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Author Topic: The prison class
Storm Saxon
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http://bostonreview.net/BR32.4/loury.html

quote:

The early 1990s were the age of drive-by shootings, drug deals gone bad, crack cocaine, and gangsta rap. Between 1960 and 1990, the annual number of murders in New Haven rose from six to 31, the number of rapes from four to 168, the number of robberies from 16 to 1,784—all this while the city’s population declined by 14 percent. Crime was concentrated in central cities: in 1990, two fifths of Pennsylvania’s violent crimes were committed in Philadelphia, home to one seventh of the state’s population. The subject of crime dominated American domestic-policy debates.

Most observers at the time expected things to get worse. Consulting demographic tables and extrapolating trends, scholars and pundits warned the public to prepare for an onslaught, and for a new kind of criminal—the anomic, vicious, irreligious, amoral juvenile “super-predator.” In 1996, one academic commentator predicted a “bloodbath” of juvenile homicides in 2005.

And so we prepared. Stoked by fear and political opportunism, but also by the need to address a very real social problem, we threw lots of people in jail, and when the old prisons were filled we built new ones.

But the onslaught never came. Crime rates peaked in 1992 and have dropped sharply since. Even as crime rates fell, however, imprisonment rates remained high and continued their upward march. The result, the current American prison system, is a leviathan unmatched in human history.

According to a 2005 report of the International Centre for Prison Studies in London, the United States—with five percent of the world’s population—houses 25 percent of the world’s inmates. Our incarceration rate (714 per 100,000 residents) is almost 40 percent greater than those of our nearest competitors (the Bahamas, Belarus, and Russia). Other industrial democracies, even those with significant crime problems of their own, are much less punitive: our incarceration rate is 6.2 times that of Canada, 7.8 times that of France, and 12.3 times that of Japan. We have a corrections sector that employs more Americans than the combined work forces of General Motors, Ford, and Wal-Mart, the three largest corporate employers in the country, and we are spending some $200 billion annually on law enforcement and corrections at all levels of government, a fourfold increase (in constant dollars) over the past quarter century.

Never before has a supposedly free country denied basic liberty to so many of its citizens. In December 2006, some 2.25 million persons were being held in the nearly 5,000 prisons and jails that are scattered across America’s urban and rural landscapes. One third of inmates in state prisons are violent criminals, convicted of homicide, rape, or robbery. But the other two thirds consist mainly of property and drug offenders. Inmates are disproportionately drawn from the most disadvantaged parts of society. On average, state inmates have fewer than 11 years of schooling. They are also vastly disproportionately black and brown.

How did it come to this? One argument is that the massive increase in incarceration reflects the success of a rational public policy: faced with a compelling social problem, we responded by imprisoning people and succeeded in lowering crime rates. This argument is not entirely misguided. Increased incarceration does appear to have reduced crime somewhat. But by how much? Estimates of the share of the 1990s reduction in violent crime that can be attributed to the prison boom range from five percent to 25 percent. Whatever the number, analysts of all political stripes now agree that we have long ago entered the zone of diminishing returns. The conservative scholar John DiIulio, who coined the term “super-predator” in the early 1990s, was by the end of that decade declaring in The Wall Street Journal that “Two Million Prisoners Are Enough.” But there was no political movement for getting America out of the mass-incarceration business. The throttle was stuck.

A more convincing argument is that imprisonment rates have continued to rise while crime rates have fallen because we have become progressively more punitive: not because crime has continued to explode (it hasn’t), not because we made a smart policy choice, but because we have made a collective decision to increase the rate of punishment.

quote:

So consider the nearly 60 percent of black male high-school dropouts born in the late 1960s who are imprisoned before their 40th year. While locked up, these felons are stigmatized—they are regarded as fit subjects for shaming. Their links to family are disrupted; their opportunities for work are diminished; their voting rights may be permanently revoked. They suffer civic excommunication. Our zeal for social discipline consigns these men to a permanent nether caste. And yet, since these men—whatever their shortcomings—have emotional and sexual and family needs, including the need to be fathers and lovers and husbands, we are creating a situation where the children of this nether caste are likely to join a new generation of untouchables. This cycle will continue so long as incarceration is viewed as the primary path to social hygiene.

