Prison and Drug

  In the comic book series “Prison Town paying the price” and “Prisoners of the war on drugs”, they argue the effect of building a new prison in a small town and the influence of drug laws on the community of colors. These arguments bring to the discussion of municipality-ordinary resident conflict, race inequality and social welfare for prisoners whose sentences are end.

   In the comic “Prison Town”, it shows that under the global market, small farm towns face with the pressure of providing jobs for the residents. Many municipal choose to build prisons in order to bring money and jobs to the town. However, it turns out that newly built prisons may have a lot of negative effects on the town. This leads to the argument of the conflicts between municipality and local residents. What local government should do when it faces with conflicts between the benefits of municipality and residents? In this case, a newly-build prison seems like a “non-polluting, well-paying, recession-proof industry that goes 24/7, 365 days a year”(Pyle, 4), which will not only bring jobs to the residents, but also tons of money to the government. However, it turns out the newly-built prison may pushing down local business, increasing strain on public service, rising in juvenile problems, etc. The prison project may bring tons of money to the government in a short time, but the negative effect on the neighborhood in the long term is not invertible. Municipality should be the one that make decisions based on the welfare of the town, but not on the benefit of itself. Nevertheless, as a decision maker, sometimes it is hard to reject the immediate benefit when the long term side effect is not that obvious in the short time. The mayor is only in power for a couple of years, but the negative effect of prison may not release in his term. He can still be proud of bringing jobs and revenue to the town. This reminds me of the Xianmen PX (paraxylene) Protest in 2007. The municipality planned to build the plantation for PX project in the suburb of Xianmen, which said will bring about $10.8 billion GDP gross to the city of Xiamen each year (Zhu, “Xiamen”). However, the PX project had heavy pollution to the environment. The residents strongly protested against the project, which leads to the shutting down of the project in the end. This conflict between the residents and municipality showed the power of residents. Also, the long term development of the town is more important than short term economic benefit.  

  In “Prisoners of the war on drugs”, it shows several stories of people getting into jail because of non-violence drug. Some of them got a long time sentence even though they were slandered. Although it is important to have penalty on suspected crime, it is not necessary to exaggerate the penalty too much. Instead of spending billions of dollars on prison or imprisonment, the government should spend more money on drug treatment and justice reinvestment. In traditional Chinese medicine theory, it is important not to only cure the symptom but also the source of the disease. Take drug imprisonment for example, the police only scratch the surface of problem, which is to keep drug dealers and consumers in the jail, but they don’t really solve this problem. There will always be drug dealers in the same area, and prisoners will return to the same place when they are out of jail. As far as I am concerned, it is more important to educate students to stay away from drug when they are in elementary school or even younger, so that they will not consume the drug when they grow up. In China, the drugs are strictly banned, and normally people don’t have access to drugs. When I was in elementary school, I heard a lot of true stories that people get addicted to drug. They spent all their money. They got divorce. They commit crime. I also saw pictures of people smoking drug. They looked like skeleton and unconscious. I still remember a slogan saying that “Say No to drug, Value your life”. All these stories and images scared me and I had the belief that I would stay away from the drug deeply in my mind. Education will be a much more effective way to solve the core problem in drug violence. If there is no demand in the drug market, there will be fewer drug dealers. Thus, there will be less drug crime.

  Moreover, prisoners are at the edge of the society after they are free at last. They can’t get welfare and food stamps. It’s hard for them to get a job and student loans. They lost their chance of education, voting, and even parental rights. All these rules make it tough for them to start their new life as ordinary people. If they can find a steady job and their need for basic life are satisfied, it will be less likely that they will commit crime again. Thus, the government should provide more chance for them to get supply of basic need and job hunting.

  Drug abuse and drug-related crime is still a serious issue around the world. The International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking is coming next month. Last year, the theme was Global Action for Healthy Communities without Drugs”. Everyone can make his own contribution in against drug abuse in his community.


Discussion questions:

1. The statistics shows that African American are 13% of drug users as they make up 13% of the U.S population, but 74%of those sentenced to prison for drugs are African American. The author indicates that there is the racism in drug convictions. What’s your opinion about this?

2. How is the drug abuse and drug crime problem in your own country? What method does the government take against drug abuse and crime?



Pyle, Kevin and Craig Gilmore. Prison Town: Paying the Price. Northampton, MA: The Real Cost of Prisons Project., 2005.

