The Coastal Post - October, 1996

Let's Build Prison Farms

BY KIRBY FERRIS

The idiocy of the liberal mind struck me full force when I read a news story from a New Zealand newspaper. It seems a store owner had been burgled three times in less than a month. It was obvious that juvenile delinquents were the perpetrators. Typically, the police weren't about to mount much effort to catch the thieves. So this store owner doesn't get a guard dog, doesn't buy a burglar alarm, and doesn't hire a couple of large thugs to lie in wait for the punks who are ripping him off. No, this bleeding heart crime victim decides that he will fund a frigging rugby team for the "disenchanted" youth of the community because the thieving little fecal worms are "bored" and have "too much time on their hands." Jeez, maybe if the punks keep ripping off the people of the community, the village council will vote to build them a swimming pool and a free video arcade.

Here's the bottom line: crime pays. Any kid can understand that it is now as easy and safe to get money by thievery as by earning it. Isn't it time for the pendulum to swing the other way. Don't you think it's time to return punishment for crime to our way of life? We can wring our hands over the breakdown of the nuclear family, the widening gap between rich and poor, the dumbing down of our children, and violence on television (and attempt to do something about these problems), but we still have to make a single, old-fashioned equation very clear: If you steal, you go to jail. It doesn't matter if you are 15 or 50. The rich kid shoplifter and the ghetto burglar both go to jail.

And when you get to jail (juvenile or adult) here is what you find: 1. No television. 2. No Walkman CD player. 3. No Nintendo. 4. No school yard games or weight training. 5. No "self-esteem" therapy sessions. 6. No radio. 7. No fancy hair styling, pierced ears, flash clothes, or Nikes. You see, boys and girls, these are all things that civilized people earn by the sweat of their brow. Since you have not earned these things, you simply do not get them. (Hey, Liberalbrain! How is this cruel and unusual?)

In fact, you don't even get fed unless you earn the food. Why should jail be any different than the natural world? The lazy coyote starves to death. Who said that human beings living in this "biosphere" are somehow privileged to break this fundamental law of nature? I'm not talking about compassion for those too young or physically or mentally incapable of working for their food.

Starting with Juvenile Hall, we should immediately begin offering offenders (beginning with the very first conviction) a simple, real world choice. Work or starve. Every youth or adult penal facility should be a highly-organized farm. We don't need these vast, mega-million dollar condos. Criminals should labor in the fields, or elsewhere on the facility, to produce fruit, vegetables, poultry, eggs, or meat. It's an eight-hour workday (less strenuous than many American farmers live with all their lives.) Are you an "inmate?" No, you are a prisoner, a convicted criminal. And, as a prisoner with a debt to repay, you rise at six in the morning to a rousing half-hour of calisthenics. (We may play some music for you during your jumping jacks. Maybe something German with a distinct marching rhythm. Sorry, dude, no U2 or Snoop Doggy Dog). You then shower and shave (face and head) and present yourself for a large, nutritious breakfast. All you can shovel down in half an hour. Then it's out to the field where the taxpayers (who you have been victimizing) have generously provided you with acres and acres of fertile soil.

You are given a wide brim hat, a long-sleeve shirt, sun screen, sunglasses and plenty of pure spring water. Oh yeah, and a hoe and work gloves. Get down, bro! There are weeds to be pulled, soil to be turned, bugs to be squished (we're strictly organic here). You get a 15-minute break for coffee and a cigarette (if you're old enough). Then it's back to work until the noon whistle. You shuffle over to the lunch tent and are served another huge, rib-sticking meal. All you can eat in an hour. Doesn't that chicken taste good? It should, you raised that chicken, amigo. Aren't you secretly a little proud? How about those big potatoes and that gravy? Came right out of the soil your tired ass is sitting on. Oops, it's one o'clock. Back to work. What? You don't want to work anymore? Are you sure, honey? Okay, we'll take you back to your tent and you can skip dinner and breakfast in the morning. The rest of you get off at four and have the rest of the afternoon and evening to read or attend classes. You can choose to improve yourself or just do the minimum needed to get your meals. But there's no free lunch anymore. Whoa! Vastly harsh! Call the ACLU!

The extra food you grow on the prison farm goes to feed the truly needy. Isn't that a unique idea? Minimum stay on the farm is two weeks. Caught shoplifting? First offense? Two weeks. No plea bargain. No "counseling." No fancy attorney to finesse you out of the two weeks of sweat, dirt and payback. Isn't life cruel? Maybe it is. But we'll see if you go back and steal again when the next conviction gets you a guaranteed six months in the fields. The question is: Will Americans come to their senses and demand that the judicial system and prisons be run this way?