Posts Tagged With: jail

SANTA RITA JAIL TODAY.

When I started travel blogging, I neglected old haunts and activities. The Alameda County Deputy Sheriffs Archive Association is a powerful pull for me and I was grateful to be home in time for the March meeting. Instead of comptometers, teletypes and adding machines,  we have electronic gadgets of superior performance that replace them. The jail I knew was a friendly place instead of a lock down prison as it is today. Much has changed. One officer told me:  “This place is probably safer for both officer and inmate, but it has no soul.”

I’m  going to cite some simple facts about incarceration today just as food for thought.

The United States has earned the distinction of being the world’s largest jailer, ahead of China and Russia. With 5 percent of the world’s population, we have 25 percent of the world’s prisoners.

We have well over 2 million people in prison. Two million people not working, not supporting their children and living off the taxpayers for their room, board, and medical care.  And, they are enduring mandatory longer sentences so we will be caring for them much longer than any danger they can present to society. We also render them “non citizens” who cannot participate in our democracy, who because of stigma, can no longer work or be productive without draconian effort if and when they do get out.

Mandatory sentencing, War on Drugs, Tough On Crime, Three Strikes Your Out, all political sound bites turned into hard legislation, have done little to protect the public. We now have overcrowded prisons burdening taxpayers.

White Americans commit crimes at the same rates as people of color. Biased enforcement and sentencing make a disproportionate number of Blacks and Latinos pay the price.  One in nine young black men (age 20-34) is behind bars.

Nearly half of all state prisoners are locked up for nonviolent offenses. We are seeing a resurgence of debtors prisons. Thousands of people are jailed because they are two poor to pay fines for traffic tickets or other misdemeanors.

The U.S. Prison population rose by 700% from 1970-2005, outpacing the general population rate and the crime rate.

Spending on incarceration in 2007 was $44 billion rising 127% from 1987.   In that same period of time spending on education rose 21%.

Obama’s failure to close Guantanamo, as promised, has implications far beyond the fate of men detained in prison. Indefinite detention is an erosion in our personal liberties, and our American values.

I don’t pretend to know the answer. I know it alarms me.

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A TABLE FULL OF POLITICS

Oh, if we could run the world!  Somehow, when we gather, and realize that we are just working cogs in a pyramid scheme that benefits others to live in luxury, we try and solve the problems of the world. My oldest brother is running for congress for that reason.

This is my oldest sister and my homeless brother. Much of our discussion surrounded homelessness.  All primitive cultures governed themselves . They chose leadership of some kind  meant to benefit the whole tribe, not just a few at the top. A tribe took care of  its members including the weak and sick. When they found a food supply, they shared it equally. They meted out suitable punishment to those who offended.

While many groups try to do something about the “homeless problem”, our laws and our police at every level treat the homeless as though it is against the law to be homeless. Norman worked all of his life as a carpenter; he contributed and paid taxes.  Somewhat late in life, he began drinking. He is an alcoholic and he smokes marijuana. He has never been arrested for any thing but  drunkenness, possession of marijuana,  and trespassing.  He doesn’t steal. He has never been violent. He carries a bible wherever he goes. He is what some of us like to term a “Jesus Freak”. When Norman first became homeless, seventeen years ago, he protested that a person like him, in our society, cannot legally occupy a place on the planet. He cannot sleep anywhere because he has no home. He cannot use public restrooms, they are for customers only. It is quite draconian that because he is so powerless, the police can  treat him any way they choose.

He has two suits against the Sheriffs Office for false arrest. He has been falsely hauled away from two properties where he had had permission to stay.  I’ll relate those stories to you another time.

He has (hopefully) a superficial skin cancer. He also had a stroke four years ago, for which he received no treatment. He suffers a lot of pain and cannot walk or stand on his feet for a lengthy period.  His latest arrest, was  for trespassing on “public” property.  He was sleeping in the bushes on property owned by Cal Trans.  When you go to jail, they suspend your medical, they take away your social security and when they dump you back out on the street, you have to re-apply for your benefits and wait for them all over again which can take months.   You cannot get your social security unless you have a physical address. You cannot pay for a post office box to receive your check.  Since he was kicked off the Ca-Trans property, the cancer tripled in size. The nurse in the jail looked at his head and wanted nothing to do with that problem.  A homeless advocate got him an appointment to have the cancer removed on the 14th of January.  When he tried to get an appointment at Highland Hospital on his own,  his wait time to be examined was six months.