* * *

I have been exploring the issue of causes: of why we took the punitive turn that has resulted in mass incarceration. But even if the racial argument about causes is inconclusive, the racial consequences are clear. To be sure, in the United States, as in any society, public order is maintained by the threat and use of force. We enjoy our good lives only because we are shielded by the forces of law and order, which keep the unruly at bay. Yet in this society, to a degree virtually unmatched in any other, those bearing the brunt of order enforcement belong in vastly disproportionate numbers to historically marginalized racial groups. Crime and punishment in America has a color.

In his fine study Punishment and Inequality in America (2006), the Princeton University sociologist Bruce Western powerfully describes the scope, nature, and consequences of contemporary imprisonment. He finds that the extent of racial disparity in imprisonment rates is greater than in any other major arena of American social life: at eight to one, the black–white ratio of incarceration rates dwarfs the two-to-one ratio of unemployment rates, the three-to-one ration of non-marital childbearing, the two-to-one ratio of infant-mortality rates and one-to-five ratio of net worth. While three out of 200 young whites were incarcerated in 2000, the rate for young blacks was one in nine. A black male resident of the state of California is more likely to go to a state prison than a state college.

The scandalous truth is that the police and penal apparatus are now the primary contact between adult black American men and the American state. Among black male high-school dropouts aged 20 to 40, a third were locked up on any given day in 2000, fewer than three percent belonged to a union, and less than one quarter were enrolled in any kind of social program. Coercion is the most salient meaning of government for these young men. Western estimates that nearly 60 percent of black male dropouts born between 1965 and 1969 were sent to prison on a felony conviction at least once before they reached the age of 35.

quote:

The tacit association in the American public’s imagination of “blackness” with “unworthiness” or “dangerousness” has obscured a fundamental ethical point about responsibility, both collective and individual, and promoted essentialist causal misattributions: when confronted by the facts of racially disparate achievement, racially disproportionate crime rates, and racially unequal school achievement, observers will have difficulty identifying with the plight of a group of people whom they (mistakenly) think are simply “reaping what they have sown.” Thus, the enormous racial disparity in the imposition of social exclusion, civic ex-communication, and lifelong disgrace has come to seem legitimate, even necessary: we fail to see how our failures as a collective body are implicated in this disparity. We shift all the responsibility onto their shoulders, only by irresponsibly—indeed, immorally—denying our own. And yet, this entire dynamic has its roots in past unjust acts that were perpetrated on the basis of race.

Given our history, producing a racially defined nether caste through the ostensibly neutral application of law should be profoundly offensive to our ethical sensibilities—to the principles we proudly assert as our own. Mass incarceration has now become a principal vehicle for the reproduction of racial hierarchy in our society. Our country’s policymakers need to do something about it. And all of us are ultimately responsible for making sure that they do.

What he says rings true to me.
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scifibum
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What should the policymakers do?
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Storm Saxon
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Leaving aside the causative factors of crime for black people, of which I think the black community shoulders a lot (but certainly not all) of the responsibility for, I wonder what would happen if we allowed people to request that they be tried by people of their own 'race' and returned more of sentencing into the hands of judges.

Along those lines, perhaps more community policing and judging. That is, more judges and police who live in the community of people they judge and police.

Of course, there are problems with this, too, and I'm not saying do away with municipal/state/ federal.

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Storm Saxon
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Of course, failing that, shorter prison sentences on the whole might be a possibility, too. [Smile]
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Ilmari
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quote:
Originally posted by Storm Saxon:
Of course, failing that, shorter prison sentences on the whole might be a possibility, too. [Smile]

Yes, especially for non-violent crimes (and doubly so for first-time offenders convicted of non-violent crimes).

