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# The United States Prison Industrial Complex.

## 78 posts in this topic

Regarding the war on drugs ([i]the massive spike in the graph on the previous page[/i]):
[quote name='AndyEsser' timestamp='1307022933' post='4818660'][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.[/quote]Apparently it doesn't work -- otherwise there wouldn't be such an above average crime rate, right? Either that, or crimes of necessity / crimes due to upbringing don't exist in a significant percentage?

If welfare indeed is the answer, maybe some spending on social justice needs to be redirected to spending on social welfare, which would indirectly also help with providing justice in the long run, no? Perhaps if inequality was addressed, then crimes would be prevented, meaning you no longer require as much investment in "correctional facilities"?

What's your explanation for the 1 in 4 statistic?
[quote name='way2lazy2care' timestamp='1307023010' post='4818661']Who is really destroying the life though? In the end there is only one person at fault.[/quote]If that's true, then what is it about Americans that makes them so much more likely to be at fault in this way? What's the root cause? Shouldn't this cause be sought out and corrected so that the US can function like a regular western state?
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[quote name='Hodgman' timestamp='1307023906' post='4818666']
[quote name='way2lazy2care' timestamp='1307023010' post='4818661']Who is really destroying the life though? In the end there is only one person at fault.[/quote]If that's true, then what is it about Americans that makes them so much more likely to be at fault in this way? What's the root cause? Shouldn't this cause be sought out and corrected so that the US can function like a regular western state?
[/quote]
I will agree that there is a problem, but I think the problem is not the justice system rather the environment we are providing for our children. Freakonomics actually has some interesting points on it related to the legalization/illegalization of abortion being directly proportional to crime rates 15-20 years later. I don't really agree with abortion, but the stats don't lie.

The justice system itself though is not as harsh as it is painted by the numbers. It is kind of put in a situation where it has no choice but to look harsh because there are just more criminals.
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[quote name='way2lazy2care' timestamp='1307026835' post='4818686']The justice system itself though is not as harsh as it is painted by the numbers. It is kind of put in a situation where it has no choice but to look harsh because there are just more criminals.[/quote]

How is a life sentence for getting caught shopfliting 3 times not harsh? How is the stuff I linked earlier in the article [url="http://www.lewrockwell.com/roberts/roberts43.html"]http://www.lewrockwe.../roberts43.html[/url] not harsh? How is arresting, detaining and convicting pre-teen children for writing on desks or misbehaving in schools not harsh?
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[quote name='AndyEsser' timestamp='1307015560' post='4818614']
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.
[/quote]

Unless the crime in question is something like drug possession charges, which is a non-trivial portion of the prison population. Laws about that seem designed to inhibit liberty even if there's no harm to others (or, arguably, to the user).

The law isn't absolute [i]at all[/i]. The legislature, and to an extent the justice system itself define laws. Morphine used to be legal to buy over the counter, now it isn't. It used to be legal to own a person and beat them to death if they made eye contact. Now it isn't. Societies decide what behaviors they want to allow and criminalize those that they want to prohibit.

They use a variety of criteria to determine what falls into which category, but legality is always a matter of decision, not of inherence. For example, 60 years ago interracial marriages were illegal in much of the US. How did that protect freedom? What possible rationale could justify that?

Things that sound like good deterrents aren't necessarily so. The death penalty sounds like a great deterrent, but statistically it has been shown not to be much of one. I couldn't find the full treatment online (I know that there's one in Freakonomics), but [url="http://www.freakonomics.com/2007/06/11/does-the-death-penalty-really-reduce-crime/"]this[/url] might be enough to show that I'm not just shooting my mouth off for now. There's been quite a bit of debate about whether or not simply making penalties harsher has much deterrent effect. I won't wade into it now, but there's enough contention that I think it logically hazardous to claim that stricter penalties will necessarily net a worthwhile reduction in crime.

[quote name='AndyEsser' timestamp='1307022933' post='4818660']
Without sounding like a complete and utter idealist - that's what a welfare system is for.
[/quote]

Spoken by someone whom I can only assume hasn't had much interaction with the welfare system. There has been a steady trend [url="http://www.law.northwestern.edu/jclc/backissues/v99/n3/9903_643.Gustafson.pdf"]criminalizing poverty itself[/url] for some time. And the welfare system is complicated, inefficient, highly variable by state, and often not able to alleviate circumstances of poverty on its own anyhow.

