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Crossposted also on my personal blog, which according to Stephen Hawking often interacts with black holes.

Part I: A Rise to Mass Incarceration

The United States may imprison a record number of its own citizens compared to the rest of the world, both in terms of total number and per capita (p. 4) [PDF], however this wasn't always the case. The US once had a very steady rate of imprisonment, that has radically changed in the late 20th and early 21st century- replaced by year after year of continued growth in inmate populations across the nation. This well-known graph will tell the story:

(image courtesy of "United States incarceration rate," Wikipedia. Statistics from Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS))

The spike begins roughly around the late 1970s, and continues upward unabated. Two things evolve in tandem during this period- the "War on Drugs" declared earlier in the decade by President Richard Nixon, and later as the use of incarceration begins to increase, the beginning of the for-profit prison industry, led by groups such as the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). As The Sentencing Project [PDF] explains-

The 1980s, though, ushered in a new era of prison privatization. With a burgeoning prison population resulting from the “war on drugs” and increased use of incarceration, prison overcrowding and rising costs became increasingly problematic for local, state, and federal governments.  In response to this expanding criminal justice system, private business interests saw an opportunity for expansion, and consequently, private-sector involvement in prisons moved from the simple contracting of services to contracting for the complete management and operation of entire prison.

The entrance of private corporations to the prison business has led to the development of a prison lobby, a system of money for access and contracts, and an expansion of the role of groups like the CCA into things such as detaining immigrants. For better information, please read diaries but such Kos illumnaries as Bob Sloan and specific diaries like this one.

What I'm here to discuss more in-depth is an academic paper published recently that challenges the fundamental idea of mass imprisonment- that sending anybody but high-risk, extremely violent criminals to prison yields benefits in terms of recidivism and serving as a useful deterrent.

Part II: The Failure of Prison

In the September 2011 edition of The Prison Journal, and published online in July, the article "Prisons Do Not Reduce Recidivism : The High Cost of Ignoring Science" takes what evidence there is to be had (though they do admit it is scant and admonishes others for making bold assumptions) and shows that the actual results of imprisonment are not useful to the community as a whole. In fact, compared to "non-custodial" options like probation, house arrest, monitoring, fines, and service, they actually have in some cases increased recidivism.

The authors- Francis Cullen, Cheryl Jonson, and Daniel Nagin- come out and state that:

"We recognize that sometimes offenders will be sentenced to prison because the sheer heinousness of their crimes leaves little choice. But the mass use of
imprisonment also has been widely justified on the grounds that locking up offenders is a uniquely effective strategy for protecting public safety. This assertion deserves to be scrutinized." (50S)

They cull together five major studies of data done over a long time period, and in their introduction they state that "having pulled together the best available evidence, we have been persuaded that prisons do not reduce recidivism more than noncustodial sanctions." (50S) They do in some cases talk about what criminologists call the 'crimogenic' nature of incarceration- that it hardens people and through a variety of ways increases their disposition towards perpetrating crimes in the future. I will address this a bit in the conclusion.

The authors state that sentences have reached a point where they have reached their maximum returns in terms of general deterrent- in other words, making them any longer will not serve much more of a purpose, no matter what "tough on crime" politicians will claim otherwise.

The recidivism problem rears its ugly head when compared head-to-head with probation, especially for more minor crimes. As one of studies analyzed showed "being sent to prison was associated with increased recidivism and that those incarcerated reoffended more quickly than those placed on probation. Furthermore, they discovered that the criminogenic effect of prison was especially high for drug offenders, who were 5 to 6 times more likely to recidivate than those placed on probation." (55-56S) A system of effective counseling and drug testing seems to trump over simply locking up these (mostly non-violent) drug offenders, who often have ready access to drugs in prison, as well as their exposure to violence and often vicious gang activity.

