We walk the floor. He stops. We stop. “You know what is stupid?” he says. “I see murderers. I see rapists. I see robbers. And then I see, the vast majority is in here for bein’ stupid enough to smoke a joint too close to a school. Twenty-five years, federal mandatory. Then you got somebody that slaughtered a whole f**king family gets 25 to life and he’s out in six to eight.” (About one-fifth of Winn inmates are in for drug-related crimes. Getting busted with a joint near a school will typically land you about six years, not 25.) Edison’s indignation about drug criminalization surprises me. “Now, where’s the f**king justice in that? And we’re paying how much per inmate per day?”

This is from Shane Bauer, “My four months as a private prison guard,” Mother Jones, July/August 2016.

I read the whole piece and it’s long. I recommend it. It’s riveting, for way more reasons than the excerpt I cite above. Once you read it, then, if you’re a fan of private for-profit prisons, I predict that you will be less of one. It would be interesting to see someone do the same for a government-run prison. Whatever bottom line you come to about private vs. government, one partial solution is to have fewer peaceful people go to prison. That’s why the quote above is relevant. We often hear that almost no one goes to prison simply for using marijuana. Edison, quoted above, may have exaggerated with that number as he did with the length of the prison sentence, but it does appear that some people who smoke joints near schools do go to prison.