It would also help if the policies for prisons sentences in drug cases were overhauled since they tend to give really lopsided verdicts.

I don't have the book Reefer Madness with me at the moment, but in it the author makes the point that couriers and poor people at the bottom of drug-distribution networks tend to get much harsher sentences than kingpins, since they're unable to mount a good defence or implicate others in plea deals (which result in shorter sentences).

Ditto for people caught with small amounts of marijuana or drug paraphernilia (heck, Tommy Chong got 9 months in federal prison for selling water pipes which could be used to smoke marijuana) - fines or mandatory rehab would be much better options in my opinion.

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Jesse
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Dig this.

The census counts prisoners and felons. In aportioning Congressional Districts, the Prison population is counted.

Having a Penitentiary in your town doesn't just bring jobs, it gives you undeserved voting power.

Assuming they don't move out of your State, if your State makes it difficult or impossible for Felon voting rights to be restored, it's not just a matter of fewer voters, it's a matter of more power for those who retain the Franchise, since Congresscritters are still granted based on the total population.

We've still got guys in prison today who were arrested with 100 bucks worth of crack ten years ago, while guys busted the same day with 100 bucks worth of coke finished their drug program six weeks after arrest.

[ August 16, 2007, 04:51 PM: Message edited by: Jesse ]

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The Pixiest
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Legalize pot.

Deport illegals who are in prison for minor crimes (but, you know, more major than being in the country illegally.)

Problem solved.

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johnson
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"Legalize pot."

I agree. I didn't used to.

However, I heard a 30-year police veteran talking on the radio about an organization he started that was composed entirely of law enforcement, retired and still working. I don't recall the name, but the whole point of the organization is legalization.

He made plenty of compelling arguments, but the most compelling fact to me was the simple fact that even cops think it should be legalized. That gives me hope for the rest of the public for 2 reasons--1st reason: cops are not known as liberals or geniuses. Many are normal, but many are also knee-jerk fascists. If you can find that many who'll openly support legalization, it must be more acceptable among police than I thought. 2nd reason: the public will listen to cops about this issue. Well, I hope.

legalize it....don't penalize it....

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cherrypoptart
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"And so we prepared. Stoked by fear and political opportunism, but also by the need to address a very real social problem, we threw lots of people in jail, and when the old prisons were filled we built new ones.

But the onslaught never came."

------------------------------------------

Perfect. Throw people in jail, as many as it takes, and crime will be minimized.

The obvious solution to the continuation of crime that we are experiencing now, though not at the levels predicted because of the wise and proactive solution of incarceration, but the obvious solution is to throw even more people in jail and keep them there for longer periods of time. That's the only proven way to reduce crime. Most of it is committed by repeat offenders anyway. We shouldn't let them out so soon, obviously, or perhaps don't even let them out at all. The major problem we've had is not that we threw too many into the slammer, but that we didn't throw in enough.

I’m sure that’s not what anyone wants to hear, but there it is regardless.

Criminals, terrorists, and countries that might think about attacking us should be well aware by now that there are big industrial complexes for both prisons and waging war, and they are very, very profitable. Evil doers should think about that before doing their evil. Not only will they be punished, but somebody will make A LOT of money doing it. Capitalism at its finest. It makes me all warm and fuzzy inside just thinking about it.

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johnson
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I feel icky just having your post next to mine.
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TommySama
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Lol!

Is He Who Must Not Be Named still here on OA?

Agreed. Legalize pot. Put kids who abuse it in rehab or Potheads Annonymous or something.

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Busillis
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Hello. I've been lurking for a while, and just got an account.

With that excuse for an introduction out of the way, I've spent some time thinking about the criminal justice system.

