The fifth of seven UU principles is the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregation and society at large. This week Amber Evans came to our congregation to speak about Issue 1 on the Ohio ballot.
This issue is not a hard sell for people who believe in compassion. The initiative's biggest opponent is the for-profit prison industry. It does not take a lot of in-depth thinking to figure out that the for-profit prison industry is never going to be on the side of compassion in an argument such as this one. The prison industry gives contributions to the county prosecutors, and the prosecutors are the ones on record as opposing the ballot initiative, not the for-profit prison industry.
This would be a good time to point out why a for-profit prison is never a good idea. When states run the prison, the bills to run the prison are paid by the state and that is that. When politicians create a for-profit prison, the prison owners get paid more than what it takes to run the prison and then divide up the extra money: some for themselves, and some for the politician who keeps the money rolling in to keep the for-profit prison system in place. That extra money that the prisons get and share back from the prison to the politician comes ultimately from the taxpayers.
Meanwhile, the advertising about this ballot initiative boils down to this: Everyone agrees that sellers of illegal drugs can stay in prison, the issue is only about those who end up in prison because they used illegal drugs. If you believe that communities are torn apart when part of the family is torn out and sent to prison and it hurts the families, the community, and the employers who need workers, then you are probably in favor of this issue. If you believe that sending drug users back into the community will just reward drug sellers with more customers, then you are probably not in favor of this issue.
The issue is set up to take the money saved from the prison system and use it to help drug users get off of drugs. That is clearly not in the interests of the for-profit prison industry. It probably is the best thing for the community however.
Compassion is what heals communities, under issue one, you can vote compassionately.