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# The United States Prison Industrial Complex.

## 78 posts in this topic

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? [i]Really? [/i]Heck, if the police reacted like [i]that[/i] on children being children [i]over here [/i]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, [i]what a great idea[/i]. 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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ouch.
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[quote name='forsandifs' timestamp='1306850572' post='4817874']
- About 1% of the population of the United States is in prison.
[/quote]
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.
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[quote name='Quat' timestamp='1306855280' post='4817898']
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.
[/quote]
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).
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[quote name='Jacob Jingle' timestamp='1306877344' post='4818036']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).[/quote]

[url="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incarceration_in_the_United_States#Violent_and_nonviolent_crime"]http://en.wikipedia....onviolent_crime[/url]
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[quote]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[/quote]
That's shocking .
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[quote name='Mussi' timestamp='1306877725' post='4818040']
[quote]6. There are more 17 year old black males in prison than in college.[/quote]
That's shocking .
[/quote]

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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[quote]5% of the world are American...25% of all prisoners are American.[/quote]That about sums it up.
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???

[font="arial, verdana, tahoma, sans-serif"][size="2"][quote name='d000hg' timestamp='1306869479' post='4817985']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.[/quote]Sadly American [/size][url="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mamdouh_Habib"]jailing of innocents[/url][size="2"] doesn't only apply to people in America. [/size][/font]
[font="arial, verdana, tahoma, sans-serif"][size="2"]I read that as "those awaiting conviction", not "awaiting sentencing" -- people awaiting sentencing are guilty, those awaiting conviction aren't...[/edit][/size][/font]
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[quote name='Hodgman' timestamp='1306889929' post='4818107']
Also, what the hell happened in the 80's???
[/quote]

[url="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Private_prison#Private_prisons_in_the_United_States"]wiki[/url]

[font=sans-serif][size=2][quote]The 1980s, though, ushered in a new era of prison privatization. With a burgeoning prison population resulting from the [url="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_on_Drugs"]War on Drugs[/url] 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[/quote][/size][/font]
[font=sans-serif][size=2]
[/size][/font]
[font=sans-serif][size=2]Prisons became a business. That and heavy drugs.[/size][/font]
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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.)
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[quote name='Ravyne' timestamp='1306892652' post='4818117']
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?)
[/quote]
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.
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[quote name='BCullis' timestamp='1306881413' post='4818068']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.[/quote]

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.

EDIT: Further reading, http://www.lewrockwell.com/roberts/roberts43.html
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[quote name='forsandifs' timestamp='1306877607' post='4818039']
[quote name='Jacob Jingle' timestamp='1306877344' post='4818036']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).[/quote]

[url="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incarceration_in_the_United_States#Violent_and_nonviolent_crime"]http://en.wikipedia....onviolent_crime[/url]
[/quote]
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
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[quote name='Jacob Jingle' timestamp='1306954545' post='4818397'][quote name='forsandifs' timestamp='1306877607' post='4818039'][url="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incarceration_in_the_United_States#Violent_and_nonviolent_crime"]http://en.wikipedia....onviolent_crime[/url][/quote]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)[/quote]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 [url="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Neutral_point_of_view"]NPOV violation[/url] 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
[i]Violent[/i]: murder, non-negligent manslaughter, manslaughter, rape, other sexual assault, robbery, assault, and other violent offenses.
[i]Non-violent[/i]: 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" ([i]still assault[/i]).
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[quote name='Jacob Jingle' timestamp='1306954545' post='4818397']
[quote name='forsandifs' timestamp='1306877607' post='4818039']
[quote name='Jacob Jingle' timestamp='1306877344' post='4818036']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).[/quote]

[url="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incarceration_in_the_United_States#Violent_and_nonviolent_crime"]http://en.wikipedia....onviolent_crime[/url]
[/quote]
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
[/quote]

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 [i]even though[/i] 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 [url="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plea_bargain"]35% sentence reduction[/url] 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 [url="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crime_in_the_United_States"]violent crime rate has decreased.[/url] 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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[quote name='forsandifs' timestamp='1306852789' post='4817884']
[quote name='ChurchSkiz' timestamp='1306852471' post='4817883']
If you don't want to go to prison, don't break the law. What a concept...
[/quote]

1 in 100 citizens of the United States being in prison doesn't bother you? Doesn't such a large proportion strongly suggest that US laws are too harsh and are not a good solution to the social ills the country suffers from? What happened to liberty? What happened to the idea that the United States is a country that values freedom?
[/quote]

The thing that bothers me is the number of people in this thread getting 'Thumbed Down' for implying that this is the prisoners fault, and not the law.

