Sunday, November 28, 2010


It has always been my goal to avoid prison. At least in regard to going in and not being able to leave when I wanted. I’d be more than happy to visit a friend or family member who might find themselves behind bars. I’d submit to the x-ray and the pat down if necessary to get in (hey! visiting a prison is now a lot like going to the airport!) and I’d even be willing to talk to the prisoner through the two inches of bulletproof glass.

After all, dear friend or family member, it’s the least I can do, as it is likely you have taken the fall for me. Which I really appreciate! I’m working on the appeal right now, so please maintain our code of silence. Remember: given my previous record it was better that you accept responsibility for our crime.

So far I have succeeded in never doing any serious jail time. If there is any reason I might be suddenly and swiftly incarcerated, my attorney tells me I am under no obligation to tell you. Take that under advisement, as I have.

But enough about me. What do you think of me?

Despite my pathological avoidance of the penitentiary, plenty of other people are willingly going to prison. In this case it is not the conclusion of a legal battle, but instead it is a career move. As we Americans have continued to incarcerate more and more of our fellow citizens, we need places to put them and we need people willing to point guns at them if they don’t follow directions.

Communities are thriving with new prisons, or at least they hope to. It is a growth industry, replacing oil production in Colorado, coal jobs in West Virginia, and farming in California. Mississippi and Alabama and others are also seeking their fair share of the criminal element—as long as handcuffs and shackles are used liberally.

There are plenty of ways for people to make money in this new world order. It begins with the extensive construction process and continues through to the day-to-day operation. Ironworkers are needed, as are carpenters. Because these new prisons are so high-tech, they need electricians, too. And the guard jobs aren’t for dummies; they need to be able to count heads in the cellblock and keep track of which gates are open.

Instead of putting on a suit and tie and pushing paper from one side of the desk to the other like the stereotypical modern office worker, prospective prison employees must be willing to holster a gun and pepper spray. Even more important, they must be willing to use them. We are told these are the jobs of the future.

After all, teaching jobs disappear (because the economic horror in [your state or county] has forced all of the parents to flee with their families to other parts of the country) and no one wants to open a bookstore or boutique or tavern if all of the potential customers have moved away. Workers would rather listen to tin cups rattling against the iron bars of jail cells for eight hours a day.

Prisons used to fall under the edict “not in my backyard.” They were unsightly and with the caliber of their population they immediately made the neighborhood a more dangerous place to live (although as George Carlin once pointed out, wouldn’t escaped convicts likely run far from the prison, not hang around to torment the neighbors?) and no one wanted to include “turn left at the prison” when giving directions to their home.

Frustration with crime has led us to be more forgiving. We agree to lock up increasing numbers of inmates, and because we don’t want to become China we must house them in humanitarian ways. This creates lots of jobs, and with that the small town nearby just might come back to life as the newly sworn in prison guards need grocery stores and boutiques (and taverns—I would imagine working in a federal penitentiary would be a highly stressful job and good for the business of selling alcohol).

If manufacturing is never coming back as the great American economic model (as many doom-and-gloomers are saying) and the so-called “knowledge industries” of the twenty-first century are boring you to death, go to prison! This will work up until the point that there are too many convicts for the rest of us to keep under control.

Then we might have to try something else.

1 comment:

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