Latest Drug War News

GoodShop: You Shop...We Give!

Shop online at and a percentage of each purchase will be donated to our cause! More than 600 top stores are participating!

The Internet Our Website

Global and National Events Calendar

Bottoms Up: Guide to Grassroots Activism

Prisons and Poisons

November Coalition Projects

Get on the Soapbox! with Soap for Change

November Coalition: We Have Issues!

November Coalition Local Scenes

November Coalition Multimedia Archive

The Razor Wire
Bring Back Federal Parole!
November Coalition: Our House

Stories from Behind The WALL

November Coalition: Nora's Blog

July 16, 2006 - Gainesville Sun (FL)

OpEd: Collateral Damage

By Kinloch C. Walpole, director of the Gateless Zen Center, a Gainesville organization that works with prison inmates.

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

Prisons and the war on drugs have become a public dole dependent on human misery. A misery designed by politicians to exploit both felons and ex-felons whose disenfranchisement makes them safe targets in a continuously escalating cycle of exploitation and abuse. About 60 percent of the felons are the necessary but expendable foot soldiers of the drug world. These are men and women who are in prison as a result of drug-related or drug-motivated crimes.

They link the assorted drug cartels to the professionals that roam the halls of our universities, businesses, hospitals and government. These professionals are largely unaffected by the consequences of their "responsible recreational" use of illegal drugs.

Fines, civil forfeitures and prison sentences have been constantly ratcheted up over the last two decades to combat the distribution and crime associated with the supply and delivery of illegal drugs. There is not one statistic, trend line or shred of evidence showing that any of these measures have reduced the supply, weakened distribution nets, lowered demand or preserved the integrity of our way of life.

What has happened is that our state and federal government have developed the largest and most successful money laundering operations and both law enforcement and government operations have been corrupted beyond anything known in history. And the United States now has the highest incarceration rate and ratio in the world.

All this is correctable if there is the political will to do so.

This corruption has begun to unravel the very fabric of our society. We are becoming dependent on the economic and social distortions created by the misery and suffering associated with the war on drugs.

State agencies, governors, legislators and local chambers of commerce have long recognized the ability of prisons to rejuvenate and stabilize rural economies. Prisons provide high paying jobs from an industry that is invisible and nonpolluting.

Nowhere is the significance of a county state prison more visible than the efforts of Suwannee County to get its own prison. The county raised and paid $200,000 for the land required for the new prison and then donated it to the state.

Union county is an example of social and economic statistical distortions taken to its extreme. According to the 2000 census, more than 30 percent of the residents are prisoners.

The United States has 5 percent of the world's population and 25 percent of the jail and prison population. Western Europe has an inmate ratio 85 per 100,000, while Florida's prison ratio is 475 per 100,000 population. Last year the Alachua jail population ratio average was 470 inmates per 100,000 population. Alachua County sent 670 men, women and children to state prisons that year.

Paralleling the growth of prisons is a decline in programs to reduce recidivism. We have truly become a society where prisons have become institutions of higher forms of criminality.

Prisons populations translate into political clout: Inmates are counted as local residents when it comes to divvying up government grant money and laying out legislative districts. We are talking about federal grant money for road construction, schools, general budgets, rural development and social programs.

Within the city limits of Gainesville is a state prison, prison road camp, prison work release center and a county jail with an annex under construction. Close to 1,700 men and women put their heads down on a pillow each night in one of these facilities. These inmates benefit not only the census data for the city of Gainesville but they get counted again for Alachua County.

What has never been mentioned is the number of residents in Gainesville that commute daily to the prisons surrounding Gainesville. Then there are the businesses that satellite on the prison system, such as American Institutional Services (AIS).

The economies of prisons have a few other aspects that are seldom discussed. Upon release, most inmates have a period of parole that can vary from one to 10 years. This is a drug tested, docile labor force that operates under the supervision of the state. There are some 2,300 such men and women in the county of Alachua.

The other feature of prison labor is community service or free labor. In 2005 the courts awarded 80,000 hours of community service to Alachua County. Think in terms of the downward pressure this puts on wages in the county.

Another aspect of the war on drugs and sentencing is greatly ignored: civil forfeitures, where the economic proceeds from crime are laundered through the Department of Justice or Homeland Security and state agencies.

These funds find their way into municipal coffers as well as grants that support many of the nonprofit social services and cultural icons at the local level.

Lowering the prison population and the cessation of the war on drugs would destabilize the political status quo, create economic chaos and destroy a host of social services. If you think base closing create fights in Washington are contentious, wait until you see the infighting associated with closing state prisons. Can you imagine Bradford, Union and Alachua without their prisons?

These days, prisons mainly serve to act as a rural anti-poverty programs and garner votes for politicians who have lost their moral compass.

For the latest drug war news, visit our friends and allies below

We are careful not to duplicate the efforts of other organizations, and as a grassroots coalition of prisoners and social reformers, our resources (time and money) are limited. The vast expertise and scope of the various drug reform organizations will enable you to stay informed on the ever-changing, many-faceted aspects of the movement. Our colleagues in reform also give the latest drug war news. Please check their websites often.

The Drug Policy Alliance
Drug Reform Coordination Network
Drug Sense and The Media Awareness Project

Working to end drug war injustice

Meet the People Behind The U.S. Sentencing Guidelines

Questions or problems? Contact