I love my brother. I believe he made poor choices about his life to get into such a downward spiral. All of us at one time or another have tried to “help” him. He doesn’t want our handouts. He receives social security of about $800 a month.   (I’ll revisit this subject again.)

 

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LIVING WITH DIGNITY

I received two inspirational messages, one from a self described #1 fan of mine by the name of Jerry McClellan, and the other from an old friend, retired Alameda County Sheriff’s Deputy, Ron Heinsma. And, I continually admire the wit and wisdom of my gypsy friend, Randy Vining.

Methinks people don’t like to be reminded of the homeless among us or those imprisoned. It sets up a bit of guilt we’d just as soon avoid. I should know, I have a homeless brother who is 62 years old. He’s been in and out of jail. He worked as a carpenter all of his life until he had a stroke.

At a doctor’s appointment in Sacramento, Friday, I walked by three homeless guys with their baggage and a shopping cart. They didn’t ask for money, but I avoided eye contact with them just in case they would.  I don’t feel safe, stopping, opening my purse in front of three obviously needy men. But it struck me that among themselves, all caught in similar circumstances, was a small community. They clung together, eating their breakfast of sweet rolls and coffee on the steps of a closed building.

My friend, Randy Vining, engages homeless people on a regular basis in his full time gypsy lifestyle. He states, and I concur, “It is a self-righteous and hateful spitefulness that… denies… minimal comforts to our fellow human beings. Needless suffering is a scandal to all who allow it.”
He makes that claim after speaking to the manager of a Mission in Eugene, Oregon that provides a secure locker, a day room to lounge and watch TV, with free magazines, haircuts, showers, food and a bed. The manager claims it costs a pittance to serve the homeless.

In my view, even if just the locker, showers and haircuts were supplied, it would provide a bit of dignity and hope to those looking to better themselves, or get a job, or a chance to volunteer to help others, or just relief from the downturns of life, whatever the cause.
Our cities and counties have the capacity to organize this community into a contributing group.  Don’t each one of us have an inalienable right to place our weary bones on a section of earth without being chased away, no matter our circumstances?
People given a chance to contribute, can and will.  Please take a couple of minutes to watch the video Ron Heinsma sent me:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xMOe_ZThDkc

Many years back,  someone suggested building rudimentary street shelters and French style street toilets in San Francisco to help out the homeless.The powers that be decided the shelters looked too much like dog houses, “embarrassing”. The French style street toilets, a few anyway, did happen, if you have the change. Not free.

But, consider this bit of the milk of human kindness that operates under the radar, a heartwarming story sent to me by Jerry McClellan:   http://www.snopes.com/travel/airline/airport.asp
Certainly if we have the capacity to provide businesses the means to earn billions, we should have the wherewithal to provide dignity to those who can no longer contribute. It is truly a scandal for a country as wealthy as ours to have people, including children, go hungry. And, to disenfranchise so many locked in jail, a wasted potential.

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The 7th Annual Great Gator Race In New Iberia, Louisiana

Jim says: Yesterday was a delightful sunny day with a temperature of 66 degrees…A great day to have a gator race. It’s an annual event and Mary and I were lucky enough to be in town for this exciting event of 5,000 Alligators racing down the Bayou Teche!

Picture

There were lots of friendly folks attending. The event was controlled by the New Iberia Police and very interestingly…New Iberia Parish Jail Trustees dressed in their black and white striped jail suits.

As usual, lots of beer and food. Mary and I are finding eating out in Louisiana to be quite an experience. As a rule, we do not eat fried foods and it seems almost everything food-wise down here is FRIED! We passed on eating at this event.

The announcer did a great job of calling the race with entries named,,,who dat, thibodaux, beaudreau, banana, skinny dipper, falstaff, miller lite, bud lite, drew breese. Needless to say, who dat was the winner!

We took a nice stroll in the historic downtown area. We’ve been on the go so much lately we decided to call it an early afternoon. We arrived back at the motorhome at 2:00 PM and enjoyed a nice laid-back relaxing afternoon.

To see the other 23 photos I took, click this link…
http://picasaweb.google.com/jimjrver/NewIberiaLA030610#

Oh, the great gator race is a fund-raiser for the Southern Mutual Help Association, Inc. The gators were little plastic guys about 18 inches long! Here’s a link about the Great Gator Race and the SHMA…
http://www.southernmutualhelp.org/TheGreatGatorRace.cfm

All original material Copyright – Jim Jaillet 2010
For more information about my three books, click this link:
http://www.panamaorbust.com

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