The Top 1% has been so talked about this year, we've forgotten the bottom 1%. And, as this article notes, that bottom 1% is mostly in prison.
Why should we care? To see why, let’s divide the prison population into two groups: (1) prisoners who are serving time for having committed victimless crimes, and (2) those who are there because they committed crimes against victims. I maintain that we should care about both but in different ways.
Consider first the group, which I care most about: Those who committed victimless crimes such as drug using, drug cultivating, drug selling, gambling, and prostitution. Of the 2.3 million people in prison in 2008, over 560,000—more than 24 percent—were there for non-violent drug offenses. (I’m assuming that a non-violent drug offense is a victimless crime. It’s hard to see how it could be otherwise. Stealing to support a drug habit can be non-violent, but stealing would not be classified as a drug crime.)
It’s already unjust that they are in prison since they harmed no one. The person who sold drugs, for example, sold them, which means that someone voluntarily bought them. We may question the wisdom of using such drugs as marijuana and cocaine, but the people who use them should be free to make their own decisions. They might make bad decisions, but should people go to prison for making bad decisions that hurt no one but, perhaps, themselves? Both Barack Obama and George W. Bush have admitted using illegal drugs. Would society have been better off if they had spent time in prison?
People who are in prison for victimless crimes are poor mainly because the government has made them poor—by putting them in prison. There’s a simple solution: Let them out of prison. ...
So let me get this straight: High-income people are paying lots of taxes so that the government can put poor people in prison and keep them poor or put non-poor people in prison and make them poor.Sound crazy? Leave your thoughts in a comment.
We hear the Occupy Wall Street people—and President Obama—advocate taxing the top 1 percent more. I've got a better idea: Let's tax the top 1 percent less and let a few hundred thousand of the bottom one percent out of prison—and out of poverty.