(Left, "They're stacking them up like chordwood," Angelo says.)
Prison is not an effective way to punish victimless crimes, he says.
He calls prison a "finishing school" for criminals.
by Henry Makow Ph.D.
"Angelo Rossi's" father was a gangster associated with the Genovese family. Angelo was arrested in 1984 for having a kilogram of cocaine. He knew he'd have to skip bail because any plea deal would require him to rat out his own father. Angelo escaped in the nick of time and built a new life and successful career under an assumed name.
"The Feds didn't even look for me," he says."That's how lazy these bureaucrats are."
Unfortunately, in 2000, his alcoholic father-in-law, jealous of his success, turned him in. Angelo served 30 months at Coleman Minimum Security facility in Florida where he developed his critique of the US prison system.
Angelo sees the prison system as a boondoggle, the bureaucratic equivalent of the Military Industrial Complex. The U.S. imprisons 3/4 of one per cent of its population -- the highest incarcerated population in the world. There are currently around 2.2 million people behind bars in the US, equal to a city the size of Houston.
In the 24 years (1987 to 2011,) the States' budget for prisons ballooned from $12 billion to $52 billion. Add another $6 billion for the 250,000 inmates of Federal Prisons.
[Daniel D'Amico, an economic professor at Loyola University says,"The model is, if you build it they will come. Because we have all these prisons and all of these other resources funnelled into our criminal justice system, we have this ability to enforce things that would otherwise be unenforceable."
"That includes the drug war, but it's also including everything from the Martha Stewart types to immigration policies. The scope of things that are now criminal in corporate law is exponentially higher than it was merely twenty years ago."]
Angelo says that half the inmates had minor drug offences or petty crimes. People get ten years for marijuana possession. It costs $30,000-$50,000 a year to house a prisoner. Prison bureaucrats earn fat salaries and do nothing. Legalize and supervise drugs and you could cut the budget in half.
"Prison is finishing school for criminals," Angelo says. "They make contacts and learn skills they could never get anywhere else. More important, they learn to hate the government. I spent three weeks in solitary confinement. You identify with fellow criminals and see society as the enemy."
"They have to find other ways to punish people. House arrests. Drug counselling. Work details. Prison is not the answer."
(There is an opportunity to take language classes and get a high school diploma, so it's not all bad.)
Angelo says that although Coleman is one of the cushiest prisons, serving time was a "nightmare." He had to share a 9x9 foot cubicle with two other inmates, and these were not the kind of people he'd normally associate with. In his first month, he had to beat up a bunkmate who was kicking the mattress from below and wouldn't stop. After that, he got a reputation as a fighter and was left alone.
Every dorm had a "Queen" who would offer her services for prison currency - cigarettes and commissary goodies.
Angelo "stayed by myself" or hung out with a Jewish pot grower. They spent their time playing pool, basketball and "walking the track." You "don't look people in the eye."
After release, Angelo returned to his $250,000 per annum sales job and his million dollar mansion. He was on parole for three more years. When his Parole Officer visited Angelo's gated community, and saw Angelo's $93,000 Porsche, "there was hate in his eyes."
First Comment from Jim:
As a retired corrections officer I would concur with most of Angelo Rossi's assessment of the US prison system.
In the state where I worked, we went through a 25-year prison building faze because of a "get tough on crime" law that was approved by the voters. (It should be noted, though, that the law created minimum sentences for violent and person to person crimes and not for drug offences). Since the law was passed in 1994 the prison population has more than doubled.
But it seems that officials have over estimated the number of offenders that were to be sentenced under the law because we presently have one prison complex with 1228 empty bunks.
We would do better if drug "offenders" were treated rather than incarcerated but I do think that the drug profiteers should be prosecuted using RICO laws. However, the prison industry is a very profitable one, indeed, because a lot of companies, vendors, law enforcement agencies and their suppliers have a large stake in ensuring that prisons remain full.