Prison Radio
Dortell Williams

Dortell Williams, prison in Los Angeles County. The epiphanies. In the 80’s, American demagogues birth an epiphany. Their tough on crime ideals that led the way to a shameful historic leveling over of our nation’s prisons, absorbing at its zenith, get this, over 2 million faceless souls. The majority of these people were charged for nonviolent crimes. In other words, they were no threat. Not only did our country’s prison population slow to unprecedented levels, but so did the cost according to some estimates, an astronomical 80 billion a year. And did you feel safer? People addicted to drugs, and motivated by chemical dependencies manifested their worst alter egos, conning, stealing, prostituting themselves or worse, and policymakers responded by locking these hapless folk up by the millions, mostly poor, mostly, you know. So the cycle road like a hamster’s wheel, a whole lot of activity taking us nowhere. Prisoners recycled in and out, their issues never addressed, in and out, in and out, in three strikes to life. The most inhumane thing you ever did see, for no game is ever fair if one side is never given a fair shot.

Now the politicians are singing a new song. They’ve got a brand new epiphany. Let’s be fair to drug users. Let’s help the people but kill the demand. Now the catchphrase is to be smart on crime. No more mowing the weeds repeatedly only to watch them regrow. Now they’re attacking the problem at the root. Our modern sages have been singing this tune all along, only to be tuned out for 30 years. And why stop at addiction? Why not treat all social ills this way? Get to the root of addiction and escapism, the root of gang banging, the root of domestic violence, the root of family dysfunction, the root of poverty. Hey, I’m not the smartest knife in the drawer, but I do know that many of these social ills are generational. We’ve seen it, we’ve done it, let’s fix it. If we truly want to be smart on crime, then perhaps everyone would not only feel safer, but they might truly be.

These commentaries are recorded by Noelle Hanrahan of Prison Radio.