Friday, March 12, 2010

What are prisons for again?

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In Bay City, Texas Melvin Johnson III,35, was sentenced to 60 years in prison for having 1.3 grams of crack cocaine as reported in the Bay City Tribune.
According to the court hearing, there was no evidence that he intended to sell or had made the crack, but was found guilty of those charges based on "reasonable deduction and common sense belief that Johnson possessed these drugs to sell them."
In Texas, possesion of 1-4 grams of group 1 controlled substances (including cocaine) has a maximum penalty of 10 years in state prison and/ or a $10,000 fine. So Johnson was severely overpunished according to the law in the first place.
This case serves as a prime example of how unreasonable and arbitrary court systems as well as drug policies are especially in conservative areas. It does not even make sense. The logic behind such outlandish convictions and sentences muct be that putting people in prison for basically their entire lives outweighs the cost of having these criminals living in communities.
Housing a prisoner in Texas costs the state $18,031 per year, so in Johnson's case the state will be dishing out over a million dollars to keep him from terrorizing the community with his 1.2 grams of crack until 2070. Over a million dollars.
What else could the Texas state government do with over a million dollars? How about some funding for childhood obesity programs or teen pregnancy prevention (Texas currently holds the records for highest state percentages of teen pregnency and lowest of child health ). The point is if the court system and rightous jury members wanted to do what was best for the community, locking people up for a miniscule amount of personal freedom is not the way to go.
The use of prisons needs to be redefined to prevent their blatent abusage. Are prisons for securing and isolating dangerous criminals or upholding biases and personal convictions about what other individuals should or should not be putting in their bodies? Apparently the latter since locking a crackhead up is worth a million dollars of taxes to the court and jury of Bay City.