Corporate America's Love Affair With Kids and Prisons


Prop. 21, another Rabid Right solution desperately searching for a problem, sadly fooled nearly two-thirds of the California voting population (all six or seven or us) and was passed on March 7. This ballot measure, nearly completely sponsored and paid for by former Gov. Pete Wilson and a host of multinational corporations eager to make billions off the misery of others, was called the “Gang Violence and Juvenile Crime Prevention Act”. Even California Gov. Gray Davis, a Democrat who, like that vile little creature Billy-Boy Clinton, ran as a progressive but governs like a slightly rehabilitated Nazi, supported this act after being bribed to the tune of $2 million by the California Correctional Peace Officers Association in 1998 (obviously meant as a bribe but legally given to him through the convenience of calling it a “campaign contribution”).

This truly insane act‘s two reasons for existence, known by all except the Republicans and those who vote Republican, was in order to increase the number of prison inmates who are available to be abused and used by Corporate America and to try to satiate the hatefulness that the Rabid Right feels towards our children.

These newly incarcerated children (called prison laborers if China does it but employees when Corporate America sees an opportunity to lay off workers and hire convicts at a percentage of the costs) work within the prison walls while gaining little if any actual skills short of a sweatshop occupation or as telephone solicitors. Corporate America, of course, greatly benefits twice, first through having cheap, reliable labor and also through the many gifts from your pocket and mine such as state tax incentives, discount rates on Worker’s Compensation Insurance and the complete lack of benefits including Social Security and unemployment requirements other companies must budget as labor costs.

Reading the title of this vile little act would make one assume that “something has to be done” about the rising crime rates in California. Naturally, the title has absolutely nothing to do with the measure, itself.

First, between 1990 and 1998, California’s juvenile felony crime rate dropped over 30% with the state’s juvenile homicide rate down a full 61%. Even nationally, juvenile crime rates have dropped to less than the rate of twenty years ago, a rate that the Office for Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention attributes to a decline in homicides by firearms and not to any increase in convictions or sentencing due to punitive legislation.

In other words, this act cannot address an increase in juvenile crime because no such increase exists anywhere in the nation. Why, then, would such a measure be “needed”?

Simply put, it allows the “justice” system to send juveniles into the adult prison system. A child as young as fourteen can now be tried as an adult and a child as young as sixteen can now legally be put into adult prisons, even being forced to share a cell with an adult, no matter what crime the adult was convicted of. There is no accompanying legislation that was meant to protect these children from rape or physical abuse under those horrifying circumstances, either.

Consider the case of Michigan’s Nathaniel Abraham. He was tried and convicted as an adult, meaning prison was the only legally available sentence, for a murder he committed at the age of eleven.

If Florida can be used as an example, and that does seem about all Florida is good for these days, then California will witness a manifold increase in juveniles being tried as adults and, again using Florida as a sick example, over 71% of those children will be tried and sentenced for non-violent crimes.

Some of these children will even find themselves facing the insane Republican spiritual decay known as the “Three Strikes Law” for something as minor as graffiti vandalism. Part of this nasty act includes such damage as “gang-related” and lowers the costs to consider it a felony from $50,000 to $400. Thus, all it takes is a District Attorney who is playing political games with the lives of children (pretty much 100% of them) to just decide that the damage is over $400 and off to an adult prison the child goes, for 25 years to life if convicted under that Three Strikes law.

What other far reaching damage will this piece of conservative idiocy inflict on our children?

Historically, criminal records of juveniles were sealed upon attaining 18 years of age (different ages for different states but 18 is the minimum), allowing a child who ran afoul of the law to regain his or her future without the weight of their past mistakes dogging them forever. Prop. 21 will prevent this sealing of records for some offenses should the “criminal” be 14 years old or older. In fact, it will force the state’s Dept. of Justice to report the complete history of a youthful offender to local police, DAs, schools, universities and employment services or employee divisions within corporations and to lending institutes and credit reporting agencies. This will have the sad, but intended, effect of insuring that the child has no choice in their future but to return to crime as a vocation since there will little, if any, opportunities to succeed when their crimes follow them long after the “justice” system once said those debts were repaid.

Where over two thirds of the children who were placed on informal probation subsequently never returned to jail before Prop. 21, that option is now eliminated. Instead, in order to be released from custody, the child must appear, with a parent, before a court representative. Should no parent be available (or in some cases even exist), then the child remains in custody indefinitely.

Returning to the subject of “gangs”, Prop.21 also removes the old requirement that the district attorney had to prove that the individual devoted all or a substantial amount of his time and energies in gang related activities before they were able to increase the charge to include being a gang member, a charge which vastly increases the sentence. Now, all the DA has to establish is “active participation”, a very loose requirement that all but insures that a child growing up in a neighborhood with gang activity will be so accused. If the child’s playmates or friends are in any manner involved with a gang or gang member, then the first child is guilty by default.

Finally, should the juvenile be accused of murder, then simply adding the charge that it was “gang-related” immediately makes the case a capital crime and opens the door to killing another child through the use of the death penalty.

What California voters have done, in effect, is to offer up its children as sexual play things for adult convicts, to offer Corporate America profit generating play things for its equally sick financial pleasures and to increase the level of punishments for crimes that were once termed “juvenile” in nature. No matter how you look at this law, its only results are punishments that are sickening to anyone with a conscience (i.e., not a Republican).

Just how much lower can the Rabid Right sink? I am afraid that we have seen absolutely nothing, folks. As long as America continues to allow mean spirited and dull-witted fools to run for office and to continue to use the ballot system in order to enact otherwise truly obscene laws and then, most tragic of all, allows completely uninformed and unthinking people to vote for them, it can only go downhill from here. Ain’t America grand? ( 1, 2, 3

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Copyright 4/20/2000