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We have noted in this space before that one consequence of the destruction of any freedom to form unions and stagnant wages for 35 years is an 800% percent increase in incarceration.

The pro-reform Drug Alliance “estimates that when you combine state and local spending on everything from drug-related arrests to prison, the total cost adds up to at least $51 billion per year.” (The Huffington Post)

Instead of spending billions of dollars incarcerating Americans for non-violent drug use, we should be putting people to work.

America’s greatest crime and mystery writer George Pelecanos, lives near me in our working class, immigrant neighborhood. He wrote The Wire and Treme on HBO. Now he’s Executive Producer of Boardwalk Empire. Once when we were talking about union and work issues, Pelecanos said that while creating HBO’s The Wire, they found out that the growth in Baltimore’s drug culture and drug use was directly related to the loss of good paying, middle class producing, family sustaining longshore jobs where technology had replaced thousands of workers and kids no longer had a good job to go to or to aspire to.

Instead of jailing non-violent drug offenders, we should be putting them to work. Instead of spending $50 billion dollars a year on jail, we should spend it on improving America – infrastructure, renewable and sustainable energy, rebuilding the electricity grid, giving people life and hope instead of misery in jail.

© Creative Commons Copyright 2013


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Stewart Acuff is the former organizing Director of the AFL-CIO. Acuff has also written two books: Playing Bigger Than You Are: A Life in Organizing, and Getting America Back to Work.
Get the e-book edition of Playing Bigger Than You Are for $2.99 by clicking here!

Originally posted to StewartAcuff on Tue Apr 09, 2013 at 09:02 AM PDT.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions and Invisible People.

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