AFROMERICA - A Nation Under One God

Home | Site Map | News | Profile | Contact   

cell (2K)The Psychology behind America's Incarceration Rates

The high incarceration rates in the United States signals a social breakdown between the powers that be and the people, and begs the question of why does the wealthiest society in human history maintain the highest level of imprisonment? For what reason would people have to commit crimes when according to the amount of wealth, there is enough to go around in addition to the acclaimed amounts of opportunity for success and prosperity America has to offer?

A most logical response would be that because of the wealth there is more opportunity for crime, but when population becomes a factor, China holds 4 times as many people than America yet their incarceration rates are not even half that of the United States. And though China is a communist country, it signals all the more reason to raise a question as to the effectiveness of a capitalist system where equality is concerned.

Does opportunity to wealth increase the rate of crime more than the economic limitations on the people of a communist system? Many variables can play a part in this answer such as the social stigmas attached to wealth that a society may have in their ethics, relations between the powers that be and the people, and how social class plays a part in that society. Yes, the U.S. may be the richest country in the world, but at what price when measured for true freedoms of the people.

We were taught in school - and are reminded to this day - that communist countries place restrictions on the freedoms of the population while the state controls the means of production dictating who gets what and when; while a capitalist system allows freedom to the people as the market economy stretches forth its invisible hand and provides for those who take hold of the opportunities it supplies; in essence, that a capitalist system is better than a communist system where freedom is concerned.

Nevertheless, if a society breeds wealth at rabbit-like speed, and crime becomes more of a temptation to gain that wealth, or possible greed becoming a vice of certain people, when all is said and done, the race for wealth then becomes the most controlling factor of that society. And those who cannot keep pace with the speed of growing wealth become victims of temptation to their wants and even their needs.

wealth (5K)If that wealth then becomes a stigma to which freedom is measured, those who have wealth are actually the only ones who are truly free and those who have not wealth become prisoners to wantonness, poverty, and eventually crime. At the same time, many wealthy become victims of greed, which in turn breeds a need for protection against potential criminality as well as a suspicion against any threat to take what the wealthy has earned.

However, not only are the wealthy suspicious against the criminal element, but they are more suspicious against government power and authority and they from that point want to guarantee protection from government laws, regulations, and possible forced acquisition. As a result, the wealthy, including individuals and business entities, erect fortresses of legal protection against government rule as well as the lower criminal element they may find a threat.

Because America is supposedly founded on the concept of freedom, the definition of freedom best fit the protection of wealth more than it does the protection of individual rights, thus those who have wealth have more rights than those who are not as wealthy. As a result, there are laws made to protect the wealthy and their wealth that would prohibit those without wealth from becoming a threat to the wealthy, such as fraudulent documentation, identity theft, and other crimes that are considered white collar crimes.

Now, if wealth was not such a social stigma in American society and protection of wealth such a cause for law enforcement, the chances of white collar crime and the temptation of it would decrease. In a society where class and riches is not so prevalent, and the general population are provided the things they need, the need for crime is reduced, not only in white collar criminality but also in the violent or more lower forms of crime, such as street robbery, theft, and possibly random murder.

But there remains, wealth as a social claim to individual right and freedom by which America stands thus automatically creating a class of people in need of protection from another class; a class who struggles to emulate the wealthy every chance they get. As the divide grows and the protection for wealth increases, the tighter the laws become for the lower-class and the higher the chance of losing freedom occurs among the poor. And as the chances decrease for the poor, and crime rates rise, the more need for prisons in society rises. This is where America has arrived.

survey (3K)Thus, as a result of a booming society based on wealth and as people get wealthier, the more protection they need, which increases police protection, stricter population regulation, increased identification surveillance, which eventually bleeds into not only personal freedoms but the concept of personal privilege also, such as destinations, habits, and eventually beliefs. For if too many people believe the same thing that is contrary to what a society has determined most important to uphold and protect, that people must be controlled more often as well as watched closer.

A society such as a class-based society regulates its people based on the highest class, which in America's case is the wealthy. This causes a society to set standards of behavior, ethics, and life principles. Of these standards comes an expectation of the people to not necessarily behave a certain way but to restrict behavior to a certain standard that appeals to a citizen's sense of individuality, accomplishment, and most often their sense of duty.