The way I see it, there are three basic things intended to be accomplished by a punishment. The first is correction of the person's behavior. This can be measured by the recidivism rate. The second is essentially intimidation, discouraging others from committing a crime. The third, which I recognize may be controversial, is to provide moral satisfaction for the victim(s), their families, and society at large. To give people a sense that justice has been done. This one is the hardest to measure (in extreme cases, it could perhaps be measured by incidences of vigilante justice, but as these are statistically insignificant in the US, this is hardly helpful), but would seem to be the one most likely to be a voting issue. After all, while many may find it abstractly problematic that a punishment is insufficiently correctional in its results, this will not provoke the same voter outrage as the perception that a criminal has 'gotten away with something'.

Prisons, the primary form of punishment in most of the western world (excluding, perhaps, fines), seem to be very bad at the first two criteria of punishment. While by its nature prison prevents some recidivism (someone is quite unable to rob another bank while still in prison), ex-prisoners remain more likely than the general population to commit crimes. For the sake of brevity, I'll avoid the issue of crimes committed by prisoners against each other while in prison.

Anecdotally, prisons also appear to fail in the second criteria. I have read several articles about segments of the gang-involved population which view prison as a right of passage. I tend to view such statements as alarmist and take them with a grain of salt, but there does appear to be a significant population which does not regard prison with the fear with which it is intended to inspire.

However, and again I can speak only on an anecdotal basis here, outrage over lax sentencing is generally limited to the aftermath of prominent and tragic repetitions of prior crimes after release. This gives sentences a tendency to creep upwards.

Despite apparent failures on the first two (and, in my opinion, most important) of my criteria, prisons seem to perform well by the third. I have rarely heard complaints that a sentence is too harsh, only too light. The political structure gives undue weight to this criteria, as it is the most likely to be a voter issue.

This is merely how I explain the growth of the prison system, and the model I use to predict its future growth. Unfortunately, this post becomes an exercise in mental masturbation as I can provide no alternative at the moment to our prison system (I certainly to not advocate its abolition). I have a certain intuitive fondness for corporal punishment, but I cannot support it statistically (or refute it).

Prisons are an issue which needs to be dealt with. I see incarceration as a fundamentally flawed method of punishment, at least as we implement it.

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scifibum
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Welcome to Ornery, Busillis. You are wrong.
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Jesse
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Poptart...

Prisons don't make money, they take money. It's not remotely the same thing.

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RickyB
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johnson, had I been with a drink in my mouth as I reached your post, you'd have owed me a keyboard right now [Big Grin]

Busilis - you know about the traditional greeting, yes?

[ August 17, 2007, 06:08 PM: Message edited by: RickyB ]

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Redskullvw
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Jesse

Prisons are now increasingly becoming private enterprises run for a profit.

Keep them in jail-draconian laws aplied to those who broke laws. Dont steal. Dont rape. Dont murder. Dont be a leech on society. If you insist on being a leech we will keep you alive and seperated from the rest of us.

tried by a member of their own race?

in case you hadn't noticed we are all human.

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kenmeer livermaile
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What I wonder is: how much of this profit is net from tax-derived revenues, and how much is from putting prisoners to work to make goods/provide services?
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Snowden
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quote:
There does appear to be a significant population which does not regard prison with the fear with which it is intended to inspire.
This is so much the case that I wonder what class of people are scared of prison? Prison seems to me to inspire feel in the middle and lower middle class. Those above don't have a fear, because they are never in want enough to commit crime or have the resource to be sure they won't serve, and those who are truly poor have real problems to worry about other than jail time.
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Jesse
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Sorry, Redskull, but they're still suckling on the public teat.

I have doubt at all that we would be better off as a society if at least a third of those currently in prison stayed there until they died.

The rest, who aren't there for rape, murder, assault, or even armed robbery, ought to be segregated from the monsters and rehabilitated.

Also, Prisoners and disenfranchised Felons should not count in the apportionment Congressional Districts. It's an incentive to lock up those who might cost a Congresscritter it's seat.

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cherrypoptart
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> Prisons don't make money, they take money. It's not remotely the same thing.

Prisons make money for somebody. Just like the war in Iraq. Of course, the taxpayers do foot the bill, so it can be argued that the taxpayers are losing money.

