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# The United States Prison Industrial Complex.

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### #21Ravyne  GDNet+   -  Reputation: 7381

Posted 31 May 2011 - 01:50 PM

It certainly is bothersome to me -- at 1% of the population I believe that's anywhere between 2.5 and 3 million people. To put that into perspective, that's 5-6 cites the size of Seattle worth of people -- or about all of the Seattle-metro area, which includes 6 counties and 5 major cities (Seattle, Tacoma, Everett and Bellevue).

I think that, most definitely, all criminals should be in jail for a period that fits the crime and damaged caused, with consideration given for criminal repetition, pattern of crimes (is the person a serial burglar, are their crimes becoming increasingly risky or violent), and mitigating circumstances. I do think we need to re-define what constitutes crime, re-examine penalties attached to various crimes, and to completely do away with three-strikes, at the very least for non-violent crimes (I would define violent as the threat of a weapon, or actual use of physical force).

I think the biggest part of the mess is the criminalization of Marijuana and all the low-level crimes and arrests surrounding that. I think decriminalization of simple possession and legalized sales would make a huge dent in annual prison intake. I would also advocate that people in jail or prison for simple possession, or for which simple possession make up a portion of their three strikes be unbound by the minimum and commuted to appropriate sentences, less time served.

Another more general problem with three strikes, minimum sentences and "tough on crime" is that we've taken the ability of Judges to... you know... judge. That is their job after all -- they have two essential duties -- to conduct the trial, and to determine punishment based upon the jury conviction, the facts of the case and considering mitigating circumstances. Granted that a freer system can be abused, and will no doubt end up in a criminal who slips through the system with minimal punishment and then goes on to commit some henous act (generally the scenario that brought about 3 strikes and manditory minimums), but as tragic as that might be, we'd probably come out ahead on the balance of the whole.

Of course, as nice as this might be, we won't see these changes, certainly not now when people's concerns are elsewhere, and their biggest fear is some newly-released criminal either a) taking their job, or b) finding no job and resorting to crime.

Certainly its not a simple problem to address though, there's a whole web of socio-economic and other issues that drive criminal activity.

### #22forsandifs  Members   -  Reputation: 154

Posted 31 May 2011 - 02:38 PM

Some related stories.

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http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/35257428/ns/us_news-crime_and_courts/t/nyc-student-arrested-doodling-desk/

A 12 year old girl was handcuffed, arrested, detained, and criminally convicted for writing "Lex was here 2/1/10" on her desk.

Not an isolated incident...

http://blog.imperfec...rawing-on-desk/

In 2007, [a] 13-year-old wrote “Okay” on her desk, and police handcuffed and arrested her. She was one of several students arrested in the class that day; the others were accused of plastering the walls with stickers.

At schools across the country, police are being asked to step in ... a food fight at a middle school in Chicago, Illinois, resulted in the arrests of 25 children, some as young as 11.

I wonder if these will count towards their three strikes...

---

From wikipedia:

"The term police state describes a state in which the government exercises rigid and repressive controls over the social, economic and political life of the population. A police state typically exhibits elements of totalitarianism and social control, and there is usually little or no distinction between the law and the exercise of political power by the executive."

### #23ChurchSkiz  Members   -  Reputation: 449

Posted 31 May 2011 - 02:38 PM

If you don't want to go to prison, don't break the law. What a concept...

A program about Miami jails in the UK recently made the point that those giant jails are exclusively for those awaiting sentence, i.e. not guilty... they can be in maximum security violent facilities for years while still legally innocent.

How's that for a concept.

That's a different discussion. If people that are awaiting trial are stuck in prison for years then that is a major issue.

Also, awaiting sentencing is not the same as not guilty. Awaiting sentencing means you are a convicted criminal but your sentence hasn't been decided yet. Maximum security could be appropriate depending on the crime. If you're in maximum security you probably won't get out for time already served at sentencing so I can't see this would be a problem in all but the rarest of cases.

### #24Sirisian  Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1755

Posted 31 May 2011 - 02:49 PM

Some related stories.
[...]

Parents are finicky about what happens to their children. It's sometimes easier to just have police deal with vandals. Maybe the kids will get placed in safe homes with proper parenting. If the teachers do anything else they could be held responsible or worse sued which schools can't really afford.

### #25DarklyDreaming  Members   -  Reputation: 363

Posted 31 May 2011 - 03:01 PM

The idiopathic idiocracy on both sides, either being too lenient in preference for 'rehabilitation' (read: release) of prisoners or arresting 'criminals' for charges bordering on the insane, is becoming less and less amusing. Really, how hard is it to set up a system where, you know, rapists, murderers, thieves and general misdoers get arrested and sentenced to jail instead of a twelve-year old cluttering a desk? Or that dude who smokes marijuana at home? Really? Heck, if the police reacted like that on children being children over here it would have to arrest half the population... probably more.