For instance, paying taxes was in essence (and in theory) a duty instead of an actual law, just as driving has been told to us is a privilege and not a law. However, the restriction on the individual by the law has crossed that line right under our noses whereby a person is treated as a criminal if they do not pay taxes or if they are found driving without a license.

So greed, as a result of a wealth-driven society, has more to do with who is considered a criminal and who is not. The people have been psychologically sabotaged to maintain a sense of competiveness in a consumer-driven economy i.e. drive a nice car, own a home, (which requires a sense of financial discipline further enforced by the threat of financial delinquency and ruin - an indirect "pay your bills or go to jail" type of bylaw), and pay all fees, taxes, and interest without question or risk being ostracized by society.

judge (3K)In one way or another, each of the above ethical codes of capitalism has attached to it a crime if not obeyed by the people. An eminent threat of jail time, penalty or the dreaded audit attaches itself to individual freedom thus reducing freedom to a lower form of unconscious servitude. As a result, even those who live honestly just to maintain in life become potential criminals, and though the jails and prisons are now filled with mostly violent criminals, all have become suspect and capable of committing crime if they are not living up to standard.

Not all people are criminals by nature but all are becoming suspect. In light of 911, many more restrictions have been set in place to screen out potential criminals, which could be defined as an elderly woman at the airport or a kindergartner who draws a picture of a gun. The social atmosphere of America is one of control, not freedom. And with the increased use of background checks, in the future and as a result of tightened individual surveillance and documentation, many may be permanently locked out of jobs in many professions, including education, child care, driving a bus, working in a nursing home, in addition to not being able to vote.

In fact, because the restrictions have trickled down to the most menial areas of life, do not be surprised if you are soon considered a law-breaker if you do not have health insurance, which right now is looked on as an option, but because of increased regulation on health i.e. smoking, obesity and the like, like driving was once a privilege, having health insurance will become an indirect law. The problem is that people have become very unconscious of what is happening that they cannot see their freedoms have been taken already.

Right now the prisons are filled with mostly people from low-income circumstances including non-violent drug offenders to violent offenders, but it will not be long before prison life becomes a social normality for many. "Some 701 per 100,000 of the national population, averaging close to 4 million people residing in prisons and jails, however, by 2010, the number of American residents in prison or with prison experience is expected to jump to 7.7 million."

"The numbers come after many years of get-tough policies - and years when violent-crime rates have generally fallen. But to some observers, they point to broader failures in US society, particularly in regard to racial minorities and others who are economically disadvantaged." The prison population has quadrupled since 1980. Much of that surge is the result of public policy, such as the war on drugs and mandatory minimum sentencing. Nearly 1 in 4 of the inmates in federal and state prisons are there because of drug-related offenses, most of them nonviolent.

hispanicjail (3K)Let us say that excess wealth does not inadvertently cause a reciprocal effect to crime and a growing prison population, but is in fact a reflection of racial genetics, quite possibly that minorities are born more crooked, would rather choose a life of crime, or because of some mental deficiency found more in people of color than in whites. If this is the case then one would have to assume that based on the racial makeup of prisoners, whites make up a small portion of prisoners because they are not necessarily criminal by nature, criminal-minded, or are not mentally flawed in any way as supposedly are Blacks and Hispanics.

In fact, let us assume that whites are innocent, pure, have no evil intent and are the most upright, law abiding citizens of humanity and are simply not capable of committing serious crimes or deserving of incarceration. This means that at some point as the prison population grows with Black and Hispanics, whites will realize a pattern and automatically suspect all Blacks and Hispanics as criminal and establish a system of incarceration simply for the purpose of confining Blacks and Hispanics.

Defense rest; and the psychology behind America's incarceration rates have been exposed.

© July 2007 By CR Hamilton

Submit an article
Join the Mailing List
Join a Discussion

Afromerica: Where its all Black & white and some gray areas.


  powered by City Ministry
E-Mail Webadmin

The System
White Collar
Hate & Racism
Juvenile Delinquency


Black Psychology
World Culture


Life Learning
Talents & Gifts

Back Door

Submit Writings
Tech Support
Mailing List
Outer Links

Afro Media

Afro Videos
Good Books
Poetry & Prose

Afro Theory

Liberation Theology
Columns & Submissions
Historical Words