Sunday, July 13, 2008

Prisoners of War

The debate over staying in Iraq continues in the middle of a tumultuous election year. Even though there seems to be at least two sides to the debate over the war - stay or go - there is a lot of commonality. No one wants to see American soldiers die; no one wants to give terrorism any advantage; everyone is concerned about the economy with loss of jobs and homes and increased pricing on everything. Beyond those points, we can agree to disagree.

Facts and figures are floating around as American soldiers continue to face numerous hardships. Among their strifes are multiple tours of duty. Not only are troops spending long periods of time in Iraq, they come back to the United States for a short time only to return again - not just once, but two and three times! As one seasoned veteran noted, "We don't even have a draft - these soldiers are enlisting voluntarily and are being treated like this!" Enlisted personnel are returning stateside with post-traumatic stress syndrome and bodily injuries. With advancements in medical treatments, wounds that used to cause death can now be healed but with greater ongoing needs for the patient.

U.S. Government leaders are pouring lives and money into a seemingly bottomless pit while Americans watch with disbelief and inaction. Perhaps alternatives need to be considered - alternatives that could save funds and valuable lives. Instead of recruiters telling blatant lies to entice new recruits, prison sentences should incorporate clear statements warning offenders that instead of jail time, they will have war time.

Audible wails can be heard from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Amnesty International, anti-violence groups, death row opponents, and other prisoner advocates. Still there are a number of logical arguments for the move to use prisoners as troops:

No more idol threats and long appeals. A guilty verdict that commands a sentence of more than six weeks is an automatic sentence to boot camp. Military camps are guarded, supervised, provide food and shelter, exercise, organization and routine. All of these elements would provide discipline and continuity to a population that is recognized as unruly.

Budget savings for Department of Defense and Department of Corrections. Less prisoners incarcerated in jails will lessen the budget for food, shelter, medical needs, as well as address over-crowding. The DOD will gain recruits but will not have to pay salaries. As long as prisoners' basic needs are being met with food, shelter and clothing, they should not receive a salary like their volunteer counterparts.

Reduction of crime. Knowing that crimes are punishable by active military duty will cause many to think twice before committing violence. "Boyz 'n da hood" may fight war on the streets but the potential of facing war in Iraq may lead them to find peace in the middle east-side.

Built-in Rehabilitation. On-the-job training is more economical and would give prisoners actual experience rather than skills learned behind bars. Society's outcasts would also gain fitness training and better potential for drug and alcohol recovery. Prisoner advocates declare that many criminals are misguided, feel useless, powerless, and are acting out their anger. Putting them in the military will give them the tools needed to create purpose in their lives.

Currently, felons can not enter the military. Law states they can not carry or own guns. If these laws were changed, prisoners could be armed and sent to attack the enemy instead of released to the streets to harm innocent citizens. Redirect their anger and their skills through rehabilitation and let them protect America instead of violate her.

Many would argue against such a preposterous proposal:
What would keep these prisoners from harming innocent recruits? Prisoners would be delegated to specific units. Based on good behavior, they could be integrated into standard units and even apply for specific areas of service. Imagine these prisoners actually learning and gaining self-esteem to the point they want to serve!

What if they were wrongly accused of their crime? Appeals would be possible but the months and years between court dates and hearing could be filled with serving their country.

How can we justify risking the lives of prisoners? If America can justify over-crowded prisons, violence behind bars, lethargy, lack of exercise and perpetrating negative energy for the incarcerated, justification of turning them into productive soldiers will be a breeze.

What about veteran's benefits? Serving sentencing in active duty would only gain the prisoner life skills learned on the job and perhaps a stipend to start anew upon release. If they choose to re-enlist, then prior time served could be added to future years of duty for accumulation of regular VA benefits.

Using prisoners can save American tax dollars on the home front and abroad while providing rehabilitation to society's outcasts. As the war continues and volunteers become scarcer, the potential for drafting young men and women increases. The process of herding troops baaaaack into action is abominable. Americans can no longer stand sheepishly aside while assuming the government will solve the criminal and military problems that abound. Alleviate the burden of the few and proud and distribute the dirty work to the under-utilized.

1 comment:

  1. Like your writing Iris. It's "clean," easy to read, informative, with just the right amount of humor. Look forward to others.

    Reggie from Converge South