Ah, the rule of the hypocritical hardliners and the never-to-be-sufficiently-damned baby-sitter mentalists; not that the 'agnostic' system-is-what-it-is apologists are any better. Why can't science and common sense sneak it's way into politics? It's like an unhappily married couple, and everything just ends up with them arguing until finally one sleeps on the couch while the other takes the bed. Look, the system exists for two reasons (looking at it ideologically; don't feed me your cynicism!) A) to provide a way for someone who breaks the system to get back in the system and B) to prevent people from committing harm to themselves or, more importantly, to others. That's it.

Now tell me, honestly, how does the current system do that? Profit from prison systems? Oh yeah, what a great idea. Meh, I won't rant on any more, but hell, don't you see something must be fundamentally wrong when we can't do better than either A) letting a rapist go to prison, pay a fine, and four months later get out for 'good behavior' or B) arrest a twelve-year old for doing what every twelve year old does? Must it really be one of those two extremes?

Ugh, okay. I'm done.
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### #260BZEN  Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2016

Posted 31 May 2011 - 03:15 PM

ouch.

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### #27Jacob Jingle  Members   -  Reputation: 223

Posted 31 May 2011 - 03:18 PM

- About 1% of the population of the United States is in prison.

America should do like China and execute their murderers, rapist, pedophiles. 1 trial and 3 quick appeals and boom they die. Give the judges the power to reclaim the money for their states safety net programs that take care of the poor and the sick. (Don't you think orphans deserve the money more than a child rapist that murdered a kid?)

And they should get rid of their silly drug laws. What people do with their bodies is their own business.

### #28Jacob Jingle  Members   -  Reputation: 223

Posted 31 May 2011 - 03:29 PM

What bothers me is the cost of all these prisons and supporting all these prisoners. If someone shop lifts 3 times for say $100 item (this is$300 stolen), but the US tax payers are gonna pay for his/her food and prison room for the next 25 years? That doesn't make sense at all. Even if it was just 1 year in prison it would be too expensive.

Are America's prisons filled with shoplifters? I don't know the real number, but I would imagine the number of nonviolent offenders that are locked up would be a really small majority(and most of them probably have a history of past violence).

### #29forsandifs  Members   -  Reputation: 154

Posted 31 May 2011 - 03:33 PM

Are America's prisons filled with shoplifters? I don't know the real number, but I would imagine the number of nonviolent offenders that are locked up would be a really small majority(and most of them probably have a history of past violence).

http://en.wikipedia....onviolent_crime

### #30Mussi  Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1968

Posted 31 May 2011 - 03:35 PM

1. Three "strikes" and you get life in jail. Even for trivial crimes, Leandro Andrade is serving 2 consecutive life sentences for shoplifting 9 video tapes with a value of \$153
2a. 1% of Americans are in jail(2.3million)
2b On a per capita bases this equates to twice as many in South Africans, more than 3 times Iran and 6 times China's prison population.
3. No society in history has imprisoned as many people as America.
4. 1 in 30 men aged 20 - 34 in in prison.
5.1 in 9 black males are in prison.
6. There are more 17 year old black males in prison than in college.
7. 5% of the world are American...25% of all prisoners are American.
8. America prohibits importing goods made through forced labor or prisoners...YET......American prisons produce 100% of all military helmets, ammunition belts, bullet proof vests,
9. 93% of domestically used paints, 36% of home appliances, 21% of office furniture, which allows America to compete with factories in Mexico.
10. You get solitary confinement if you refuse to work

That's shocking .

### #31BCullis  Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1813

Posted 31 May 2011 - 04:36 PM

6. There are more 17 year old black males in prison than in college.

That's shocking .

Hmmm...17? I wonder how that ratio looks if you bump the age up to 18...you know, the age most college-entrants are when they start, as opposed to the majority age for high-school seniors? Kind of hard to be in college if you're still in high school.
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### #32Hodgman  Moderators   -  Reputation: 30384

Posted 31 May 2011 - 06:58 PM

5% of the world are American...25% of all prisoners are American.

You can't look at that statistic and say that there's not something wrong with either American justice or American morals. For one in 4 global prisoners to be in an American prison, there's obviously something in America that causes more people to be punished via incarceration, and/or causes more people to commit serious crimes. Injustice and inequality seem rife.

Also, what the hell happened in the 80's???

those ... jails are exclusively for those awaiting sentence, i.e. not guilty... they can be in maximum security violent facilities for years while still legally innocent. How's that for a concept.

jailing of innocents doesn't only apply to people in America.