[quote name='way2lazy2care' timestamp='1307026835' post='4818686']
The justice system itself though is not as harsh as it is painted by the numbers. It is kind of put in a situation where it has no choice but to look harsh because there are just more criminals.
[/quote]

As I mentioned above, the justice system has a huge impact on what people are criminals (even though laws are made by the legislature, they are administered with quite a bit of discretion by courts, and can ultimately be reviewed by the Supreme Court). See above, where I touch on how arbitrarily people can be defined in and out of the "criminal" category. And that doesn't just apply to the raw number of crimes comitted. Sentencing is a huge part of things as well.

Remember just over a year ago, when someone selling crack cocaine would get the same sentence as someone selling 100 times as much poweder cocaine? That's an extremely harsh disparity, and one that is difficult to justify. The new standard is something like an 18:1 ratio for crack to powder. Whether or not that ratio is appropriate can be debated, but it's definitely going to be more definsible than 100:1.

There are a lot of competing factors in how a society will separate criminal from non-criminal acts. The better way is to look at practical matters-- what costs does a crime impart to society, what kinds of measures would be effective in reducing occurrence of those crimes, how much do they cost, etc. It's also easier (or at least possible) to review these to assess the efficacy of the law.

A worse way is to try and use moral standards. They can be difficult to agree on broadly, make assumptions about the benefits to society that are difficult to quantify, and tend to view cost as a secondary concern. Look at prohibition (1920's style). It was expensive, didn't really deliver any benefits to society, couldn't be effectively enforced, and spawned a series of highly undesirable consequences.

Assumptions about criminality or any kind of absolute faith in the justice system are extremely undesirable given these concerns. They make it incredibly difficult to assess the costs and benefits of criminalizing certain behaviors, make it very easy to enforceme moral concepts without being much bothered by data, invite rampant propoganda (whether to compensate for a lack of data or refute it), and make it hard to re-allocate resources when existing practices end up not being very effective. A dollar spent on enforcement or punishment which is not effective is a dollar which can't be spent on something that might be.
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[quote name='Hodgman' timestamp='1307022006' post='4818653']
[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?
[/quote]

It amazes me how people focus on this isolated incident where a ship-lifter gets hit with three strikes. This is FAR from the norm. It requires three felony convictions to qualify for three strikes sentencing, not three of any crime. If someone had just shoplifted three times, there is no way they would be sentenced to life in prison. In the example that was used earlier in the thread, the person had previous felony convictions, and in the state of California if you are caught stealing and you have a prior record for stealing, it is up to the judge to decide whether it is a felony or misdemeanor. This was by no means someone who was just caught shoplifting three times, he had a long wrap sheet that covered things from burglary and transporting drugs to escaping a federal prison.

That being said... I would much rather three-strikes only apply to violent offences, and definitely not drug charges. The "War on Drugs" has done nothing but give criminal organizations more money and power. It has not seriously impacted the ability for Americans to buy illicit drugs, just makes it more likely that whatever they are taking is cut with something that could be even more dangerous than if these drugs were legal.
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[quote name='tstrimple' timestamp='1307030799' post='4818707']It amazes me how people focus on this isolated incident where a ship-lifter gets hit with three strikes. This is FAR from the norm. It requires three felony convictions to qualify for three strikes sentencing, not three of any crime. If someone had just shoplifted three times, there is no way they would be sentenced to life in prison. In the example that was used earlier in the thread, the person had previous felony convictions, and in the state of California if you are caught stealing and you have a prior record for stealing, it is up to the judge to decide whether it is a felony or misdemeanor. This was by no means someone who was just caught shoplifting three times, he had a long wrap sheet that covered things from burglary and transporting drugs to escaping a federal prison.[/quote]

And it amazes me how emphatically someone can state something erroneous and without looking at the evidence.

Leandro Andrade was hit with the three strikes law precisely because he was a serial (though non-violent) thief. If he hadn't been caught stealing twice before he would have recieved the usual shoplifting sentence of a few years. Please see for yourself, [url="http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2002/10/28/60II/main527248.shtml"]http://www.cbsnews.c...ain527248.shtml[/url] .

