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Many factors lead to overcrowded prisons

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Posted: Monday, October 17, 2016 11:40 pm

We hear much these days about overcrowded prisons and the assertion that too many folks from the lower socioeconomic class are being locked up.

Media sources push the narrative that there is some kind of deep social or racial injustice behind all of this. Perhaps so, but it seems to me the answer is simpler than some of these professional pundits proclaim.

How about this thought for example? If you don’t want to go to prison, don’t do the crime. Now there’s a novel idea.

I’ll admit there are other factors involved with this issue. The destruction of well-paying factory jobs during the last 40 years is one of them.

However, the largest issue leading to incarceration involves drug-related crimes — primarily violent acts from sales and distribution. It’s also no secret that the U.S. has more prohibitive laws, along with a very complicated and expensive judicial system, as compared to many other countries as well.

But politicians have an answer for all of this. Simply release thousands of prisoners back onto the streets before their sentences are completed. Unfortunately, the Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that 68 percent will be back in prison within three years.

We know that available good paying positions for semi-skilled and unskilled folks reduce crime rates. But politicians seem to think that raising costs for business owners somehow help this type of job creation.

One of their decrees has been to increase the minimum wage, along with mandating or proposing employee benefits such as paid leave, child care and health insurance. Because of these burdens, the job creators are moving toward more automation to remain profitable and competitive — thus reducing workforces.

Even though the $15 per hour minimum in California will not take place until 2021, businesses are already preparing for the “handwriting on the wall” by planning for the inevitable.

In our town, big box stores and grocery outlets have been installing self-checkout lines and self-serve delis.

Recently, I experienced a home supply store that insisted everyone use the do-it-yourself device — even though it was not fully functional.

In Oakdale, McDonald’s has created computerized ordering consoles as a possible way to eliminate employees.

It’s another example that personal service will someday be a thing of the past. Eventual price increases will be on everyone’s menu as well.

Incidentally, another unmentioned consequence of legislative mandates is an unfair burden on the elderly and disabled.

Care home prices should skyrocket, as costs will most likely raise within five years by more than 33 percent.

Employment for the underclass and released prison populations are being eliminated at an alarming rate by unchecked foreign competition and unskilled immigrants flowing into the country.

Even highly skilled jobs held by American citizens are illegally being replaced by overseas workers through the H-1B visa program with the quiet blessings of both parties in Congress.

Still another factor contributing to the prison population is a declining standard of morality. Many schools today do not teach common standards of conduct for fear of being labeled as “culturally insensitive.”

In 1958, Lawrence Kohlberg wrote his dissertation on what he saw as the six stages of moral development.

He believed the highest was dealing with universal values and altruism. His lowest level could be summarized as, “It’s perfectly OK as long as you don’t get caught.”

But even Kohlberg could not foresee today’s bottom rung, which is, “It’s perfectly OK even if you DO get caught.” — a standard promulgated by some of our elected officials and legal professionals, as well social engineers and media pundits.

Solutions to large prison populations do not seem to be on the near-term horizon.

As long as a majority of the public remains unconcerned or uninformed about national and state economic issues affecting employment, along with a decline in ethical standards, crime will only increase accordingly.

Steve Hansen is a Lodi writer.

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