Regulars and Shorts

Ask the Swami: October 2009

By Steve Bhaerman

We have a criminal justice system.
by Swami Beyondananda

Dear Swami:

I find the present prison system archaic. Not only do we not rehabilitate our prisoners, but it costs us a fortune to keep these guys behind bars. Not to mention all the money we’re spending to apprehend, prosecute and incarcerate all those “dangerous” drug offenders while the criminals who might actually harm someone get reduced sentences. Do you see any positive changes in our criminal justice system in the coming new age?

Xavier Onassis,
Wilmington, Delaware

Dear Xavier:

What you say about our criminal justice system is accurate indeed. No doubt about it, we definitely have a criminal justice system, and I will tell you why. For some reason, we got it in our political heads that it’s the government’s job to try to stop people from doing things to themselves that they’re going to do anyway. Take the war on drugs—please! I don’t know if you’ve been following the box scores, but no matter how many dealers and users are nailed at home, there are millions more who score. We’ve tried changing pitchers, we’ve tried changing managers, we’ve tried bringing some strong arms out of the bullpen, but it’s time we faced the fact that the ballgame’s over and it’s time to play a different game.

Why do people get high on drugs? Because reality bites! Maybe if we spent our energy helping people improve their reality, drugs would become an aesthetic exploration taken on occasion rather than an anesthetic to dull the pain.

As for more serious crime, the answer is restitution and rehabilitation. Remember the old notion that criminals should pay for their crimes? Well, right now we the people are paying through the nose! And since nasal mucus can’t buy hardly anything nowadays, it’s costing us money as well. Do you realize it costs about $20,000 to keep the average offender in jail—per year? This means that if we put convicted felons on the street and paid them $10,000 a year not to commit crimes, we’d be saving 50%!

That is why I’m in favor of the Debt Penalty—offenders literally pay a financial debt to society. Convicted thieves can be hired as high-priced consultants on crime prevention—only their income would go to pay restitution to the victims, pay for the police and court work involved in bringing them to justice, and of course pay for their room and board in prison. And when some movie studio pays one of these jerks a fortune for his or her story, we can take some solace in knowing the money will compensate the victims and society. For some prisoners, receiving the debt sentence might be the best thing that ever happened to them. They’ll be able to pay a finite amount of money over time and then be free to rejoin society. And this belief in life after debt will enable them to do their time with dignity and hope.

I also predict that in the near future, alternative healing will be a part of the rehabilitation process. Chinese herbs will be used to treat the yang imbalance that most offenders have, yoga will be used to insure they do a nice, long stretch while in the can, and—in a very controversial practice—new age music will be piped into each cell every waking moment. Sure, bleeding hearts will object that this might not be the music most prisoners want to listen to, but hey—if you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.

© Copyright 2009 by Steve Bhaerman.



This article was originally published on September 30, 2009.