I read that as "those awaiting conviction", not "awaiting sentencing" -- people awaiting sentencing are guilty, those awaiting conviction aren't...[/edit]

### #33 owl   Banned   -  Reputation: 364

Posted 31 May 2011 - 07:16 PM

Also, what the hell happened in the 80's???

wiki

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

Prisons became a business. That and heavy drugs.
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### #34Ravyne  GDNet+   -  Reputation: 7381

Posted 31 May 2011 - 07:44 PM

There was also a big kick in the 80s-90s to "get tough on crime" and then in the early-mid 90s the crime rate went down (though clearly the prison population continued to grow, so what gives there?) -- anyhow, if you've read/seen Freakanomics, there was an interesting chapter about how legalization and availability of abortion was attributed to around 50% of the cause for the decline in crime. Of course, no one at the time had made that tie, and attributed it to all the new laws, over-policing, manditory minimums and three-strikes, and well, if crime wen't down all that stuff must be working right? By extension, keep it going, get tougher and build more prisons! Clearly this was the answer and we see the result. I think there's no small part played by observing a symptom of the desired outcome, and making that a measure of the goal.

I'd also be willing to wager that slight downtick in 2000 on the graph would be largely attributed to the war effort (either by absorbing would-be criminals, decreasing population pressure, and giving judges cause for leniency -- not sure how common it is these days for the ol' "go to prison or go to war"-type sentencing that sometimes happened in the Korea/Vietnam era.)

### #35Sirisian  Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1755

Posted 31 May 2011 - 10:41 PM

There was also a big kick in the 80s-90s to "get tough on crime" and then in the early-mid 90s the crime rate went down (though clearly the prison population continued to grow, so what gives there?)

People in prisons don't create crimes? Seems obvious to me. If everyone selling/buying drugs is in jail there's less chance of someone breaking into a house for extra money? From reading wikipedia and a few articles it sounds like a huge part of this is drug related. In the 70s people got really relaxed with drugs and then there was a crackdown and they're cleaning stuff up and that generation is in jail now. At least the only thing the newer generations do is Marijuana. I've only heard a few people say they're doing harder drugs lately.

### #36Hodgman  Moderators   -  Reputation: 30384

Posted 01 June 2011 - 01:00 AM

Seems obvious to me. If everyone selling/buying drugs is in jail there's less chance of someone breaking into a house for extra money?

No. The complete opposite:

If you put everyone selling drugs in jail (AKA prohibition), then you're artificially restricting the supply, which greatly increases the profits, which creates more incentive to sell drugs, which creates more drug dealers. That is, jailing dealers creates more dealers! And meanwhile, the ones in jail are basically in criminal university, learning how to be better dealers for when they get out.

Every dollar you spend on enforcement is a dollar that goes towards increasing the cost of drugs -- a dollar that goes into the pockets of criminal drug dealers. In this sense, by funding enforcement, you're funding drug dealers! Without enforcement they'd have no profit margin left -- their base product is too cheap without the state jacking up the prices via prohibition.

You can't put all the users in jail either -- unless you're going to jail the majority of your population, most of whom are completely innocent.
Also, by criminalising addiction (a mental illness that can be treated), you're isolating them from treatment and damning them to continue to be addicted. Combine this with the artificially inflated prices and you've got yourself burglaries for extra money.

This is all created by the "tough justice" system -- if you didn't treat users as criminals they'd be able to get cured, and if you didn't criminalize supply, the prices wouldn't be so incredibly inflated to require addicts to steal.

Look at the US prohibition of alcohol -- can you say that it didn't create crime? The same is true of modern prohibition. The main reason for drug related crime is prohibition.
This is also backed up by statistics, where countries with decriminalised drug systems have lower demand per capita despite their higher levels of supply (and consequently, ridiculously low levels of drug related crime).

### #37forsandifs  Members   -  Reputation: 154

Posted 01 June 2011 - 03:29 AM

Hmmm...17? I wonder how that ratio looks if you bump the age up to 18...you know, the age most college-entrants are when they start, as opposed to the majority age for high-school seniors? Kind of hard to be in college if you're still in high school.

Those facts were compiled by a British person speaking British English and in Britain "college" starts at 16 and goes on till 18 so the statistic is not invalidated on that count. I guess a valid way of stating it using American English would be that "more 17 year old black males are in prison than in high school".

BTW, to those of you "imagining" that most prisoners are in there for violent crimes, plenty of sources have been cited in this thread that demonstrate you to be wrong.

### #38Jacob Jingle  Members   -  Reputation: 223

Posted 01 June 2011 - 12:55 PM

Are America's prisons filled with shoplifters? I don't know the real number, but I would imagine the number of nonviolent offenders that are locked up would be a really small majority(and most of them probably have a history of past violence).

http://en.wikipedia....onviolent_crime

Extremely biased and doesn't really give us the whole story. (Just because somebody is locked up for a nonviolent crime doesn't mean they're not a violent person. After all, AL Capone went to jail for tax evasion)

Isn't it something like 96% of criminals plea bargain their cases to lesser offenses?

