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The Carceral-Industrial Complex

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www.timeonparchmanfarm.com_-e1425519401874

Mississippi officials are complaining about the state’s declining prison populations. Why? Because county, state, and private funding models were all built on prison profit and losing prisoners now creates budget crises.

County officials across Mississippi are warning of job losses and deep deficits as local jails are being deprived of the state inmates needed to keep them afloat. The culprit, say local officials, is state government and private prisons, which are looking to boost their own revenue as sentencing and drug-policy reforms are sending fewer bodies into the correctional system.

In the late 1990s, as the overcrowded Mississippi prison system buckled under the weight of mass incarceration, the state asked local governments to build local correctional institutions to house state prisoners. It was billed as a win-win: The Mississippi Department of Correction would foot the bill for each prisoner, and the counties would get good jobs guarding them. The state guaranteed that the local jails would never be less than 80 percent occupied, and the locals would get a 3 percent boost in compensation each year.

After a few years, say local officials, the state offered a new deal: Instead of the 3 percent bump, they would give the locals more and more prisoners, thus boosting total revenue. Today, the state pays $29.74 per day per prisoner to the regional facilities, a deal that worked for everybody as long as the buildings were stuffed full with bodies.

Scott Strickland, president of the Stone County Board of Supervisors, said reforms at the state and local levels have shrunk the prison population. “Federal laws took some part in that — allowing prisoners to serve only a certain percentage of their term,” he said. “Also, they’ve reduced prison sentences for certain drug-related offenses.”

As the wave of mass incarceration begins to recede, the Mississippi controversy has local and state officials talking openly about how harmful locking up fewer people up will be for the economy, confirming the suspicions of those who have argued that mass incarceration is not merely a strategy directed at crime prevention. “Under the administrations of Reagan and Clinton, incarceration, a social tool used for punishment, also became a major job creator,” Antonio Moore, a producer of the documentary “Crack in the System,” wrote recently.

“I don’t think it necessarily started out this way, but the inmate population has become the backbone of some of these counties that are involved,” said Mississippi Corrections Commissioner Marshall Fisher as the controversy heated up.

The prisoners have value beyond the per diem, county officials add, when they can be put to work. State prisoners do garbage pickup, lawn maintenance and other manual labor that taxpayers would otherwise have to pay for. Convict labor has made it easier for local governments to absorb never-ending cuts in state funding, as tea party legislators and governors slash budgets in the name of conservative government.

The state knows it, and now demands that local jails house state convicts who perform labor for free, George County Supervisor Henry Cochran told The Huffington Post. The counties take the deal. “You’re either gonna go up on everybody’s garbage bill, or you’ve gotta house those inmates,” Cochran said. “You’re using that inmate labor, so [taxpayers are] getting a little good out of that inmate for their tax dollars. You either gotta hire a bunch of employees or keep that inmate. It’s like making a deal with the devil.”

This whole system is completely dysfunctional, immoral, and racist, given who makes up the prison population. That different strata of government are both making economic claims on prisoners and that because of the state’s terrible politics, both levels of government lack the money to function without prisoners is just a terrible, awful, no good thing.

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  • Nobdy

    This is not fundamentally different than slavery except that some of the prisoners get released eventually. Truly disgusting and a moral blight on our country.

    If the counties need funding send them funding. If people in rural communities need jobs hire THEM to do the jobs the inmates are doing, like pick up garbage or pave roads.

    There is no excuse for the moral abomination of this slave labor system.

    • dm

      And when they are released they can’t obtain employment or housing because they have a criminal record so you build in an underclass that is easily exploited. In some places they will never be able to vote again. Texas prisoners went on strike recently to try to spread the word about the new plantation but of course this story was largely ignored by corporate media. Nobody should profit from slavery but the wealthy tech and communications corporations certainly don’t need subsidies. Dangerous conditions. No union to protect them. It deserves our outrage.

    • Linnaeus

      NED: This keeps up, you’re gonna put me out of business! With this pool of slave labor you got, you can underbid any contractor in town.

      NORTON: Ned, we’re providing a valuable community service.

      NED: That’s fine for the papers, but I got a family to feed. The State don’t pay my salary. Sam, we go back a long way. I need this new highway contract. I don’t get it, I go under. That’s a fact.
      (hands Norton a box) Now you just have some’a this fine pie my missus baked specially for you, and you think about that.

    • ThrottleJockey

      This is not fundamentally different than slavery

      I beg to differ with you.

      Slaves were innocents plucked from Africa. Prisoners have committed crimes and are being punished for those crimes. Slaves were brutally whipped. The average federal prison sentence is less than 10 years. The only way most slaves saw freedom was in death.

      So, yeah, there’s a whale sized difference in the two.

      • dm

        Most of those ‘criminals’ are there on drug charges — for using, sharing or selling a harmless drug. Bruce Alexander did some great research to explain drug use and other addictions. In this society we are all addicted to something but some behaviours get conveniently stigmatized while others don’t. So it is ok to spend all your time trolling on the internet or get into binge shopping or tv watching but smoking some weed makes you such a danger to society that you need to be locked up. I’d rather live next door to someone who chills out with some weed than an angry white supremacist armed with a whole lot of guns.

        • ThrottleJockey

          Most of those ‘criminals’ are there on drug charges — for using, sharing or selling a harmless drug.

          That’s not remotely close to being true.

          Suppose every federal drug offender were released today. That would cut the incarceration rate to about 693 inmates per 100,000 population. Suppose further that every drug offender in a state prison were also released. That would get the rate down to 625. It’s a significant drop, no question — these hypothetical measures would shrink the overall prison population by about 14 percent. (There isn’t data from BJS on the most serious charges faced by those in local jails, so let’s assume that no jail inmates are released in these scenarios.)