There is a foundational belief among politicians and corrections officials that mass imprisonment works, despite the fact that "nobody has had a firm idea of whether placing offenders behind bars makes [offenders] more or less likely to recidivate." (59S) There is such a limited amount of data that only limited conclusions can be drawn, but there is certainly very little to suggest that in most cases imprisonment is an effective deterrent- despite the fact that the United States has extremely harsh sentencing laws. Most data, to the contrary, seems to indicate that options besides prison yield equal to better results.

Mandatory minimums have drastically increased prison populations while stripping power from judges, who can use context to give non-custodial punishments that the offenses may merit. The increasing amount of offenses that merit imprisonment due the War on Drugs and the sentencing for drug offenses and gang crimes have kept prisons full and led to yearly growth in total prisoners, even as the crime rate slid downward in most areas during the 1990's. And the rise in federal imprisonment due to the detainment of non-citizens (p. 3-4) has both created a prison population that was not once present, and provided a boon to a private prison industry that has lost power with the states.

So that is the legacy of mass imprisonment. There are more people incarcerated year after year, though there is scant evidence to support it as a policy or as an effective deterrent.

Originally posted to Neutral Politics on Tue Sep 13, 2011 at 06:08 PM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Thanks for this--very important issue. Looks (12+ / 0-)

    like a good article--and I'm going to pass it on!

    In a dark time, the eye begins to see. Theodore Roethke

    by bibble on Tue Sep 13, 2011 at 06:30:51 PM PDT

    •  Thank you. (6+ / 0-)

      I have to admit I'm new to the prison reform literature, but I found this article well worth reading if you encounter people who think prison is effective on all people who commit offenses, and "locking them up" is sound public policy.

      "I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones." -Albert Einstein

      by Kazmarov on Tue Sep 13, 2011 at 06:42:13 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm assumed your id (6+ / 0-)

        is based on the Brothers Karamazov, and was a Dostoevsky reference - Crime and Punishment. Dostoevsky and Solzhenitsyn have strongly influenced my opinions about justice and incarceration. The human spirit will always triumph but Jesus God we could be doing a much better job.

        •  Yes, you're correct there. (5+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          erratic, farlefty, myrealname, deedogg, Kinak

          It was originally chosen by a much younger me as an attempt to impress more intellectual compatriots- thus the misspelling. I currently go by (this blog here and my personal one) AngolaThree, which is an explicit prison reference, to the political prisoners in Louisiana.

          "I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones." -Albert Einstein

          by Kazmarov on Tue Sep 13, 2011 at 07:46:17 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  aw, and not the flying karamazov brothers? ok.... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            I once had a rose named after me and I was very flattered. But I was not pleased to read the description in the catalog: "No good in a bed, but fine up against a wall." ~Eleanor Roosevelt

            by Ramdove on Tue Sep 13, 2011 at 10:51:08 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Good stuff (18+ / 0-)

    a couple of decades in a Public Defender's office and the laws have kept getting worse and worse.  Not surprisingly one of the great contributors to this has been the "citizen initiative" generally backed by DA offices and financed by the right wing its an issue that the pimp and use to gotv amongst the right wing.  Three-strikes being a prime example.  Pete Wilson rode that one to an election using poor Polly Klass murder as a vehicle to get elected.

    One of the insidious effects of 3-strikes is to give the DA a whip hand in negotiations.  You have a client with a decent defense (might even be innocent!!) and if he has strikes the DA offers to dismiss the strikes for a guilty plea with a stipulated sentence to prison for mid-or aggaravated term.  You go explain to your client the offer.  Take the plea, agree to 3 year sentence getting day for day credits or take a shot at trial and if you lose you go down for 25 years and must do 85% before being eligible for parole.  You may think that you'd stand up and go to trial, but most don't and given the vagaries of the system I don't blame them.  

    Its one of the worst laws ever.

