How Nonviolent Prisoners Impact Your Bottom Line (Yes Yours!)

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Think locking up nonviolent drug offenders doesn’t affect you?  Think again.

Marilyn Greene
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. 

(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 everything 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 a professional midwife of over thirty years, I had a hard time understanding the resistance to home birth.  I knew that I wanted a safe outcome and so did the family I worked for.  As a team we worked together towards this outcome.  Often we faced negative social and medical prejudices.

But why?  I could understand the medical resistance.  Everyone thinks their way is the best and many doctors are no exception.  They are blindsided by their biases and instead of looking at home birth scientifically, big medicine worries about turf and their bottom line.  Each home birth has the potential of diverting tens of thousands of dollars from their pockets.  It also represents a huge savings to a family and a modest income to a midwife.

I then went to a university and I studied anthropology, health, and sociology.  From these studies I realized that birth was more than a social event.  Each newborn has the potential to be a taxpayer.  That contribution to the economy represented continued life for the state.

Without ants there is no colony.  Every newborn represents continuity for the state unless they do not reach their potential as a worker or as a contributor to the economy.  Each new child is a blank slate and as they grow their potential worth to the system is evaluated.

It is measured in school, and a successful student is promoted until they reach the occupation they either desire or are forced to settle on.  This is the goal of education in today’s money-centered world. 

Learning has changed from enjoyment of the mind and intellect to a directed journey with a destination of a job with a paycheck.  By earning, you are fulfilling your obligation to the state.  If you are fortunate and born into an affluent family you can still pursue liberal arts while spending and contributing to the economy.

Students who do not do well in school can drop out and fill low paying jobs and still be consumers of goods and services. 

Another option available to those who do not want to pursue careers at a university is the military.  The military cycles tax dollars by using its huge budget to purchase large amounts of goods and services that keep the economy rolling.

Non-contributors

A group of citizens who generally don’t contribute are those with physical and mental illnesses.  They can be a strain on the system unless they have a means to pay for their care.  The taxpayer also subsidizes the huge medical industry.

People with substance abuse problems often contribute to the underground economy,  They do this by the sale and purchase of drugs and by using the proceeds to buy goods and services.

Many citizens end up homeless and can no longer contribute to the state.  A lot of people come to the streets due to lack of skills, traumatic military service, and mental and physical impairment.  Many are too severely affected to be able to find resources and qualify for public assistance.

What’s the Answer?  Lock Them Up! 

How can the state bring all these unproductive groups back into the economy?  It can arrest them.  The prison industry is a way to take unproductive people and turn them into a commodity.  Besides employment opportunities, it purchases large quantities of goods and services.  And it is HEAVILY subsidized by the taxpayers.

In some areas prisons are a major source of income.  Likewise, in these regions closing a prison, regardless of how much it would save the state and the taxpayers, is a major battle.  The argument that the closing of the prison would be a major hardship for the area is the same hotly debated argument that develops when closing a military base is contemplated.

I am not suggesting we close all prisons.  There are some very bad people who should not be walking the streets.  But I do wonder how the United States got the dubious position of number one in prisoners per capita in the world.

What happened to the “land of the free?”

Are we so entrenched in this culture of misery that we cannot imagine and implement new programs that will put us back on track?  Can’t we find a way to use our citizens’ potentials instead of paying to warehouse them away from sight?

I suggest a first step would be to break free from the Hollywood stereotype of prisoners.  The public needs to be made aware of the large numbers of nonviolent, first-time offenders that are being locked away from their families.  This group is a burden on the taxpayer.

We, as a society, must ask ourselves who is benefiting from this system? In most cases it is not the average, hard working, taxpayer.  But someone is benefiting from this system and to find out who it is, just follow the money.

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 a first time, non-violent marijuana offense.  

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