Monday, December 17, 2007

on closed-mindedness

I spent a chunk of this evening in a heated discussion with a friend over the recent Bureau of Justice stats about incarceration in the U.S. Thankfully, drinks were involved.

It started when he proclaimed his belief that the U.S. was "far ahead" of other countries because it incarcerates more criminals than any other. This apparently proves the the efficacy of the American justice system. After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I said he couldn't possibly believe the U.S. was superior to its northern neighbour because it incarcerates people at almost seven times Canada's rate. His response? Of course; Canada is soft on crime.

Then I tried the dictator comparison card. I said, but the U.S. is imprisoning people at a rate over six times that of countries that jail people for political reasons, countries whose prison system terrifies me, such as Iran and China. His answer? Well, they're just killing all the bad people over there so no wonder the rate is so much lower.

Good lord.

Since when is "highest incarceration rate in the world" a title to which a country should aspire? The U.S. numbers are shocking. One in every 31 adults in the U.S. was in one of the nation's prisons or jails or was on probation or parole at the end of 2006. How can anyone think this is OK? All right, I guess I figured that a lot of people think that's OK, but maybe not that those people were friends of mine.

Why aren't people asking why non-violent offenders, minor drug offenders and parole violators are stuck in the prison system? Most people agree that needless imprisonment not only costs big money, but also has serious societal impacts (e.g. inability to vote, get a driver's license, or find a job, not to mention the tearing apart of families and reduction in family income). Of course, my friend had an answer for all of this too: in his mind, "those people" wouldn't have been successful at any of those things anyway.

No wonder the American educational and health care systems are so crummy. No wonder Americans think it's OK to live in fear rather than in hope. And don't even get me started on the ethnicity issues related to incarceration (and capital punishment too). Honestly, it's hard for me to be remotely optimistic about the U.S.'s future when I hear stuff like this.

As I said, thankfully, drinks were involved.



Complaint Department Manager said...

I'm sure you've heard of the phrase, "Tone at the top." This is probably why the U.S. has such a high incarceration rate. The tone has been set by glamorizing criminals in the media turning this country into a bunch of attention starved attention whores. For some reason, this influence hasn't reached the Great White North, ay? Our current administration disturbs me to the utmost magnitude and the judicial system has a vote of no confidence from me as well.
Just hope that this trend doesn't stretch northward. Oh, no drinks needed here for this, completely gratis.

complain away said...

Hey, I hear you. I can't believe governments in the so-called developed world still rule by fear-mongering. But then a government's only as good as the people who vote for it, isn't it?

Don't turn down the drinks; they at least ease some of the pain.

iguessyouguess said...

You forgot no wonder why most of the world thinks America is full of morons.Case in point.

iguessyouguess said...

Oh yes, and it hasn't reached us because we use a little something I like to call, our brains. Perhaps Americans should look into it. Just a thought.