Why do I reiterate the word "REAL"? well truthfully speaking, there has been a lot of talk about Prison Reform, but no one has actually done anything meaningful about it. Yes, Obama dabbled in it; Trump passed the First Step Act, but, it was much ado about nothing and Biden has promised to do something about it. However, nothing meaningful has been passed.
We all know that we cannot allow crime to run rampant. We also know that we must fix the crime/prison problem in America. First, I will point out that I believe in forgiveness and second chances in life. Therefore I believe that it's inhuman to lock a person away in prison for the rest of his/her life, regardless of the crime. Also, I believe it is immoral for a government to sentence a person to twenty or thirty years in prison for having five hundred dollars worth of narcotics; yes, it happens EVERYDAY. Second, I will also say that it is unreasonable to allow criminals to run rampant over those who choose to follow the laws of the land. That, my friend, is the quagmire facing us. So, what do we do when trying to balance compassion against justice?
This is what I'd do if I were king of the world.
First, I'd drop the sentencing guidelines down to a one-year minimum and a seven-year maximum. This would stand for all crimes requiring incarceration, from white-collar crime, to murder, one to seven years. Then I'd merge the World Health Organization, the Red Cross, and the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) into one organization.
The function of the WHO would be to investigate international emergencies and prioritize them according to potential world health benefit/risk factors. The Red Cross would regulate a world humanities program, whose purpose would be to investigate and facilitate getting people and resources into third world countries per their humanitarian needs. The BOP would be sourced for the above-mentioned manpower.
I will add that, from this point on, the American taxpayer dollars, which historically have been doled out to third world tyrants in the form of hundred-million-dollar "Aid Packages" would be under the complete control of this WHO/RED CROSS/BOP organization. The money allotted as Aid Packages would no longer be given directly to the foreign government petitioning for them, and in this, there should be no complaint from these nations. After all, if a foreign government truly desires to improve the living conditions of its populace, rather than siphoning off the American Aid Money to become multimillionaires or to finance tribal/religious wars, then they should welcome the idea of having the Red Cross bring in labor and materials necessary to elevate the standard of living in their own countries; by constructing worthwhile projects. In addition, the American taxpayer could rest assured that the money appropriated for helping the poor would indeed be used for the children it was intended, rather than military dictatorship.
To sum up what I believe, this is how it would work: The Congress and the Senate of the United States would continue to appropriate their normal aid packages. The difference would be, that instead of the funds going into the hands of the foreign government that it was sanctioned for, it would go into the World Bank under the designation of said individual nation with the WHO, Red Cross, and the BOP as the ONLY signatories on the account. In other words, suppose the United States decided to give Ethiopia a hundred million dollars worth of aid. Instead of giving that money into the hands of government leaders who can and will use it to their greatest personal advantage, the money would be deposited into a bank account to be used by the WHO/Red Cross/BOP, for the betterment of the Ethiopian people. Then with the help of the WHO and the Red Cross, legitimate projects for that country could be prioritized and turned over to the BOP who would have control of ALL prisons, both state and federal, for implementation.
Let us say that the Ethiopian government determines a need to build a Desalinization Plant so that it can purify salt water, thereby making it usable to irrigate a thousand acres of desert land. They do this with the idea that the starving Ethiopian people could then farm a now barren land and thereby turn that barren land into land that can be used to grow crops needed to feed themselves and their children. The Red Cross in conjunction with the Ethiopian government would determine the validity of utilizing the aid-fund-money already appropriated, for Ethiopia. Once approved, the WHO/RC would hire the appropriate management team to do the Planning and Scheduling function necessary to begin said project. This would be financed from the Ethiopian Aid Package account. Once all of the necessary planning and engineering was accomplished, the Bureau of Prisons would be brought in to provide all manual labor and professional artisans necessary to build said project. They would do this by sifting through the millions of prisoners at their disposal and designating them according to their private life skills. Accountants, bankers, chemists, engineers, welders, plumbers, masons, etc..., can all be found within the prison system. Those without skilled trades would fill in the multitude of laborer positions WITH THE OPPORTUNITY to learn a craft such as the ones just mentioned, so that when they are returned to the free world, they would not be cast carelessly upon the streets without means of supporting themselves.
The Bureau of Prisons would then mobilize their prisoner construction crews, where they would go to Ethiopia to build said desalinization plant along with the necessary pumping stations and irrigation systems to provide the needed freshwater for the Ethiopian people to begin farming and, by extension, feeding themselves.
Why would American prisoners volunteer to go to work in such harsh conditions, and what would keep them from escape, you ask?
For starters, even a dumb-ass can recognize the benefit of a twenty-four month sentence, as opposed to the twenty years he or she now gets. In addition, they would have the opportunity to learn a skilled craft. Third, it's not their choice. In fact, they have NO choice in the matter except to refuse to work, whereby they will be remanded into one of the many prisons already built, where they will do their original sentence of twenty years or more. Believe me, they will work?
