Friday, January 23, 2009

Crime- the Other Cancer

CRIME, The Other Cancer;
by Andrae L. Bridges

According to the American Heritage College Dictionary, cancer is defined as la. Any of various malignant [deadly, toxic] neoplasmas [tumors] marked by the proliferation of anaplastic cells that tend to invade surrounding tissues and metastasize to new body sites. b. The pathological condition characterized by such growths. 2. A pernicious [deadly, toxic], spreading evil.

As unfortunate as it is, everybody is familiar with and/or affected by cancer in one form or another. That's a small testament to just how serious this sometimes deadly disease is. Which I'm all too familiar with because not one, but five women in my family were diagnosed with cancer. One woman unfortunately lost her battle with cancer as it spread from her breast to her brain thus she passed away in 2006. (Rest In Peace Granny!) Two of the other women had to have full mastectomies (surgical removal of the breast). Another woman had to get her cervix removed, and the fifth and final woman underwent several grueling and sometimes debilitating rounds of chemotherapy. Although four out of those five women went on to win their battles with cancer, they were left scarred in ways that only a first hand cancer survivor could understand.

Cancer isn't just limited to women. It attacks men just as much. In fact, according to The World Almanac and Book of Facts of 2009 (via American Cancer Society), the expected new cancer cases of 2008 for women was 692,060-It was 53,120 more for men coming in at 745,180. That means a staggering total of 1,437,240 people were expected to be diagnosed with cancer in 2008. The almanac went on to include the expected deaths of 2008. For women it was 271,530, with the number for men coming in at 294,120, that's 22,590 more than women. Wow! The cancers being referred to here include everything from breast and thyroid cancer for women to prostate and pancreas cancer for men. With that being said, I must go on to inform you that in 1998 my grandfather was also diagnosed with cancer and passed away shortly thereafter. (Rest In Peace Grandpa!)

Now, would you believe me if I told you there's another form of death with numbers far higher than that of the expected number of deaths from cancer? Well it's true. And the form of death I'm referring to is Institutional Death. In a word, incarceration. Yeah, incarceration currently claims the lives of well over a million men and women. According to The World Almanac and Book of Facts of 2009, in Mid-2006 the United States had a total of 1,485,884 sentenced prisoners. In Mid-2007 the number increased by 42,157 plus (Illinois did not provide Mid-2007 data on sentenced prisoners).
"As of June 30, 2007, 1,595,034 prisoners—about two-thirds of the nation's incarcerated population—were under the jurisdiction, or legal authority, of federal (12.5%) or state (87.5%) correctional authorities. Jails, which are locally operated and typically hold persons awaiting trial or sentencing as well as those sentenced to one year or less/ held most of the remaining inmate population (780,581 as of June 29). An additional 68/245 persons were supervised outside of a jail facility/ through weekender programs, electronic monitoring, or treatment programs among other methods.
As of Mid-2007, the incarceration rate in state and federal prisons for those with sentences of more than one years was 509 per 100,000 U.S. residents/ up from 501 at year-end 2006 and 478 at year-end 2000. The rate of incarceration was 957 out of every 100,000 males and 69 out of every 100,000 females. Also, as of Mid-year 2007, an estimated 96,703 non-U.S. citizens were in state or federal custody."
—The World Almanac and Book of Facts of 2009

Yeah, yeah; I know, the nerve of me. How dare I put the words crime, incarceration/ cancer and treatment in the same sentence. Let alone attempt to compare something as serious and life threatening as cancer to crime and incarceration. By no means will what I attempt to convey here take away from the seriousness of cancer. No, not at all. I'm simply trying to get you to see the correlation between cancer and incarceration in terms of seriousness. In that, I intend to point out why crime and incarceration is as serious as cancer and should therefore be thoroughly examined and treated as such. But don't take my word for it. Be motivated to investigate so that you might be able to make your own diagnosis.

The moment someone is diagnosed with cancer talks of treatment strategies begin. Said treatment(s) are dependent upon the type of cancer one may have. As there are many kinds of cancers with just as many possible treatments. The key word here is TREATMENT. As we all know, the purpose of any treatment is to help the ailment get better, if not remove it all together. Well, if crime is the cancer or ailment and incarceration is the treatment, why don't crime rates decrease as fast as incarceration rates increase? I read something a few years ago that stated/ "Wisconsin's incarceration rate has risen three times faster than the crime rate." How is that even possible? Then I came across a piece in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel which stated, "When Truth In Sentencing sailed through the Legislature in 1998, Wisconsin's crime rate had fallen 14.3% over the preceding five years- From 1998 to 2003, that trend continued, with a decline of 12.4%." In that, you'd think the incarceration rate would've also started to decline, right? Wrong! In fact/ the incarceration rate only continued to rise. Proof of that came as a result of Wisconsin having to house inmates in other states as the prison population continued to expand. More on that later. The question here is why? In short/ because no one gets released!

For starters, it's not about crime, the other cancer; or incarceration, its treatment. It's all about big business. I shall go on to provide three examples of such that basically branch off into a whole bunch of other examples. First, in the late 80's and early 90's crime rates went through the roof, especially juvenile crime. That prompted a get-tough-on-crime campaign that swept the nation; gaining all kinds of support along the way. Thus, vote seeking politicians jumped right on board. Every politician looking to get into office promised voters that they would "get-tough-on-crime." The politician with the toughest methods got the votes. That's the first example of big business from a political aspect.