          I’m all for legalizing pot, but traffickers of hard drugs–coke, heroin, LSD, meth–need to do long stretches of prison time thinking about how much they hurt the community. How many people and their families have been ripped apart by drug use? Philip Seymour Hoffman might be alive today were it not for heroin.

          • brad

            1. We’re talking local and state prisoners here, not federal. Federal charges are, more or less by definition, serious matters, not about the petty crimes at issue here.
            2. Including LSD on that list shows how little you’ve considered what you’re talking about, in truth. And overall the venom shows how little you’re paying attention to places like Portugal.
            3. Addiction is a fucking medical problem that has not and will not ever be responded to positively by involving the criminal justice system.

            • Just_Dropping_By

              The 538 source TJ quoted expressly mentions state incarceration rates and it notes that even if all state drug offenders were also released, it would still only lower the overall prison population by 14%. A non-trivial amount, but not a game changer either.

              • brad

                DM brought it up so I’m not imputing bad faith on TJ in his response, but the OP is about state and local prison pops, which obviously includes many there on petty crimes, and crimes for which they will ultimately be found not guilty or perhaps even charged for. Living in NYC, and considering some personal experiences, I can say with confidence a non-trivial portion of the local and state prison population has yet to be convicted.
                That 14% doesn’t include the numbers on parole or in some other form of monitored release, which further taxes and overloads the system and increases the population by slowing the system. At least in the Bronx it’s not uncommon for prisoners to be held for many months awaiting trial.

                • ThrottleJockey

                  You’re against parole and monitored release? Well why even arrest people at all? Just let thieves and drug traffickers roam free.

                  And please stop conflating sentences for drug possession with sentences for drug trafficking. Drug traffickers are not victims of any disease other than greed, and the cure for that is imprisonment.

            • dm

              My main point was that most people in prison are not really dangerous people. >50% are there for drug related charges and that percentage has been steadily rising since the early 70s. The next biggest category is for immigration offences. Far too many people are there because there is no social support for those with mental health issues.

              • ThrottleJockey

                That’s even less true of state prisons than it is of federal prisons. Only about 16% of state prisoner are imprisoned primarily because of drug crimes.

                • dm

                  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/10/war-on-drugs-prisons-infographic_n_4914884.html tells a different story.

                  Most people in prisons are not dangerous to society. They are an exploited workforce who with the label ‘criminal’ lose all their rights and privileges. The drugs that have been declared illegal are not inherently addictive as Alexander’s research indicates. You seem to have this 1970s inspired public service announcement idea that ‘pushers’ roam around trying to hook innocent people. What drives people to abuse some substances – including alcohol? There is a strong connection to feelings of despair. Why can some people use heroin recreationally while others get lost? because it isn’t the substance that is addictive. The problem is that some people are desperate for relief. Putting a person with a substance problem in jail doesn’t solve any problems but just heaps up a whole lot more. The prison system isn’t there to protect our communities but to enrich the 1%.

          • witlesschum

            Hoffman, I might note, died of his addiction even though the United States government spends billions on waging a war on drugs that doesn’t seem to stop all that many people from doing drugs, but does put a lot of people in prison and helps organized crime make a lot of money.

          • The Pale Scot

            For every “trafficker of hard drugs–coke, heroin, (LSD wha??), meth–needing to do long stretches of prison time thinking about how much they hurt the community” there are a hundred or so people who go out clubbing and get their freak on, or snort a bag of dope and then wake up the next day and go back to work.

            Just because YOU can’t handle the drugs I like to do doesn’t mean either one of us should be doing time.

            Personally, I believe people who drink Jägermeister should be lined up and flogged in an attempt to beat some culinary awareness into them, (It’s called Chartreuse you bloody peasants) but I’m not looking to have it inserted into the penal code.

            You could always move to Utah and create a society of peace, enlightenment and panty sniffing, with great sales on wet suits and dildos.

            • DrS

              Agreed but you misspelled Fernet Branca above.

            • ThrottleJockey

              There’s lots of people who do drugs, piss their lives away, and piss their family’s life away. So, yeah, no thanks. If you want to poison someone poison yourself. If you’re a pusher though and want to poison someone else, well the po-po may want to talk to you.

              • eh

                Why single out (some) drugs?

              • The Dark Avenger

                Mire people die from prescription pills these days than all the other illegal drugs put together. Educate yourself on the Portuguese non-war on drugs, if you dare.

      • Nobdy

        Some prisoners committed crimes (not everyone in jail is guilty) and some of those crimes were ‘meaningful’ (as in they were non-trivial).

        While conditions on plantations were worse, it is a matter of degrees. Brutalization of prisoners is common, as are sexual assault and other indignities. Being beaten with a truncheon may be better than being beaten with a whip but it is a matter of degrees.

        The freedom difference is significant, but to me it is the only fundamental difference. Everything else is a matter of degrees of injustice.

        • ThrottleJockey

          Everything else is a matter of degrees of injustice.

          That difference in degrees is the difference between Fahrenheit and Kelvin.

          • Owlbear1

            Both words Human Beings MADE UP to describe the same phenomenon.

            Just like “Slavery” and “Prisoner Labor”…

          • F and K are inter convertible and represent the same thing. They do have differ 0 points and somewhat different graduations.

            Perhaps you meant “difference between 0K and 0F”?

            • ThrottleJockey

              Ummm, yes, Bijan, I know this. It was metaphorical, my man, it was metaphorical. Just a quip.

              • It was metaphorical, my man, it was metaphorical.

                But the metaphor doesn’t make your intended sense. I thought you were saying that the difference in degree is large. But “K vs. F” is compatible with “equal degrees”. (In particular, 0F = 255.372K…but this isn’t a “large difference”, it’s “no difference”, or “difference in name only”).

                Just a quip.

                I live to police quips for accuracy ;)

      • MD Rackham

        “Slavery” refers to more than African chattel slavery in the United States. It’s something that’s existed for many thousands of years in many shapes and forms, including slavery as the consequence of “crime” and for limited amounts of time.