And certainly not an isolated incident. Please also see the following cases.

Gregory Taylor
- Third strike: Attempted burglary for trying to break into a Los Angeles church to steal food in 1997.
- Previous strikes: Two robberies.

Jerry Dewayne Williams
- Third strike: Petty theft for stealing a slice of pepperoni pizza in Redondo Beach in July 1994.
- Previous strikes: Robbery and attempted robbery.
- EDIT: this particular case was later succesfully appealed and the sentence reduced. But nevertheless it happened and the harsh law allows for that possibility.
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Displaying two additional instances where the system didn't work (which I suppose is arguable in these cases, though I would tend to agree with you on them) does not really counter tstrimple's argument that such situations are a minority of cases. Whether or not that is actually the case, I don't know.

No system will ever be perfect. There will be mistakes and exploitations, even outright corruptions. It is not reasonable to point to a handful of such situations and declare that the system is valueless. The question isn't whether or not a system or practice has ever failed, but rather how its overall efficacy weighs against its costs (in terms of dollars, opportunity costs, societal effects, and the cost of the inevitable failures). There is then a related question of whether or not the society in question can afford those costs, independant of the results of that system.

In the case of three strike policies, my opinion is that they would not pass this test even if there were no questionable applications, and so they would be candidates for repeal or at least very serious reform anyhow. This is much more relevant than trotting out a couple of arguable misapplications which, were the policy effective in its stated intent, might pale in comparison to the benefits it produced.

When you have analyses like [url="http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_briefs/RB4009/index1.html"]this[/url] and [url="http://www.americanbar.org/publications/human_rights_magazine_home/irr_hr_spring02_vitiello.html"]this[/url], the value of re-allocating the resources used to fund such a program is far more compelling than talking about convicted criminals, who were perhaps not criminal-y enough to be snared by a program that would [i]still be a poor bargain, even if they were bad enough to be unequivically deserving of three strikes.[/i] Especially if you're California. Even if three strikes worked well, CA may not be able to afford it at present.
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[quote name='forsandifs' timestamp='1307031641' post='4818714']
And it amazes me how emphatically someone can state something erroneous and without looking at the evidence.
[/quote]

The three strikes laws vary by state as well as the classification of every crime. Occasionally burglary is just a misdemeanor, but I really think you are playing down burglary with your example. Any burglary/breaking and entering no matter how small is a HUGE invasion of privacy and can traumatize people immensely. Sure they were hungry people just looking for food, but the line has to be drawn somewhere.

There is a reason there are pretty exact definitions for all the different types of theft.
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[quote name='Khaiy' timestamp='1307033820' post='4818733']
When you have analyses like [url="http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_briefs/RB4009/index1.html"]this[/url] and [url="http://www.americanbar.org/publications/human_rights_magazine_home/irr_hr_spring02_vitiello.html"]this[/url], the value of re-allocating the resources used to fund such a program is far more compelling than talking about convicted criminals, who were perhaps not criminal-y enough to be snared by a program that would [i]still be a poor bargain, even if they were bad enough to be unequivically deserving of three strikes.[/i] Especially if you're California. Even if three strikes worked well, CA may not be able to afford it at present.
[/quote]

The cause is somewhat twofold. The problem isn't JUST that we are incarcerating repeat offenders longer, but also that we have more repeat offenders. Is the solution to stop incarcerating repeat offenders as harshly or to try to decrease the number of repeat offenders?

A significant issue is that any solution dealing with the latter probably won't take significant effect for 20 years.
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[quote name='Khaiy' timestamp='1307033820' post='4818733']
Displaying two additional instances where the system didn't work (which I suppose is arguable in these cases, though I would tend to agree with you on them) does not really counter tstrimple's argument that such situations are a minority of cases. Whether or not that is actually the case, I don't know.[/quote]

I was countering his statement that it was an isolated incident.

