Recent headlines in the U.S. have focused on a major influx of undocumented immigrants crossing our southern border with Mexico, many of them children either traveling alone or with single mothers seeking refuge. According to Homeland Security some 52,000 children have arrived on the U.S.-Mexico border since October of last year, most coming from Central American countries including Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, looking to escape the upsurge in violence and destitution threatening those countries. Some, apparently, are trying to take advantage of special treatment afforded children and families that cross the border illegally which they believe, mistakenly or otherwise, will allow them to stay. The paid “coyotes” smuggling them encourage this misinformation in promoting their services throughout the perilous journey from their home countries to the border. This is only the latest in the influx of undocumented (illegal) immigrants from the south that have looked to the U.S. for shelter from economic and/or violent social oppression in their homelands. While the details may vary, the problem of illegal immigration is not limited solely to the U.S., but is in fact a global problem that requires a far more comprehensive approach than we or any other nation is taking. Continue reading
Check out the interesting article, “Private Prisons: The Injustice League,” by Online Paralegal Programs at www.online-paralegal-programs.com , providing some interesting information on what’s happening with our private prisons systems in line with our recent blog, “The Exceptional World of US Prisons.”
The prison population has grown nearly-exponentially in the last few decades, and the US now holds 25% of the world’s prison population, yet has only 5% of the world’s population. The incarceration rate per capita is far higher than any other industrialized nation. According to the World Prison Population list, the United States has the highest prison population rate in the world, 743 per 100,000 of the national population. The next closest is Rwanda at 595. Why is this? Is there something about US society that produces such massive numbers of criminals, or is something else going on? Former Senator Jim Webb of Virginia tried to ask this question, by establishing a commission to recommend changes to the criminal justice system, only to see his efforts blocked in the Senate, despite widespread support from law enforcement groups as well as civil liberties organizations such as the ACLU. Continue reading
This is the second of a multi-part series on illegal drugs and their impact on our society with a special emphasis on the US-Mexico border region, exploring how we got here, what are the economic and social impacts of our policies, and exploring alternatives to our current policies going forward.
The first article of this series explored the history of the War on Drugs going back more than a century where we described how our government officials (local, state and federal) changed our policies and subsequent regulations and laws to view drugs and drug abuse. This was not done through the lens of a social problem with social solutions but rather as a criminal problem to be resolved primarily through a criminal justice approach. These changes often occurred with obvious racial and/or economic bias supported in whole or in part by misinformation and sensationalism promoted by self-serving media (the Hearst Publications) and newly created state/federal agencies, e.g. the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. This latter agency went after marijuana (a non-narcotic drug) with propaganda efforts such as the movie “Reefer Madness”–the butt of many jokes among teens and young adults in later years. While initially a focus of limited federal and state funding, renewed interest in drugs and drug abuse in the early 70’s with President Nixon’s declared “War on Drugs” has led to an estimated $1 trillion cost to the taxpayers in pursuing this strategy over the past 40 years (!). We will discuss some of these costs from a purely economic point of view and later look at them from a social cost perspective which has a more significant impact on our society and culture, although it is less easily and objectively analyzed. Continue reading