        Is someone else getting the sole benefit of your labor? Is the power of the state keeping you from changing the situation? Is there no way at all to withdraw from the situation? Answer “yes” to all three and you’re a slave.

        • eh

          I love a good, “everybody was doin’ it!”

          • Origami Isopod

            I don’t see how the comment you’ve replied to is making that argument.

      • DrS

        That sound you hear is me being completely and utterly unshocked by TJs disgusting, inhumane, authoritarian blather.

        It’s like my jaw jumped up into my skull.

        • Thirtyish

          I’m surprised anyone is still surprised by it at this point. I’m even more surprised that some people still try to engage him in meaningful argument. I have not seen any evidence to date that he’s at all receptive to it.

          • sparks

            I used to defend TJ, but no longer. Sometimes a person who argues in good faith but does not ever listen and address the weaknesses in his position is just as big a liability as a person who argues in bad faith. TJ reached that point a while ago.

    • djw

      WHile it obviously won’t fix everything, one legislative approach I’d like to see applied is the minimum wage for prisoners. (And some of it can be used to unpaid court ordered restitution to victims, but capped at some percentage, maybe half?) It seems like it could be productively defended to against the standard throttlejockey-esque “who cares what happens to criminals, because they’re bad people” line by pointing out that it also helps local low-wage workers from losing their jobs to prisoners because of lower wages.

      • Denverite

        Good luck with that — an inmate would make $5k-$10k per year, so people would be released with tens of thousands of dollars to their name. Politicians would go apeshit.

        • NonyNony

          But if the fund of monies earned this way were used to pay restitution to their victims and, once restitution was paid, to pay for their transition into society at large, I think this could be finessed.

          People using prison labor should be paying market wages to someone for it. Whether that goes to the prisoners or their victims doesn’t matter to me so much as the fact that “cheap labor” is going to depress wages for low-skilled workers in the area around the prison and provide an incentive for a school-to-prison pipeline for anyone they can get away with throwing into prison to provide that labor.

          • Pseudonym

            If they aren’t actually being paid the money themselves for their labor, that doesn’t really address one of the big issues.

        • djw

          an inmate would make $5k-$10k per year, so people would be released with tens of thousands of dollars to their name. Politicians would go apeshit.

          I’m sure a good deal of the money in a lot of cases would go to support families. But insofar as this would happen, it’s not a stretch to imagine that being released from prison *not broke* could have a positive impact on recidivism rates, politicians could take credit. But politicians are changing their tune on mass-incarceration related issues really, really quickly. That the 94 crime bill would be a liability would have been pretty unimaginable 10 years ago.

  • Steve LaBonne

    “Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, and that his justice will not sleep forever.”

    • LosGatosCA

      There is no God.

      Here’s the proof:

      “Bayless “is looking at $5 million or so per year” to join Fox”

  • State prisoners do garbage pickup, lawn maintenance and other manual labor that taxpayers would otherwise have to pay for.

    This is slave/forced labor, no matter how it gets labled. Morally repugnant.

    • ThrottleJockey

      Hard labor has been a part of penal institutions for centuries. Picking up garbage isn’t remotely as hard as breaking big rocks into little rocks.

      • Judas Peckerwood

        Lots of morally repugnant things have been part of penal institutions for centuries. It doesn’t make them any less morally repugnant.

        • trollhattan

          Why, I can recall the incarcerated labor force that manufactured arms for certain European governments just last century. I wonder if there was a rehabilitation component to their toils?

      • addicted44

        Slavery was part of the economy for centuries…

        Hardly a defense for it.

      • njorl

        So why should the garbage collector have his wages undercut by a prisoner performing forced labor?

      • brad

        So has sexual assault.
        You do realize that argument could be, and is, made against working for social gains, right? Yeah, you do.

    • DrDick

      It has, however, been the primary model for financing state and local government in most of the South since Reconstruction. Hence the infamous chain gangs.

    • Just_Dropping_By

      And it’s expressly permitted by the 13th Amendment:

      “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” (Emphasis added.)

      There’s lots of things to critique about prison labor, but, “ZOMG! It’s slavery!” is pretty much the weakest argument against it.

      • advocatethis

        So, it took 75 years to amend the Constitution to forbid chattel slavery. Is it only in my dreams that we’ve evolved far enough as a society that we can now forbid other kinds without having to rely on further amending the constitution? Just because something is expressly constitutional does not make it just.

        • LosGatosCA

          Unfortunately, just because something is immoral, sick and evil does not make it illegal.

      • delazeur

        This is a conversation about currently legal things we want to make illegal. Giving an example of a law that makes it legal is not a counterargument.

      • sonamib

        Wait, I’m confused. So the 13th amendment says slavery is fine as long as it’s part of a prisoner’s conviction. Why is it off-limits to point out that prisoners are indeed sometimes treated as slave labor? Ok, it’s not unconstitutional, but has that ever stopped progressive movements before?

    • Captain Oblivious

      I don’t have a problem with making prisoners work. (Are we really better off having them sitting around getting bored?)

      I have a problem with a system which incentivizes unnecessary and excessive incarceration to provide cheap labor, or to use as a political weapon against minorities.

      • Sadly, I don’t think there will be any appetite for prison reform until after there is widespread enough prosperity that any attempts at reform are not hamstrung by objections in the form of “prisoners live better and are paid better and educated better than residents of any given poor neighborhood”.

        • Which is not to say that we should ignore the conditions in poor neighborhoods to focus on prison reform, obviously they are both big problems, but we are a big country, we can handle two problems at once.

  • NewishLawyer

    I would say burn it down and start again but I don’t have much faith that we would get it right the second time around.

    I marvel that we can pay people to be guards but having a new version of the W.P.A. is nothing more than evil communism!!