But now you mention it I'll counter the argument that such situations are a minority of cases. Evidence has been presented in this thread that at least half of Americans in prison are in for non-violent crimes. By extension, and unless evidence is presented to the contrary (evidence I haven't been able to find), we can assume that about half of three-strikes are also due to non-violent crimes.
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So, I have a question - would repealing the 3-strikes rule really have that much of a difference on the percentage of the population who is (or will be) incarcerated? In other words, what is the percentage of the currently incarcerated population that is there because they are indeed criminals who have no desire to be reformed?
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[quote name='way2lazy2care' timestamp='1307037058' post='4818774']
The cause is somewhat twofold. The problem isn't JUST that we are incarcerating repeat offenders longer, but also that we have more repeat offenders. Is the solution to stop incarcerating repeat offenders as harshly or to try to decrease the number of repeat offenders?

A significant issue is that any solution dealing with the latter probably won't take significant effect for 20 years.
[/quote]

Of course we shouldn't just not jail repeat offenders. But there's no denying that incarceration is expensive, nor that there's a fairly high rate of recidivism (though again, that varies by crime). It's all well and good to get criminals off of the streets (especially dangerous ones), but you also can't pretend that that experience stops them from offending again.

So you end up stuck in a situation where you pay $X to reduce crime for a set period, and can estimate the percentage of crime you will re-introduce to an area if you stop spending that money. You can even break that down by type of crime if you want, to more precisely estimate the cost of reducing the crime rate by incarceration. So you end up with a number that describes at least roughly how much society pays (in dollars) for every reduction of crime caused by repeat offenders being in jail. I don't know that number, but whatever it is I would imagine that building more prisons to accomodate more prisoners is going to be an expensive investment. And anything that reduces the recidivism rate (or otherwise reduces the crime rate) will reduce the value of that investment for its shareholders (now the companies that own the prisons), even though it produces value for society and for taxpayers. It's that mismatch of incentives that troubles me. Even with three strikes, the US incarceration rate has increased despite a drop in crime rate, and recidivism doesn't explain that at all. We're investing in prisons and the industry of imprisonment, [url="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incarceration_in_the_United_States#Cost"]paying something like$60 per offender per day[/url] to keep our crime rate low, and we know that there's no long term benefit to this investment. It only works immediately and as we continue to pay. And that would suit the prison industry just fine.

Even if we leave today's prison budget as it is, there's absolutely no reason not to invest in anything that might reduce the need for those prisons against their future costs. And if we can accept that, strikes and recidivists aside, some people don't need to be in jail to protect society (like non-violent drug offenders, for example), we can use the money that we would have spent jailing them to try and reduce recidivism for more serious criminals. At the rate linked above, if we kept 100 such low-to-no-harm offenders out of prison, that's ~\$6.24 million that can be allocated elsewhere-- like to trying to reduce recidivism.

Even if reducing the recidivism rate will take a while, prison is too expensive not to make the attempt. It certainly sounds like a better investment to me than building ever more prisons while the crime rate continues to fall.

[quote name='forsandifs' timestamp='1307039088' post='4818787']
I was countering his statement that it was an isolated incident.

But now you mention it I'll counter the argument that such situations are a minority of cases. Evidence has been presented in this thread that at least half of Americans in prison are in for non-violent crimes. By extension, and unless evidence is presented to the contrary (evidence I haven't been able to find), we can assume that about half of three-strikes are also due to non-violent crimes.
[/quote]

On a national (or even statewide) scale, three incidents aren't much less isolated than one. You will never get to a statistically significant number of such cases presenting them one at a time. If you present statistics, you've presented evidence. If you present a story, you've presented a story, whether the conclusion you draw from it (or them) is accurate or not.

And I don't think that you can extend the non-violent crime statistics that way. First, the point that tstrimple was making is about people three-striked for [i]petty[/i] crimes, not non-violent ones. It might still make sense to get a strike against you if you're a national-level heroin dealer, after all.

