Prison, Prison Everywhere, Part II

ANNE

I have to move. The apartment vacancy rate in the Twin Cities is so low that landlords have the upper hand, and mine is taking advantage of that to raise my rent $307 per month. “It’s a business decision,” they say. “We realize some people will be priced out of the building.”

Some people. I’m one of those people.

My apartment has been my sanctuary for almost five years. But I work for a nonprofit, so I have to be realistic. I gave my notice and then started sifting through the over 16,000 apartment ads on Craig’s List.

At work, I get emails about prison all the time. One of our funders, the Open Society Foundations, draws my attention to a new federal report that reveals “near-unremitting abuse of juveniles held at New York’s Rikers Island jail.” Thank god Vince is 36 years old, big and tall, and he can look scary when he needs to. There was a second one from OSF about how the suicide rate for people held behind bars awaiting trial is 10 times that of the world outside. Delete.

There’s another one from an organization called Empathy, about prisoners in Uganda. Okay, once again, grateful that Vince isn’t in prison in Uganda. Yet another one from the National Academies Press announcing their new report, The Growth of Incarceration in the United States. And then there was this one, from Human Rights Watch, called The Human Rights Case for Drug Reform: How Drug Criminalization Destroys Lives, Feeds Abuses, and Subverts the Rule of Law.

I am researching a big foundation and find this article about one of the family members who was arrested on suspicion of possessing Class A drugs. During a search of the house, police found the body of his wife in their bedroom–she had died two months earlier. A coroner said that her death was as a result of “dependent abuse” of drugs.

Then I find the Public Welfare Foundation which, among its criminal justice interests, aims to “Reduce jail populations through the use of diversion at the front end of the criminal justice system that connects individuals with substance abuse disorders and mental illness to the public health system.” Well duh!

Then I stumble upon JustLeadershipUSA, an outfit with an “ambitious decarceration goal” because “Mass incarceration is the most significant domestic threat to the fabric of our democracy.”

I wonder, if all the money spent on reports and task forces glitzy websites and conferences and foundation executives’ salaries was used to fund treatment for low-income prisoners…nah! What a crazy idea.

Lastly, there is Richard Branson, chairman of Virgin Atlantic Airlines and Virgin Records, of all people, writing a blog about ending the war on drugs. All I can think of is the time a friend who travels more than anyone I know let me use 125,000 of her air miles and I flew business class from London to Minneapolis-St. Paul. I waited for my flight in Virgin’s Heathrow “Upper Class” lounge, as they call it there. The décor was fantastically posh and I discreetly gorged myself on smoked salmon and champagne, trying to act like I really belonged there.  

 

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