“Hey, you, whatjado? Whatryainfer?” The gnarled face and knotted hair give way to a flash of yellowed teeth. Wiping the drool from his lips with the back of his hand, he waits for a response. But none is forthcoming.
Raising his voice, he gives a bit of a push and the man tumbles backward. “HEY! I’m speakin to you! When I talk you answer, capiche!”
Picking himself up from the cracked concrete floor, a small gathering now encircles the sheepish man who didn’t quite understand the rules of his newly indoctrinated prison world. Brushing himself off, he is shaking. His head slumped forward, he tries to study the ground, to re-focus so as to somehow find the secrets to sustaining himself in this new evil environment. But sadly the floor is not forthcoming and can give no solace, nothing, just a dull, empty grayness. A monotone whispered voice finds him and he says, “Um, I lost a Dr. Seuss book…”
The circle tightens. “WWHATT? What you talkin about you piece of sh—t! You think I’m dumb or somethin? Huh!” Reaching out, the gnarly hand pushed him backward into the fray of encircling felons. “What you think I’m stupid? HUH! Answer me!”
Lifting his head, the man looks him straight in the eye. “I said I lost a Dr. Seuss book and the Library pressed criminal charges and tried to extort money from me. I paid but they wanted more so they put me in jail…”
The knotted hair spiked with some sticky substance remained fixed. The mouth began to move, but no words came out. The lips curled and waved in a grotesque fashion and then suddenly a boom of laughter emit. “You’re sh—tin me!” Bending over, the belly laugh took it out of him and he began to cough and wheeze. The circle of men closed in. “What the f—k is a Dr. Suez? He some porn star wannabe writer eh what?”
Holding himself as still as possible, the shaking still visible, the man sought some reality in this perverse reality he now found himself. “No, he wrote children’s books. I lost it and the Library pressed charges of theft.”
“The public library? As in the place where we can check out books cause we ain’t got the money to buy ’em?”
“Yes, the taxpayer funded Library that is owned by the taxpayers and ruled by government bureaucracy.”
“How much that book cost?”
Shrugging, “Don’t know. Maybe $15.”
With the ‘average’ incarceration now costing taxpayers about $100 per day per inmate, it is absurd to note what some of those inmates are charged with. No longer do we simply levy a fine, a ticket, volunteer work, for minor infractions, instead we impose a jail sentence. Why? More money.
While the taxpayer fronts the cost per inmate, the jail then turns around and levies ‘fees’. In order to be released, fees are applied in the thousands of dollars. But those fees aren’t returned to the taxpayer, they are absorbed by the jail, most of which are now private. In addition, some jails have now taken to billing the released prisoner the entire value of their stay – upwards of $50-$60k. While in reality the released prisoner doesn’t even have a job any longer, and now getting one is miserably difficult, when/if a job is obtained it is most likely at minimum wage. So how the heck is the person expected to pay a levied $60,000 debt? They can’t – which brings us to the new US norm of … debtors prison! Filling up beds so that the prison/jail can collect more money from the government which is based nearly exclusively on ‘bed use’. Of course, this is the honor system, so when submitting reports for reimbursement, bed use is highly contentious.
Those individuals who manage to post the fees are now subject to probation. Probation? Not to worry, most centers are owned by judges. So when the release of an inmate mandates probation induction, the judge who requires the weekly reporting may be the same judge who owns the facility. Ta-da! The money circle is complete because now the individual must pay for his/her probation which may include urine testing, counseling, group sessions, more court Hearings to review compliance, community service, and on and on.
Welfare? Food Stamps? The only option when a person’s record is forever smudged – for ‘theft of a Dr. Suess book’. While felony drug convictions bar a person from ever collecting welfare or food stamps, getting ahead of a conviction is all but impossible. And we wonder why recidivism is 80%… Let’s see – they can’t get a job – they are heavily weighted in jail debt – and they can’t get welfare assistance. What to do – what to do…
What happened to Rehabilitation? What happened to creating a productive member of society?
Dr. Seuss – roll over in your grave…