But I don't think so. If keeping someone in jail prevents even one violent crime, even one rape or murder, it's money well invested. In fact, prisons give the highest return on investment of anything the government uses our tax money for, if you consider that the dividend for someone is not getting raped or murdered, having their car stolen, their house burgled, and eventually even for things like identity theft.

If we were to let everyone in jail out now, the cost in suffering and even the financial costs to society because of the crimes they commit would far outweigh what it costs to keep them locked away.

> The way I see it, there are three basic things intended to be accomplished by a punishment.

I will add number four, at least as far as prisons go, and it doesn't have that much to do with punishment. I would even agree that there is little if any rehabilitory value to prisons, that people don't seem to be very deterred, and moral satisfaction to the victims is pretty useless. So what's the point? What's behind door number four? Keep them in prison just so they aren't out and about committing crimes. The point of keeping people in prison is to keep people IN prison. They had their chances. And they chose to hurt somebody. Why keep giving proven criminals opportunity after opportunity, chance after chance after chance to hurt innocent Americans?

My solution to the prison system is simple. Look at more ways to make it increasingly cost effective, and profitable. Get the price down for incarceration. Make it safer for prisoners too. They don't need to associate with one another at all. It's funny that a condition of their parole may be that they can't associate with bad influences, but we let them do so in prison.

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RickyB
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cherry, have you considered that locking up A makes it MORE likely, not less, that your house will be burgled? Not by A, but does matter if the number say that the more yuo lock people up, the more likely you are to be a victim of crime?

Redskull -
"Dont steal. Dont rape. Dont murder. Dont be a leech on society."

Ok, I didn't do any of those. I bought weed for myself and a friend with money legally earned. Can I have about 2 years of my life back, please?

cherry - there's a slight problem with that. Keeping a human isolated from other humans is a very harsh thing to do psychologically. So if you murdered for a gang o raped children, I can deal with some form of that. For most offenses, no. Especially non-violent drug charges.

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Redskullvw
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Ricky

You bought weed for yourself. Well the steps that it took to get that weed from its origin to you required a lot of laws to be broken so that you could install a temporary state of stupidity in your brain. You broke a law, probably a felony law. As a consumer of an illegal substance, you contributed to the economic viability of an illegal enterprise which costs society billions every year. Your buying said weed made you a leech on society.

So no you do not deserve those two years back, and as part of a greater problem should probably still be incarcerated.

Mind you I don't think any drugs should be illegal, only regulated to pharmaceutical standards and decriminalized. But since they are currently illegal, if you choose to contribute to the problem then you must accept the penalty that society has put in place. Don't think it is fair? Then get the laws changed.

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kenmeer livermaile
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"Your buying said weed made you a leech on society."

The laws that we would like to see change are the leeches. Ricky is just another victim. The USSR was very much a law and order state, to the point it was its own terminal leech.

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johnson
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"Mind you I don't think any drugs should be illegal, only regulated to pharmaceutical standards and decriminalized. But since they are currently illegal, if you choose to contribute to the problem then you must accept the penalty that society has put in place. Don't think it is fair? Then get the laws changed."

We are in perfect agreement....but don't you think 2 years is a bit harsh? It's pot, man. I know several extremely successful, hard-working, functional, stable people who smoke out 3-4 times a week. Some of them have kids. Should they go to jail for 2 years? I mean, I hear you, it's just that I don't know.

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kenmeer livermaile
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People who run red lights are leeches on society via accidents. Do they get two years?
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RickyB
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It costs society billions because society insists on

A) Not taxing said product
B) spending billions on fighting it.

So is the standard costing a single other individual a dime or drop of blood or any inconvenience at all, or is it whatever the law says? Aren't you the kinda guy who, when the left calls for regulating some business for far more obvious harm to society, tends to preach about the market?

So everyone who was imprisoned under prohibition laws was justly and rightly imprisoned? Not talking about legally. Yes, it was the law. But was it a good idea? Was it just? When the rich had their private stocked bars and couldn't get busted in speakeasy's?