    "I said, 'Wait a minute, Chester, you know I'm a peaceful man'" Robbie Robertson

    by NearlyNormal on Tue Sep 13, 2011 at 07:47:30 PM PDT

    •  As a California resident (13+ / 0-)

      even with the limited exposure sentencing and prisons get, the horror stories about three-strikes come thick and heavy every year. And that's mostly people unlike those you mention- there's a lot of intermediate stuff that fills up prisons, not only the ridiculous third strikes that pop up on the news.

      "I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones." -Albert Einstein

      by Kazmarov on Tue Sep 13, 2011 at 07:52:30 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  californias prison guard lobby can be generally (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        miningcityguy, banger, NearlyNormal

        thanked for making a bad situation much worse.


        I once had a rose named after me and I was very flattered. But I was not pleased to read the description in the catalog: "No good in a bed, but fine up against a wall." ~Eleanor Roosevelt

        by Ramdove on Tue Sep 13, 2011 at 11:01:57 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The Ca Prison Guard Union (8+ / 0-)

          is one of the strongest in the nation. I will admit that being so strong seems to give them the upper hand in most negotiations, but to me that just proves that the Union is doing its job in a better manner than most Unions. If every Union in the country would follow their lead our Middle Class would not be in the trouble it is now.

           As for Ca. prisons as a whole, the Feds have been suppose to be monitoring the conditions inside because a number of Federal Judges have said that our prisons are so overcrowded that approx a inmate a day dies because over overcrowding, the lack of Medical or Mental Health care, among other reasons. When Arnold was ordered to thin the prison population by 30,000 inmates asap, instead of doing that Arnold and now Gov. Brown have chosen to fight the Fed. Gyms that were built has a way to help keep the detainees healthy, and to give a outlet for excess energy, not to mention helping break the boredom, are now being used as Dorms where the beds are stacked 3 and 4 bunks high. There dorms are ruled by the gangs and are extremely unsafe for both the inmates and the Guards. I can't imagine being able to sleep in a room of 100 or more gang members constantly looking to solidify their power base.

           One of my stepsons did a yr in prison here for a bunch of petty crimes and on the day he was to be released he had a bomb dropped on him. Instead of getting released as he should of been, he was told he had another yr to do. This was a major fuckup by someone and only because of my cry for help here at dkos was he set free a only few days late instead of a yr. Someone with less self-control than my son could of gone off the deep end after receiving such news.

           Overloading the system with more detainees than there is money to run the system has probably caused many more inmates to do more time than sentenced to, a unconstitutional imprisonment that is never reported on. The detainees have little recourse that works, and even if it does work , it works like molasses. If my son had not had some angel from dkos take up his cause, I have no doubt he would of had to do that fantasy extra time. I have often wondered if he would of survived another yr, and I might add, so does he and he is a big strong guy. He never did have to join a gang but he did have to follow some orders issued by at least one of the gangs to keep from being jumped by the gang, possibly being hurt or even killed. Being part White, part Indian, with a few others dna in the mix made his time even more dangerous. He tells me he had to hide his ethnic makeup just to stay semi-safe.

           Sorry for rambling so much but this diary hit one of my major buttons. I'll stop here.


          •  How is your Stepson? (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            john07801, deedogg

            "I said, 'Wait a minute, Chester, you know I'm a peaceful man'" Robbie Robertson

            by NearlyNormal on Wed Sep 14, 2011 at 09:14:51 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Doing Great , Thanks (6+ / 0-)

              He has been living with us for a few yrs now. He got a job thru IHSS as a caregiver to his mother which gives him a income of sorts and helps with the household bills. He has been a lifesaver since I'm also disabled. Taking care of his Mom was beginning to affect both my health and hers. As her health got worse her care was falling on me alone making my health and mental state begin to worsen also.

               The only trouble he has gotten into since his release is a ticket for a rolling stop sign caught by one of those damn traffic cameras. If we were rich I would of fought the ticket as unconstitutional, but we poor aren't given fair access to the courts because of lack of funds.