    The New Yorker just published an article on the torture of mentally ill inmates in Florida. The article filled me with despair. Do most people simply have ideas on mental illness that are straight from the days of Bedlam? Do we really just not want to pay for decency and dignity? Are the people who become guards naturally sadistic?

    There are some rays of light. Portland is trying a more humane way of dealing with the mentally ill according to the times. Some other cities might as well but the dragons of cruelty and reaction are strong.

    • Linnaeus

      Do we really just not want to pay for decency and dignity?

      For some people, no, we really don’t.

      • Thirtyish

        Well, it has been said that well-adjusted humans are on the brink of extinction.

    • Judas Peckerwood

      Do most people simply have ideas on mental illness that are straight from the days of Bedlam? Do we really just not want to pay for decency and dignity? Are the people who become guards naturally sadistic?

      Yes, yes and yes.

    • Snarki, child of Loki

      I would say burn it down and start again but I don’t have much faith that we would get it right the second THIRD time around.

      FIFY.

      Paging Zombie Sherman with nukes, got a job for you…

    • AMK

      Are the people who become guards naturally sadistic?

      Even if they don’t start out that way, all roads lead to Rome sadism.

      https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanford_prison_experiment

      • LeeEsq

        I think that experiment has disproven. Its just that some type of jobs are going to attract certain personality types more than others. People who are conflict adverse aren’t going to become trial lawyers or even transactional lawyers for the most part. Squimish people aren’t going to end up as doctors. This isn’t a universal rule but it is true enough. Prison guards are the same.

        • AMK

          Maybe. But even for those who are not textbook sadists, shocking violence and abuse can become normalized in short order if a person is immersed in it every day in their 9-to-5.

        • delazeur

          Not so much disproven as shown to be unreliable. I’m also not sure it makes sense to think about the job of prison guard attracting certain types of people when the prisons are often located in places with few other jobs.

    • Thirtyish

      Do most people simply have ideas on mental illness that are straight from the days of Bedlam?

      In a word, yes. Never underestimate how ignorant most people are on this subject, nor how little moral/psychological/empathic development some (many) people undergo.

  • ThrottleJockey

    The question is: How many of these fine, upstanding citizens do you want on our streets?

    I’ll say one thing about the Clinton era of criminal justice: It brought down the crime rate. A hundred thousand cops on the street sure worked.

    • tonycpsu
      • ThrottleJockey

        You realize that given how high recidivism rates are you can actually model how much lengthened sentences reduced crime?

        Even if you buy the lead hypothesis for crime, all those lead addled criminals didn’t just stop committing crime. They were locked up to prevent them from doing so.

        • brad

          So you’re in favor of preventive detention based not on crimes committed but… feelings and self-serving stats largely generated by addicts put in the system who keep being recycled through it. I’d mention your own horrible experiences and how close you came to being put in the system, or your cousin fucked by mandatory minimums, but apparently your own anecdata doesn’t count when it comes to RULES.
          Rules which only apply to the people, not to management or the government.

          • ThrottleJockey

            I’m not in favor of pre-emptive detention, I’m in favor of loooong sentences.

            • ColBatGuano

              They can’t all get life without parole, no matter how much you’d like to.

            • DrS

              Just have the bad man thrown through the mood door.

              • DrS

                gdi, moon door, obvi.

        • Lost Left Coaster

          Have you ever considered that high recidivism could in part be a result of the extraordinarily punitive nature of prison systems in the USA?

          There is virtually nothing done in terms of rehabilitation in a lot of places…and then people are shocked when ex-cons return to lives of crime on the outside.

          If we won’t treat prisoners better for their own sake, we should do it at least for our sake.

        • sonamib

          When we talk about “high recidivism rates”, it’s important to know what we’re talking about. This article is very good on this issue.

          The point is that the recidivism rate from year to year is largely driven by a relatively small number of people who go again and again and again into prison. Most prisoners actually don’t come back.

          When the recidivism rate is calculated the usual way (taking a sample of prisoners released in a given year, and then seeing 5 years later how many were convicted again), the sample is biased towards frequent recidivists. In any given year, it’s kind of an obvious fact that “frequent prison visitors” are over-represented in the prison population. If you count all unique prisoners incarcerated over a large period of time, their recidivism rate goes down a lot.

          But you should read the article, their explanation is a lot clearer and more thorough than mine.

          • Ronan

            I’m not sure I really get it (the article, that is). Both analysis are doing the same thing ? Looking at a cohort who left jail and over the space of x years seeing how many return ? The only difference is that one is looking at a shorter timeframe than the other ? But if people are showing up in the shorter timeframe (1-5years) would they not be showing up in the longer ? Woukdnt the shorter timeframe be more likely skewed to not capture recividism rates than the longer ? (Ie more repeat offenders would show up the longer you look at it)
            Sorry if the above doesn’t make sense (I’ll try rephrase if neccesary). In also not really contradicting the point, which I’m sure is right , just not understanding properly

            • Ronan

              Or put it this way. You have twenty prisoners being released who you follow for 5 years. Out of that twenty 5 go back to prison. You run the analysis again though over a fifteen year period, where 2 more go back from years 5-15. Recividism rates are higher in the first five years, but overall the rate of recividism increases the longer yiu look at it ?

    • Yossarian

      Yes, because if there’s one thing I can count on the state and counties of Mississippi to get right, it’s that the correct people are in prison for the correct amount of time.

    • wjts

      Your ability to turn on a dime from decrying the school-to-prison pipeline in the context of arming school security guards with semiautomatic rifles to enthusiastically endorsing draconian mass incarceration is truly something to behold.

      • ThrottleJockey

        My question is why don’t you feel the same way?

        The school-to-prison pipeline puts innocent children into the system. Putting criminals in jail for lengthy periods of time keeps them from hurting those same children (and others).

