A New State Prison on 39th Avenue was DOA
July 5, 2008
The thought of a second state prison in northeast Gainesville on 39th Avenue terrifies local elected officials. Not because it is out of harmony with the local growth management plan but because it highlights a dysfunctional education system as well as a community addiction to illegal drugs.
These are issues that elected officials, members of the criminal justice community and prison industrial complex are not prepared to handle in public. The starting point of both issues comes from a simple profile of the inmate population.
Over sixty percent of all felony convictions involve illegal drugs or drug incited crimes. For the last three years, drug crimes were the largest category of prison admissions in Florida. Yes, that means we send more men, women and children to prison for drug crimes than for violent felonies.
Young men and women under the age of 25 years represent 28 percent of prison admissions. In Florida, the average education level of the inmate population is the sixth grade. The uneducated youth of Florida leave prison to join the national fabric of recidivism which is 68 percent.
The number of men, women and children sent to prison in Alachua County has more than doubled in the last decade. It went from 304 in 1996 to 751 in 2006. End the end, we are talking of over 1,500 men, women and children serving time in state prisons. This will fill the second prison yet to be built on 39th Ave.
Not only did the raw numbers more than double but the percentage of state wide commitments to prison grew from 1.3 percent to 2 percent in the same period.
This is truly a clean growth industry that will be able to fill a second prison on 49th Ave. with Alachua residents prior to construction being finished. .
Alachua should be able to fill a third state prison in short order, given the continued grow of both the number and percentage of inmates sent to the state prison system, By the way, there is a third state prison scheduled for construction in Alachua County.
This equates to an annual incarceration rate of over 1,000 per 100,000 Alachua County residents.
This is a rate higher than the state of Florida as a whole which is higher than the national average. All three are higher than any other country on God’s green earth. Makes one wonder how Canada is able to survive as a democracy with an incarceration rate of 110 per 100,000 populations.
You would think the streets and homes of Florida would be safe with so many men, women and children in prison. The truth is that for the last twenty or so years Florida has had one of the highest violent felony rates in the nation.
The men, women and children going to prison are the uneducated foot soldiers of the drug trade. They are the necessary but expendable middle men and women that link the educated and professionals from the county’s clean economic engines to the drug cartels of the world.
When these foot soldiers become dysfunctional or overly successful; they are arrested and sent to prison. On the way, they are harvested of their profits, first by the criminal justice community that processes them, then by the bail bondsmen that get them temporary freedom and finally by the trail lawyers who defend them.
These are facts known to every elected official from the City of Gainesville to the Governor of Florida. However, it is a system that produces the necessary political gold of votes, endorsements, and campaign contributions from the criminal justice community.
The questions we are avoiding is why are we not doing something about the dysfunctional education system and illegal drug use that generate so many prison admissions and ruins the lives of so many of our youth.
A second and third prison on 39th Avenue would be too big a white elephant for our elected officials and the community to ignore.