The Prison Loophole
The justice system and prison sentencing date back to ancient civilizations keeping prisoners in work camps or prisons, or even to execute them. Most forms of those previous incarceration/confinement methods are now unjust in most countries including the United States. The Soviet Union was known for having work camps known as gulags that worked prisoners work to death. The United States is no exception to the mistreatment of prisoners. Then considering Russia and the United States are completely different in ideology it is clear that the United States tends to care less of their prisoner population compared to Russia. Russia had a prison reform in 2009 and abolished capital punishment in 1999 showing the level of empathy that the Russian government compared to the United States. With most of the industrialized world condemning the United States for keeping such an inhumane justice system. In the past the United States government had prisoners make roads, railroads, and concrete for little to no money. It is often said that these harsh conditions are unheard of in modern-day prisons in the United States. That is nonsense because in 2018, according to Abigail Hess from CNBC, “Roughly 14,000 firefighters battled the Mendocino fires. Among them were over than 2,000 inmates.” This makes the ratio of firefighters in Mendocino, California alone 7 normal firefighters for every 1 inmate firefighter. Some critics even saying, “fear that the financial benefits of cheap prison labor incentivize mass incarceration. During an unsuccessful run for California Lieutenant Governor, Gayle McLaughlin went so far as to call the program “slave labor.” The United States cannot subject itself to slave labor and it is disgusting that the government is willing to restrict one’s freedom for keep cost efficient labor. The population in California, according to the public policy institute of California, is about 39 million people and is 39% Latino/Latino American, 38% White, 14% Asian American, 6% African American, or 3% multiracial. According to that same source, it states the following about the prison population in California “California’s prison population peaked at nearly 163,000 in 2006; public safety realignment in 2011 and subsequent reforms accelerated its decline to a low of about 111,000 in 2015.” The public policy institute of California titled the issued as African American men remain overrepresented in the prison population and said, “At the end of 2016, 29% of the male prisoners in state prisons were African American, while only 6% of the state’s male residents are African American. The incarceration rate for African American men is 4,180 per 100,000 people. White men are imprisoned at a rate of 420 per 100,000 people, and imprisonment rates for Latino men and men of other races are 1,028 and 335 per 100,000 people, respectively.” meaning that comparatively speaking a black male then is 4 times more likely to be convicted and sentenced for a crime than a white man who committed the same crime. This gives African Americans a dangerous and threatening persona making all Americans judgemental and thus paranoid.
California is arguably the most progressive state in the country is the first state to have medical marijuana in 1996; California, decriminalized Marijuana and in the middle of 2016, California legalized the drug for recreational use. San Francisco was the first place in the United States to recognize same-sex marriage. The LGBT community is most prominent in California and yet the minorities are still misrepresented because of racial injustice within the United States justice system. Even with the government’s involvement, California has the largest prison population whose population consists of mostly minorities, especially African Americans and Latino Americans. With this problem continuously being ignored, African Americans that were previously felons struggle with receiving any form of federal aid like food stamps, student loan benefits, and employment. This evolves into a larger problem of why ethnic minorities are more likely to born into poverty. These “petty crimes” make our country’s justice system look weak and ultimately bias. Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, in Federalist Paper 78 wrote: “The general liberty of the people can never be endangered” from the judiciary, so long as it “remains truly distinct from both the legislature and the executive.” Meaning justice shouldn’t be politically motivated, but is harsh prison sentencing a way for extremist political government officials to silence voters? That would be in clear violation of the founding principles of our country.
Although what has been stated could be mistaken for defending criminals, it is actually defending those who use the constitution and was ultimately failed by the document due to fees, policies, and cash bail. Due to lack of money blacks cannot pay for their cash bond which is usually about 10% of the bail which ranges from $500-$25,000 (Each state varies) that is from crimes such as small possession to serial rape. If a person is out on bail they do not have to stay in jail until their trial but if one is unable to pay their bond they are forced to stay in jail overnight and have to face the judge in the orange jumpsuit. The reason wearing an orange jumpsuit in front of the judge matters is being when guilty felons are pleading for a lesser sentence the judge is going to assume they are not good enough to pay for the bond and they will focus on is the fact they are in a jumpsuit ready to go to prison.
All in all, this problem has caused fear mongering done by political figures and people of influence to make minorities look like the enemy which makes the country a much more violent place. Although one could empathize with the people that feel this way in particular because they feel as if their culture is slowly being taken away from them because of the over-saturation of trying to diverse schools, social media, television, and business with this new generation of pop-culture and inclusion. Concluding that prison reform is a must in the United States, there should be no reason why the richest country and most powerful nation in the world should have the highest number of incarcerated people in the world. The United States has a total of 2,121,600 people in prison and then China has 1,649,804. It should be noted that China has a population of 1.386 billion people and the United State has a population of 325.7 million people. Which also means 0.1% of people in China are incarcerated and 0.6% of people are incarcerated in the United States. Although there can be various angles one could say the reason why the United States has more people in prison than any other country in the world, it is important to note that the United States and government bureaucrats tend to put minorities in jail for political gain and the total number of incarcerated people in the country reflects their cruel treatment of minorities.
Hess, A. (2018, November 12). California is paying inmates $1 an hour to fight wildfires. Retrieved from https://www.cnbc.com/2018/08/14/california-is-paying-inmates-1-an-hour-to-fight-wildfires.html
Goss, J., & Hayes, J. (2018, February). California’s Changing Prison Population. Retrieved from https://www.ppic.org/publication/californias-changing-prison-population/
Johnson, H. (2017, March). California’s Population. Retrieved from https://www.ppic.org/publication/californias-population/
Highest to Lowest – Prison Population Total. (n.d.). Retrieved from