The law is there, it's an absolute, and it's designed to protect those values of freedom and liberty.

Criminal behaviour is not an absolute, not a constant. It is someone's choice to commit a crime, and they should be punished accordingly. Being sent to prison to 25 years for being stupid enough to be caught shoplifting etc, three times would be a fantastic deterrent.
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[quote]Being sent to prison to 25 years for being stupid enough to be caught shoplifting etc, three times would be a fantastic deterrent.[/quote]

Would be? That's actually what happens. And apparently its not a fantastic deterrent because 1% (and rising) of your population is in jail!

The double thinking and blinkering people employ to justify their standpoints, no matter how misguided, never ceases to appall me.
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[quote name='forsandifs' timestamp='1307016140' post='4818616']
[quote]Being sent to prison to 25 years for being stupid enough to be caught shoplifting etc, three times would be a fantastic deterrent.[/quote]

Would be? That's actually what happens. And apparently its not a fantastic deterrent because 1% (and rising) of your population is in jail!

The double thinking people employ to justify their standpoints, no matter how ridiculous, never ceases to amaze me.
[/quote]

Let me rephrase:

Would be an better deterrent.

Ok, let me ask you this: Are you a law-abiding citizen?
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[quote name='AndyEsser' timestamp='1307016372' post='4818617']
Let me rephrase:

Would be an better deterrent.

Ok, let me ask you this: Are you a law-abiding citizen?
[/quote]

No offense but I think I actually heard your brain collapsing there.
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[quote name='AndyEsser' timestamp='1307015560' post='4818614']The thing that bothers me is the number of people in this thread getting 'Thumbed Down' for implying that this is the prisoners fault, and not the law.[/quote]Is anyone implying that in general it's [b]not[/b] the prisoners fault?

Let's assume that every prisoner in jail is there because they're a bad person and they deserve it. Working from that basis, how do we come to terms with the fact that 1 in 4 prisoners worldwide, are in American prisons?
If we stick to our first assumption, there must be something in America that incites more people to commit crimes then, right?
If we break the first assumption (some prisoners don't belong there), then we can shift some of that blame onto an overzealous legal system.

The correct answer to why 1 in 4 prisoners are in American jails is probably a mixture of the two -- [i]something [/i]causing above average crime, and [i]something [/i]causing above average incarceration rates.
Do you have any thoughts on what those "[i]something[/i]"s are? What makes America special as to have such an above average number of prisoners ([i]overwhelmingly above average compared to other western states[/i])?

[quote]Being sent to prison to 25 years for being stupid enough to be caught shoplifting etc, three times would be a fantastic deterrent.[/quote]The only way to measure that is to see if shoplifting ceases.
Meanwhile, how many lives are you willing to destroy ([i]locking someone away for 25 years is comparable to ending a life[/i]) to try that idea out and see if it works? ([i]hint: it doesn't[/i])
What if there are mitigating circumstances, such as when the shoplifter is the child of a addict and consequently have no food, so they steal to eat?
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[quote name='Hodgman' timestamp='1307022006' post='4818653']What makes America special as to have such an above average number of prisoners ([i]overwhelmingly above average compared to other western states[/i])?[/quote]

EDIT: While that is correct I feel I must add to that.

The percentage of population incarcerated is also overwhelmingly above average compared to any country in the world and any country in history.
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[quote name='Hodgman' timestamp='1307022006' post='4818653']
What if there are mitigating circumstances, such as when the shoplifter is the child of a addict and consequently have no food, so they steal to eat?
[/quote]

Without sounding like a complete and utter idealist - that's what a welfare system is for.
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[quote name='Hodgman' timestamp='1307022006' post='4818653']The only way to measure that is to see if shoplifting ceases.
Meanwhile, how many lives are you willing to destroy ([i]locking someone away for 25 years is comparable to ending a life[/i]) to try that idea out and see if it works? ([i]hint: it doesn't[/i])
What if there was mitigating circumstances, like they're the child of a addict and consequently have no food, so they steal to eat?
[/quote]
Who is really destroying the life though? In the end there is only one person at fault.

there is a moral grey area with your example, but does being in a moral grey area excuse you from the law? If you're a starving child of an addict you can always be reported to child protective services instead of turning to robbery.
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[quote name='way2lazy2care' timestamp='1307023010' post='4818661']

there is a moral grey area with your example, but does being in a moral grey area excuse you from the law? If you're a starving child of an addict you can always be reported to child protective services instead of turning to robbery.
[/quote]

Some people just don't know...

The justice system should do more to differentiate those that are just hopeless criminals and those that simply made a mistake or need some guidance.
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