Sunday, February 18, 2007

COPS: America's #1 employment agency goes headhunting

My young friend Nathan just got out of juvie after having just turned 18. "So. Nathan. What are you going to do next? Go to community college? Get a job? What have you got in mind for the rest of your life?"

Well, it appears that Nathan had already been making long-term plans and already had his eye on a full time job -- and not just any mere stop-gap employment gig either. What Nathan had in mind was a whole big CAREER. It seems that during all of those childhood years he had spent in brat camps, so-called behavior modification programs, group homes and juvenile halls, Nathan had been developing a finely-tuned set of skills and now he was ready to begin a life-long career that would not only allow him to put those skills to use but to be provided with life-time job security too!

"Last week," Nathan boasted, "I was gang-banging with my homies and the Albany cops busted us and sent us to jail." Oh, Nathan. Oh no.

"You shoulda seen me out at Rita." Santa Rita is the local county jail. "I was so cooool. Some dude come up to me and asked me was I gonna be in his gang." Apparently the name of his gang was the Woods. "I told him no, no way! Then he gets all up in my face and I get all up in his face and...." Oh great.

Apparently, a Wood is prison slang for a peckerwood. Did I really need to know that?

"At Rita, the black guys hang out with the black guys and the white guys hang out with the white guys. And this guy wasn't sure what I was because I looked white but talked black." Nathan, the new Eminem. "I ain't like that, but at Rita you don't get no choice. So once I understood the situation, I was all good."

Yes indeed. After spending the last five or six years of his childhood learning how to fit into the "institutional lifestyle" without getting jumped too often, Nathan definitely had skills. Our Nathan had found his calling all right. He was ready. He was trained. He was a specialist. And he had discovered the exact place where he could put all his well-honed job skills to work -- the California Department of Correctional Facilities. In a flash, I saw the hand-writing on the wall. Nathan was going to be spending the rest of his life in jail.


"Then," Nathan continued, "they dropped all the charges and I got out." But not for long. Three days later, Nathan was back in jail. And will probably be there for the rest of his life. I guess that he just can't resist the PERKS!

America has the highest jail population in the world. Something like one in every 32 American adults is now in jail, on probation or on parole. That's seven million people on the prison employment fast track!

So. The next time you watch COPS on television, don't just see all those police patrol officers as cops out arresting bad guys. Think of them as employment agency headhunters -- using the latest recruitment techniques!

PS: It is a sad commentary on the economic viability of America today that, for all too many of us, the top job you can get -- with the best health plan, the best housing perks, the best working conditions and the best job security -- is as an inmate in jail. It's not as dangerous as meat-packing, not as tedious as stoop labor in the fields and definitely more secure than being homeless and unemployed.