When I was in jail, almost everyone checking in with my group was there for drug possession. The black girls mostly for weed, the white girls exclusively for speed, and the Latin girls a combination of both. I only saw one Asian girl the whole time I was there, and she had been held over the weekend for a DUI. I found it really interesting in a group of almost 50 people, only myself (there for my second DUI), that Asian woman, and one other woman (there for a combo of possession of crack cocaine and soliciting) were being punished for anything besides simple possession and/or intent to sell. It’s very easy to have enough to “distribute”, by the way. Be very careful if you roll around with your stash on you.
I noted all the stories going on around me-most of the women I checked in with had been to jail before (both “jail” meaning an extending period of time in a holding cell) and “prison” meaning serving a sentence), myself included. I think there is something very real that happens psychologically when you become a criminal in the eyes of the law, and the way the justice system works there is very little rehabilitation going on to help people get up and out of a life of crime. Is it the State’s responsibility to help people better themselves? Yes and no. No in the sense that each individual’s life is their own to make or break, but yes in the sense that a society is only as healthy as its “weakest” member. If you continuously make laws that some people (re: the very rich or corporations) can break with impunity while other, ridiculous laws are enforced to the maximum extent the law allows for (marijuana possession, prostitution), you create an extremely unbalanced society where the poor get poorer and the stupid get stupider. For some people, prison is the only place they have access to a library.
Having a permanent record isn’t something we should eradicate, per se; violent and repeat offenders mustn’t be allowed to simply run amok the way bankers and CEOs do. Although it’s difficult for me to see the difference between a world overrun by rapists and murderers when we’re quite literally there already. It’s just that our rapists and murderers wear better clothes and call it “expansion” and “acquisition”.