Every war has them, and the longer the war, the more entrenched they become. They are parasites who make their living off the war, off the suffering and the death. The worst of them use their influence to expand, sustain, and prolong the war in order to keep the gravy train running.
They justify their efforts by proclaiming that the war is holy and thus fool themselves into believing that their profits are merely well-earned side-effects of a noble cause â€” when in fact the war serves no purpose except to act as a fertile breeding ground for their corruption.
The profiteers in the drug war are numerous, from the drug testing companies to the drug task forces to the prison industry.
A remarkable piece at NPR â€” Folsom Embodies California’s Prison Blues by Laura Sullivan â€” explores how the prison union exploded the prison population in California.
California wasn’t the only state to toughen laws in the throes of the 1980s crack wars. But Californians took it to a new level.
Voters increased parole sanctions and gave prison time to nonviolent drug offenders. They eliminated indeterminate sentencing, removing any leeway to let inmates out early for good behavior. Then came the “Three Strikes You’re Out” law in 1994. Offenders who had committed even a minor third felony â€” like shoplifting â€” got life sentences.
Voters at the time were inundated with television ads, pamphlets and press conferences from Gov. Pete Wilson. “Three strikes is the most important victory yet in the fight to take back our streets,” Wilson told crowds.
But behind these efforts to get voters to approve these laws was one major player: the correctional officers union.
In three decades, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association has become one of the most powerful political forces in California. The union has contributed millions of dollars to support “three strikes” and other laws that lengthen sentences and increase parole sanctions. It donated $1 million to Wilson after he backed the three strikes law.
And the result for the union has been dramatic. Since the laws went into effect and the inmate population boomed, the union grew from 2,600 officers to 45,000 officers. Salaries jumped: In 1980, the average officer earned $15,000 a year; today, one in every 10 officers makes more than $100,000 a year. [emphasis added]
This union has incredible political power that they exert to keep their jobs and pay increasing. Those things have actually become the primary goal of the corrections system (not just the union) because of their political subversion.
[Former Corrections Secretary Roderick Hickman says the union was able to control the department’s policy decisions, including undermining efforts to divert offenders from prison and reduce the prison population.
This is the same union that campaigned heavily (spending nearly $2 million) to successfully defeat Proposition 5, which would have reduced the use of prison in California, especially for nonviolent drug offenses.
And the profiteering never stops. In today’s L.A. Times
Two weeks after federal judges ordered California to reduce its prison population, an arm of the Schwarzenegger administration is set to vote on increased funding to police anti-drug units, potentially putting even more offenders behind bars.
An advisory board for the California Emergency Management Agency is expected to decide today whether to channel $33 million in federal money to narcotics task forces around the state that have proved particularly adept at apprehending drug criminals.
This time, the profiteers are the California Narcotics Officers’ Association.
John Lovell, a spokesman for the California Narcotics Officers’ Assn., called the Drug Policy Alliance opposition “predictable” but wrong at a time when Mexican drug cartels are boosting methamphetamine production and operating marijuana plantations in state forests, including the one blamed for starting a wildfire Aug. 8 in Santa Barbara County.
He said the spending on anti-drug task force efforts is “not only appropriate, it’s too bad the amount isn’t larger.”
That’s right, the money we have given to the drug war has exploded exponentially over decades, we have nothing to show for it except destruction and debt, and they want more. You can practically feel the parasitic growth. What happens when they run out of host off of which to feed?
The growth is utterly unsustainable.
This is hard to even fathom. And it’s counter-productive.
We now have more inmates per capita than any of the 36 European countries with the largest inmate populations, and our total number of inmates is more than all the inmates in those countries combined.
This comes at a cost. According to a report published last month by the Vera Institute of Justice, an independent, nonprofit research group, $1 in every $15 from statesâ€™ general funds is now spent on corrections. That doesnâ€™t work in a recession.
Much of the rise in the prison population was because of draconian mandatory sentencing laws that are illogical â€” sociologically and economically.
On the sociological side, as the criminal justice expert Joel Dvoskin of the University of Arizona explained to me, data overwhelmingly support the idea that locking up low-risk, nonviolent offenders makes them worse, not better.
There’s a serious infection of profiteers in the body politic, and the parasites threaten to overwhelm the host. Fighting that infection isn’t going to be easy, but we have no choice.
The alternative is too horrible to consider.