The get-tough-on-crime campaign quickly went from words to actions as legislators enacted laws that took get-tough to a whole new level. Judges were given the power and even encouraged to "lock1em-up-and-throw-away-the-key." That didn't take much encouraging/ if any at all. Especially if the judge was looking to keep his spot on the bench. Again/ big business and politics. But victims of crime and just about everyone else were none-the-wiser thus they apathetically supported this madness. For it all made perfectly good sense; the more aggressive the cancer (crime), the more aggressive the treatment (incarceration). Aggressive in the sense that prison sentences got longer. (See: footnote 1) A crime that carried 5 years quickly jumped to 30. Which should've been a crime in and of itself but the aggressive spread of crime, the other cancer, was cause for aggressive incarceration, the chosen treatment. As criminals received lengthier sentences, the rate of release got lower and lower. Then the growth of prison populations began to runneth over. With that came the need for more prisons. More prisons produced more jobs. That's my second example of big business. And business was booming!

My third and final example of incarceration being big business can be summed up in a word. Investments. Now this is where I turn your attention back to the subject of out-of-state facilities. I had never heard of CCA (Corrections Corporation of America) until in 1998 when Wisconsin first decided to start sending their inmates to prison facilities in Texas, Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Minnesota. Said facilities were owned and operated by CCA (Note: it's a known fact that CCA is made up of a group of investors who are in the business of corrections for profits and profits only. Go figure!) So, Wisconsin shipped well over 6/000 inmates to the states I previously listed. Everybody was getting paid; big business at its best! Although inmates continued to get shipped out-of-state, the prison population continued to rise- So much so that inmates who would normally be housed at Dodge Correctional until getting transferred to the prison they were staffed to ended up at county jails throughout the state.

It was said to be cheaper to house inmates out-of-state so what happened to the funds Wisconsin had left over as a result of doing so? It most certainly wasn't spent on treatment programs. In fact, as prison populations grew, programs disappeared. Treatment programs cost money. Remove the programs and you get mo' money, mo1 money, mo' money! Prisons became nothing more than warehouses and inmates were livestock. In 2001 many correctional officers staged a protest. Their picket signs said things like, "BRING BACK OUR INMATES!" and "DON'T SEND OUR JOBS OUT-OF-STATE!" I was quite disgusted by that because it was then that I realized inmates really were nothing more than livestock; a product and job security. Not one of the signs read, "CREATE TREATMENT PROGRAMS TO REHABILITATE OUR INMATES!" or "EASE THE overcrowding BY RELEASING INMATES!" Nope! None of that mattered. Hence, this ain't personal, it's SERIOUS BUSINESS! And therein lies the problem-

According to The World Almanac and Book of Facts of 2009:
"In 2008, an estimated 182,460 women and 1,990 men in the U.S. will have been diagnosed with breast cancer, and about 40/480 women and men will have died from it. Currently/ an estimated 2.4 million women are living with a history of breast cancer/ the 2nd biggest cause of cancer death for women in the U.S. (lung cancer ranks first). But mortality rates have been declining/ . ' especially among other women/ probably because of earlier detection and IMPROVED TREATMENT."
The almanac goes on to Wisconsin ranked as number 8 on a list for having the largest percent increases in prison populations/ at 70.2% from 1997-2007. West Virginia is ranked number 1 at 96.0%.

As previously stated, everybody is familiar with and/or affected by cancer (the disease) in one form or another. Everybody is also familiar with and/or affected by crime; the other cancer in one form or another. So why is one treatment taken more seriously than the other? Oh yeah, that's right, people don't deserve cancer but people often deserve to get incarcerated. And believe it or not, I can totally agree with that. Commit the crime, do the time! But in doing the time, shouldn't one be provided the appropriate tools to better him or herself? And then be given the opportunity to atone for his or her actions after demonstrating positive change? In considering crime to be cancer and incarceration its treatment, that would mean the criminal is the anaplastic cells that tend to invade surrounding tissues and metastasize to new body sites. All the more reason inmates shouldn't be denied IMPROVED TREATMENT. The aggressive treatment of longer sentences has proven futile-However/ it's said that 90% of inmates will one day be released from prison-I believe they will leave worse off than when they entered as a direct result of minimal to no treatment. Thus 40% of them will eventually return. Hence/ Wis"con"sin Depart Men Of Corrections!

1. In 1989 the law which had parole eligibility dates for lifers set at 13 years and 8 months was changed. That change gave judges the ability to set parole eligibility dates to wherever they saw fit. And so, in 1992, at the age of 16 I was convicted of First Degree Intentional Homicide/ Party To A Crime and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole until 2037. Jeffrey Dahmer received multiple life sentences but due to the fact that we all only have CNE LIFE TO LIVE, isn't it safe to say that I basically received the same ammount of tine as him? He was an adult at the time of his arrest and thereby experienced life. I was a juvenile who
experienced absolutely NOTHING!... Please think long and hard
about that!