CRIME IN SOCIETY
Last week we heard the media hype around Kim Kardashian West meeting with President Trump, and the majority of us shock our heads and said really? But when we learned about why Kim was seeking a meeting with the President and what she was essentially lobbying for, I have to say that there is some merit here, in terms of her outrage and request. She was asking for the President to grant a pardon for Alice Johnson, a grandmother, jailed for for a life sentence and having already served over 21 years in gaol! Johnson was in a federal prison for a drug trafficking conspiracy offense and would have died in jail, had the President not intervened. She is, but one of thousands of Americans serving life sentences for non violent crimes, many on drug charges. While some could rightly argue that while her offense did not involve direct violence, the death, illness and social ramifications of what drug use does to users and their families; is certainly not non violent!
The whole idea of punishment for people doing the wrong thing in American society, is a contentious issue, and let's hope that her visit brings about a more open discussion and some much needed reform in the United States and other countries following the same penitentiary system . Let's be clear about one thing upfront. A prison system which is privately owned and run as a business, as is the case in America; is a system that is open to corruption and abuse. Put simply, the more prisoners incarcerated for longer periods of time, equals a more profitable business.
In 2016, 'Prison Policy Initiative' estimated that 2,298,300 people were in gaol in the United States out of a population of 323.1 million. America also holds it's inmates longer than other country. For instance, for an average burglary a person is held for 16 months in the USA, 5 months in Canada and 7 months in England. In the USA the 3 strikes Law gives a repeat offender a mandatory 25 years imprisonment!
We all know that corruption exists in all levels of society, but that often the higher up a person's level of power is, the potential for greater corruption exists. There are simply less checks and balances to pick up such deceit, when you are at the top of the pyramid. So put logically, how can a private company whose goal (as is for any business) is to make money, be trusted to not attempt to influence officials in order to get more 'customers' ie. inmates, which will increase their overall profits for their business? American jails are full to capacity, and they hold the dubious record for having the highest number of it's population incarcerated, in the entire world! While the USA represents 44% of the worlds population, it houses around 22% of the worlds prisoners. America had in 2015, 693 prisoners per 100,000 population, where as Japan for example had 45, per 100,000!
Are Americans inherently bad people, or is it more likely that law enforcement and the judiciary may be incarcerating people and holding them for very long sentences, as a means of filling their jails and gaining financial benefit by doing so? Without having access to such proof in order to undeniably show that corruption is more likely afoot, we only need to look at other countries where jails are NOT privatised to see what the difference is.
Finland is a country which went from having one of the largest incarceration rates in Europe, to today one of the lowest! Back in the 1960's Nordic researchers started to investigate how much imprisonment actually helped to reduce crime, and concluded that it does not! Finland then worked, over the next three decades on decarceration by two thirds of its prison population, and crime did not increase as a result!
The prison's in Finland now follow an open prison system, with no gates, bars, locks or uniforms. Inmates work daily in the greenhouse, and earn $8 per hour from which they pay rent. The have mobile phones, do their own grocery shopping in town, and even get three days of vacation, every couple of months! They can also choose to study a degree at the university in town, instead of working; and get subsidised for it. They can even go on a fishing or camping trip on occasion!
Towards the end of their sentence, they are gradually reintroduced back into normal life. A prisoner could easily escape, but if they did, they would go back to a security gaol; so it is better to stay where they are. Open prisons cost less, by reducing the cost per prisoner by almost a third. Most life sentences are usually commuted to 10-15 years, so a prisoner may not know exactly when they will be released, but they do know that eventually they will. For a person who starts out in a maximum security prison with a life sentence, that is a big thing and it gives them hope for a new, more productive life.
I have seen documentaries on America's female prisoners and I was astounded at the length of their sentences, for what seemed to a lay person, relatively minor offenses. By making this official and public request, Kim was able to invite the public to take a closer look at at officials and law makers, who make such lengthy sentences and ask is this actually fair and just, and is it something the average person would support? Hopefully by using her celebrity status, to bring the issue directly to the President and the world's media, she will help to initiate a further look, at some much needed reform for the USA prison system.
This is how women can make changes to our world, through a more loving and compassionate approach to all people. We need to start to peel back the layers of rules and bureaucracy smothering our lives, put in place to make money for someone, or the ability to manipulate and control the people. We need to start seeing people as people, and not just commodities to make profit from. We are all fellow travelers on our path through this life, and we need to learn to initiate compassion and regain trust in each other. Yes there are bad people who do terrible things, and for them prison is most assuredly the best place for them, away from those they seek to harm.
I believe that the majority of people in this world are good, honest people, who given equal resources and opportunity, would behave as most of us do. The concept that we need to fear people and protect our property from unknown thieves, is designed to keep us living in fear. It seeks to divide us and encourage us to not trust our fellow man, and to feel negligent if we don't pay insurances to 'protect' us. How many insurance policies do you think the insurance industry would sell, if we all loved and trusted each other?
Finland has shown us that by giving people trust, treating them with respect, and actually helping them to improve their lives, knowledge and hence future opportunities; has had the result of turning former prisoners into productive members of society, and reducing the countries crime rate. The time has come to start the discussion about prisoners, prisons, excessive and unnecessary rules imposed on us, as a means of making money (think about the excessive road rules and outrageous fines in Australia compared to other places in the world) and allowing the true humanity of people to shine through. The money the government could save by initiating some of the prison reforms that they did in Finland decades ago; could go towards covering the funding shortfall, that may result by reducing the overbearing and excessive road fines we have here in Australia.
When you read about the unbelievable levels of corruption of some of our so called leaders past and present, (think the banking leaders who have been fined or charged over corruption in Australia's banking system, as a result of the Royal Commission that our Prime Minister and his Treasurer were sure was not necessary), then I am sure you will also come to the same conclusion. It is not the majority of the population who need tighter rules, checks and balances, but the ruling few! Bring on reform and let women lead the way. Start the conversations, write to your politicians, make the changes, like Kim has, by speaking up. Together we can change the world for the better!