        • wjts

          Because I’m not a vindictive authoritarian whose moral universe is even more simplistically Manichean than an episode of G.I. Joe?

          • ThrottleJockey

            What does vindictiveness have to do with anything? This is about keeping streets safe.

            The problem with white liberals in good neighborhoods is that they’re too far removed from the problem. If you volunteer to start housing ex-cons on parole, you’d have some skin in the game. As it is, its easy to pontificate about how we need to release criminals onto the streets of poor minorities because its only poor minorities paying the price.

            • brad

              I live across the street from the Bushwick Houses, TJ. Someone has been shot literally right at my front door, in my time here. You’re talking out of your ass in order not to see that your head is up it.

              • ThrottleJockey

                These Bushwick Houses?

                I had lots of white friends who lived in “sketchy” neighborhoods briefly during college or grad school. If you’ve lived there 10 years or more my hats off to you. If this is just a rest stop save your sympathies for the people being victimized by the criminals.

                • brad

                  For over a decade, yeah TJ. Sneering at gentrification doesn’t change the realities of urban existence even for those douches from Nebraska who aren’t paying any of their bills and have no idea what the people living next door have lived through. I have no fear of violence in my life, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen or that there aren’t still gunshots to be heard among the fireworks in the summer.

                • ThrottleJockey

                  Then my hat’s off to you, Brad. I’ve been shot at from point-blank range though by a gangbanger and I don’t see a reason to back down from my point. Our neighborhoods would be better off without criminals lining the streets. I just have too many friends and relatives who’ve been victimized by crime–one of my best friends was murdered at 18 (killer still free), and another friend wears a colostomy bag to this day–to think it advisable to be easy on criminals. Its plain foolishness.

                • The Temporary Name

                  I just have too many friends and relatives who’ve been victimized by crime–one of my best friends was murdered at 18 (killer still free), and another friend wears a colostomy bag to this day–to think it advisable to be easy on criminals. Its plain foolishness.

                  Yet there are good places to live with less insane laws.

                • ColBatGuano

                  to think it advisable to be easy on criminals. Its plain foolishness.

                  Your faith in the state is touching.

            • John not McCain

              As a white liberal in a bad neighborhood I’d definitely feel safer if you were locked up and denied the right to vote.

              • ThrottleJockey

                If you lived there semi-permanently (and not just while you were in grad school or briefly after college) my hat’s off to you. If this is just a pit stop on your way up the academic/professional ladder then I’m less impressed.

                • tonycpsu

                  This notion that only people who live in high-crime areas get to have a meaningful opinion on issues of crime and punishment, and specifically only those who’ve chosen to live there and not those who have to live there earlier in their careers, is just about the snobbiest thing I’ve ever read in these comments. It’s basically a bank-shot ad-hominem, suggesting that people are too chicken shit to put their livelihood where their mouth is. How about you engage with the actual arguments?

                • ThrottleJockey

                  Because its cuts to the point. Its like 1600s missionaries to the Americas pushing Jesus. I know y’all mean well and all, but save it. People who poison and shoot up their communities lose the right to be a part of it. Can’t poor black people have crime free neighborhoods too?

                • tonycpsu

                  Yes, if we’d stop ruining people in our so-called “corrections” system. If you stop anything short of jailing anyone who commits violent crime for life without parole, you’re dodging the fact that the very remedy you’re using — extensive sentences — is increasing crime in the neighborhoods you make a big show of caring about.

            • wjts

              The problem with white liberals in good neighborhoods…

              The neighborhoods I’ve spent my entire adult life in have been so nice that I’ve certainly never been the victim of home invasion, auto burglary, the complainant/reporter of rapes, the complainant/reporter of serious domestic violence, a witness in serial domestic disturbances, or had my apartment complex raided for housing a meth lab (twice). If only I had “skin in the game”, then I might understand that the only solution is perpetual incarceration of these various and sundry inhuman predators.

              • Denverite

                Once on like 52nd and Woodlawn, we had the police bust through our apartment to get to another unit in the building. They held my dog at gunpoint and told us to restrain her! (She was rightfully barking at the heavily armed men and women running through the door.)

                • wjts

                  If you were there between June 1999 and May 2003, we were living within two blocks of one another.

                • Denverite

                  Yep. August ’99 until August ’01.

                • wjts

                  I wonder how many times we passed each other in Kimbark Liquors.

                • Denverite

                  Remember when they mispriced the Lagavulin and were selling it for like $30?

                • wjts

                  No, I don’t drink hard liquor – it upsets my delicate tummy.

                • burritoboy

                  I was at E. Hyde Park and Ellis from 2001 to 2005.

                • ThrottleJockey

                  52nd and Woodlawn, nice neighborhood. Were you a fan of Harold’s?

                • Denverite

                  52nd and Woodlawn, nice neighborhood. Were you a fan of Harold’s?

                  No. I got sick the first time I ate there and didn’t eat there again. My now-spouse and I had just moved in together. Nothing like a revolving bathroom door to remove all inhibitions!

                  I also got sick after eating a rare burger at Leona’s, and haven’t had another rare burger since.

                  I also also got a stern warning when the aforementioned dog broke loose, ran to the shopping center, and hung out in Mr. G’s while my drunk now-spouse and brother-in-law tried to catch her.

                  I did occasionally get nachos from Pepe’s. Ironically, it never made me sick.

            • Denverite

              I bought a house on a block with one of the highest crime rates in the city once upon a time. It was the same block as a policy station, you see, so every time someone tried to kick the police or otherwise “resist” arrest, the crime was recorded as coming from the station.

        • rea

          Man, the whole point of the school-to-prison pipeline is that it puts innocent children into the system, they get labeled as “criminals” and then we put them in jail for lengthy periods of time–and at some point in this process, the label becomes the universally accepted fact.