Zhu Hongjun, “Xiamen Calls An Abrupt Halt to the PX Project to Deal with the Public Crisis”, May 28, 2007, EastSouthWestNorth,

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10 Responses to Prison and Drug

  1. Hailey Bang says:

    I would like to discuss the discussion question number two, especially about the case of my home country, Korea. About drugs, in Korea, the law strictly forbids any kinds of drugs’ usage, possession and deal. When a public figure gets arrested for crime related to drugs, the person is severely denounced in the whole society and completely ruins his or her reputation. There was no exception at all. Drug culture is unaccustomed in Korea, so a general public has no way to access drugs, actually it is almost impossible. And for males, Korea has conscription, so all adult males will be liable for joining the armed forces. They have to take the physical examination before conscription, so checking whether he takes drug or not is easy to demonstrate by the physical checkup. On this account, a drug-related crime is unusual. Korean government is not processing any particular policy for drug eradication.
    The interest thing is, when I traveled the Netherlands, many drugs (e.g. cannabis) are tolerated. Surprisingly, the common café is dealing with those drugs. And when I went the New Zealand, party pills are lawful. Likewise, the legal limitation of drugs is regionally different.
    And one more thing- this reading response is so well-organized that I can understand clearly.

  2. Eunsol Shim says:

    I think there is still big racism on the drug convictions. The data that the author said is enough proof for this. Even the white American and African American made similar degree of the drug crime, two will get different penalty. It is not only happen in drug crime, but this discrimination rather happens overall crime convictions. I knew about this, but it was vague. When I saw the show of Chris Rock, he really helped me understand how the discrimination happens. It can be exaggerated since it is a comedy program, but it showed the America’s social aspect sharply. People’s prejudice against the race still exists in the U.S’s society. Even the nation said ‘we are equal’, the some of the actual social phenomenon do not show the equality.
    Below video is ‘Chris Rock – How not to get your ass kicked by the police!’
    In Korea, drug users all get penalty. It is much hard to obtain drug in Korea when it compared to other countries in Europe or America. People think drug negatively, and they do not think it as just s ‘mistake’. In these days, there were some drug accidents of Korean celebrities. Public showed negative reaction and they were seemed hard to avoid the punishment.

  3. Kelsi says:

    In recent years, the drug crime in China is more and more serious at the same time the policy become more and more strict.
    There are 4 characteristics of drug crime nowadays.
    The first one is there numbers of drug crimes is increasing and the damage caused by it are also increasing. People who have been arrested before become more possible to do this again.
    The second one is that there appears more kinds of drugs. New kinds of drugs spread very fast.
    The third characteristic is that the drug crime is growing to a kind of “industry” and people involved in it have different work to do to ensure its working.
    The last one is it is more common to use Special Populations to help transporting the drugs. For example women who are pregnant. And the population is increasing,
    Our law is strict on drug crime. There are about 12 different accusation about drug crime. The punishment includes 15 years imprisonment, life imprisonment or death penalty, and concurrently be sentenced to confiscation of property.

  4. sallypark25 says:

    I highly agree with the idea that there still exists the racism in the law enforcement. Some extreme racists say that African Americans are more likely to be involved in crimes, causing negative effects in a society. Their judgment and prejudice towards the people of colors kept America from becoming a country where all the people have equal social rights and opportunities. I know that author wanted to point out the social issue of racial discrimination that is widely spread in American society. However, personally, what struck my mind the most was that the idea of seeing prison as a business. The prison should be a place where criminals reflect on what they did wrong, and gain social reeducation in order to become better social subjects who are fit to a society. It is supposed to have nothing to do with a concept of making money or doing business. I felt frustrated to know that how we can apply the economic way of thinking into the prison establishment, and how I didn’t know about it until I did the reading. The prison become a promising market that brings lots of money to a shady town, and criminals play roles as a core component to meet the demand of the drastically increasing newly established prisons. The law enforcement and social institutions greatly contributed to the booming of the industry by making it easier for more and more Americans to be sentenced to prison. You viewed the residents as victims who were suffering from the negative effects of the prison establishment, but, I think they were also guilty because they engaged in this unjustifiable and absurd economic circulation implicitly by getting a job and working at a prison.

  5. Brittany says:

    I really like your idea of drug education as a way to curb drug use among Americans because as you said, learning about the effects of drugs can help people stay away from them. However, I would also push further to say that better educational opportunities such as good school may also be a good way to prevent drug users and crime. We did not really talk about education in our class, but it is something I study and I am very passionate about social equality in education. As you said in your response, the US government needs to invest in programs to help people once they get out of jail. I would argue that by investing money in education to make sure that every child gets a proper education no matter where they live would help prevent crime and drug use.
    In response to your second question, I would say yes, there is racism in the way we convict drug users. We learned in class about the difference between the conviction length of offenders caught with power cocaine to those who were caught with crack cocaine. Crack cocaine is commonly used by African Americans and, not so coincidently, the amount of crack cocaine one must have to get a mandatory 5 year sentence is much lower than the amount of powder cocaine.

