AMERICAN GULAG

IMG_2694 photo by eric chaffee

While we were sleeping, the US Constitution has been bulldozed into the landfill. We are sending people to prison without due process, at an alarming rate, and suddenly we seem to have awakened in a police state. Think I’m kidding? This article explains how federal prosecutors rarely need to go to trail with their cases, are able to selectively enforce the law on their own whim, and if you don’t make a deal to become one of their clients you may go away for an even longer time. States may permit certain activities, but the feds don’t care, as the article shockingly explains.

Now, I’m a sober person, and value stability in the community, preferring reality “straight up.” But when a state passes laws saying medical marijuana can be grown and sold, with carefully enforced restrictions, and then the feds come in and send law-abiding businessmen to prison, it’s time to take stock. This is outta control. We’ve lost our liberty and our social order.

I know whereof I speak, as I’ve been doing prison ministry, weekly, for many years, as a volunteer . It has given me an insider’s perspective on this system. Prisons are big money, especially when there are so many people locked up. Yes, many of us feel safer when social deviants are confined; and politicians love to keep large blocks of voters employed as guards and vendors. The cost of these institutions has become stunning. It dwarfs the cost of education. (If you think education is expensive, consider the cost of ¬†ignorance!)

I go to jail every Saturday (except when in Yucatan) ¬†to conduct a nondenominational Bible study, which is really more of a stealth ethics course. We sit in a circle and read a chapter of scripture; and then I ask questions in a Socratic fashion, and listen. I’m there to see Christ (the ideal person) in these guys whom society has failed. They’ve taught me much. I’ve read a book recently which touches on methods that have helped me in this effort, over the years ‚Äď COFFEE SHOP CONVERSATIONS: Making the Most of Spiritual Small Talk. Being present for others who are suffering is an art. The last thing these guys want is to talk with a religious salesman.

Beholding the beauty of a fellow being who is struggling, is precious; yet it’s not always easy. And pat answers won’t help. But sometimes right questions can. This book helps those who are open-minded enough to see a value there, and extend a hand in comfort. Yet it’s better to prevent people from coming to prison. How do we do that if our laws have been ignored by those (in the legal system!) who seem to prefer an industrial approach to incarceration? This is that military-industrial-political complex that President Eisenhower warned about. (He removed the word political from his famous retirement speech, as he didn’t want to offend his friends in Congress. Too bad. It was apt; he should have left it in.)¬†