It's ok, by the way, for you to pick "whatever the law says". You's an authoritarian. That's the answer that would fit you.

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Busillis
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Redskullvw: How do drug economies cost society billions? Are you referring to the opportunity cost of an untaxed market? Productivity losses (I'd like to see statistics if this is the case)? Or the various crimes that may be committed as a part of a drug economy (beatings, turf wars, etc)? Because the first could definitely be solved by legalization, and the ancillary crimes I believe to be a result of a truly unregulated market, with no government enforcement of contracts, judicial dispute adjudication, regulation of debt collection, and could also be solved by legalization.

Rickyb: Your post replying to cherry implies that 'numbers show' that incarceration rates cause crime. I can see how the economic damage to a person and their family even after prison could lead to greater individual likelihoods of criminal behavior, but I personally doubt that that increase overwhelms the decrease seen from incarceration. Could we see these numbers?

PS: I was aware of the greeting, thanks.

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Richard Dey
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Johnson: "The cops" are part of the problem, and nothing to do with the solution. Oh, they're not allowed to bash up their drug and numbers runners like they did in the old days, not on camera anyway, but do you really think that skunks change their stripes just because they're retired from the Boston Police Department and are living with their ill-got gains on the Irish Riviera near the Kennedy Klan? You can be naif if you want to be, but I can't!

I think that the writer has no idea what the cause of black crime is. It's called mom; but if it was he who made note that prison is a black, welfare-class rite de passage, he is absolutely right!

Prison is safer than where he came from, cleaner than where he came from, more-orderly than where he came, more-predictable than where he came from, healthier than where he came from (and free dental and medical), and he has an all-male environment to which he can relate better than the matriarchy he came from.

I told you ... I went up and worked at the Plymouth prison for a few weeks to ask them.

And I agree with RB, not Redskull on the cannabis hysteria. Those in favor of waiving or giving light sentences to drunk road-ragers and pedestrian killers were particularly susceptible to cannabophobic hysteria. Odd. Perhaps alcoholism and fear of pot are related; anecdotally they are.

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Redskullvw
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Busillis

It costs billions to enforce and police.It does represent an untaxed market. It does cost society in terms of productivity loss and liability costs. As part of a underground market, it has multiple negative effects.

Which is why I think it should be legalized and taxed like alcohol.

KL

Running a red light isn't usually a felony.

johnson

Ricky made a bad choice. When ricky makes good choices he gets the benefits that derive from how society has postulated benefits. When he makes a bad choice he gets the detriments that derive from how society has postulated detriments.

I am pretty sure he knew that buying illegal drugs is a pretty bad crime with a pretty bad penalty. But he decided either he wouldn't be caught or that he would rather buy weed so he could use it to make his brain fuzzy.

Ricky

Yep I am the guy who supports free markets. I think that recreational drugs should be a legal product. I think it should be regulated by the FDA. I think the current laws are bunk, and I tell my congressmen and senators that opinion. I would like the law changed.

In terms of Prohibition, everyone who pressumably had a fair trial was legitimately in jail. And thats the only standard which matters. I wouldn't have agreed with prohibition, and would have told my congressman and senators that fact. And just as I see current drug laws to be bad ideas, I would have held that the anti alcohol laws were bad ideas. Speakeasy or bathtub gin, it was all illegal and those cuaght deserved to be caught and punished.

They knew it was a crime, yet they decided to break the law.

And while I am sympathetic to your personal circumstance, you were the one who decided to buy weed. You made a choice with some very steep penalties attached. Like the person who bought bathtub Gin, I am certain you were the lowest person on the totempole of transactions. But you were caught, and for whatever reason got a sentence which hopefully taught you two things.

A. Don't commit high misdomeanors or low felonies.
B. You are personally responsible for your own actions.

I'm actually a beliver in a mcuh less legally predicated government. It would be hard to pin me as authoritarian. Structuralist? Maybe.