    •  I really appreciate it when people actually (7+ / 0-)

      involved in the system post comments concerning how particular laws actually work in the real world. I practiced law for a number of years but did not do much criminal defense. I nevertheless had friends who did and now have a number of friends who are in the Public Defender's Office. I agree that mandatory minimums give a huge advantage to prosecutors in both the state and federal systems. Another thing that I have noted is that prosecutors most often enter the local County Attorney's Office or the U.S. Attorney's Office right out of law school and pretty much remain professional prosecutors for their entire careers.This I suspect is because they often have very large student loan debt and need to look for secure positions with a steady paychecks in order to repay the loans. In any event I believe that it creates a situation where they might lose some balance and fail to see that the people they are prosecuting are often not so much evil lawbreakers as persons who too often lead sad disadvantaged lives.

      •  Good point about steady paychecks (7+ / 0-)

        I've seen that increase in the past decade--smart and sensitive young people working for nasty institutions. But the thing about this issue in particular is that prosecutors usually believe or, through cognitive dissonance, make themselves believe they are on the side of the angels. And the entertainment media does nothing but glorify cops, prosecutors, government agents, soldiers and so on--the reality is very, very different. But the truth is, even without the propaganda, the American people enthusiastically support jailing the poor for trivial offenses and letting the rich get away with almost any crime--even if they don't say so. The bizarre fact is that despite a lot of grumbling there has been almost no interest in the population as a whole to go after the international finance oligarchs for their obvious and stunning crimes.

  •  Someone's making money (15+ / 0-)

    I don't think there's much question that there's a Prison Industrial Complex that's somehow gotten worse over the last 10 years:

    "The private contracting of prisoners for work fosters incentives to lock people up. Prisons depend on this income. Corporate stockholders who make money off prisoners' work lobby for longer sentences, in order to expand their workforce. The system feeds itself," says a study by the Progressive Labor Party, which accuses the prison industry of being "an imitation of Nazi Germany with respect to forced slave labor and concentration camps."

    The prison industry complex is one of the fastest-growing industries in the United States and its investors are on Wall Street. "This multimillion-dollar industry has its own trade exhibitions, conventions, websites, and mail-order/Internet catalogs. It also has direct advertising campaigns, architecture companies, construction companies, investment houses on Wall Street, plumbing supply companies, food supply companies, armed security, and padded cells in a large variety of colors."

    According to the Left Business Observer, the federal prison industry produces 100% of all military helmets, ammunition belts, bullet-proof vests, ID tags, shirts, pants, tents, bags, and canteens. Along with war supplies, prison workers supply 98% of the entire market for equipment assembly services; 93% of paints and paintbrushes; 92% of stove assembly; 46% of body armor; 36% of home appliances; 30% of headphones/microphones/speakers; and 21% of office furniture. Airplane parts, medical supplies, and much more: prisoners are even raising seeing-eye dogs for blind people.

    Wall Street's screwing us coming and going. They're like flies on an open casket.

    This ain't no party. This ain't no disco. This ain't no foolin' around!

    by Snud on Tue Sep 13, 2011 at 08:32:10 PM PDT

  •  Your tinypic link isnt working. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Kazmarov, deedogg

    :( it just sends us back to the main page "upload" page

    You wouldn't really know how long it's been, since you weren't here. If you'd been here, it would've been no time at all. Forever and nothing are almost the same thing, wouldn't you say? How do you tell one from another if you're smack in the middle?

    by kamrom on Tue Sep 13, 2011 at 10:51:00 PM PDT

    •  Bah! You're correct. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I believe it's fixed. Also made the image bigger so you don't need to click on it in the fire place.

      I use imgur normally, but it's not an accepted domain for DKos.

      "I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones." -Albert Einstein

      by Kazmarov on Wed Sep 14, 2011 at 02:01:21 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Don't forget the economics. (7+ / 0-)

    Your chart shows imprisonment per 100,000 population. But it's rally "per 80,000 (workers)" because about a fifth of the country is under 16.