Second, you can only make that extension if strikes are evenly distributed among the prison population (or would be, if strike laws were consistent and present in all locations). This may be the case, and is especially likely to be if strikes are given out freely, even for petty crimes. But it's a big assumption to make that all crimes are essentially equal, and if you want to posit it then it's on you to demonstrate that those conditions are true.
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[quote name='Khaiy' timestamp='1307043882' post='4818814']And I don't think that you can extend the non-violent crime statistics that way. First, the point that tstrimple was making is about people three-striked for [i]petty[/i] crimes, not non-violent ones.[/quote]

Actually at no point did he mention the word petty in his post tbh. As far as I can see he didn't really specify what kind of crimes he thought were not being three-striked very often apart from pointing at theft as an example. I generalised into non-violent crimes because I think that's really the issue here. Your extreme example of a national-level heroin dealer is not relevant imo because there aren't very many of them either in prison or out of prison given that someone responsible for dealing heroin on a national level is going to be at the head of a large and violent organisation.

[quote]But it's a big assumption to make that all crimes are essentially equal, and if you want to posit it then it's on you to demonstrate that those conditions are true.[/quote]

I didn't make that assumption. I simply assumed that since they are being given for even extremely petty crimes they are also being given for most non-violent crimes, and that given at least half of all offenders are non-violent then about half of all three strikes will be for non-violent crimes. Logical extensions as far as I can see.
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[quote name='forsandifs' timestamp='1307039088' post='4818787']
[quote name='Khaiy' timestamp='1307033820' post='4818733']
Displaying two additional instances where the system didn't work (which I suppose is arguable in these cases, though I would tend to agree with you on them) does not really counter tstrimple's argument that such situations are a minority of cases. Whether or not that is actually the case, I don't know.[/quote]

I was countering his statement that it was an isolated incident.

But now you mention it I'll counter the argument that such situations are a minority of cases. Evidence has been presented in this thread that at least half of Americans in prison are in for non-violent crimes. By extension, and unless evidence is presented to the contrary (evidence I haven't been able to find), we can assume that about half of three-strikes are also due to non-violent crimes.
[/quote]

As Khaiy pointed out, I was referring specifically to the three strikes policy and petty crimes. You'll get no argument from me that there are far too many people in jail. I think most drug laws should be abolished, especially drugs like marijuana. Apart from that I think three strikes is a good policy. It takes habitual offenders out of circulation. Very rarely is it actually the person's third time of committing a crime, more often they have a long history of breaking the law.

The cases you mention don't seem to be failures of the three strikes policy, rather failures of the judge in applying common sense sentencing.
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[quote name='tstrimple' timestamp='1307045890' post='4818828']
Apart from that I think three strikes is a good policy. It takes habitual offenders out of circulation. Vary rarely is it actually the person's third time of committing a crime, more often they have a long history of breaking the law.

The cases you mention don't seem to be failures of the three strikes policy, rather failures of the judge in applying common sense sentencing.
[/quote]

But theoretically, and in practice, it can be a case of someone's third crime, even if they are not very serious ones. And that is an extremly disturbing idea because there is probably a massive number of people that fall into that potential life imprisonment envelope.

EDIT: also, I think we can all agree that the definition of what constitutes a crime, serious or no, is not a fixed absolute. Tomorrow it could include something that seems innocent or even good to you. In fact that's probably the case already.
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[quote name='forsandifs' timestamp='1307045858' post='4818827']
I didn't make that assumption. I simply assumed that since they are being given for even extremely petty crimes they are also being given for most non-violent crimes, and that given at least half of all offenders are non-violent then about half of all three strikes will be for non-violent crimes. Logical extensions as far as I can see.
[/quote]

I don't think you can quite make that assumption. I feel like repeat offenders are much more likely to be violent criminals than someone on their first offense.

The stats posted on the previous page for california's 3 strike law seem to indicate that violent criminals account for the majority of people penalized by the three strike laws.
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[quote name='forsandifs' timestamp='1307045858' post='4818827']
Actually at no point did he mention the word petty in his post tbh. As far as I can see he didn't really specify what kind of crimes he thought were not being three-striked very often apart from pointing at theft as an example. I generalised into non-violent crimes because I think that's really the issue here. Your extreme example of a national-level heroin dealer is not relevant imo because there aren't very many of them either in prison or out of prison given that someone responsible for dealing heroin on a national level is going to be at the head of a large and violent organisation.[/quote]

It was clearly the intent of his post to refer to less serious crimes, even if he actually say petty. How else would you categorize shoplifting, which you presented as an example of a minor crime sometimes counted as a strike?

