by Darrell Padgett
Recently, I have been researching the issue regarding the United States government and its impetus for incarcerating thousands of non-violent drug offenders. During my research, I have unearthed some astonishing information about the wealth that is being generated from incarcerating federal prisoners.
I began this odyssey because I recognize that during this economic downturn, states are forced to downsize their prison population. And the federal government, as Matthew Axelrod, Associate United States Deputy Attorney General, recently revealed, the federal “Bureau of Prisons inmate population will continue to grow by more than 5,000 prisoners a year for the foreseeable future.” Thus, the question becomes—what is the premise for this increase, especially in light of the fact that more than 50 percent of the prisoners that are incarcerated in the federal Bureau of Prisons are non-violent drug offenders?
Society plays a huge part in the effectiveness of the government’s façade in the drug war. Such a ploy can only be effectuated with the support of the majority of society. Consequently, so many citizens believed that the drug war was a good thing, that was until family and friends became consumed by the system. Based on current trends, one in every three black males that is born today will be committed to prison at some point in their life, in comparison to one in every six Latino males, and one in every 17 white males.
In the early 1990s, some federal judges, a Justices of the United States Supreme Court, and sentencing advocates all called for the elimination of the Relevant Conduct Rules of the United States Sentencing Guidelines that are predominately used in drug cases, which allow the prosecutors to increase sentences from the minimum to the maximum penalties based on mere assertions from cooperating witnesses. Throughout all of the rhetoric and the calls for reform of the Relevant Conduct Rules that mete out so much injustice—virtually nothing has changed!
As an example, I was sentenced to 37.5 years in federal prison, despite having been arrested for the distribution of one gram of crack cocaine. My case was a relevant conduct case. Today, the Relevant Conduct Rules are just as powerful as they were when I was condemned to federal prison for 37.5 years after being arrested for one gram of crack cocaine. So why is society so hung up on the recent political campaigns for ending mandatory minimum drug penalties? Without mandatory minimum sentencing provisions there will still be Relevant Conduct Rules that will authorize the prosecutors to seek maximum punishment in non-violent drug cases. Sentences of 20, 40, and natural life will still be permissible as a result of the Relevant Conduct Rules.
The title of Professor Michelle Alexander’s book puts this epidemic in perspective: “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.”
When there is one isolated entity of the United States criminal justice system that has consistent revenue in excess of $50 million per month as a result of cheap labor, the clock has never been turned forward. Only, the ancient days have been manifested in a different era!
Darrell Padgett served more than 20 years in federal prison after being arrested for the distribution of one gram of crack cocaine. Darrell sought to educate himself while in prison. As a result, he was successful in persuading a Senior United States District Judge to reduce his 37.5 year sentence. Darrell is now a graduate student studying Criminal Justice Administration. And he is the owner of Insight Into Prison Consultants. Darrell may be contacted via his Facebook address below.