    This means that in 1924 we imprisoned 0.2% of our workforce.  Today it is 0.5%.

    That extra 0.3% comes off of our GDP. Those people are not working or paying taxes. They are actually costing double because we must pay for guards and concrete walls.

    I could understand if they were all felons. But it seems like a lot of them were pot smokers. It is not worth all this money to chase pot smokers.

  •  Having just been rather rudely awoken an hour (6+ / 0-)

    ago by gunshots...let me say that I'd much rather have whoever fired them employed full time by a job than being employed behind bars learning how to enact more acts of desperation.

    Btw, thanks for this much needed diary.

    Meteor Blades seems to do an outstanding job of community moderation despite the abject failure to be perfect.

    by catilinus on Wed Sep 14, 2011 at 03:55:59 AM PDT

  •  When trying to inject (10+ / 0-)

    common sense and ... uh .... facts into this debate, you are always going to face politicians who draw a causal relationship between falling crime and rising prison populations.

    See how easy that was? Prison works!

    This is a very easy soundbite to most of the population, who do not commit crimes and have no idea what prison involves.

    Politicians could break this cycle with ten minutes mature reflection, and some good information but they don't do the first, and aren't interested in the second.

    I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
    but I fear we will remain Democrats.

    by twigg on Wed Sep 14, 2011 at 05:26:49 AM PDT

  •  It's one of those ugly bits of reality (7+ / 0-)

    that Americans don't want to deal with:

      Tough on crime doesn't work. All it does is make us less free as a nation.

      Of course you could also include the whole War on Some Terror in that category of failure and a threat to our freedoms.

    "The people have only as much liberty as they have the intelligence to want & the courage to take." - Emma Goldman

    by gjohnsit on Wed Sep 14, 2011 at 05:56:51 AM PDT

    •  Yes, the scope can be expanded (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      And we can talk about kinds of unfair imprisonment and rights violations occurring as part of the War on Terror. Really anything within a country mile of any kind of detainment facility is bad news in the United States.

      "I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones." -Albert Einstein

      by Kazmarov on Wed Sep 14, 2011 at 07:42:35 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks again for bringing this issue here. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    deedogg, Calamity Jean

    This is one more example of politicians consolidating their power at the expense of the least among us.

     It's an easy sell. Portraying judges and liberals as "soft on crime" and appealing to voters for whom a
    word like rehabilitation is automatically suspect for having six syllables. More easy solutions to complex problems.

     As more local and state governments have offered up services like water, power, and waste disposal  to privatization, the expertise that was once in their purview is lost, and they're wide open to what is essentially extortion in terms of cost and regulation.

     Since the moral concept of " There but for the grace ..." seems to be long gone, maybe the more effective arguments against prison privatization are economic ones.  


    “Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” ~ Malachy McCourt

    by jnhobbs on Wed Sep 14, 2011 at 06:04:49 AM PDT

  •  Imprisonment is for the politicians (5+ / 0-)

    Politicians need to assert their "tough-on-crime" bonafides to get elected.  Being "soft-on-crime" is not only a dig at a politician's manhood and lifestyle, it is also the electoral kiss of death (cf Mike Dukakis).

    The difficulty is that tax-payers and the states do not have enough money to send to prison all the people the politicians need to put in prison in order to get elected.  And money spent on putting and keeping prison is sort of like money spent on fighting in Afghanistan: a bottomless hole that can't be filled with little or no return for our country or citizens.

    Judges as well are mostly elected to office, and so have a personal financial interest in putting more people in prison: their job literally depends on it.

    Reducing the financial burden of the large prison population would require wiser policy (improving education, reducing proverty, legalizing drugs), ending corruption among our public officials (all elections should be paid for with public money), and sentencing reform (greater use of sentencing alternatives like addiction treatment).

    Two things that will not help are more incarceration and more private for-profit prisons.