        • brewmn

          A lot of those kids are violent and disruptive. And probably guilty of the types of low-level offenses that have flooded our prison system and funded the prison-industrial complex.

          I don’t see how your Old Testament views on justice and punishment would excuse them from suffering the consequences of their actions just because they’re a few years younger than many of young men actually sentenced to prison.

          • ThrottleJockey

            Kids being kids will get into fistfights. They’ve done it for centuries. We shouldn’t criminalize that.

            • wjts

              Ah, yes. “Boys will be boys” when it’s you and yours, “lock them up and throw away the key” when it’s not.

              • LeeEsq

                Throttle Jockey does have point though. One theory for the rise incarceration rates isn’t the War on Drugs or Drum’s lead hypothesis but that prosecutors got more consistent on when they pressed charges. I read this theory in an interview on Slate several months ago. The basic idea is that if a fight broke out in a bar and death resulted, police wouldn’t arrest and prosecutors wouldn’t indict if the fight was deemed fair. Things changed and eventually arrests and indictments and the resulting convictions and imprisonments became more common.

                Another way to explain this theory is that prosecutor’s stopped exercising their discretion as much as they used to and began indicting more. The idea that you couldn’t convict every criminal used to be very important and you should focus more on the high end felonies than low level misdemeanors.

                • brad

                  Which, if true, is probably in most cases quite deliberate, as it vastly increases the power of the DA’s office.

                • LeeEsq

                  Partially but not entirely so. The United States always had a reputation as being a more wild place used to casual violence than Europe. Not writing off a killing because the fight was fair or other minor crimes as youthful indiscretion is a step towards the rest of the world. Prosecutors probably also had a good sense of the public mood towards crime and were less willing to exercise discretion because of that. Many of them are elected and like all elected politicians want to remain in office for the most part. Even if they were appointed, they could still see where politics was going and might come to the same conclusion. Its just that the tendency to exercise discretion less didn’t work out so well because of some other evil aspects of American society like racism.

          • LeeEsq

            I really resent the use of the phrase Old Testament as an insult. It is anti-Semitic.

            • bender

              Yes.

            • Thirtyish

              What if it’s actually descriptive?

              • LeeEsq

                Jews tend to have a very different opinion on the Old Testament than non-Jews. Even liberal Jews do not see it as being as harsh as non-Jews do. The entire vengeful OT God and loving NT Jesus makes no sense to us because we have a more positive but complicated opinion on God as presented in the Torah.

                • Thirtyish

                  Fair enough. But interpretations of the Old Testament god as a vindictive SOB are a well-established thing in Christianity, and the fact that so many of those primitive “values”–like vengeance, jealousy, impulsive retribution, and rule-enforcement just for the sake of having rules–are held up by conservatives and authoritarians as aspirational is something that should be criticized and mocked.

                • LeeEsq

                  When conservatives do this with the Qu’Ran it is recognized as anti-Muslim bigotry. I really fail why the same principle shouldn’t apply to our holy books simply because of old and anti-Jewish Christian tropes.

                • Thirtyish

                  I’m not sure pointing out problematic passages in the Quran is necessarily anti-Muslim bigotry. It depends on context–most anti-Muslim conservatives are bigoted due to a combination of racism, xenophobia, and bugfuck ignorance about traditions significantly different from their own. I am confident that right-wingers would be anti-Muslim even if the Quran were full of sunshine, lollipops, puppies, and rainbows. The Quran can be legitimately criticized, excoriated even, without necessarily coming from a place of racialist anti-Islamism.

                • Thirtyish

                  But I’m not in a position to say whether the use of OT as a slur is anti-Semitic or not, and I recognize that using one’s holy book as a weapon against members of a faith in the case of the Quran–while maybe not coming from a place of intentioned bigotry or malice–can have that effect on adherents of those faiths. But I do think that religious texts should still be criticized when needed/where available.

                • wjts

                  No one but the rankest anti-semite would ever speak of, e.g., the Bronze/Iron Age legalisms of Deuteronomy or Leviticus as anything but super-terrific and worthy of emulation. (And I sincerly hope you’ve never used “draconian” pejoratively!)

                • witlesschum

                  The entire vengeful OT God and loving NT Jesus makes no sense to us because we have a more positive but complicated opinion on God as presented in the Torah.

                  Julia Sweeney taught me that loving NT Jesus is mainly an invention of good Christians and not actually all that well supported in the text. He does lots of angry messiah shit.

                  The main thing is that everyone’s interpretation of scripture is right and everyone’s is wrong, because it’s all a pack of self-contradictory nonsense that can mean anything you want it to.

            • brewmn

              Oh, fuck you. Seriously.

              • LeeEsq

                No. I will not shut up on this issue. Its important.

                • brewmn

                  The OT is every bit as much a part of Western culture as it is Jewish culture, and has been for over 2000 years. Jews have no greater claim over it as representative of their beliefs than do Christians at this point. It’s not Jews wanting to post the Ten Commandments in every statehouse in the country, and it’s not Jews claiming Leviticus as the basis for discrimination against homosexuals. Ad nauseum.

                  Equation of criticism of the prescriptions in the OT with anti-Jewish sentiment simply can’t be found anywhere other than under your extremely thin skin. It’s not important; it’s a stupid and insulting claim.

    • Judas Peckerwood

      I’ll say one thing about the Clinton era of criminal justice: It brought down the crime rate. A hundred thousand cops on the street sure worked.

      Yes, but it also led to an acceleration in the rate of climate change, genocide in Rwanda and the cancelation of the 1994 World Series.

      • postmodulator

        It caused hair loss in a lot of men I went to college with! Not me so far, though.

        • Snarki, child of Loki

          “It caused hair loss in a lot of men I went to college with! Not me so far, though.”

          It’s only the added reflectivity that has prevented further global warming.

          Except for YOU! Get with the plan, already!

