To close a prison is a good thing, assuming that the prison is being closed for lack of prisoners to fill it, because prison is a horrific (if sometimes necessary) institution, and the intelligent minimization of the number of our fellow citizens who have to be locked in prison is an intrinsic good. So why are people so opposed to closing down a prison in their own community?
Haha, of course that is a question with an obvious answer: "because people like to have jobs to make money to purchase food, clothing, and shelter." Which is quite reasonable. Though that has nothing to do with good public policy. The WSJ today reports on the efforts of Illinois governor Pat Quinn to close six state prisons—including youth facilities that are not needed any more, and an adult facility that is wildly expensive—in order to save money. Prison unions argue that existing prisons are already overcrowded—a fair point. But the real problem is this:
Meanwhile, many lawmakers in the Democratic-controlled legislature, concerned about safety and jobs in local districts, have vowed to restore funding for the prisons in a veto session after Thanksgiving.
Take a moment to reflect upon just how sad our national economic situation is, when a Democratic legislature will block a Democratic governor's attempt to close prisons, just to provide jobs as prison workers to financially desperate residents. It's quite similar to the uproar that surrounds the closure of unneeded military bases. People are so desperate for jobs (understandably) that they and their elected representatives are quite happy to enlarge the military-industrial complex, or the prison-industrial complex, unnecessarily, in order to gain employment. Were we to restore hangings as a punishment in America, politicians would likewise rush to preserve them, as boons to hangmen and the gallows industry. You can't fault people for wanting jobs, of course. The real failure here is by policymakers, who would rather just continue strolling down the disastrous road of mass incarceration, rather than dreaming up some actually productive jobs which could be created with the funds that we use to incarcerate more of our fellow citizens than does any other nation on earth.
Legalize drugs, release the drug prisoners, close the excess prisons, kick out the incumbent politicians, gain class consciousness, launch a New New Deal to rebuild America's infrastructure and employ our unemployed citizens, pave the way for a brighter future.
"Government doesn't create jobs," unless those jobs involve killing and/ or imprisoning people.
[WSJ. Photo: AP]