SOCIAL RECONSTRUCTION


SOCIAL RECONSTRUCTION

In the aftermath of the American civil war our nation’s leaders recognized that a serious effort had to be put into motion to heal the wounds of this nation. Their efforts were not just focused upon rebuilding the South, but extended throughout the country in an attempt to rebuild a union savaged by a prolonged domestic war. While the aftereffects of that conflict can still be felt in some regions of this country, their efforts helped the people to largely put their differences behind them and to engage in building a new union of purpose and equality. This was a nation in which theoretically all lives held equal value through the eyes of the law: Equal justice for all.

In the ensuing years America has engaged in numerous international wars, conflicts and police actions. In fact our legacy of war has again spilled over into the domestic arena through the adaption of the war mentality to target a wide range of domestic issues. A brief review of our recent history will bring to mind various wars waged under the guise of law and order: The War on Poverty; The War on Drugs; The War on Waste; The War on Fraud (Medicare and other types); The War on Crime; The War on Domestic Violence; The War on Spending to name a handful. A serious review of this practice is likely to reveal dozens of other ventures in which various elements of this country’s population have been targeted for an array of illegal or questionable practices. Looking past the initial impression will reveal that these wars usually serve economic and political purposes.

No one is arguing that the nation must address its internal problems effectively and economically. The question raised concerns the long term view on making war. Traditionally as a nation we have largely failed to consider the long term consequences of our actions as we sport the dubious title of super power. This is particularly evident in the criminal justice policies and practices of the last forty plus years. As we gaze at the ever shifting unemployment figures dispatched from Washington, we are likely to overlook the 10 million plus individuals working their way through the criminal justice system. That is merely the tip of the iceberg!  

Within the country is estimated that 30+ million individuals have had previous convictions. Likewise it is clear that there are an undetermined number of family members, spouses, children and friends of these convicted felons who shared their prison sentence; to be quietly served in the communities in which they live. The legacy of shame and pain is frightening, with some estimates of 90 million American citizens directly affected by the fall-out of these misguided policies. I strongly suspect that this is another scandal brewing on the horizon, waiting to yield it gruesome characteristics as these individual stories emerge in the media.

Unfortunately it is not an exclusive local, state or federal issue. I have previously written about the moral outrages which routinely occur across the nation at the hands of those charged with enforcement and administration of our laws. We are all familiar with the stories of wrongful or coerced convictions, police brutality, prosecutorial misconduct, targeted legislation and even the scepter of executions of innocent individuals in the rush to judgment which has led the battle cry for Law and Order. It is a grim reality which has remained hidden behind a wall of stony silence as the media has avoided the controversial nature of this issue. Yes many are guilty of offenses and should face the consequences of their actions. BUT can any nation pursue a systematic policy of alienation which denies those who have failed, the opportunity to resume a life predicated upon respect for the nation’s laws and the lives and property of others?

Where are those who fit into this category in terms of employment statistics or even the realty of being unemployable? How do we account for the burden incurred by blind justice and how much is that costing the American taxpayer each year? When will it end? With the establishment of over 1200 correctional/detention facilities across America, who will be the first to call for prison closures and a shift to more progressive justice policies? Those prison beds demand constant filling since they represent economic interests throughout the justice system. Given current practices, the incarcerated population will continue to grow in the years to come and the long term burden associated with this “social cure for our ills” will mount significantly. Who will be responsible as an aging prison population begins to need costly and complicated medical care? Under Obamacare regulations it would appear that health care will be rationed, but under what order of priorities?

As a country have we forgotten the Christian ethic of forgiveness? If so we are doomed to swirl about in the slime of social stigma and alienation until more of us become trapped in the swamp of self-interests, bias and prejudice. Who among us has not broken a law or created a climate of conflict at one time or another? Today’s response is to exclude those who are offenders in a systematic manner, which is why I have coined the term SEVERCIDE. Unfortunately it does not end there because this wave of exclusion also flows onto those associated with offenders by birth, marriage, friendship or affiliation. It is the new social discrimination of the Twenty First century. Perhaps today it does not impact your life directly, but wait a minute as new laws, restrictive policies and intrusions into your personal life emerge. Somewhere out there a third of the American population are now impacted, though few are willing to engage publicly given the potential exclusionary consequences.

When we grow to maturity one of the hallmarks is the ability to recognize right from wrong and the wisdom and spirit to speak out against activities that will hurt all Americans. At this point in my life, it has become an obligation to yell out “Iceberg Ahead” as the ship of state plows speedily through the night of ignorance and silence.  From the crow’s nest of that ship, it is clear that we are in deep and dangerous waters led by those who exhibit a blissful unawareness, as they urge us to adopt faster and costlier unworkable solutions. Does anybody in this country know how much it is costing us to maintain the Prison-Industrial Complex or what the social costs associated with a policy of SEVERCIDE is costing this country?  Who will carry the future burden for this legal boondoggle?  

Given my remote history as a convicted felon, I am well aware of the official and unofficial costs associated with a criminal conviction. This conviction does not preclude my ability to love my country enough to speak up about this issue. Nor are my words offered as a token for my wrongful actions. We are dealing with a spiraling system which is completely out of control and resists all calls to accountability. I have expressed my thoughts and concerns about this issue in this article. What are your thoughts or concerns? Are you even aware that the problem exists or has grown to such large proportions? It is time to call for accountability, not just in terms of expenditures, but in the cost to human lives across our great nation. With courage and willingness we can restore what has been lost through a new program of social reconstruction. To that end the DISMAS POJECT has been established to offer lifelines to those who have been caught up in the sludge of indifference and fear. (www.dismasproject.com  or dismasproject@gmail.com). It is time to stand up and to help each other to restore lost dignity and worth. It’s an investment worthy of our time and effort.

 
 

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