Human beings have always needed an enemy--someone to hate or control, but mostly hate. It seems to have a primal beginning from an early age such as with playground bully and victim. We create these enemies if and when they don't appear on their own. In America, every ethnic group has at one time been hated: Originally the indigenous Native Americans. When they were driven westward, the hatred shifted to the colonists hating the English for various contrived reasons. Throughout the history of America, we cycled through hate and prejudice directed toward every ethnic group that emigrated to the United States. The emigrants often just escaping the same treatment where they came from, and we still read about ethnic cleansing in various parts of the world. The economical conditions are better here, but the hate and prejudice still exists. No one knows this better than Black Americans, who still suffer the aftermath of this hatred. Nothing as fundamentally primal as to the human need to hate ever changes--only the target of that hatred shifts to the most convenient group available.
During World War Two we hated the Japanese and Germans. The Germans hated the Jews, along with various "troublesome" factions of their own society, such as religious authorities, union members, communists, socialists, and homosexuals. Why? The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor giving us out reason to hate. The German fascists needed an enemy to justify their larger agenda of aggression. They needed the Jews' money, and their methods allowed them to accomplish both ethnic and social cleansing, while also satisfying their Aryan Superiority Complex. They created incidents such as Kristallnacht to inflame the German People against the Jews. Once they got the mob mentality rolling, from there the hatred escalated and the authorities rounded up whomever they wanted, and for whatever reason. Sound familiar again?
Following the end of World War Two, we saw fit to switch-up and now love those whom we had hated during the war. Feeling guilty, we then rebuilt Japan and Germany, and allowed the creation of the State of Israel. But--we needed a new enemy, as we must always have someone to hate. The Cold War conveniently provided new enemies, and thus fulfilled our hatred needs.
However, when the Cold War ended, our enemy base collapsed. We again needed new enemies. The international version of enemies were temporarily lacking pending our new found radical Islamic enemies following 9/11/01. Thus, we had nearly the entire 1990 decade needing someone new to hate. Much like happened following the Civil War when the hatred of black Americans peaked; and, following the Nazi fascist model, we turned our hatred inward, we found sub-groups of our own citizens to hate.
In the nineties, the concentration was on sociological hatred that was not inherently race driven, but in some cases race concentrated, as there are large numbers of ethnic minorities in the lower economic classes. The hatred was directed towards those perceived as criminals or potential criminals. Some of this was self-serving vengeance and hatred espoused by a few crime victims, when in reality the vast majority of the population had never been touched by serious crime other then the now higher taxes from getting tough on crime. Notwithstanding the actual falling crime rate, there were political gains available to those fear-monger politicians who used psychological warfare to frighten and inflame the general public into believing crime was the biggest threat in life. This new found hatred spawned Three-Strikes laws in several states, with One-Strike laws for some sex offenders, and civil commitments for possible future crimes not yet committed. California Penal Code §2962, for general crimes; Welfare and Institutions Code §6600, for sex offenders. If you think the premise of the science fiction movie "Minority Report" is make believe, you had better wake up and smell the political manure, for alas, we found new groups of people to hate--and hate them we did.
In spite of historical statistics that equate criminality and recidivism to demographics and economic factors, the average citizen, while completely ignoring prevention and rehabilitation concepts, bought the political sophistry of draconian punishment and retribution tactics as the best way to lower crime. Demographically, historical statistics show that most crimes are committed by those in the 18 to 25 year old age group. Therefore, the larger the population within that group, with no other factors, the higher the overall crime rate. Couple that to the next most important factor--economic conditions--then when the 18 to 25 year old group has a high population, and economical conditions are good, then there are jobs for these individuals which holds the crime rate down. Provided we spend the money to educate them with job skills, rather than spend all the money on prisons, Three-Strikes, and civil commitments. However, when the economy is bad, like now, the crime rate becomes directly proportional to the population numbers of the 18 to 25 year old demographic group. If the economic tanks and we have an abundance of 18 to 25 year olds, the crime rate will go up with or without Three-Strikes and the other get tough on crime laws. We can hate and create these laws, but they really don't work except to satisfy the hate need.
In the mid to late 1990's, the 18 to 25 year old group population was adequately absorbed into a booming economy, and the unemployment rate was as expected--low. Also, the Three Strikes laws were passed. Following statistical demographic history--the crime rate dropped. The Three Strikes proponents immediately claimed victory--that the Three-Strikes laws had lowered crime, while ignoring and attempting to debunk the fact that the sociologist had already predicted lowering crime rates based on demographics and economical factors.
To prove the point, states that did not enact Three-Strikes laws saw their crime rates fall more than those with Three-Strikes. Could this be because without Three-Strikes those states were able to spend more on education and less on prisons? In California, the state with the toughest Three-Strikes law had one jurisdiction, the City and County of San Francisco, that refused to utilize the law except for extreme cases. There the crime rate dropped more than the overall crime rate in California as a whole. Why? Could it be that San Francisco spent more money on social programs and education than they did on Three-Strikes prosecutions and costs?
The most despised and hated group of sub-citizens is presently the sex offender. California has One-Strike laws for sex offenders, and the prison hierarchy allows other inmates to not only hate them, but also prey upon them with impunity. The general public has developed such a hatred they say, "so be it." And for those that escape a life sentence, California and several other states simply commit their sex offenders to mental institutions, at huge expense, following completion of their prison sentences. This under the guise of needing treatment for a mental condition. Why aren't they sent to treatment instead of prison in the first place if they are mentally ill? Because society needs someone to hate. They take psychologists, who need work, essentially give them crystal balls, and ask them to predict the future while making it look scientific. They predict this person may possibly commit a crime in the future because he or she committed a crime in the past. Therefore, we will commit them to a prison like mental hospital based on predications of the future. Again remember the movie "Minority Report." Also, now consider the large number of people that will be locked-up in prison type mental hospitals for future crimes that never would have happened. And this is America? These laws are even more draconian than the Three-Strikes laws, but society can vent a lot of hate here.
Now we collectively face hard economic times. When the economy was booming, nobody was much concerned with paying for these draconian very expensive laws. With money now in short supply, someone needs to add-up the dollar numbers and compare the costs to the statistical benefits. Since, statistically, life needs to add-up the dollar numbers and compare the costs to the statistical benefits. Since, statistically, life term inmates are rarely if ever released in California, and if the demographics and economics cause the crime rate to rise, then with few prisoners being released and a new generation of 18 to 25 year olds being sent to prison under "get tough on crime" laws, we will continue to have prison expansion at a time when the State and taxpayers can least afford it.
Governor Davis, with his cronies in the prison guard union, and along with the die hard get tough on crime politicians, are all still pushing prison expansion. While they dramatize the difficulties in public over closing a projected 34 billion dollar budget deficit gap, they quietly took 350 million dollars from the General Fund to construct a new prison to be operated by the Department of Mental Health for the new and hated civil commitments, and they also have a similarly large General Fund allotment of money set aside to open, staff, and operate this new behemoth to be located at Coalinga, California, on the grounds of the Pleasant Valley State Prison. Davis also attempted to sneak through a new 250 million dollar Death Row. What else is on the secret agenda?
These draconian laws will ultimately force choosing between funding schools, social programs, or prisons. So far, in the budget talks and proposals, there has been little remorse among the politicians over the massive proposed education cuts, while at the same time proposing prison budget increases. What will be the choice of the people of California? Continue the hate, or promote crime prevention through education, social programs, and rehabilitation?
Inmate Tom Watson
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