Do these numbers from this wiki article factor this in? Does it factor in things like eyewitnesses refusing to press charges(common poor neighborhoods) and the courts being forced to go with lesser convictions? Do these numbers factor in a past history of violence? What does it classify as a nonviolent crime? (The author of that wiki article was clearly trying to spoon feed selective data to readers so that they would convert to his way of thinking)

Cheers,
Jacob Jingle

### #39Hodgman  Moderators   -  Reputation: 30384

Posted 01 June 2011 - 06:39 PM

http://en.wikipedia....onviolent_crime

Extremely biased and doesn't really give us the whole story. (The author of that wiki article was clearly trying to spoon feed selective data to readers so that they would convert to his way of thinking)

Wow... I think the simpler explanation is that you're ignoring selective data to avoid having to change your way of thinking.
What is it that makes you so afraid of accepting that only half the people in jail are violent? Why is the presentation of those statistics considered "spoon feeding" of some kind of wacky way of thinking??

If you really think it's being biased, instead of just presenting the reported facts, go slap a NPOV violation on it.

You can read the references yourself to see the definitions, and see that in federal prisons it's about a 50/50 split between these two groups
Violent: murder, non-negligent manslaughter, manslaughter, rape, other sexual assault, robbery, assault, and other violent offenses.
Non-violent: burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft, fraud, other property crimes, weapons, drunk driving, court offenses, commercialized vice, morals and decency offenses, liquor law violations, other public-order offenses, juvenile offenses and other unspecified offense categories.

It also says that 20% of federal prisoners are in for drug offences (quite a large number of non-violent 'criminals').

Regarding plea-bargaining, it often doesn't change the category of the offence, just the degree of severity and/or sentencing. E.g. "common assault" down to "unlawful assault" (still assault).

### #40Khaiy  Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1342

Posted 01 June 2011 - 07:02 PM

Are America's prisons filled with shoplifters? I don't know the real number, but I would imagine the number of nonviolent offenders that are locked up would be a really small majority(and most of them probably have a history of past violence).

http://en.wikipedia....onviolent_crime

Extremely biased and doesn't really give us the whole story. (Just because somebody is locked up for a nonviolent crime doesn't mean they're not a violent person. After all, AL Capone went to jail for tax evasion)

Isn't it something like 96% of criminals plea bargain their cases to lesser offenses?

Do these numbers from this wiki article factor this in? Does it factor in things like eyewitnesses refusing to press charges(common poor neighborhoods) and the courts being forced to go with lesser convictions? Do these numbers factor in a past history of violence? What does it classify as a nonviolent crime? (The author of that wiki article was clearly trying to spoon feed selective data to readers so that they would convert to his way of thinking)

Cheers,
Jacob Jingle

I think that you are forgetting to take into account how the justice system is supposed to work.

First, a comment that suggests that people in prison are probably violent offenders because they're in prison is circular and biased. It's unreasonable to assume that a given person is violent based on the fact that they are in prison even though it wasn't a violent crime that put them there. There are plenty of con artists in jail who aren't also armed robbers. Besides, being a violent person isn't the same as being a criminal. Jails are for criminals, not just whoever happens to have X trait.

The justice system sends people to jail if they are guilty, or if a jury of their peers thinks that they are guilty based on a presentation of the evidence. The fact that a person perhaps can't (or simply isn't) convicted of one crime doesn't mean that they should be sent to jail for a proxy crime, and then punished as though they were in fact convicted of the first (unproven) crime. The standard is supposed to be high to prevent innocent people from being imprisoned.

Your guess of how many cases result in the defendant pleading to a lesser charge is irrelevant, both to prison population composition and in general. Pleas don't so much change the nature of the charges as they change the degree. You might go from first degree murder to third, perhaps. You're still classified as a violent offender. A DA might drop a violent charge altogether, but not for no reason; it's either because the case is relatively weak or the defendant has something to trade which will result in reducing crime further. A 35% sentence reduction isn't the same as a murderer suddenly being classified as a non-violent offender.

As for your questioning of the numbers, I have to point out that incarceration rates have increased the most (as per Hodgman's excellent graph) while the violent crime rate has decreased. Make of that correlation what you will, but the proportion of violent offenders in jail is definitely going to decrease if more people than ever before are jailed while violent crime rates fall. Any hard-line fantasies of a justice system hiding violence through re-definition doesn't hold up-- there just isn't any other way for those numbers to go together. Please note that the crime rate is independent of the conviction rate for those crimes.

Also, wikipedia makes it incredibly easy to figure out what its information does and does not take into account. The citations are right there, awaiting your review. Don't impugn the article because you assume that the data is misused while you don't bother to look at it. Especially when you're accusing the author(s) of being deceitful in presenting selected evidence when you yourself provide no evidence at all, but rather prejudice and conjecture to accomplish the same end as you attribute to the accused.

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