But it's been a busy week for this ol' weatherman, for myriad reasons, and blog inspirations have not been pouring out of my mental pot as they usually do. And in mulling over candidates for today's showcasing, nothing struck me as a clear-cut winner. But I am passing on what is more of a news story that just came out Thursday from the Pew Center on the States...and I'm not sure what to think about all of the implications just yet.
Before I get to the story, it's wise to remember a little something...I've said it before, and I'll say it again - one of my favorite quotes from Mark Twain, that is full of more truth than you might realize:
"There are three types of lies in this world: lies, $%#* lies, and statistics."
And so the international headline tells the incredible story: 1 in every 100 Americans is incarcerated in some manner, be it jail, prison, etc.
That's sobering. We assume that number to be credible...data gathered on a state-by-state basis at the start of 2008 tallied well over 2.3 million people whose main fashion style now involves stripes or hunter orange jumpsuits. Not only sobering, it's mind-boggling.
You can talk truthfully about all the wonderful things about this country, it's freedoms, and it's standard of living, opportunities, etc...but you can talk just as truthfully about all the things that are increasingly out of whack, which includes our penal systems. But it's not just the penal system, of course...you've got a societal decay that breeds more criminals as more parents fail to be parents, an education system that is pointing the hound dog in the wrong direction, and a government that seems to only cut back funding year after year after year for useful and important social programs, especially those focused on children...dare I open that Pandora's Box for further exploration, government funding and spending.
Do you take from this that we are a nation of thugs? That would certainly be an inaccurate assessment. In that number of inmates are plenty in for very minor violations that could be argued not jail-worthy. One factoid presented by the Governor of Kentucky, Steve Beshear, was that KY inmate populations rose by 12% last year, the highest rate in the country. In the past 30 years, the KY crime rate has risen but 3%, while the inmate population has risen 600%.
As local prison systems struggle with underfunding, they have to make tough decisions on how to cut costs and inmate populations (I didn't even broach the severe over-crowding problem that has resulted in most jails). Invariably some arrestees are released back to the streets that shouldn't be.
All I know is you don't successfully fight a fire by putting water on the flame shafts...you have to douse the base where the flames emanate if you want to corral the conflagration. So I'm still letting my thoughts sink in on this one...it's a multi-headed snake, for sure. I can't help but feel the ultimate solution, though, lies far outside the confines of those concrete walls surrounded in razor-wire.