Really, Arizona?

This is from Fox 11 news:

Report: Most AZ prison inmates are violent
Posted on March 30, 2010 at 7:30 PM
Updated today at 7:30 PM

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — A new report says more than 94 percent of Arizona prison inmates are either violent or repeat felony offenders or both.
As of September 2009, more than 40,500 inmates were in the custody of the state Department of Corrections. The report found that more than 65 percent of those inmates could be classified as violent offenders and more than half were incarcerated for one or more violent offenses.
The 90-page report called "Prisoners in Arizona: A Profile of the Inmate Population" was released Tuesday by the Arizona Prosecuting Attorneys' Advisory Council.
APAAC was created by the state Legislature in 1977. The council coordinates and provides training, education and support to Arizona prosecutors.
Gee, prosecutors wouldn't be at all biased, would they?  Gotta love that headline.  Fear-mongering really is an art form with these guys.

Here is my own experience as a guest of the State.  A few years ago, I had a drug problem.  Socially unacceptable?  To be sure.  A threat to society?  I didn't think so.  I didn't commit any of the crimes usually associated with drug use, (burglary, fraud, domestic violence, etc.)  I am, in fact, a pacifist.   Hurting one's self is one thing.  It takes a whole other mindset to do harm to another.  I had the nasty habit of imagining myself in another's shoes.  That whole empathy thing.

It began one night when 30 armed, masked men invaded my home and terrorized my family.  The spared no expense.  Full body armor, assault rifles, concussion grenades, the works.

For $40.00 worth of dope. 

Why so much for so little?  It was a small town.  They knew me.  They knew that I kept no weapons, and posed no danger to them or anyone else.  I found out later in county lockup.  One of the Sheriff's Deputies who was involved in the raid let it slip.  (We had been coworkers in another job and another life.)  He said one word to me -- "Overtime".

You see, it really is all about money.  Budgets are dependent upon conviction rates, so here's what they do:  They charge you with something completely outrageous, something totally off the wall.  (They initially told me 8 to 12 years, though the presumptive sentence for my crime was only 2 1/2).  They do this in the hope that they can plead you down to what they should have charged you with in the first place.  It works, for the most part.  Even though you know that they are using deceit and intimidation, there is a part of your mind that tells you not to take the chance.  So I signed the plea agreement.

Most prison yards in the State of Arizona are minimum security yards.  And still there aren't enough of them to house those who qualify.  This fact alone negates the above "report".  I found that 85% of those I was incarcerated with were like me -- in for non-violent, non-repetitive crimes.  The other %15 were hard-core, career criminals.  The gang-bangers, the racist skinheads, the dregs.  Those were the guys who ran things.  This was encouraged by the staff (wink, wink).  As reprehensible as they were, they did one thing.  They kept the peace.  Those in authority will invariably take the path of least resistance, and they're not that great at imagining the long-term consequences of their acts.  Society is done no favors by sending young, impressionable men to prison, only to be recruited as "soldiers" by those who consider them to be inherently expendable.  Because they are eventually released at some point.  Usually with a whole new set of skills.

Since I was older, I didn't have to worry about that sort of thing.  All It took was convincing them that I wasn't afraid to die.

So, I had the luxury of using that time to better myself.  I read.  I worked as much as I was allowed.  And I observed.  I still find human nature fascinating. 

One of the things that I found was that, if someone does you harm, it is often for no other reason than that they can.  This applies to both criminals and cops. 

No comments: