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The United States of America- land of the free, home of the brave, leads the entire world in the amount of people, per capita, behind bars. Our country is sending men and women (and in some cases girls and boys) overseas to spread our version of Freedom and Democracy, yet are the people in jail (1 out of every 100 USers really free? Maybe if one rapes or brutally kills one deserves some kind of punishment (and since I haven’t thought of a better solution than jail – although I’m sure it’s out there – I guess jail it is), but what about the vast majority? What about the kids who grow up seeing that they have no other options besides working three jobs to barely get by or become a neighborhood drug dealer, make an insane amount of money, and get the respect of your fellow dwellers?  What about the kid who sees drug dealers and gangsters driving around in nice cars, wearing nice clothes, with a wad of money (paying no attention to the death or incarceration rate), and probably never even thinks about college unless he can get some kind of sports scholarship? What about the kid who grows up in the community where one who spends a couple years behind bars has more credibility than one who works hard to support one’s family? These kids are the ones who grow up to spend time in these new privately owned, for-profit prisons. It isn’t the kids who go to private high schools, whatever college they want, get a good high paying job straight out of school (or maybe after backpacking across Europe for a few months), and then rob a bunch of old people of their 401(k)s. So, what’s the solution? Do we decrease penalties for crimes that hurt no one but the person who is committing them? Do we increase venalities for those who are stealing from or indirectly killing people weaker than them? That’s what the liberal reformers are calling for, and that might even work to slow down the increase, but if the government wants brown and poor people in jail, then brown and poor will end up in jail. The problem lies in the system that almost guarantees that a high percentage of the poor will end up in the jails that a lot of the rich own. Three states – Vermont, Michigan, Oregon, and Connecticut – spend more money each year on building and maintaining prisons and jails than they do on education to make sure that future generations do not end up in these places. And I’m willing to bet that if, instead of looking at states, we looked at inner-city areas, the amount of money they spend on prisons and locking people up is a much higher percentage than they spend on education or community projects. The problem is that when one grows up poor, with seemingly no options, getting told by the media, teachers, even one’s peers, that she or he will amount to nothing, the chances are that person will amount to nothing. What if we assured that everyone had food, shelter, clean water, and clothing? What we if made all schools have the same books, the same salary for the teachers, the same student to teacher ratio? What if the local news reported what was really going on instead of only the rapes and murders taking place in the poor areas? What if people who have more – like the ability to put food on their children’s plates and guarantee them the chances at a good education – realized that they have a duty to their fellow human beings? What if we elected people to office who have these same concerns? What if we don’t?

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