Non Violent Drug Prisoners: Who’s Really Paying the Debt to Society? 

By  Cheri Sicard

 June 4, 2019

 Non Violent Drug Prisoners? Whose Paying the Debt?

Guest op-ed by Marilyn Greene (pictured above), who was serving time in a federal prison camp for a first-time, nonviolent marijuana "offense" when she wrote this article in 2014.  It is every bit as relevant today.  

Who really pays when non violent drug prisoners are incarcerated? You do.

(Update since this article was first published:
Marilyn Greene and husband Gerry Campbell did their time at separate federal prison camps and were released.  They had to start all over again as they had lost all their assets including their home and their car due to being prosecuted and incarcerated for growing medical marijuana in Tennessee.  Marilyn even had to fight for the right to go back to her profession as a midwife (a right she eventually won).  Sadly, Gerry Campbell passed away in 2018.)

As I spend my time at a federal prison camp paying my “debt to society,” ironically it is society who is picking up the tab.

Most taxpayers don’t realize that many of the felons they have been told to fear are actually non-violent first time offenders, who could be home working and paying taxes instead of costing the taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars each annually.

So who exactly is benefitting from this system?  To find out, as always, you need to “follow the money” to see who are the winners and who are the losers.

Who Are the Winners?

The winners are the people who invest in private prisons, the suppliers of the goods and services that are bought in huge quantities, and the areas of the country that have established a prison as an income source.  Much like the unpopular closing of military bases, a prison is seen as a source of jobs for that area.

Who Are the Losers?

The losers are the taxpayers who work hard for their wages and pay it into a tax system, where the money goes to pay for room and board for people who could be paying their own way on the outside.

Another group of losers are the families of these prisoners who have to support their loved ones by carrying on daily without them and sending them money to help pay for phone, email, stamps, and commissary.

It comes down to the definition of punishment.  My husband and I are in federal prisons camps for growing marijuana.  For that “crime,” we lost our house, our car, our jobs, and ultimately, our freedom.   

Society needs to reevaluate whether keeping us locked up for almost two years and paying our expenses is worth working days or weeks at a job.  Does society feel safer taking two older Americans with no prior convictions off the streets?  Do we really pose such a threat that you are willing to work to support us?  Are you getting enough retribution for your efforts?

I, on the other hand, am doing fine.  Except for not being able to walk out the gate, my life is OK.  I have the wonderful support of my family and friends.  I am rested and enjoying some “me” time without the stresses of having bills to pay.

Most of my life I have had two jobs and lots of responsibility.  I now have a minimum of responsibility and I am catching up on my reading.  I walk miles a day in the idyllic mountain surroundings.  I am planning on taking classes in calligraphy and card making.  I am not hungry and I enjoy listening to the local NPR station.  I am meeting some wonderful and talented women and I am able to meditate in my free time.

I am planning to resume my previous great life when I am released from this interesting experience.  My husband will never again complain about my cooking as long as it is not from a microwave.

While you are wondering how you will pay your bills and feed your family, please think about what you could do with some of the extra money you could have if you didn’t have to support me and my husband and the thousands of non violent drug prisoners like us who would be more than happy to support ourselves.

Marilyn Greene has been a practicing midwife and alternative healer for over 30 years. She has a master’s degree, and taught at Kaplan University. At the time she wrote this, Marilyn and husband Gerry Campbell were housed at separate federal prison camps, serving time, as senior citizens, for first time, non violent marijuana offenses.

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