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RickyB
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Ah, shifting target. What if I don't think the state has the right to punish me for ingesting anything? I mean, when does a law become illegitimate on its face? Tomorrow the government outlaws mormonism. What's your message to someone caught with the Joe Smith-style subligaculum? "Don't commit felonies"? Where does it stop? When is incarceration illegitimate, even if pursuant to breaking a law?
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Redskullvw
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Well you can always ingest whatever you want. But apparently since you benefit from living in a structured state that has a collective agreement on what is and is not legal you must decided if you wish to follow these restrictions, challenge them, or ignore them.

It stops when people inform their elected officials of what they want.

It stos when the people tell the governmnet it needs to change the agreed to legal restrictions.

Thankfully we have a government which places all laws under review- and that is how illegitimate laws get revoked.

Its only a matter of time before pot is legal, but until it is, using it is a pretty dumb thing to do.

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RickyB
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Well, the way I see it, you don't fight for the right to pursue happiness by giving that right up [Smile]
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Redskullvw
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Society decided collectively that people do not have the right to use weed by passing laws created by their elected representatives. What once was legal, was made illegal and as such determined weed to not be part of the inherent right to the pursuit of happiness.

It is up to the people to change their minds and elect representatives who will change the current rights to the pursuit of hippiness to include smoking weed.

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RickyB
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Again: Is there anything the people don't have the right to declare illegal? How about extramarital sex? particular religions? Perfectly healthy foodstuffs? Or is the will of a given temporary majority absolute?
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Redskullvw
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Ricky

In case you were unaware, extramarital sex is called adultery if one of the parties is married. We do legislate against many religions who declare their worship to require things like animal sacrafice and use of drugs. Apparently in New York and Chicago you can't legally eat what was once considered perfectly normal food.

All laws are temporary. All are subject to the whims of the majority. But, these laws have to deal with constitutional law which blocks laws even if they are advocated by the majority.

Nothing is absolute except for the constitution and the Supreme Court reviewing those laws as challenged as to conflict with our garunteed rights.

But you knew that already. The people have declared repeatedly that the law should allow for school prayer. But we don't have school prayer because it conflicts with constitutional law. The majority may want it- but its still not legal. Of course that is the inverse situation as far as weed is concerned.

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Richard Dey
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I would like to remind Redskull that this nation was founded by breaking the law -- and I would remind those who favored the criminalization of marijuana that they were taking the advice of a puffy cross-dressing law-breaker. Cannabophobia is unnatural, and banning cannabis sativa was an unnatural act as silly as Canute demanding that the tide retreat.

I have just taken a stupid hour out of an absolutely perfect summer day in New England to listen to a twit named Sasha Abramsky promote his new book American Furies, analyzing the American prison problem.

Our prison population has doubled in a generation.

He has claimed:

¶ that mprisonment is: Welfare-intervention program at this point.

¶ that religion is coercive in the process, especially in the South.

¶ that 1 million are in gaol for nonviolent crimes.

¶ that Bed-Stuy has "million-dollar blocks," and many more in NYC where it costs >$1,000,000 a year to imprison criminals from these blocks.

He also gave two interesting illluminations of the problem:

Apparently in Moundsville W VA there is an abandoned prison where they have an annual prison mock-riot to entertain 1500 'professional correctionists'. Arabic, Spanish, and Russian translation systems bark orders from the old PA (1000 commands in the computer, apparently), is broadcast over the prison speakers. the town.

Correctionists form SWAT teams to space-war music and descend upon volunteers Jesuits who play hostage-holding inmates. He claims that it is one of America's most-spectacular ‘recreations’, apparently similar to reenactments of Gettysburg.

He did successfully cut Joe Arpaio, Phoenix's Sheriff, down to size - making him look rather ridiculous. Phoenix has the nation's 3rd-largest, and apparently toughest county gaol. Arpaio is author of an autobiography billing himself as America's Toughest Sheriff: How We can Win the War Against Crime. Arpaio, apparently, believes that bad children should be punished; therefore bad citizens should be punished. Privileges should be taken away. At some point, he put his male prisoners in pink underwear to teach them humility. "I only work for the 3.5 million in county," Arpaio has said. "Voters like it." During his sheriffocracy, crime has actually increased in Phoenix.

