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

February 6, 2005 - The Gainesville Sun (FL)

'Avenue Of Incarceration'

Building More Correctional Facilities In Florida Without Rehabilitating Prisoners Is Not A Viable Crime-Fighting Method

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

It is a perplexing enigma of our times: Why is it that crime rates have been dropping for years, and yet our prison system continues to grow and grow?

The quick answer is that tough laws that crack down on offenders are responsible for decreasing crime rates. But to maintain that decrease, it is necessary to accommodate an ever-expanding prison population.

But that's both a simplistic and ultimately self-defeating criminal- justice strategy. Corrections has become a $2-billion-a-year enterprise in Florida. And the fact that the state Department of Corrections wants to increase its bed capacity to 91,165 this year, at an additional cost of $125 million, is a terrible indictment of Florida's failure to combat crime by investing in better early child care and youth services, education, family intervention, drug treatment, counseling and job training.

The DOC is asking the Legislature to increase bed capacity at prisons in Columbia, Marion, Taylor, Wakulla and Union counties this year. And it wants to build a brand-new prison in Suwannee, one that will eventually cost $82.9 million and house more than 2,000 prisoners.

The Suwannee facility, when completed, will provide 305 jobs and a payroll of nearly $14 million a year to that rural county. And perhaps that's yet another reason for the unchecked growth of Florida's correctional empire - it has become as much an economic development tool as a crime suppressant.

It is not for nothing that U.S. 90, as it winds its way through rural North Florida, is called the "Avenue of Incarceration."

A prison system that is within spitting distance of reaching 100,000 beds is a gigantic monument to Florida's failures. Recidivism rates in Florida's prisons are approaching 50 percent. Because the emphasis is on incarceration, rehabilitation is given short shrift. Of the nearly $50 a day spent housing an inmate, only about $1 is spent on education.

Warehousing human beings is not a long-term solution to fighting crime. Strategies and programs that address the root causes of crime are ultimately more cost-efficient and more humane public policies. Instead of continually expanding the prison system, state lawmakers should be exploring ways to shrink it.

As for the proposed correctional facility for Suwannee County, there is additional reason for concern. The state has settled on a location with wetlands that drain into Crab Creek and discharge into Little River Spring.

"The site was chosen, after others were rejected, because there were few neighbors to complain and the land was cheap," notes Eric Lindskold in the latest newsletter of Save our Suwannee Inc. "The reason the land was cheap and unpopulated was because it was wetlands."

Investing billions of dollars a year to warehouse human beings while skimping on rehabilitation and programs that can truly address the root causes of crime is terrible public policy. More and more, Florida prisons are becoming large-scale AIDS wards, holding pens for the mentally ill and enforced retirement homes for elderly inmates who can never be released because of inflexible "three strikes" sentencing laws.

It does our society no credit that America's incarceration rates outpace those of nearly every other industrialized nation in the world. And the need for jobs in rural counties notwithstanding, prisons are not the answer to economic development.

If the Suwannee prison is built, just four of Florida's 67 counties will lack state correctional facilities. Is that really a winning strategy to fight crime?

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