Cost of Prisoners – we’re paying for it!

1 Billion Dollars vs. 250 Million Dollars
Prisons vs. Students
More Prisons vs. Better Education

Each prisoner costs about 43,000 dollars per year, yet each school district is getting less than 10,000 dollars per student per year.

In a single word, WOW! The lawmakers are spending 4 times as much money to house a single prisoner, rather than developing the education of our youth. In addition, they would have the public believe that those funds include some real rehabilitation. The prisoners that need the most rehabilitation, attention and counseling, such as pedophiles, drug addicts/dealers and robbers, get absolutely none. Where are the classes? Where are the mandatory groups? We are missing a grand opportunity to effect change in these prisoners before they are released back onto the streets.

Let me open your ears to one of many viable solutions. I urge you not to simply trust what the politicians want you to hear, but open your minds to the real truth. Round and round they have gone about “fixing” the Three Strikes Law. The pros and cons seem unlimited, but the truth of the matter is no other state in the U.S.A. misuses the Three Strikes Law the way California does. Our politicians can’t seem to step up to the plate and reconstruct this law to its proper form, most for fear of the backlash from the very public they are supposed to be representing. Why you may ask, should any one lawmaker or the general public take a look into this? How about the fact that 1 billion dollars could be better spent elsewhere say … educating our children.

Let me shed some light on this entire issue. The District Attorney, himself a representative of the people, has publicly stated that this law is outrageous and needs to be reformed. He is backed on this by practically every newspaper in the state. They all agree that the one real viable way to reduce prison size, not jeopardize public safety and save money for much more needy issues – is to modify the Three Strikes Law.

Now lets talk about that modification. It would only affect those prisoners whose third strike is non-violent an/or non-serious. For example, a man goes into a store and steals a pack of cigarettes. Should he be arrested? Yes. Should he do the appropriate time for that crime? Yes. Should he get 25 to life because its his third strike?

The wasted jail space and the cost of housing him for the next 25 years is a minimum of 1 million dollars. Now, lets multiply that by some 20,000 plus individuals and we’re looking at a tab of roughly 20 billion dollars. Wake up People!

Need more facts? Let me site some statistics for you that the viewing public should know. It costs at least $43,000 per year to house an inmate. It costs $50,000 – $65,000 to house a prisoner 55 and over. It costs $113,000 to build each new prison bed. It is also a fact that crime has not decreased since the law was implemented in 1994, in fact, crime has increased by 17.7%. so who is committing these crimes? Not the guy doing 25 to life stealing a slice of pizza or the guy doing 50 to life for a fake ID.

This law was designed to put hardened criminals away, it was designed to put away individuals who commit repetitive crimes like rape, home invasions and attempted murder. To repeat a violent crime means that that individual has no intention of changing. But those are not the prisoners who have been sentenced grossly disproportionate to their crimes!

Rather than correct the problem every time the public is exposed to the truth, the politicians dangle one or two extreme cases in front of the public. They find the most heinous criminal and say: “See, this is why the law is good!” But what they don’t say is there is already very sufficient laws to deal with that individual. Here is a law that has gouged California to the tune of 1 billion dollars plus per year. This is money that could be better spent on educating our kids and preparing them for the future. Right now there are several cities on the verge of bankruptcy – how is this possible? It is more than just the recession, it is also mismanagement and we need to start holding these elected representative responsible, if we ever want to affect change.

Here is a brief introduction into my personal life and situation. My name is Patrick Pitts and I am currently serving a 25 to life sentence for a non violent/non-serious third strike. To be precise my controlling offense is 470(b), which is possession of a forged drivers license, a felony that normally carries about 8 months – that is a huge difference! I think that rather than lump 20,000 plus cases together, the best way to attack this huge problem ay be on a case by case basis.

What I am hoping of is that I can educate the public on what is really happening beyond these bars and prison walls. You see even though I made a mistake, I will assert proof by my actions that my life has value, it has worth beyond that which one can see. What I have to offer to our youth, to our addicts, to our broken families, to our communities and to those individuals around me who want to be something other than a criminal is tremendous.

It takes someone with experience both negative and positive. I’ve been in the belly of the whale and I’ve seen what goes on in the lions den. It often takes someone like me who is not afraid to speak truths to the public, someone like me who is not afraid to share my own personal experiences with our youth and teach them how to avoid the pitfalls filled with pain, misery, prison and possibly death. It takes someone like me to educate the public about the truths of the California Department of Corrections and so called rehabilitation or lack there of.
Hurt People – Hurt People

Which leads me to my next topic, listen to this phrase: “Hurt People – Hurt People!” It would take more space than I have to breakdown what that means to me, but the truth is the list of people who have been hurt mentally and physically is monumental. From the people who have grown up on neighborhoods where everyday “hurts”, to the people who have had that one unfortunate moment or event in life, these are hurt people and those people lash out in a thousand different ways to hurt other people. Maybe its because that is all they know or see daily, maybe its because they want someone else to understand what its like to walk in their shoes. The only way to break that cycle is to recognize those hurt people and find ways to heal them. The phrase then changes to “Hurt People – Heal People”.

I mentioned this topic because I was one of those hurt people. I come from a long line of “hurt”, from the neighborhood I grew up in (Compton), to a one-parent broken down home. Gang members were considered role models and drugs and alcohol were a strong vice, a temporary escape. A place where survival of the fittest is an understatement. Some very hurt people directly and indirectly taught me how to hurt people – and the cycle continued. Fortunately for me, there has been many interventions between then and now and it is my turn to heal some very “hurt people”.

Its time for some of you, the public, to voice your opinion, to weigh in on what you believe is right or wrong, to stand up and make a difference. it does not matter how big or small, just get involved. Imagine if you helped just one person, who in turns helps another person, who also helps someone. Do you realize you have in effect helped 1,000s of people by reaching out to that one person?

Before I end this piece let me say that I speak to you here and now as a genuine person. I’ve hurt and I’ve been hurt, but there is no feeling greater than that of helping someone to heal. I know because my life is dedicated to doing just that, with every person I help to heal comes a greater sense of self worth. There was a time that I dreamed small or felt I was too small to dream. now, I dream twice as big and help fulfill twice as many dreams. Though I am incarcerated, I will not allow that to stop me, whether it is an uplifting spirit, a poem, a small gift or a few words of kindness and wisdom I will continue to help heal those hurt people – wherever I may find them.

Patrick Pitts
P.O. Box 409060
Ione, CA 95640

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