"The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only object of good government." Thomas Jefferson
I would like to start by saying that I am not against the death penalty. I believe that rapists, murderers, child molesters, and any sort of heinous physical crime should be dealt with equal force.
Recently, I have started to question why I believe the way I do about things. I recognize that my ideas about execution are not motivated behind the concept of justice, but by the emotional need for revenge. This led to a recognition my own hypocrisy, believing in the forgiveness and mercy of GOD, but putting myself before him in offering it to others.
Justice is the concept of moral rightness based on ethics, rationality, law, natural law, fairness and equity.
Revenge consists primarily of retaliation against a person in response to a real or perceived wrong doing.
When considering the two above definitions, I began to wonder about the purpose of the prison system in the United States. When I was young, I was taught that the prison system was supposed to be a means for criminals to repay society for some "debt". When they are released, the "debt" was paid.
How is the best way to repay society for a perceived debt that occurs? I believe that the best way to repay the "debt" that is owed is to make them a more productive member of society. By teaching first time or even career criminals, the skills to be successful in modern day society, they can truly repay it.
How do we stop people from turning into career criminals? By giving them an alternative path toward a better career. By teaching them to be a productive member of society, they would become a much better citizen, and a much better person.
Unfortunately, Criminal Law does not seem to distinguish the fact that society is being repaid. In fact, many states put criminals to work, not as a means of rehabilitation, but a means of exploitation. As Americans, we do not realize that the Criminal Justice System has become a means of enslaving anyone who gets trapped within it. Slavery is alive and well, it simply took on a new hi-tech face with smooth public relations promoting it and a government mandate. You cannot change a lump of coal into a diamond with a hammer and you cannot change a criminal by exploiting him, criminally.
We all live in a capitalistic society and money tends to be a high priority in both business and government. One of the greatest expenses of any organization is the cost of manpower on a daily basis. What labor force can America come up with that could provide manpower at a very small cost? I believe that would be the government sponsored prison labor force.
Though slave labor is illegal and not needed in the 21st century, a slave trade has developed in America's Prison System! American citizens, with their rights stripped away, are the raw material and must be funneled into the system. How can this happen?
By promoting the idea of "once a criminal, always a criminal" and by characterizing average American citizens in the media as violent. Using title like gang bangers, drug dealers, cop killers, and mentally ill.
Authorities are increasingly using the criminal justice system as a substitute for health services by sending young people with mental health problems to prison.
Some 283,800 inmates are identified as having a mental illness. This represents 16% of the inmate populations of state and local jails. Jails have effectively become America's new mental institutions; they house a larger volume of mentally ill people than all other programs combined. These inmates rarely receive the treatment that they need. Unfortunately, as a result of incarceration, they no longer have the right to proper medical and psychiatric care, as would be dictated by a citizen in governmental custody.
Let's not leave out laws that are victimless crimes, traffic citations and violations of laws concerning public decency, and include public drunkenness, illicit drug use, vagrancy and public nudity. These are the catalysts that are used to propel citizens into the 21st century slave trade.
You may ask yourself what organization would utilize the prison system as a labor force. One such company is The Federal Prison Industries, Inc. They operate 86 factories in 48 federal prisons around the country. Some of the products manufactured by this labor force are :
California prisons make Logos for Lexus;
Hawaii makes Spaulding Golf Balls;
Maryland processes hot dogs;
New Mexico makes hotel reservations;
South Carolina, electronic cables;
Oregon, Prison Blues;
Washington, Eddie Bauer and office furniture;
The list goes on and on. Unicor is currently gearing up for work on large orders from the Department of Defense, Germany, Veterans Administration Hospital, and GSA (General Services Administration). The Textile Factory (Leavenworth Penitentiary, Kansas) has received orders for postal inserts: $5,230,000 worth from the Postal Service and $1,486,425 worth from a subcontractor of Unicor. Furniture is working on a contract for D & Q Furniture totaling $2.1 million and Print is producing $1.4 million of work for GSA.
The Vanguard Group, one of the country's largest mutual funds companies, puts its investors money into private prison firms, including the country's two largest: Corrections Corporation of America and GEO Group (originally incorporated as Wackenhut). Vanguard Group is also a major investor in Correctional Services Corporation.
Politicians and developers have attempted to cash in on the federal government's demand for prison space. Vice President Dick Cheney is a large investor in the Vanguard Group and former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was using his position as attorney general to stop investigations of prisoner abuse at private prisons in the country.
What do the inmate out of this? Prisoners now manufacture everything from blue jeans, to auto parts, to electronics and furniture. Honda has paid inmates $2 an hour for doing the same work an auto worker would get paid $20 to $30 an hour to do. Konica has used prisoners to repair copiers for less than 50 cents an hour. Toys R Us used prisoners to restock shelves, and Microsoft to pack and ship software. Clothing made in California and Oregon prisons competes so successfully with apparel made in Latin America and Asia that it is exported to other countries. How can we expect criminals to appreciate the reward of good, honest, labor by exploiting them, without the right as a citizen of even the mandated minimum wage, decent medical, and psychiatric care?
More importantly, this brings up a question of the purpose for our legal system. I once believed that we are innocent until proven guilty, but now it seems that our prisons have become a government mandated indentured labor force. It has become an economic powerhouse that federal and states make money from.
You might ask, "What does this have to do with the death penalty?" My answer is simple. If our legal system is now designed to keep the flow of indentured servants in the prison system, do we, as citizens, actually have a chance at getting a fair trial or receiving the justice for the innocent as well?
"I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice." Abraham Lincoln