September 1, 2018 | View PDF
Just about every American will agree that our country is the greatest in the world. In many ways, it is just that. But in others, we have grave shortcomings.
One of these is the way we operate our correctional facilities. Law enforcement that is intended to keep dangerous people off the streets and rehabilitate them has in many ways done just the opposite and has actually exacerbated criminal activities.
America has 330 million people—less than 5 percent of the world’s population. But we have nearly 25 percent of the world’s prisoners. That comes to more than two million inmates—the highest per capita and more than in any other civilized country.
Why? Is our crime rate really that terrible? Statistics prove otherwise. Close examination shows that 50 percent or more American prisoners were convicted of “crimes” that had no victims, just violations of various statutes. Many were for the possession, use, or selling of “illegal” drugs. Others have been sentenced for lack of licenses or permits, letting grass grow too tall, littering, loitering, jaywalking, traffic violations, indebtedness to the state, arriving a few minutes late to court; you name it.
Life in prison can be horribly cruel, especially for the meek and innocent. Prisons are largely run by the strongest and often the most violent inmates. They pretty much “rule” the other, weaker ones. Homosexual rape is so prevalent that it is almost never mentioned in the news. Violence, brawls, stabbings, and sometimes homicide are commonplace. Inmates who work to earn money are paid as little as 12 cents per hour—a miniscule percentage of the legal minimum wage. Yet they are charged several times the normal rates for phone calls and other needs.
Genuine crimes are limited to deliberately committed tangible harm done to other people—either bodily harm or the theft, destruction or damage to their property. These include murder, terrorism, rape, kidnapping, hijacking, arson, looting, rioting, robbery, burglary, home invasion, theft, extortion, and embezzlement. On the other hand, victimless “crimes” would include drugs, gambling, prostitution, price “gouging,” ticket “scalping,” and any other voluntary, consensual, peaceful activities.
Retired detective John Baeza witnessed our justice system and the futility of victimless crime enforcement. Unsolved criminal cases languished while hundreds of officers pursued no-win drug arrests. Crime victims were neglected. But Amish farmers who sold raw milk were arrested and subjected to violence.
Debtors’ prisons were banned way back in 1833. But by the 1970’s and ‘80’s, courts began prosecuting more people for lesser crimes. In the late 1980’s and early 90’s, they enacted incarceration statutes for “failure to repay criminal-justice debt.” Since 2000, they have used this threat of jail time “to squeeze cash out of small-time debtors.” Once locked up and as the debts balloon, they remain behind bars while plunging deeper into debt. Meanwhile, thieves and thugs who should be locked up remain at large.
Unlike the repeal of alcohol prohibition, ending the drug war does not seem promising. Our police state is just too profitable. Wilton Alston says that it is probably our country’s largest economy. Beneficiaries include “politicians, judges, lawyers, police officers, deputy sheriffs, jailers, prison guards, social workers, probation and parole officers, a third of the military, Customs, FBI, DEA, IRS, U.S. Marshals…. The drug war is about continuing to expend resources on an issue that will not go away. They’ll never legalize it. There’s too much money to be made fighting it and too many jobs at stake to make it legal.”
We now have a fully developed, overcrowded, despotic, profit-driven prison industrial complex, complete with probation companies that extort millions of dollars for various “services.” While the deep state reaps insane profits and places unbearable burdens onto the backs of millions of innocent citizens, few people understand—much less criticize the cruelty of our current corrections empire. It is mass punishment—a system of slavery not one bit more humane than the antebellum plantations.
Could we ever fix this problem? Believe it or not, a single man could do it right now. Who? President Donald Trump. He could gather up a team of libertarian volunteers and others interested in social justice to investigate our federal and state prisoners. Those who had never committed anything but victimless crimes would be pardoned and each given the opportunity to live a normal, peaceful life.
1. Vance, Laurence M., Prisoners Trump Should Have Freed.
2. Vance, Laurence M., The Free Society (Vance Publications, 2018)
3. Bistoletti, Peter, State and Crime https://www.lewrockwell.com/2015/01/
4. Lora, Manuel, Victimless Crimes are Crimes against the State https:
5. Alston, Wilton, The Praxeology of the Drug War
6. Gornoski, David, Top Detective Blows Whistle on Drug War, Prison System
7. Whitehead, John W., A Tale of Two Americas: Where the Rich Get Richer and the Poor Go to Jail https://www.lewrockwell.com/2018/01/john-w-whitehead/a-tale-of-two-americas-where-the-rich-get-richer-and-the-poor-go-to-jail/