As to their escaping, well they could do that anytime they choose to do so. The BOP guards assigned to work said project, would not be responsible for maintaining inmate incarceration. In fact, the convicts themselves would be housed in military-type tent cities without fences or gun towers. And, if they chose to run, well, good riddance, because they have nowhere to go. They have no passports. They have no identification and no money, which means that there would be no chance of them returning to the U. S. - ever. Nor would they be allowed to seek sanctuary in any of our allied nations. Let 'em become Ethiopians or third worlders. If one of them commits a crime while in the host country, he/she is immediately handed over to that country for prosecution under that country's laws, without American intervention - of any sort. If the local laws dictate the penalty for theft is a loss of a hand, so be it. And believe me, once the draconian laws of the third world governments come into play once or twice, your convict labor force will voluntarily stay within the confines of the project grounds that they were assigned, and, if they choose exile, well, so be it.
How do we know this to be true? From our experiences in prison, where notoriously dangerous individuals are 'kept in check' by the mere fact that they will receive, immediately, from the other cons, exactly that which they mete out. It's a system that works. Prison has proven it,
The real reason that the cons will cooperate is this; if a person serves out his/her sentence doing the right thing, then the BOP will also do the right thing, by giving him/her a lump sum check of $5,000 per each year, tax free, as an earned wage. This money would be paid from the project funds of the nation he/she has worked for.
The benefits are staggering. First, a person who makes a mistake can survive it by doing, say, seven years at hard labor for murder, or less for nonviolent crimes, and by doing so, that person is still young enough to rebuild his/her family structures. Also, upon seeing firsthand how the rest of the world lives, I am confident that all work farm convicts returning from impoverished third world countries will be more inclined to appreciate what we Americans have. If not, then you can give them their freedom of speech as always. However, they will know that the moment they go beyond freedom of expression into criminal activity, they will be returned to the work camps for another dose of reality.
Of course, there are deeper problems with the Justice System, like crooked cops fabricating evidence against innocent people or ... government prosecutors who withhold evidence in order to obtain a conviction? If you expect the Inmates to follow the rules then you must also demand that Law Enforcement do as well. So ... how can you regulate fair play on the government's behalf?
The problem is, we have some cops who themselves are criminals and the others, the good cops, cover for them, but, the problem with dirty cops is a result of the growing fact that fewer and fewer people actually want to do the job. Why? Well, as a former Mayor I can tell you that police officers are drastically underpaid. To fix this, I believe that the Federal Government must supplement our cities so that they can afford to pay the Police a top of the scale wage. Then you require cities and states to pay 'em a decent wage. The problem at hand is, as I said, a cop is so underpaid, that decent people don't want the job. Therefore, you're relegated to hiring people who have psychological issues, who GET OFF on the power trip of carrying a badge. Power trippers who will lie, cover up, or even fabricate evidence in a case if it will bolster their power-tripping egos. When you pay a cop a decent entry-level pay, then you will get decent people applying for the positions. When I say decent, I mean, if you want Professional People, then PAY them a professional wages, comparable to a Registered Nurse or and Engineer, a six-figure salary. Then when you catch one breaking his/her oath or breaking the law outright, Ethiopia! Treat 'em just like anyone else, and soon enough, they'll morph from police officers back into Peace Officers.
As for government Prosecutors, well that's a horse of a different color, and yeah, I know that they're out of control, and yeah, I know that they can and do withhold evidence, which, in some cases, will clear a person, thereby knowingly sending them to prison for life, but the system is at fault here. I say this because the system has caught thousands of prosecuting attorneys in misconduct and has done nothing about it. Hell, a prosecutor can knowingly violate the law and not even lose his or her license to practice law. It's a shame. In fact, there needs to be some form of a citizen oversite committee on these folks. I guarantee this, if the average citizen in this country knew how corrupt our State and Federal Prosecutors were, they'd start hunting them with dogs! Yes, its a huge problem. In the past the Justice Department were the proverbial GOOD-GUYS but today, there are no good guys, on either side of the law. Good news is, to fix this would require nothing more than to exercise common sense. If a Prosecuting Attorney violates his or her ethics code, they lose their license - forever. If they violate the law, Ethiopia!
If there is one set of rules for all people - rich, poor, black, white, voter, politician, lawyer, or criminal - then the system will right itself. The reality is, the Justice System and its bastard child, the Prison System, is rotten to the core and needs to be fixed. Truth is, we incarcerate more people than any other country in the world! Are Americans evil? No. The reason we have more people in prison than even the so-called Axis of Evil nations is not because our people are bad, it's because our laws are bad.
The reality is: What we are doing now is not working. Let;s try something different!
Peace be with you all.
Bruceton Mills, 11/10/23