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.
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. http://www.realcostofprisons.org, 2005.
Zhu Hongjun, “Xiamen Calls An Abrupt Halt to the PX Project to Deal with the Public Crisis”, May 28, 2007, EastSouthWestNorth, http://www.zonaeuropa.com/20070601_1.htm