    "The fool doth think he is wise: the wise man knows himself to be a fool" - W. Shakespeare

    by Hugh Jim Bissell on Wed Sep 14, 2011 at 06:17:51 AM PDT

    •  thought you meant that's where they belong (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Kazmarov, Calamity Jean

      I'm afraid that the post fails to cite the racial aspect of incarceration and the connection of drug laws to controlling blacks and hispanics.
      Except for that, however, I feel the diary is spot on.
      HJB, I loved your sig line, have you read Fool, by Christopher Moore? Its a parody of Shakespear's King Lear, funny as bugger can be.

  •  It isn't designed to be a deterrent (7+ / 0-)

    Mass incarceration is largely supported by the public. What Americans really want is to remove "undesirable" elements from the population at whatever cost. That these people are always members of the underclass is no accident. Most Americans have a contempt for the poor, for people who have been stepped on beaten by their parents and who seek medication for their pain or just act out what has been put onto them. To most of us these people are the "other" not much different from brown people around the world we bomb and terrorize every day for their own good. At least Americans, as a whole, no longer even pretend to use prison as a way of rehabilitating people--we honestly believe that such a thing is not possible unless you are middle-class.

    I commend you for bringing this subject up but, having said that, it isn't just a matter of oligarchs oppressing the poor. Psychologically, our population seeks to externalize their own negative urges and tendencies onto the "other" whether it is communists or islamic fundamentalists or the poor. This keeps their own inner life "clean." This is what is behind the honest cheers that went up for the fact Texas executes a lot of people and, even more chilling, the cheer for the idea that letting people die who can't afford medical care. Progressive have no chance in changing any of this unless they address the cultural causes of the increasingly cruel collective mind-set.

    •  It does, however, have a logic to it . . . (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Bob Sloan, Calamity Jean

      while recidivism may be high after release it is not an issue while separation from society is maintained.  People generally perceive having burglars and robbers and rapists incarcerated as increasing their safety, and it's hard to argue with that.  Most offenders are multiple offenders, most people understand that, and it makes "catch and release" not particularly popular.

      While there is certainly some aspect of a desire for "punishment" in the popular mind most people are also motivated, and I would argue primarily motivated, by a desire not to themselves become victims . . . and they see no better way to accomplish that than to lock away the repeat offenders permanently . . . thus the popularity of "three strikes" laws.  Hard to argue against that . . . who doesn't want the guys shooting up their neighborhood gone.

      It's the drug laws that most significantly complicate things.  The connection between drug use (and drug dealing) and real crime is indirect, and one becomes a "victim" of a drug dealer only by choice (fraud and "accidents" during turf wars being, of course, exceptions).  But the public does see a connection . . . the heroin addict does steal to support the habit, the heroin dealer does end up with the money, and the burglary victim does see the dealer as the cause of his/her loss.  The obvious solution is to legalize the drugs . . . most people immediately grasp that there is no threat from someone nodding out in a doorway, and they would be better off giving the addict 50 cents a day worth of legal junk than maintaining an expensive system which, in the end, just results in the guy breaking into your house or car to steal whatever is there to pay for his next bag.

      You are not going to convince people that it's a good idea to turn offenders, especially violent offenders, loose to offend again.  You will have better luck convincing people that there are other ways to reduce criminal behavior (such as removing the incentives), and that's a twofer . . . it reduces the incarceration rate by reducing crime, which, in the end, is what most people want.

      Fake Left, Drive Right . . . not my idea of a Democrat . . .

      by Deward Hastings on Wed Sep 14, 2011 at 09:43:37 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  No it doesn't reduce crime (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        It reduces crime in the short-run and it makes sense to most people because, frankly, Americans don't give two f---s about the future--in fact if there's anything that is unique about this period of society it is this insensitivity to future generations of human beings even one's descendants. When you incarcerate someone you are also creating hardship for spouses and children who will, as can easily be shown, tend to follow in the footsteps of the father so you are increasing crime not decreasing it.

