November 23, 2003 - The Bloomington Alternative (IN)
Social Justice: Rehab for the Rich, Prison for the Poor
by Ruth Carter
The following article was submitted to The Bloomington Alternative by Bloomington activist Charity Ryerson, who is serving a six-month federal prison sentence for protesting at the School of the Americas.
She writes: "Ruth's letter to the editor expresses a common sentiment around here, that the famous and the wealthy don't have to play by the rules the rest of us do. Many have said, 'But Rush was a user, the convicted felons are dealers.' I, for one, was surprised to find that this is not the case. No evidence is required for drug convictions, causing users to be swept up with the dealers and manufacturers."
I am a voice representative of the women at Pekin Federal Prison Camp. We are a small facility of approximately 250 ladies -- most first-time non-violent drug offenders. Some have addictions; some don't. More importantly, this is the classic scenario of federal prisons around the country. I am serving 15 years/8 months for less of a crime than that of Rush Limbaugh or Noelle Bush. The difference? Rush Limbaugh has money, and with money comes-power. He will be able to "buy" himself a "Get Outta Jail Free" card much like O.J. did and Noelle did with the influence of her father and Uncle George.
The middle class suffers because we are a group of taxpayers without fame and fortune, but regarded as heroes for forming the backbone of factories, restaurants, front-line fighters in our military, and all types of blue collar industries. We are teachers, firemen, and police officers who are paid like failing stock dividends in a Depression. The careers we hold are considered valuable and important, but not so valued that the upper crust is willing to give up a ham sandwich to put food on someone else's plate.
When the rich incur difficulties -- everything from an affair to an addiction -- it is viewed as a "private matter necessitating healing." When the middle class have the same problems, the answer is to lock them up in prisons or slap on expensive fines to eliminate the conundrum as best as we can.
Our sons in Iraq will no doubt suffer from what they have seen and experienced -- much the same as in Vietnam. To cope, some may take drugs. The bottom line is that the rich go to rehab and the poor go to prison.
John Ashcroft has gone to great lengths to tour the United States promoting his ideals about "uniformity in sentencing" practices. What better way to implement this, Mr. Ashcroft, than by creating "Justice For All." This would mean for the rich as well as for the poor. Rush and Noelle will never serve a day in prison. Isn't it time to allow other first-time, non-violent offenders that same chance?
Ruth Carter is an inmate at the Federal Prison Camp at Pekin, Ill. She may be reached at:
Ruth Carter 11945-045
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