“I may be the greatest politican ever because everybody knows I’m not a politician.” Apayo.

Abramsky is appalled at the idea that women in chain gangs are obliged to bury the paupers of Phoenix, lowering the cardboard-boxed bodies into graves; though I might footnote the fact that the women are not obliged to dig the holes. Local clergy are paid to go amen over the cardboard boxes as they are then backfilled -- again, not by the women.

Abramsky sees strong differences between a Northern approach to imprisonment and a Southern one. For one thing, of course, chains are not permitted in most Northern states; but he did pose an interesting parallel between prisoners and slaves. Apparently, after 1865, prisoners were used as slave labor which could be rented out at different rates, according to the value of the prisoners. Counties, states, even clergy rented them to perform work.

Corporal punishment, transportation, execution. America invented prisons (Bentham, etc.). Convict leasing. Rent out hands at different rates and they’d be worked to death just like slaves. 20th century (FL) and 1st of gulag camps in 1920s. Southern system. More incarcerations. Executions (TX). Angola LA hardly any whites. 200 on life for heroin dealing.

Claims that the Southern political discourse had a destructive influence on the national discourse regarding labor, imprisonment, courts, etc.

The South also has the highest rates of incarceration of prisoners.

LA TX MS = 1 in 3 in prison, 1% of their populations in prison.

He also documented the one-generation rise in incarceration rates (as, he claims, crime decreased -- which seems logical), but consider them:

1980 200/100,000
1999 461/100,000
2000 703:100,000
2005 2.13 millions in US prisons

That does seem a bit of an increase!

Prisons are the nation's biggest institution and today one of its biggest businesses. The prison population is larger than the armed forces. 5 m on probation, 2 m in prison. And millions of salaries dependent on this system.

The cost to America is $100 billion a year ($10 billion a year in CA alone).

Abramsky claims that, with drugs a reality, the moral phraseology of the drug war has overmoralized a public-health issue and soured the discourse (I have made much the same claim regarding the inadvertent and horrifying 'discovery' of child-abuse in this country.)

On a negative note, Abramsky's language seemed florid and intellectually abusive, he misused the term hung, he played up the impropriety of putting women in chain gangs ... and he also allowed an (ineffective) African-American apologist in the audience to talk almost as long as he did.

Otherwise, he was calling attention to the fact that 'incarceration specialists' had formed themselves into a sociological elite in the United States with the powers of self-definition ... and all the extravagant trappings of historical recreation (what we could have done then with the equipment we have now), and all the wine, women, and song of a HazMat convention, replete with gas-mask drama, aerial fire-fighting techniques, exploding gas tanks, and rubber-chicken dinners.

Oh ..., and the speeches ...! which are criminal.

We better look out [Eek!] !

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RickyB
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No, you can't serve it for profit. You can eat it in your home.
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Redskullvw
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Richard

I'd remind you that those people who established our country were quite aware that they were breaking one set of laws so that they could establish one more agreeable to themselves. They thought it worth the risk, and many of them took that risk even though it meant that many of them were executed by the government that they wished to overthrow.

Ricky
?

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kenmeer livermaile
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"a) Ricky
?

b) Apparently in New York and Chicago you can't legally eat what was once considered perfectly normal food.

c) No, you can't serve it for profit. You can eat it in your home."

Has everybody around forgotten the concept of relevant quote?

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kenmeer livermaile
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"'d remind you that those people who established our country were quite aware that they were breaking one set of laws so that they could establish one more agreeable to themselves. They thought it worth the risk, and many of them took that risk even though it meant that many of them were executed by the government that they wished to overthrow."

Yeah, but what about:

"the advice of a puffy cross-dressing law-breaker"?

What did he risk? His tiara?

Anyway, I would like to have smoked some of George Washington's sensimillian crop.

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