maintains that he was never a fugitive and he never hid his whereabouts from authorities.
‘We did everything we were supposed to do,’ Anderson told Snow. ‘We filed all the paperwork. My attorney (at the time) told them that I wasn’t incarcerated, that I was out on bond.’
Anderson told Snow that as the years passed, he registered his businesses with the state of Missouri, renewed his driver’s licenses, got married and even voted — all the while using his full name and his current mailing address.
‘A fugitive is someone that they’re looking for and that’s running,’ Anderson said. ‘I never ran, and they weren’t looking for me. … I used to think, ‘Maybe they just wiped the slate clean.’”
No, they did not wipe the slate clean, through clerical error they had lost Cornealious “Mike” Anderson in the state correctional system. If you ever want to see a low caliber operation, visit your prisons. I had to laugh when one guard was explaining to me how to secure a vehicle in a heavily patrolled area. In the early seventies, I chased prisoners for the USMC during the few months remaining of my enlistment. Existence in the state system for many workers is measured by how little you do.
Missouri caught up with Mike and they want their 13 years of prison-time-slice of his life. Mike is now sitting in prison today “It’s — it’s like my life is wasting away.” Considering what he has contributed to society over the last 13 years as a normal citizen making a living and paying taxes, Mike’s life is wasting away. Mike has gone from being a contributor in society by leading a normal life, raising a family, and paying taxes to a prisoner in a Missouri prisoner and the state and its citizens paying for his upkeep.
Thirteen years of making ~$40,000 annually or ~$520,000 in economic activity to 13 years @ $22,350 annually or $290,550 in cost to the state plus the loss of his salary for a total 0f $810,550 over the next 13 years plus welfare for his wife and 4 children. All just to get even with a person who made a normal life for himself.
“I gave my life to the Lord and he changed my mindset, gave me a new heart — changed my mind about the way I was living, the way I thought about things. And I just — I became a man.” This fits in with the religious culture one would see in this part of the state. It is also not unusual to see this reaction in prison where the prisoners become religious, especially when they are cut off from family, as they have no one else to turn to while there and they cling to anything. We have bought a few Bibles and teaching Bibles for prisoners from time to time and have probably stocked a library or two with our purchases of other books. Mike did this outside of prison when he really did not have to do so and he proved his worth. Maybe if he were white the reaction might have been different as back when the Pew Report was written, 1 in 11 adult African-Americans were imprisoned as compared to a lesser rate for Caucasians. The US imprisons more African-Americans then Caucasians.
We as a society really do some dumb things.