It’s hard to believe all the violence going on in the United States nowadays. When you turn on the news, there is always a new incident of gang violence, police officers being shot, or riots for varying reasons. The most surprising thing, however, is that there really IS a proven solution to these problems. I don’t know if our leaders have forgotten this, think they can do better, or just gave up believing the solution could no longer be available to us. I’ll get to that proven solution in a bit, but first let’s make sure we understand the problem itself and how/where that solution has worked in the past.
As many of you know, I worked in Corrections for 20 years, beginning in 1990. In the 1970’s, 1980’s, and early 1990’s, riots, fights, and assault on prison officers was pretty much considered a norm. News outlets reported numerous riots, a few gang incidents, and the occasional assault on staff. But the people working inside knew there were many more incidents occurring that weren’t reported by the media. The truth is, it was such commonplace, the media – and the public – got tired of hearing it. Just in my first four years working in the prison I was assaulted twice, responded to two riots, and dealt with hundreds of fights and gang incidents each year! It was just part of the job and expected inside the walls.
But do you notice how rarely you hear of these incidents happening in prisons today?? It’s not because the media and the public have completely lost interest – there really IS so few of these incidents that there’s nothing to report!! Don’t misunderstand me now, there are still the occasional gang fights and assault on staff in our prisons. But, especially when it comes to riots – and even escapes – what you hear in the news is all that is really happening.
Ironically, the exact opposite is happening in the “free world” of our country. We didn’t used to have all the riots we see where citizens are burning and destroying their own neighborhoods. Gang warfare and murders weren’t nearly as bad as we see it today. And how often did you hear about police officers being assaulted, murdered, and on the defense before 5 years ago?? Nowadays it’s not just an isolated group of convicted felons in prison, but Americans that are living this reality! As a result – and this was true in the prisons too – every American feels they have to take a side. Do you sympathize with the complaints of those destroying our neighborhoods? Do you support Law Enforcement crackdown to curb the problem? Even our own President has floated the idea of military action to suppress and corral these problems. How do we solve this problem??
For years, the prison systems across our country felt the solution was to crackdown and maintain control. When I began working in Corrections, our motto was “Maintain Security, Custody, and Control”, because when they were fighting, assaulting, and rioting, it meant we had lost that control. Then, somewhere in the early 1990’s, someone, somewhere – a Warden or Commissioner probably – decided to change that motto and try a whole new approach.That method is now widely used in prisons all over our country and it’s the reason you don’t hear about riots and dead Correctional Officers.
That solution? Give the inmates JOBS! To be honest, I think the initial idea was that if we force every inmate to have a job – even menial janitorial duties – that they would be preoccupied and not have as much time to create mayhem. But something else happened instead!! These inmates came to be proud of the work they were doing. Pay incentives created competition for better jobs and “climbing the inmate ladder” to more responsibility and freedoms. Riots stopped happening because inmates didn’t want to destroy the homes they now had a part in building and maintaining. Assaults on staff all but ended because inmates learned what respect of another person’s job brought them personally. Prison Officials didn’t have to maintain control to operate the prison, because the inmates kept control and they helped in the running of the prison!
Similarly, in America, we see the correlations across the board. People used to have jobs, and there were much less protests, riots, assaults, murders, etc. Over the years, as the jobs disappeared – overseas, downsizing, etc. – the problems increased. Now I know that we’ll have Democrats blaming Republicans and vice-versa, but let’s be clear before this idea becomes political: In the prisons, the Warden was responsible, the Commissioner/Director was responsible . . . but ultimately, the Governor bore sole blame for the problems. In the United States, we can hold our mayors and Governors responsible for the lack of jobs, but our President bears sole blame. Again, we are ALL responsible for fixing the problem, but we can blame our POTUS for there being a problem.
Now, before you all go Obama-bashing, let’s review: This problem started almost 30 years ago. That means you can blame every POTUS from Jimmy Carter to Obama!! If you’re feeling froggy, go ahead and blame everyone all the way back to Jesus Christ! The truth is that the blame is everywhere but IT WILL FIX NOTHING. The solution, just as in the prison system of the 1990’s, is to stop laying blame and start laying out the solution. If it means going another $10 trillion in debt just so we can employ the homeless to pick up trash, we have GOT to get people back to work.
I know it’s probably “anti-liberal” to say this, but we need to eliminate entitlements as well. There are those that are in need and medically unable to work, and always will be. We need to continue to provide for our citizens. But if every able-bodied American had a job, we could save hundreds of billions of dollars in entitlements that could go towards . . . creating more jobs!! When I was a kid, we would “send help to” one country or another that was a wreck and whose people were starving. Now those countries have our jobs and our money. I’m glad we could help, but at what cost?
And, while I’m on the “anti-liberal” comments, we need to avoid what I call the “Bill Clinton Progress”. Again, don’t misjudge me, I actually loved Bill Clinton’s (other than his philandering) time in office. His solutions created jobs, money, and improved morale across the country. He was one of my favorite Presidents. But the type of solutions he brought were short-lived – and we knew they would be – and are now problematic. For example, the three-strikes law was an amazing idea, much-needed, and worked – but over time, it is a problem and we are seeking to end it. Think of it this way: What if Trump decided to donate $20 trillion to the United States Treasury so that our country would no longer be in debt? I know, not gonna happen, but follow my logic here. We WOULD be out of debt, prosperous, flying high on the world stage! But, probably 20 years later, we would be in twice as much debt as we are now because we failed to fix the problem after it was “patched”. That’s what I call “Bill Clinton Progress”.
So to solve our problems – from riots, to entitlements, to Police Officer slayings, etc. – we need to get America working again! We need to bring jobs back from overseas and into the hands of our kids, neighbors, and friends. Not just so they have something better to do with their time, but to make them proud of themselves, their neighborhoods, and their country again!