I love the New York Times, though admitting it here may be akin to screaming, “I love Satan” in the middle of a church. I think that the paper does a fairly decent job of reporting the news. I don’t care that people call it left leaning. It is, so what? With the NYT, I can get some national news coverage. My own city paper barely covers state events. In fact, the only thing my city paper is good at is omitting from its readers.
Anyway, the NYT reported today that the hardest part of prison is staying out. Duh. The article opens in Providence, RI and speaks of the issues facing parolees as they start their lives anew. The first person profiled was sent back to prison because she failed a urine screen,
In April, Debra Harris took her 15-year-old son along for what she thought was a final visit to her parole officer. Instead, because of a “dirty urine” test two weeks before, proof of her relapse to crack use, state troopers led her straight back to prison for three more months.
And then moves to,
The strains on families take many forms. Not far from the Harris household, Alberto Reyes, 27, a forklift operator, was put on probation last winter for burglary. But in March, Mr. Reyes failed to meet his parole officer and was sent to prison for three and a half months. Without his help, his girlfriend, who makes just $280 a week as a nurse’s aide, was left in desperate straits, he acknowledged, and had to rely on charity to get summer clothes for their baby.
Before moving here:
Erick Betancourt, 26, spent 2 years in prison for dealing crack and will be on probation for the next 10 years, leaving him vulnerable to confinement for any mistake. “Everybody you bump into is on probation or parole,” said Mr. Betancourt, who has landed a job counseling youths in the streets.
All of you know that I think drugs should be legal. You need only read the comments here to know that I experimented in my past. Drug use should not be a reason to put people in prison. In the case of Mr. Reyes, there was a crime committed against another person’s property. Under current law, he rightfully went to jail, though in a perfect world he would have paid for damages incurred by the person injured by his crime. I am not asking to debate the (de)merits of the “War on Drugs.” What I am wondering about today is the notion that once imprisoned for a crime; you are indeed property of the state.
I am thinking of old books. The ones in which a petty crook says, “I have paid my debt to society.”
I am thinking that we must overhaul not only the drug laws in this country, but the ones that dictate jail for any non-violent offender. We need to change laws that make former non-violent inmates continue to live as a criminals and we certainly need to overhaul laws that give Mr. Reyes an excuse to live apart from his partner and child. His girlfriend and child live in public housing and public housing policy prohibits a felon from living on premises. But, of course, I disagree with tax funded subsidized public housing. And that is a whole other libertarian issue, ain’t it?