I used the heroin dealer as an example because it would be clear in demonstrating my point, not because it happens every day. I agree with you that it is not a model of typical three-strike behavior, just one where we could probably agree that even without direct violence on the part of the prisoner a strike wouldn't be unreasonable.

I'll only grant that non-violent crimes are the issue if we agree that violent crimes are the only ones worthy of a strike. You could probably persuade me of that, but at present I don't think so. We already agree that small time stuff shouldn't count, and that probably would apply to very minor violent crimes as well.

[quote]
I didn't make that assumption. I simply assumed that since they are being given for even extremely petty crimes they are also being given for most non-violent crimes, and that given at least half of all offenders are non-violent then about half of all three strikes will be for non-violent crimes. Logical extensions as far as I can see.
[/quote]

If and only if strikes are truly routinely given for all crimes great and small, and that this strike-giving at least roughly follows an even distribution throughout the prison population. So the assumption isn't that all strikes are equal (poorly expressed on my part in my last post), but that all crimes are treated equally for the purposes of accruing to a strike. What you are describing is essentially the worst-case scenario for strike application, and then presenting it as a moderate estimate.

The only evidence that you've given that supports this so far are three seperate instances where people were given three strikes for petty crime each time. Again, I agree that these people should never have been three-striked as presented, but three individuals does not a system-wide pattern make.

How many people would need to get three strikes this way to demonstrate a pattern? If there are ~171,000 adults in prison (linked below), and even 1% of them are there for similar reasons as the three examples you gave, that's 1,710 people. While that's not a number that you will reach giving examples one by one, it's a pretty small number compared to the whole. Yyou are attributing the experiences of three people (.00002% of the total population) to all of them.

[url="http://www.ppic.org/content/pubs/jtf/JTF_PrisonsJTF.pdf"]Have a look at this that I dug up.[/url] The violent crime percentage for CA prison inmates is about 50% (slightly higher, but close enough), and increasing. About 26% of prison inmates in CA are on their 2nd or 3rd strike. Some of those strikers are undoubtedly in for BS reasons, which is difficult to estimate because I haven't been able to find a breakdown of strikes given by crime classification.

But even if 100% of potentially-striker non-violent offenders in prison in CA were there because of strikes and strikes alone, that would still be about a quarter of the total prison population, not half. And even that maximum possible number assumes that none of the violent offenders are there due to strikes. That's a dubious claim, because three strikes was enacted to curb violent crime most of all, and is undoubtedly going to be applied to violent criminals, especially if it's also applied indiscriminately to non-violent criminals.

So that particular extension isn't well supported analytically, seeing as it makes an assumption about how all strikes are applied based on a handful of cases. It's also not well supported empirically, as even with the most generous assumptions strikes don't account for more than a quarter or so of inmates, over half of whom are in fact violent offenders. I still agree with you as far as the value of three strikes policies go-- but to say that half of three-strikers are in for purely non-violent behavior is a stretch which it is not necessary to make, given the abundance of reasons to oppose the current implementations of the policy.
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I think US has experienced paradigm shift in goals of justice, from the notion of common good of all members of the society (including criminals), to elimination of undesirable elements from the society ('getting criminals off the street'). The prison population per capita differs by an order of magnitude between those two approaches. Indeed, on logarithmic scale US is already closer to the extreme examples of regimes that practices elimination of undesirable elements, such as SU, than to examples of comparable regimes with currently practise the notion of common good, such as EU.
Economically, strongly encouraged labour in prisons would allow to offset the cost; adjustment of the prison conditions could also allow to decrease the prison population through increased mortality. I thus expect US prison population per capita to continue growing past 1 percent until it stabilizes somewhere between 2% and 5% depending to the relative death rate and the efficacy of the encouraged labour at offsetting the costs.
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[quote name='tstrimple' timestamp='1307030799' post='4818707']It amazes me how people focus on this isolated incident where a ship-lifter gets hit with three strikes. This is FAR from the norm.[/quote]FWIW, I'm not focussing on that isolated incident -- the sentiment applies to all cases of unnecessary incarceration.

