There are many ways to handle the epidemic of over-crowding in prisons. We could start by ending the war on drugs — one of the major culprits. As part of drug war reform, non-violent drug offenders should cease being imprisoned. We could also address racial discriminationand its many contributions to the problem. From there, we can fight against racist elements in the law and its enforcement, particularly by police.
On the other hand you could be like Indiana prosecutor Bradley Cooper who says he’s “proudly over-crowding our prisons” in a new campaign. To make matters worse, Reason‘s Elizabeth Nolan Brown reports that, “The flyer also features mugshots from convicted criminals … It includes a man who was sentenced to 40 years in prison for selling meth, a man convicted of manslaughter who died while in prison, and a man who received a 40-year sentence for burglary.”
The Johnson County Prosecutor’s Office, which features Cooper among their staff, has a disturbing quote by Cooper himself: “Here in Johnson County we don’t pass out needles, we pass out arrest warrants.” The arrests were made in relation to a September case that, according to the site got “6 arrested, $6 million seized, 100 kilos taken off the street.”
The problem with all of these things is that they don’t affect or even try to affect the root dynamics of crime.
Prosecutors like Cooper don’t look at these criminals as if they’re people. He sees them as a class of individuals that needs to be cleansed from society in the most torturous way possible. Instead of treating people who commit crimes as if they may need help, Cooper believes we should (proudly!) throw them into over-crowded prisons. Over-crowded prisons which, as a result of this over-crowding, have a poor handle on mental health issues, which is prevalent within prisons as they become the new mental institution.
Due to the experiences of trans folks and the elderly, we can also point to prisons’ under-funded medical equipment. In summary, this makes long prison sentences, something Cooper specializes in, a slow-death for many. Moreover, this “strategy” of dealing with crime stems from a lack of radical engagement with the question of crime itself. Cooper doesn’t care whether people have underlying medical or mental issues, only that they deal with drugs and have a lot of money floating around.
However, last I checked, the government of the United States has dealt with drugs in the past and obtains most of its money from coercive appropriation of others’ wealth called taxation. Is there a substantial difference between the government and these gangs?
What about police departments that use civil forfeiture to steal individuals’ money and property? Or the same departments that use procured drugs for their own personal use? Is there some difference between these cops and your “criminals”?
The difference is of course that the police and the government are those who “make the laws” so therefore they are also above the law. We’ve seen this time and time again — such as when police officers are acquitted after they’ve murdered an unarmed “suspect.” When it comes to dealing drugs, we can point a finger at the US military. During its time in Afghanistan, it has either stood aside or actively participated in the local drug trade, which continues to tear apart local communities.
So again, Prosecutor Cooper: When are you going to ensure the government and cops stop dealing drugs?
Now there’s a war on drugs that might be worth fighting.
But it probably won’t be fought by Cooper. Brown informs us of Cooper’s double-standard: “In 2011, Cooper […] was accused of staking out a local detective’s home in search of a woman he was pining over. […] The incident was reported to the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission but no action was taken.”
At least we can sleep soundly knowing our justice system is in good hands.