148. Life Isn’t Fair~Especially for the Homeless.

                                                  not fair
One of the most frustrating lessons we learn in life is that many things in this life just aren’t  fair.  In the current US economy there are daily reminders of unfairness that have a major impact on the everyday lives  of most Americans~ skyrocketing fuel prices while oil executives have unprecedented salaries, a government that asks our military personnel to endure great personal sacrifices yet fails to fully support  our veterans effectively once they return stateside and a current climate that often welcomes illegal immigrants into our government system giving them financial benefits that we fail to offer all American citizens including those who find themselves homeless.  These are but a few of the examples of the unfairness that life in our society hands out.

But there is one area of our government whose core mission is to assure fairness: The United States  Justice System. The Justice system works at the federal,state and local level to assure  that all citizens abide  by the laws of our nation  and to provide a means for fairly dealing with those who break our laws. Each and every American citizen is assured a fair & just trial in this country~its guranteed in writing. For lesser infractions such as traffic violations and city ordinances, punishments range from fees to time in jail.  Here’s the latest published data of our population of inmates for all jails in the US.

2,258,983 prisoners were held in Federal or State prisons or in local jails – an increase of 2.9% from yearend 2005, less than the average annual growth of 3.4% since yearend 1995.(Source:Us Justice Department)

The average daily cost of housing inmates in our jails is about $100/day.($700/week,$2800/month,$33,600/year.)

I’ve been shocked at the way our various Justice systems are handling the homeless of our country. Here we have an organization whose core mission is to assure fairness & justice for all ,yet  place our homeless citizens into the same category as violent criminals,sex abusers and drug trafficers? Many of the homeless of our country are jailed or have fees collected just because they don’t have a place to call home or ask others for some charity.  Since when is sleeping on the street or panhandling of the same threat to society as kidnapping children or murder? Most of our homeless are arrested for minor,nonviolent infractions. When did the justice system support our communtities to allow an additional burden of inmates whose only crime is not having a home?

I’m sure some who read this will immediately think of the perils of the homeless “bum” who  drinks in public or has a drug problem as defense for saving the public from this unsavory type by throwing them in jail. Granted, like in the nonhomeless population, there are “bad seeds” but the majority of our homeless population pose no threat to the public . ( In fact, people who are homeless are at a higher risk for being victims of violent crimes than the average nonhomeless citizen.) The way to fairly deal with our homeless is to  simply stop putting them in our already overcrowded jails or handing out fines and come up with effective solutions for communities to support this special population. As  a tax payer I would rather the justice system take that $33,600 spent on the cost of one inmate and spend this on programs that support getting homeless citizens off the street via community shelter & food programs , job services, and  revamped mental health services. Afterall, even some real violent criminals are given a second chance in society and yet we cannot allow an equitable dose of humaness for those who simply need a helping hand to get off the streets? (Estimated cost of providing food ,shelter and supportive services for an individual outside the inmate setting is about $35 /day,$245/week,$980/month,$11,760/year)

Our jails are not the place to address our shortcomings for much needed social programs by jailing the homeless, not to mention it is financially irresponsible..this simply isn’t fair to the homeless or to the taxpayers who pay for these services. Homelessness is not a crime.





2 Responses to “148. Life Isn’t Fair~Especially for the Homeless.”

  1. May 22, 2008 at 1:24 pm

    The last line says it all:

    “Homelessness is not a crime.”

    Unfortunately, elected officials throughout the nation have addresses homelessness by adopting and enacting laws and ordinances which penalize the homeless for being homeless (i.e. – sleeping in public, panhandling, loitering) – and in the very act of do so have created a “pseudo-class of criminals” where none had existed prior.

    Shame on us as a society for allowing and condoning this behavior on the part of our elected officials. More than that however, shame on us as a society for pressuring our elected officials into creating these laws and ordinaces with out complaints.

  2. May 22, 2008 at 2:13 pm

    And shame on us for viewing homeless in other countries with humanitarian efforts but not providing the same for our very own citizens….hypocritical?

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