Does the threat of incarceration reduce crime rates -- no.
Does incarceration help rehabilitate repeat offenders -- no.
Does incarceration reinforce criminality -- yes.
Is the punishment of incarceration proportional to the crime -- sometimes, often not.
Is the US using incarceration for purposes where evidence demonstrates that it's a bad idea -- yes.
Are the root causes of these criminal behaviours being addressed -- no.
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[quote name='Hodgman' timestamp='1307072499' post='4818933']
[quote name='tstrimple' timestamp='1307030799' post='4818707']It amazes me how people focus on this isolated incident where a ship-lifter gets hit with three strikes. This is FAR from the norm.[/quote]FWIW, I'm not focussing on that isolated incident -- the sentiment applies to all cases of unnecessary incarceration.

Does the threat of incarceration reduce crime rates -- no.
Does incarceration help rehabilitate repeat offenders -- no.[/quote]
I'm not sure those are accurate assumptions to be made. Incarceration isn't just to rehabilitate. It's also to punish and in the case of repeat offenders isolate them from the general population, the latter of which surely reduces crime rates.

edit: and I'm fairly certain I have committed fewer crimes due to the threat of incarceration, so it has been reduced by at least a couple crimes :-p
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[quote name='Hodgman' timestamp='1307072499' post='4818933']
[quote name='tstrimple' timestamp='1307030799' post='4818707']It amazes me how people focus on this isolated incident where a ship-lifter gets hit with three strikes. This is FAR from the norm.[/quote]FWIW, I'm not focussing on that isolated incident -- the sentiment applies to all cases of unnecessary incarceration.

Does the threat of incarceration reduce crime rates -- no.
Does incarceration help rehabilitate repeat offenders -- no.
Does incarceration reinforce criminality -- yes.
Is the punishment of incarceration proportional to the crime -- sometimes, often not.
Is the US using incarceration for purposes where evidence demonstrates that it's a bad idea -- yes.
Are the root causes of these criminal behaviours being addressed -- no.
[/quote]

How could you make the case that the threat of incarceration doesn't reduce crime? It's patently absurd. Probably every person living in America can think of something they haven't done for fear of jail. Second, you would have to have some objective way of finding out every person that hasn't committed a crime did so because of jail fears. I would agree that it's not a thought for some criminals, but to say it inherently has no effect on crime is craziness.

As far as prison addressing root problems or rehabilitating, I doubt there is anyone who thinks prison is a *good* solution to those problems. However, in a free society, if someone is going to get the short end of the stick, it should be the rapists and murderers and not the law abiding citizens.

I submit my city (Charlotte), as a good example. Charlotte is a city where repeat, violent, offenders are released early and often ([url="http://www.wsoctv.com/station/26749079/detail.html"]3 strikes? Try 37![/url]). It's not uncommon for armed robbers to have 5, 6, 7 arrests. Now is prison going to rehabilitate someone like this? Probably not, but I'd rather him be behind bars than un-rehabilitated in my neighborhood. I'm not the bad guy, why should I get a gun in my face because we haven't found a better solution to his problem?
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Incarceration reduces crime? Maybe but the causes of crime are not affected by incarceration.. poverty, drugs, gangs, illegal activity, high risk taking, etc.. some kid grows up in the hood, joins a gang, does a few robberies, sure he know's he could go to jail but is that gonna stop him? Nah.. that's the last thing from his mind..His whole world is his status in the gang. When you grow up having nothing, enduring misery after misery, the threat of prison is no threat at all..

Now incarceration will stop some blue collar worker from say robing a store. Because he has too much to lose, his freedom, money he could earn, family, etc...But he wouldn't do that either way , most people follow the rules.. But only to an extent, if people feel wronged enough they will act, like in the case of infidelity etc..

Then there is the case of drug addicts, they are so hopelessly addicted, incarceration is also no threat to them. The immediate need for the fix is far stronger than any future threat of incarceration. After the fix they might have regret / remorse but usually their crimes are impulsive.

How about the career criminal, one who was raised with in a culture of crime, would threat of incarceration stop them? Nah, they like the gang member exist within an isolated world, where criminal activity is rewarded and encouraged.. Organized crime families, financial fraud rackets, smugglers, rebel insurgents, etc.. I doubt fear of going to jail is going to stop them (the money/cause is to good), however it will definitely make them more vigilant. Look at Enron, how many of them ended up in jail? 1? and they stole over 5 billion dollars.. If you asked them the fear of going to jail would stop them, i doubt very much they would care, the rewards too high.

