Prisoners living well / by kevin murray

According to "more than 46 million Americans are living in poverty", yet somehow we have the means to provide prisoners shelter, food, and medical care--free of charge to the imprisoned person. reports that Victor Conte a former musician with the Tower of Power served four months at the Taft Correctional Institution, a privately-run minimum security federal prison in which he stated the following: "The first morning, when I woke up it was a kind of university-campus like setting…" and "I looked over I saw the rec center. And I walked over to that and looked in and there were six pool tables, six foosball tables, six ping-pong tables." "There's no fences around the place, about every 200 feet they have a sign on a stake that says 'Out of Bounds.'"


Further, as reported by the ACLU, "Prison officials are obligated under the Eighth Amendment to provide prisoners with adequate medical care," and that "Restrictions on prisoners’ access to publications cannot be arbitrary; they must be “reasonably related to legitimate penological interests.”"  While there isn't any doubt that prison conditions will vary widely from city to city, state to state, and jurisdiction to jurisdiction, the above serves to demonstrate that prisoners have Constitutional rights and further that prisoners have organizations that help to support them in receiving access to those rights.


But the right to something implies also an obligation to that right.  Prisoners in America are given free room and board, but what do they contribute in return for this largess which comes from the taxpayers in America?  Prisoners cannot be legally compelled to work or to do anything of merit while incarcerated, and while America has an obligation to be humane towards those that are imprisoned, a fair prison system would provide the means for prisoners to "pay their keep" while incarcerated, subject to a governing review for extenuating circumstances such as mental health, physical health, and disabilities.  Additionally, the original intent for prisons was for those imprisoned to pay penance for their crimes, both spiritually and physically.  Today, that sentiment for the most part seems to have been thrown out the window and prisons appear instead to be nothing more than a way to take certain peoples off of the street and away from the general population; meaning that monies spent on prisoners is mainly money spent in order to have the convenience and safety of not having to deal with them on the outside.


Still none of that answers the question as to why or how people that are incarcerated do not have to carry their own weight while in prison.  That being the case, you can make a very strong argument that all victimless crimes in which as part of your punishment you have been incarcerated, that these prisoners should be immediately released.  (Some examples of victimless crimes are drug usage, prostitution, and gambling, in which the overriding principle is if there are no unwilling participants there are no victims to protect or that have been violated.  Instead, you are imprisoning people for 'the crime' of treating their body and/or their mind as their own.) 


According to their September 29, 2011 article stated: "Roughly 34% of all prisoners in the U.S. are incarcerated for victimless crimes."  There isn't any good reason why we as taxpayers should pay to keep these people in prison, since they have harmed nobody but themselves.  Taking this first major step in prison reform by releasing those presently incarcerated for victimless crimes will then allow us to better concentrate our reforms on the other criminal inmates to come up with meaningful solutions that are fair to the public, the prisoners, and especially to our good citizens whose only 'crime' is being impoverished.