    • Nobdy

      The Clinton crime bill had little affect on crime as the graph on the last blog post showed. The fall of crime is one of the great mysteries of our time.

      A lot of these people should be released. Those who shouldn’t (rapists and other truly dangerous individuals who have not been rehabilitated) can be paid a fair wage for their labor.

      When you make criminals valuable as a commodity you incentivize the government to lock more people up longer irrespective of the crime rate. Crime has fallen dramatically over the last 20 years. Why aren’t our prisons close to empty?

      • yet_another_lawyer

        For those who shouldn’t be released, what is a fair wage for their labor, after factoring in that the state pays for their shelter, food, clothing, and basic medical care? It seems that prison labor is a huge problem no matter how you do it– if it’s the prevailing minimum wage, then they’re effectively being paid more than free people making minimum wage. If it’s less than that, then it undercuts local labor markets. If it’s minimum wage minus a charge to account for the above, then whoever gets the money is going to have a vested interest in mass incarceration. All three of these have obvious problems. Possibly someone with more creativity than me can figure out a solution to this?

        • njorl

          There is a lot of labor within the prison which needs doing – cooking, cleaning, maintenance, teaching and so on. Restricting prisoners to this avoids creating an economic incentive to increase the prison population, and avoids having prison labor undercut the wages of workers, while defraying the cost of imprisonment.

          I also think it’s perfectly reasonable for a prisoner to receive a fair wage for their work. It’s reasonable that some of that wage could be taken to completely cover the administrative cost of any program which allows a prisoner to work, but prison labor should never be cheaper than standard labor. If I’m a contractor building a road, using prisoners shouldn’t lower my labor costs.

          • sonamib

            but prison labor should never be cheaper than standard labor.

            Yes, that’s the crucial point. Nobody should benefit from prison labor more than they would from regular labor. That’s the only way to ensure that there are no shenanigans or exploitation going on.

      • ThrottleJockey

        Why should society pay them a wage before the criminals have paid back their debt to society?

        • wjts

          Yeah, I bet some of those inhuman monsters stole DVD players. Nothing can ever repay that sort of debt. Bring back hanging, I say.

          • Brownian

            Some of them threw punches. Who wants a ‘fine, upstanding citizen’ like that out on the streets?

          • ThrottleJockey

            If all they stole was 1 DVD player then they’re probably not doing time.

        • brad

          Because unless someone is an authoritarian like you we realize these are still human beings who the rest of us will have to interact with at times?
          Preventing these men and women from being able to live, while creating systems which increase the difficulties on them and allow others to profit off their situation, only ensures that they will be unable to find a way forward for themselves.
          Either petty crime becomes a life sentence, or there has to be an element of rehabilitation and a basic respect for humanity. You want neither, and apparently prefer the current system.

          • ThrottleJockey

            I’m not an authoritarian.

            More importantly people can rehabilitate themselves. Most poor people, most minorities aren’t criminals. If they can be fine upstanding citizens then criminals can be fine upstanding citizens if they choose to be. Its a choice.

            • brad

              Yes, you are. You value rules over people, and tradition over progress. That you dislike who it shows your thought processes to be similar to is on you, not us.

              • ThrottleJockey

                I’m a live and let live guy. But when criminals decide to keep others from living peaceful lives, then yeah, they have to be locked away so that the rest of us can live life.

                Besides putting “people over rules” as you would apparently have it only serves to empower the good ol’ boys. I’ve been at far too many jobs where the powers that be let some people break the rules, while others live by them.

                • brad

                  Where does the line between your need for a sense of mental security and the rights of everyone else get drawn, TJ?

                • ThrottleJockey

                  I’m not talking about throwing squeegee men in jail for 20 years, I’m talking about throwing drug traffickers and violent people in jail for 20 years. Its not my “mental” security. Its security.

                • brad

                  But you get very scared and defensive whenever prisoners or “criminals” are mentioned. Actual predators are rare, and do need to be kept away from the rest of us.
                  My view is that the bloated, racist, profit oriented criminal justice system we have not only perpetuates and creates many forms of social injustice, it forces police to pay less attention to those rare few in favor of enacting Conservative social policies. You’re arguing in favor of throwing money and lives at walls in the hopes that a few desirable outcomes get mixed in among all the costs. I’m arguing that genuinely dangerous people are much less common than you think and deserve to be focused on in the proper ways, which is demonstrably not the goal of the current criminal justice system.

                • wjts

                  I’m a live and let live guy.

                  So little self-awareness in so few words.

                • ColBatGuano

                  I’m talking about throwing drug traffickers and violent people in jail for 20 years.

                  Your naive belief that criminals are easily divided into these simplistic categories is astounding. I bet you think there’s no racial component to who gets charged with a felony in almost identical situations, right?

                • Buckeye623

                  Put cops at every corner in BelAir and you’ll pick up more rich kid heroin dealers than crack dealers in Compton.. especially if you pull all the cops from Compton.

                  They come from rich families, yes. But they chose to be criminals.. and to use your projected definition, “kept others from living peaceful lives.”

                  Or, pick a different city: If you pull the cops from Eastern Avenue in Baltimore city and send them all to Roland Park, you’ll still find crime. You may get more white collar crime, but it’s still a crime.. and ponzi schemes that suck money from people definitely fit the definition of “keeping others from living a peaceful life.”

                • Thirtyish

                  I remember the first instance where TJ explicitly preached his alleged “live and let live” mindset. It was shallow, disingenuous BS then, and it remains so now. BTW, wjts, I still think you need your own blog.

                • wjts

                  You’re kind to say so, but for a number of reasons, I think I’m happier here in the Peanut Gallery.

                • Pseudonym

                  I’m talking about throwing drug traffickers and violent people in jail for 20 years. Its not my “mental” security. Its security.

                  We can’t have our children getting shot in the street or addicted to LSD, can we?