        The idea that jailing shoplifters and drug users is sensible runs counter to all social science. Sure if you jail everyone of a certain demographic then you'll decrease crime in the short-term. But at what expense? You create millions of orphans, you create prison guards who tend to be either corrupted by the system or  by living in a culture of cruelty spread it to their own families and, as in the Abu Ghraib events which, in turn, causes a view of the U.S. abroad that has tangible a tangible effect on our foreign policy and security.

        Most prisoners have, I repeat, been subjects of sexual and physical abuse as children and suffer from PTSD in one form or another. Criminals are created not born. The are created by the cruel society they enter into--by the self-loathing that our society encourages, by the need to get relief from pain by taking illegal drugs--indeed, I maintain that drugs are not legalized (since there is no logical reason to keep them illegal) because it gives us the gratification of cruelty because we are, as a people, much crueler than we think)--any close examination of marijuana laws, for example, were specifically tailored to harass and imprion hispanics and African-Americans and had nothing to do with improving society.

        •  You will not gain popular support (0+ / 0-)

          if you argue that robbers, rapists and murderers should be turned loose to offend again.

          And that's a good thing . . .

          I also don't believe you're going to get very far with the argument that people much care about the race of a burglar.  Everyone I know hates them regardless.  They don't buy the argument that family heirlooms are "just stuff", either . . .

          You're completely wrong that people don't care about the future . . . it is preventing crimes in the future that they do care about . . . and they're pretty well convinced that someone in jail won't be committing any (against them, anyway).  And when you argue that rapists should be turned loose they'll look at their daughters (those descendents you claim they don't care about) and not hear another word that you say.

          Fake Left, Drive Right . . . not my idea of a Democrat . . .

          by Deward Hastings on Wed Sep 14, 2011 at 11:55:25 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Are you serious? (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            People care about the future? Not true and it is demonstrably not true. Climate change is a major problem we face yet public interest is declining why? Because they care about the long term future?

            By the logic you bring us then we should just euthanize those most likely to commit crimes then there would be very little crime. Also, you don't seem to believe that the prison system has long term effects across generations or that it brutalizes society. We are all connected or at least that's what I see--probably a result of banging my head when I was six.

  •  Authoritarian Republicans. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bob Sloan, demnomore, deedogg

    It's all about controlling people and money. The sheep that vote Republican need a father figure in their feel safe. To feel good.

    "Just lock 'em up" has been the mantra for years without consideration. The authoritarians view life in very stark terms. No gray area here.

    Any society without laws and the mechanisms to enforce them will suffer the consequences. (Somalia)
    Conversely, a society that throws their people behind prison walls; many for victimless crimes, then glorifies the heavy authoritarian figures, be it LEO's, judges, politicians, etc., will eventually suffer the consequences too.  

    The middle ground has been lost to the authoritarians and the bastards want more. Their desire to imprison has become insatiable and prisons cannot be built fast enough.

    This country is adapting private prisons (incaceration for profit) and with that, comes more warped behavior, less oversight and the built-in protections our system afforded previously are then exchanged for money and the illusion that justice is being served.

    Just like our morbid healthcare system, the incarceration of the citizenry and it's proliferation need a cure.

    We are a sick people. Someone call a doctor please.

    "The greater the ignorance, the greater the dogmatism." Sir William Osler

    by wxorknot on Wed Sep 14, 2011 at 08:50:00 AM PDT

  •  It's not about deterence. (6+ / 0-)

    Where I live, it's quite common to see prisoners paving roads, putting roofs on buildings, setting up grandstands for street parties --jobs that would be done by unionized public workers in other parts of the country.

    Prisoners are slaves, they are used to keep wages low.

    Truly the destruction of the earth only results from the destitution of its inhabitants, and its inhabitants become destitute only when rulers concern themselves with amassing wealth. Caliph Ali, 7th century

    by SadieB on Wed Sep 14, 2011 at 09:31:27 AM PDT

  •  Tipped and Rec'd for accurate research and (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Calamity Jean, Kazmarov, deedogg

    presentation.  Over a decade of research I've put into this I have concluded that this mass incarceration is politically driven on behalf of the corporations involved in profiting from incarceration.

