Saturday, January 12, 2008


Marion Jones, the gold medal winning Olympic runner is going to prison for six months (or so.) Is this right? African-Americans have long filled out the inmate rolls in the US prison system. And this is a system that is a major part of the US economy, directly supporting the paid employment of upwards of 100,000 prison guards, administrators, maintenance staff, kitchen workers and many more folks employed to support the prison system: drivers, construction workers, warehouse workers; and by further extension, the criminal justice courts with its teams of judges and lawyers and all the people whose livelihoods depend on serving their needs. And a lot of these jobs (prison guards, in particular) are union-protected. Sure, much of this employement would survive without prisoners. But prisons play a central role. Without the destination of incarceration for convicted criminals, the bottom falls out of the criminal justice economy. A high profile case like that of Marion Jones reinforces the notion that blacks go to prison, unlike similarly-tainted whites. Former NY Yankees pitcher is accused of taking steroids and lying about it. (the Roger Clemens who won 192 games for the Red Sox did no such thing.) Does anyone expect him to go to prison? Unlikely.


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