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Good op-ed from Ezra.
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Its one of those ingenious self-reinforcing strategies. You cut costs by hiring fewer and less adequate (or even private) guards, increase the fear of prison, and strengthen the sway of gangs. The gangs produce future inmates on the outside. Its like one of those self contained terrariums that just keep growing until they choke themselves.
One wont get much political sympathy for prisoners in todayis environment & the prisoners rights movements of the 60is & 70is did a lot to make prisons ungovernable.
Even the idea of rehabilitation is routinely dismissed as a pipedream.
Regardless.. Every prisoner has a right to a humane & orderly environment. The punishment aspect of prison is the curtailing of liberty, NOT the subjection to a lawless environment of fear and subjugation by other prisoners.
There are a considerable number of prisoners (and those numbers would grow) who serve there time constructively & pay their debt to society never to return to prison. A safe & humane environment in our prisons is a human rights prerogative.
This goes especially for the dignity stripping rape culture.
Well, we don’t spend any money on rehabilitation, or on good schools and jobs which would enable people to stay out of prison. Its not that rehabilitation is “dismissed as a pipe dream” its that there isn’t a powerful economic incentive and unionized rehabilitation sector like there is a powerful prison sector. Just like we don’t have any money for preventive medical care but we do have money for a war of choice.
We can never shut down all the prisons, but we could certainly take an ecological approach to prison populations and work to trim them back by
a) incarcerating people primarily for violent crimes.
b) keeping children and adolescents separate from adult prison populations.
c) keeping violent and non violent offenders separate.
e) focusing on rehabilitation and half way houses rather than prison terms wherever practicable.
f) encouraging conjugal visits and family visits rather than exporting prisoners from their communities and making family life impossible to keep up.
This isn’t rocket science. But the only thing we can choose in this system is how to spend money, lots of it. We don’t really get a choice of whether we will spend the money at all. Its already spoken for by the penal/industrial system. We can only tinker around the edges.
I’m so glad this blog pushes this issue and prison reform generally. It’s one of the worst human rights situations in the country and we should all, to a person, be appalled. But because prisoners can’t vote, many won’t be able to vote, and many people in their communities don’t vote (or at least don’t have the resources to press hard for reform) nothing is done.
Betsy — you are so right about this blog and prison reform. Prisoners can’t vote, but they are counted in the population for census purposes at the facilities where they reside. So not only do they not vote, jurisdictions fight over them to get state and federal funds as well as the jobs they provide the uneducated. Before we get to reform, we probably need to eliminate the financial incentives to incarcerate.
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