    As many of my diaries state, the involvement of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in everything prison since the mid 1980's has helped drive the escalation of imprisonment.  On behalf of CCA and Geo Group (the latter now having withdrawn membership to ALEC) they fought for more and more privatization legislation in states and at the federal level.  They helped write the criminal justice laws used to incarcerate a higher percentage of Americans, wrote and promoted the harsh sentencing legislation (Truth in Sentencing, three strikes, etc.) and helped abolish parole - all designed to incarcerate more, hold them longer and profit off of their imprisonment.  Their most recent efforts can be detailed by simply looking at their efforts of imprisoning immigrants.  An article on findings of the U.S. Sentencing Commission found:

    "According to the report, Latinos (both native-born and foreign-born) accounted for half (50 percent) of all individuals sent to federal prison during the first nine months of Fiscal Year 2011."
    We know that CCA and ALEC targeted immigration as the next big step in imprisonment growth in 09-10, writing SB 1070 and passing it in AZ. as a way of accomplishing that.  This article shows have effective their agenda has worked with 50% of all federal prison admissions in 2011.  Of note, CCA and Geo Group hold contracts to house tens of thousands of federal prisoners.  How convenient they helped write the law to imprison so many immigrants - just as they've done to imprison Blacks over the past 30 years.  They specialize in exploiting those with little or not voice due to their sociopolitical standing.

    Legislators who also belong to ALEC were the tools used to introduce and pass these laws over the past 30 years - and are the same ones using the same formula to introduce the anti-labor and voter ID legislation in so many states today.  Prison and prison industries are the "cash cows" of ALEC and the cabal, used by them to amass funds to further their agenda.  Once we manage to eliminate mass incarceration, we will help to defund these efforts.

    "Inmates should be reformed - not recycled"

    by Bob Sloan on Wed Sep 14, 2011 at 10:24:42 AM PDT

    •  Thanks for more recent data (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      The data I was looking at was mostly 2009 based here, and The Sentencing Project position paper, which was relying on ancient data that mostly predicted a massive influx of mostly Latino immigrants being detained, but did not have any hard data because of when laws were passed versus when they data from.

      "I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones." -Albert Einstein

      by Kazmarov on Wed Sep 14, 2011 at 02:00:33 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Did anyone see the article about the PA. Judge (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    demnomore, Calamity Jean, deedogg

    just sentenced to 28 years for sending juveniles to a private run facility and getting over $2.8 million in kickbacks from the facility owners?  Here is the link:

    Couldn't happen to a better candidate.  His co defendant (another damn judge) is to be sentenced later and faces up to 20 years for his part in the conspiracy.

    "Inmates should be reformed - not recycled"

    by Bob Sloan on Wed Sep 14, 2011 at 10:31:01 AM PDT

    •  I heard about this through Law and Order (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      of all places, and I'm glad to see it resulted in a substantial sentence. Selling your judgements to the highest bidder is repugnant, and also not something that we'll see the last of in a world of for-profit prisons. Just like bribery works with the gatekeepers of industry, it will fall on the judicial system in this light.

      "I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones." -Albert Einstein

      by Kazmarov on Wed Sep 14, 2011 at 02:07:56 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Clinton's failure (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    President Clinton, I think, must have known in his gut that taking discretion of sentencing out of the hands of judges and replacing that with the 3 strikes and you're out could accomplish nothing but a horror scene for people at the 'mercy' of a justice system run amok.

    Fear of the right wing of the Republican Party is the only thing that could have, imo, driven Clinton to okaying the '3 strikes '
    sword of damocles placed over peoples' heads.

    3 strikes moved us closer to star chamber where extenuating circumstances became meaningless and justice was overruled by procedure.

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