        • sonamib

          Why should society pay them a wage before the criminals have paid back their debt to society?

          But come on, aren’t you at least worried about the massively distorted incentives here? I mean, the counties materially benefit from a larger prison population. A larger prison population is desirable for them regardless of whether the prisoners actually “deserve” to be there or not.

          If people “deserve¨ to be punished, then we should be goddamn ready to pay for it as a society. If we aren’t ready to even pay the full cost of incarceration, it’s not really worth much, now is it?

          • ThrottleJockey

            The distorted incentive structure as you phrase it is problematic especially in a state like Mississippi. Its the type of thing that leads to Ferguson type excesses.

            So you have to balance the risk of having innocent people imprisoned against the risk of having guilty people roam the streets.

      • Ronan

        Franklin zimrings argument claims it (or parts of it) are knowable

        http://www.scientificamerican.com/podcast/episode/the-city-that-became-safe-what-new-11-08-09/

        Doesn’t support TJs hang em highism but does emphasise role of policing

        • ThrottleJockey

          LOL, I didn’t nothing about hanging!

    • DrDick
    • Brownian

      How many of these fine, upstanding citizens do you want on our streets?

      Three cheers for the school-to-prison pipeline! We can be sure everyone at the end of it is Bad™, even if they weren’t so to begin with.

    • AMK

      I thought (per Freakonomics) that the urban crime rate fell off a cliff during the Clinton Admin primarily because of Roe v. Wade. The overwhelming majority of street criminals were/are between 18 and 30, and abortion was legalized across the country in 1973…meaning the cohort of kids who hit their peak crime years in the mid/late 90s and after was much smaller than it would have otherwise been…many of the predicted “super-predators” having been aborted.

      Beyond macro factors (racism, globalization etc..) the proximate cause of long-term generational poverty and crime is people having kids who can’t afford to take care of them. Yes, of course we should provide ways to pull people out of poverty and help them stay afloat (strong minimum wages, affordable healthcare and education, etc..) but we should also encourage them not to have kids they can’t afford. It’s easier to have a child than it is to adopt a dog, and that’s not a good thing.

      • Bill Murray

        Freakonomics is probably not a good source for anything but profits for the authors. For the specific case of abortion and crime, properly doing the statistics seems to completely remove the correlation that was found

        • MyNameIsZweig

          Yeah, it’s a pretty shoddy piece of work, that book.

    • Unless you feel that Americans are uniquely lawless people, our prison population is far in excess of other countries both by percentage and total numbers.

      When you’re beating out places like Russia and China something is very wrong.

      • ThrottleJockey

        If you mean Americans as in “The Americas, North and South”, then Americans are about the most violent people on the planet…And given how frequently we like to go to war that shouldn’t be surprising.

        • Now you’re just being silly. I meant United States and you know it.

          When your prison population is bigger than such bastions of democracy as Putin’s Russia and China you’ve got a problem.

    • Tyro

      The question is: How many of these fine, upstanding citizens do you want on our streets?

      We can’t release them! After all those years in jail, they’ve become hardened convicts!

  • County officials across Mississippi are warning of job losses and deep deficits as local jails are being deprived of the state inmates needed to keep them afloat.

    The ghosts of the men who created convict leasing weep hot salty tears in Hell.

    • LosGatosCA

      We can only hope.

  • LosGatosCA

    It’s fucking evil and sick.

    And if you don’t think so, you’re part of the sickness.

    If we had started putting the robo-signers in prison this shit would have stopped by now.

    • LosGatosCA

      To be clear – business models profiting from other people’s misery – even if it’s their own fault – is fundamentally sick.

      The motivation is identical to the predatory municipalities that keep the poor (white and black) indebted and in fear due to expired plates, outstanding warrants, etc. (Revenue driven speed traps fall into the same category.)

      It’s bad enough to be in those circumstances, its both immoral and evil to have the state incented to pile on to keep you down. No body deserves that, ever.

  • Hells Littlest Angel

    Thanks to an unfortunate loophole in the 13th Amendment:

    Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

    … this kind of shit has been going on for a long time. It was once common at harvest time in the South, especially in Mississippi, for the cops to crack down on “vagrancy” — defined as being in public without ID or money — in order to provide nearly-free labor to cotton farmers.

    The 13th Amendment is badly in need of amendment.

  • kped

    This brings up a major issue – local funding sources. We aren’t far removed from hearing the horror stories of Ferguson Missouri and how they relied on bleeding their citizens dry via over-zealously following the “letter of the law”, ticketing for the most minor infractions, and then relying on late fees when the poor citizens couldn’t pay up.

    This seems similar, and i worry that they’ll start locking people up for minor infractions just for the funding.

    It’s a twisted system. There needs to be a better way to fund local governments than fining and jailing their residents.

    • LosGatosCA

      Exactly correct.

    • witlesschum

      One of Rick Snyder’s less-well known atrocities in Michigan is continuing the slashing of state revenue sharing to local governments while also decreasing the amounts of property taxes they can collect from industry. City and township governments have to respond by cutting the people who provide services and raising local property taxes on homeowners.

  • Pseudonym

    But guarding prisons is one of the last remaining jobs that pays a decent middle-class wage. Surely you don’t want to deprive workers of that and force them to commit suicide?

  • Buckeye623

    Putting everyone in prison..

    It slices! It dices! It cuts taxes! It reduces carbon footprint! It ends miscegenation!

    Putting aside the MonopolyMan with a monocle level of racism.. This article is yet another reason why the South won’t rise again — there isn’t any Southern “government” from which to receive transfer payments to fund this nonsense.

  • Pretty soon our economy will consist of locking up half the population and paying the other half to watch them.

    • Wapiti

      It could be part of a basic income scheme. Have the population switch roles between prisoner and guard every week. /snerk

    • LosGatosCA

      As foretold by Jay Gould:

      “I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half.”

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