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Two birds with one stone

Alright, on the way in to work today I was listening to NPR and Forum was doing a program on the prison system, and on child offenders, or some such story, and I got this brilliant idea, which I am almost ashamed of, but in a certain way, it makes sense.
There are two simultaneous problems that are plaguing the United States that could possible help solve each other, with a little bit of creative thinking. One of the major problems that we face as a society today is a disproportionate amount of people in our prison system. We have to feed, clothe, and house these people at a sum of over $60k a year per person. Not only that, but these individuals are held in conditions that are almost assuredly guaranteed not to rehabilitiate them. Many of these offenders are first-time offenders, or repeat offenders of non-violent or victimless crimes (such as possession of controlled substances). Many of these criminals are young, in their late teens, early to mid twenties, and look forward to a lifetime of repeated incarceration and deeper and deeper institutionalization and training in violent and criminal behaviors. Let’s face it, our prison system sucks, and it’s bleeding us dry.
The second problem that is facing our nation in this time of war is a lack of volunteers in our army. We are in a state where we have been forced to call in our national guard, a force which is traditionally used to defend our own personal borders, to refit them as regular troops and ship them off to Iraq. Those who are serving, are serving terms in excess of six months, many over a year, with no real sign that this is about to change. This is what many are calling the ‘backdoor draft’, and let me tell you, with four more years of Bush in office, it’s not going to end any time soon. If anything, we can look forward to a real possibility of a draft of our youth in the next year or two, if conditions continue as they are today.
Now, I know many can already see where I’m going with this, and before you brand me a looney, just hear me out. Why don’t we take those who are sentenced to prison, an environment that is almost assured to further ruin the lives of those who have made transgressions against the law, and enlist them as regulars in our armed forces. There are several merits to this idea, namely cost reduction to our national debt, increase of the morale of our current troops, increase of the future prospects of the offenders, and a general increase of the national welfare.
First, the amount that it takes to recruit an armed force plus train them, and pay them for their service to our country is way cheaper than what it takes to keep someone in prison, and even if it worked out to be equivalent, you’re not having to pay this amount twice if you take a person out of the prison system and put them into the armed forces. Plus, the average prisoner contributes absolutely nothing to the general welfare or economy (save those few individuals making license plates or really uncomfortable school desks), but an enlisted troop in the armed forces provides a tremendous value to the safety and security of our citizens at home and abroad, not to mention the amount of oil they can secure for use towards the American way.
Second, the armed forces are famous for taking individuals from many different walks of life, stripping them of their individuality, and rebuilding them as a member of a unit, completely loyal and devoted, subservient to commands of superiors, generally well-respected cogs in our great society. When someone enters the prison system, they are release into the world generally in a worse condition than when they enter. When someone enters the military, they are release into the world in a generally more subservient and useful member of society, with a sense of loyalty to the common weal, and skills learned on the job that they can employ in the work force. We would be bettering society, protecting our borders, increasing our oil flow into our country, and all at a cheaper cost than it takes to send folks to prison now.
Now, I know this idea has some kinks, but I’m sure they can be worked out. You wouldn’t want to send your most violent of offenders into the ranks (unless they’re grunts on the front lines), and you wouldn’t want entire platoons of soldiers from the prison system. You would embed those serving time ‘for their country’ into already existing groups of volunteers. But seriously, you could reduce the prison population by half, and give those people a sense of self-respect and a real future. You would be, in effect, saving their lives. Not to mention, some are likely to die in combat, so its even cheaper than calculated costs. They would die heroes, instead of living like animals. Go ahead, find flaws in my argument, but you all know deep down inside that this is a good idea. The problem is, it would never fly with the public. People have all sorts of confused ideas about what is right and wrong, and there are those on the right that would say the criminals don’t deserve to get off so easily. There are those on the left that would say the criminals shouldn’t be forced into the military. Fine, make it voluntary. And if they act up or out, their prison sentence is doubled. It’s just the details now, people. This is a really good idea. Or perhaps I’ve just had too much coffee today and I’m trying to dodge work.
…by the way, you all know I’m full of sh1t, right?

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