I would argue incarceration doesn't reduce crime much at all, it's just a punishment which we've come up with which is acceptably humane. In the past they would just chop off an arm or something (you could also pay a large fine) but we've moved beyond that and the only real punishment acceptable is incarceration. It's definitely not preventive overall, its mostly punitive imo.

-ddn
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If that's the case in Charlotte then I would say that they represent a failure at the other end of the spectrum. I would tend to believe, or at least hope, that violent repeat offenders would be in jail sufficiently long that they'd simply not have the lifespan to be a 7-time offender. For my part, I don't think I've ever said, and certainly didn't mean to say, that some kind of N-Strikes is inherently bad -- only that it does, irrefutably, represent a primary factor in the size of the prison population over-time and, as such, it should be applied in moderation -- this is precisely the reason it should not be applied to petty or non-violent crimes. At the same time, we should not have unrealistic expectations that harsher punishment reduces the rate at which crime occurs.

I'm certainly not saying we should put criminals in time out and hope them to be good when they get out a brief while later. Prison should be punishing, its not meant to be easy. I do believe its possible for a person to demonstrate a pattern of criminal behavior which ought to put them in prison for great lengths of time, or possibly even indefinitely -- I also believe that bar to be fairly high; certainly higher than has been used in contemporary practice. But I also see that move as about 2/3rds segregation (removing that individual's ability to victimize the populace) and only about 1/3rd punative -- at that point, judiciously applied, that person is probably beyond hope of rehabilitation and reentering the population.

Likewise, while I am not "pro" death-penalty, neither do I believe it should be abolished. I believe, and history has shown, that individuals can posses a great capacity to inflict evil. Many will say that the existence of the death penalty is justified by its deterrent value -- but I tend to believe that the actual deterrent at play in a criminal's mind as he plans or commits evil acts is largely negligible. For myself, I don't even seek to justify it in those terms -- I simply believe that those who commit the most evil of evil acts should have absolutely everything taken from them, including their very being. Whether it acts as a deterrent, or provides closure to victimized families is moot, though I do hope that some benefit is granted, aside from simply wiping an evil from this earth. However, as with N-Strikes, a death sentence should truly be an exception to the rule. There is no taking it back, so the individual must be certainly guilty, all circumstances must be accounted for, and the bar must be especially high -- even no murder should automatically grant that the death sentence is a sentencing option. A large part of me believes that, ideally, a second jury of some kind would ultimately decide between life imprisonment and death in cases where it was an option, but that they would be entirely distinct from the jury which decides guilt or innocence.
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[quote name='Hodgman' timestamp='1306975178' post='4818476']
What is it that makes you so afraid of accepting that only half the people in jail are violent?[/quote]
A) I'm not afraid of anything....I could care less why douche bags are in jail. Don't do the crime if you can't do the time. (Don't try and turn me into your straw man)
B) To get back to the premise of this thread, I don't see how being nonviolent somehow makes committing a crime more acceptable and warranting that a person shouldn't go to prison. (See Madoff)
C) I also didn't see nothing in that wiki article that said a large portion of these nonviolent criminals, that are serving long prison sentences, are in prison for stealing purses or other insignificant bs.
D) I refuse to accept this article's viewpoint because it doesn't give enough information to back it up. How many of these nonviolent criminals were arrested with a weapon, have a past history of violence, had their violent crime removed for snitching, plea bargained their violent act away, are in a criminal gang, etc.

[quote name='Hodgman' timestamp='1306975178' post='4818476']
Why is the presentation of those statistics considered "spoon feeding" of some kind of wacky way of thinking??[/quote]
<ignoring you again going the straw man route> The fact that it doesn't give you enough information to make an intelligent decision. It's like going to an apple fan boy site to discuss Microsoft.

[quote name='Hodgman' timestamp='1306975178' post='4818476']
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.[/quote]
No need...It's wiki, by design all its articles are like this. (If it really provided you with the information you needed it would take you months to read through it)
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