  6. Juliana Oliveira says:

    For the first question, I think that is more than racism, there is a historical context behind it, a historical context that involves discrimination and segregation. As the video Race – The house we live in shows, a house of an African-American is worth $ 20,000 and the house bought in the same year by a white American in the suburbs worth $ 300,000. So it is not just racism, the African-Americans neighborhoods have a history that are full of discrimination and segregation, so police men take advantage of it and the population that lives there are more susceptible to trace a story with drugs than someone that lives in a house that worth $ 300,000.
    For the second question, ones of the famous places in Brazil are the favelas. Favelas were part of the movie Fast and Furious 5, a lot of video clips and news. The poorest families in Brazil live in the favelas, the majority part of the favela’s population are African-Brazilians, so I can say that we went through the same discrimination and segregation that the US went, especially because the African-Brazilians were slaves a long time ago, so through our history, they still being discriminated and more susceptible to use drugs and use violence to get what the government didn’t give to them.

  7. soolim says:

    Actually, I have never seriously thought about drug crime before I came here in the US. Since, in my country, Korea, drug prohibition is so strict that no one can easily try to do drug. A couple of days ago, I have heard news in which some celebrity smoked weed several times and they be punished heavily by the law. In Korea, not only drugs but also weed is considered as very serious problems. However, I was surprised that in the US, even though it depends on each state, people are likely to consider weed as a not that big problem. And I think this perspective sometimes causes bigger problems about drugs in the US.
    As Grace’s opinion, I also doubted that a prison really make criminals live new life. However, if there are no prison, the society cannot be free from the danger. Also, providing jobs for criminals is bounded by realistic problems because there are even no place for not criminals.

  8. wscarlett says:

    In regards to the first question you asked I feel that there are some aspects of this that are stereotypical. Firstly I feel many police search for drug dealers in areas where there is higher crime rates, graffiti, and past knowledge of where are typically rough neighborhoods. The author argues that it is racist that more blacks are punished for drugs. But there is also the factor of money. Many of these blacks that are doing this drug dealing do not have a very reliable source of money besides the drug market so when the police catches them they cannot afford a lawyer that would increase their chances of not having to go to prison. I feel that they are convicted more because they do drug deals in areas where the police look for mischief and do not have enough money to hire a good lawyer.
    As for the second question, I am from America so my government has created the three strikes law and many other in an attempt to combat drug dealing. Drugs are very common in America and there are many criminals that are in jail or prisons from drug related incidents. I am sure there are many people here who abuse drugs. Our government is trying to contain the war on drugs the best it can.

  9. To answer question number two, the United States has a severe drug problem. From marijuana to hardcore drugs like meth. Drug abuse can effect anyone, most people think it is just people living on the streets or projects but middle and upper class also take part. Drugs destroy lives and families. A lot of people have tried drugs and are getting started at a younger age. Keeping the younger generations off drugs will be a huge benefit later down the road. In terms of the government, harsher punishment for drug abuse needs to be used. Too many drug users and dealers are getting by. It is very difficult to control the drug market and is important to understand that police do the best they can to try and stop drug trafficking. In the reading it is argued that there is a race barrier with drugs and blacks are more likely to get harsher punishment than whites. I don’t think this is a race issue as much as it is a class issue. Whites in middle to upper class have the resources to get out of jail and even keep the situation “hush hush.” The common use of drugs makes people think it is k and can get away with it.

  10. Gabrielle says:

    This is a really good summary of the comic to show what the prison town is and why it brought interest to the public and what kind of consequences it end up having eventually. Also an example made by you as an analogue of this prison town issue but not exactly: Xiamen PX case, draws my attention. I think this is an excellent example not because of being in the sense of what you shown that “long term consequence over short term advantage gives the residents power to shun down the project”, but because the PX case has great similarity with prison town phenomena in term of “defect and failure in decision making”. Both of them lack well investigating and understanding of the whole project initially before the project can be issued. Prison town put a lot of efforts on broadcasting its good benefit to the local business and did not estimate its potential irreversible terrible impacts to the town economically and socially. On the other hand, Xiamen PX project draw too much public irrational emotion and attention, and exaggerated its pollution and environmental influence which most of people care but can be dealed really well due to its modern pollution management. This bias information distracted the opinion of public mainstream successfully and affect the final decision of issuing such project on or off. This defect or insufficiency of information when making a decision is the key to having these two case failure in the end.

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