By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
The Prison President
Free Willy Indeed
It's not fair to attack Clinton as a do-nothing president. Along with the right-wing Republicans in Congress, he has enthusiastically presided over such an invigorated prison-construction program that jailsnot educationhave become the major growth industry under his tenure.
For instance, in New York over the last decade, spending on prisons has increased by nearly the same amount that spending on higher education has decreased. A joint study by the Justice Policy Institute and the Correctional Association shows that since 1988, spending for city and state universities has fallen by $615 million, while funding for the state department of corrections has risen by $761 million. And New York reflects a national trend: states budgeted 30 per cent more for prisons and 18 percent less for higher education in 1995 than they did in 1987.
Keep in mind that most of those ware housed in this growing industry are low-level, petty, or first-time of fenders. Mandatory sentencing laws generally don't put hardened criminals away. The Boston Globe, citing department of corrections figures, found that eight of 10 prisoners in Massachusetts are first offenders serving an average of five yearsnearly one year longer than the average sentence for violent crime.
"I have never had a really top dealer before me," said Superior Court Judge Robert Barton, who has been on the bench for 20 years. "In variably they are street dealers or mules... Most do more time than those who commit crimes of violence against another person."
Another effect of expanded prison construction is that it cuts the number of people who vote. Nearly four million U.S. citizens with felony convictions are denied the vote in 46 states and the District of Columbia, including over one million who have completed their sentences, according to the Sentencing Project. Thirty-two states do not allow felons on parole to vote. Twenty-nine bar the vote for those on probation.
The level of prison-related disenfranchisement in the U.S. (reminiscent of medieval times, when offenders were banished from the community) is unprecedented among democratic countries. Some 1.4 million African American men13 percent of the adult African American populationare not eligible to vote. Put another way, more than one third of the people who cannot vote in the U.S. are black men.
Disease Raging, Says Establishment Nemesis
Despite the trumpeted "War Against Cancer," Dr. Samuel Epstein, the public-health expert and nemesis of the cancer establishment, reports in his updated book, The Politics of Cancer Revisited, that the disease is increasing, not declining.
Epstein writes that "From 1950 to 1994, based on the latest published... data, the overall percentage [of cancer] in whites increased by 54 percent [or] approximately 1 percent per annum, while overall rates increased more sharply, by 23 percent, from 1973 to 1994. These increases are real, and persist after adjusting for a slowly aging population and for smoking. Nevertheless, NCI persists in its claims that cancer is a declining public health threat."
Epstein quotes former National Cancer Institute epidemiologist Dr. John Bailar's testimony in 1997 before a Senate Labor subcommittee. "I'm convinced that a major emphasis in cancer research should be shifted from cancer treatment to cancer prevention," Bailar said. "The war against cancer could be judged as a qualified failure."
The new edition of Epstein's book includes an account of the work of Dr. Ulrich Abel, an epidemiologist at the University of Heidelberg who found, in Epstein's words, that "for most patients chemotherapy is, at best, nothing more than a placebo."
Duck and Cover
Far from being over, the nuclear arms race is entering a virulent new phase. And nowhere more so than in the U.S., where the Clinton administration wants to turn nuclear production over to the free market.
To that end, Bill Richardson, Clinton's erstwhile international negotiator, now secretary of energy, has been working behind the scenes promoting production of tritium for new nuclear warheads not at military installations, but in commercial nuclear reactors owned by the Tennessee Val ley Authority.
In response to Richardson's overtures, congressmen Edward Markey of Massachusetts and John Spratt of South Carolina wrote to him last month, stating: "Production of weapons material in any commercial reactor establishes an unacceptable position for the United States in its efforts to stem nuclear proliferation."
In September, the House voted against allowing tritium production in commercial reactors.