Header Credit: https://www.occupy.com/file/o-prison-money-facebookjpg
Those high arrest rates you read about in America’s Prisons Want You: Uncle Sam Doesn’t! should be no surprise in a society where the government monitors every phone call, email, social media post, digital financial transaction and every other form of electronic interaction its citizens use, except transactions in some forms of cryptocurrency. In fact, the intelligence agencies no longer try to hide their profoundly unconstitutional program of domestic surveillance code-named Stellar Wind. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stellar_Wind
If it has its own Wikipedia page, it’s probably not a secret anymore. And if you hate on former President Obama instead of President Trump, see
https://www.alternet.org/activism/we-live-under-total-surveillance-state-america-can-we-prevent-it-evolving-full-blown-police. The political party in power fails to matter.
Several factors account for the spasm of criminalization and mass incarceration in America over the last fifty years. The first is the removal of an ancient, intrinsic part of what makes a specific act a crime. For almost all of recorded civilization, two elements must exist for an act to be a crime: the actus reus and the mens rea: the guilty act and the guilty mind. These two elements combined in the criminal act assured society the criminal by instinct or human nature knew the act was wrong, immoral, unjust, and; therefore, illegal. Yet, he still committed it.
In the last fifty years, American law largely dropped the need for a guilty mind, a mens rea, in favor of strict liability. Strict liability means the act alone makes up the crime. One need not know the act is illegal, or feel the act an innate evil, for the act to be a crime.
Strict liability makes criminals from people who don’t think like criminals, people whom by accident violate a regulation or law. Or, more importantly, political prisoners: people who think the government lacks the right to control a certain activity: certain sexual relationships, drug use not involving any other crime, mandatory safety measures like helmet laws, seatbelt laws, etc. These are political disagreements about people asserting a right to live free in a free society, not criminal decisions to commit an act they know through instinct to be wrong.
The ability to legislate criminal law without criminal intent provided the government with powers the American founders never intended it to possess. http://www.economist.com/node/16636027 As noted in the Economist article just cited, that power also enabled the government to increase the number of innocent people behind bars, people who would never knowingly commit a real crime, a crime one feels in the heart is evil.
Of course, criminal conviction strips a citizen of such Constitutional rights as the right to vote. Therefore, political crimes never get addressed at the ballot box.
Arrests and convictions in the decades after the 1960’s exploded from several other significant factors, all of which you find explained in our “Definitions” section, and all of which contributed to our mass incarceration problem. These include the concept of transferred intent, abolition of the “jury pardon,” declaration of the “War on Drugs,” and development of a “Prison Industrial Complex.” The result is 11 million (11,000,000) people per year collect like excess rainwater to swirl through the sewers of America’s jails and prisons. https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/pie2017.html
(Insert podcast Humans of Bitcoin again, or link back to it.)
When the sheer cost of imprisonment forced state and federal governments to rethink mass incarceration in mandatory minimum sentencing in drug cases, the opioid crisis hit. Just when minds were changing about ruining a life over a youthful drug possession charge, abruptly, the overdose of a friend enjoying your companionship, or with whom you pooled or lent money to buy drugs, might cause you to face a murder charge and mandatory life sentence, no parole, or worse. https://www.wsj.com/articles/prosecutors-treat-opioid-overdoses-as-homicides-snagging-friends-relatives-1513538404?mod=Evernote_wsj
But the opioid crisis results from a failure by the federal government to enforce its drug laws against giant pharmaceutical companies, not from poor, strung out, former middle class Americans who first got hooked through a doctor’s prescription. See: https://www.cbsnews.com/videos/the-whistleblower-redemption/; https://www.cbsnews.com/news/ex-dea-agent-opioid-crisis-fueled-by-drug-industry-and-congress/ and https://www.brasscheck.com/video/doctors-took-hundreds-of-thousands-of-dollars-in-bribes/?omhide=true.
Once again, we blame and punish the victims because the victims make such easier and more profitable targets than the villains—this time Big Pharma.
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