May 20, 2024

Too Few Prison Guards? Or Too Many Laws?

According to the Waco Tribune, Texas is short on prison guards to the tune of nearly 3200 officers.  Exacerbating the problem is the fact that Texas plans to build three additional prisons in the near future.  The Trib blames this shortage on the growing Texas economy that has been drawing workers from other states here.

Despite the fact that illegals make up approximately 4-6% of the average state’s prison population, depending on who’s doing the reporting, no mention is made of illegal immigrants in the article.  The implications of the proposed plan to “get tough” on illegal immigrants on Texas prisons is obvious:  we’ll need even more guards to handle the rush of illegals being arrested at the borders, even if they’re simply there for the short-term waiting for the bus back across the border.

It seems to me that we’re spending too much $$$ on prisons already.  Square white dudes like me who watch the local news and read the paper get the idea that America is a violent country and we’re right. 

The U.S.’s rate of 7 murders per 100,000 people is higher than any other nation that we’d regard as being truly civilized – 300% higher than that of the United Kingdom, for example.

Considering prison population per capita, in 2005 the U.S. per capita incarceration rate was nearly 6 times that of the U.K. and 10 times that of France.  More telling is the fact that the U.S. was also slightly higher that Russia at around 740 per 100,000 people.  Russia, for Pete’s sake!  You know Russia, land of the gulag and home of Uncle Joe Stalin and Vlad “the Bad” Putin. That’s simply outrageous given the wealth in this country.

Considering the relative advantage that even the “poorest” Americans have over their Russian counterparts, I have only two thoughts:

  1. American society is utterly dysfunctional
  2. We’re putting too many people behind bars for “crimes” that don’t matter

It’s my opinion that both are true. Volumes could and have been written about item #1 so why dwell on it here?  But for #2, it seems to me that there is a pretty obvious solution, one that will make my liberal friends in the audience happy and shock the rest.  What is it?

The U.S. should legalize most drugs that are illegal today.

As of 2003, 24% of the U.S. prison population were in jail over drug-related offenses.  That’s about 338,000 people who will be wasting the best years of their lives in the pokey because they used, bought, or sold the refined extract from the wrong plant.

What exactly is wrong with getting high?  Yes, it rots brains, ruins people’s physical and mental health, and generally lowers the life expectancy rate of users.  So what?  It’s a personal choice to engage in behavior that has known risks.  Why is the government involved in the mass arrest of its people?  What happened to personal responsibility?

One reason is that being tough on drugs is mandatory for getting elected to public office.  This post alone would disqualify me from being elected to any significant office (assuming I had a chance given my other positions and lack of public speaking ability!), it’s that much of a scarlet letter to be in favor of this variety of freedom of choice.

Consider also the percentage of crimes – I have no numbers on this – that are committed by guys who need money to buy drugs.  That would make the numbers quoted earlier significantly higher. This does not have to be. 

What would Bayer charge for a quality, controlled coke buzz?  $1?  I have no notion of what street value is for a line but I’m certain it’s more than what an efficient pharmaceutical company would charge for an equivalent dose. 

Further consider the benefits of regulated industry.  Deaths from “bad cuts” would drop to zero, making one’s drug of choice much safer than it is now. Crime would decline as a result of legalizing all but the hardest drugs – meth, et al.  Dramatically.  Prison populations would decline in proportion.  We wouldn’t have a shortage of prison guards – we’d have to subsidize their re-training for other professions!  Or maybe we could use them in the Border Patrol; that bunch needs all the help they can get.

Consider also the additional tax benefits to the national treasury as a result of bringing these currently illegal transactions into the legitimate economy.  We might even get a real tax cut out of the deal.

So why are marijuana, cocaine, and other drugs illegal anyway?  Anyone know the history?

My guess is that it’s a result of an overly judgmental social order.  Some characterize the “war on drugs” as being akin to the struggles to reduce the abortion count and/or to preserve the right to religious freedom.  These are an inaccurate comparisons because there is no moral or ethical basis for the criminalization of drugs.  None.  But we’re doing it anyway and no one who would vote to rationalize the status quo can play a meaningful role in the U.S. government.

That I don’t understand.

Other countries have legalized the use of certain popular drugs without significant impact on the quality of their society.  Why not here?


Marc is a software developer, writer, and part-time political know-it-all who currently resides in Texas in the good ol' U.S.A.

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One thought on “Too Few Prison Guards? Or Too Many Laws?

  1. The war on drugs filled the prisions and the land with minor criminals (along with a few major ones)and was doomed for failure from the start. Why not break the backs of the drug lords and legalize the stuff. If the supply is unrestricted the price should go way down and we should get rid of drug lords some problems in Afganistan and Latin America.

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