This from Leonard Pitts, one of my favorite columnists:
America is now the greatest jailer on Earth. Prison overcrowding is a growing problem; we literally cannot build facilities fast enough. As CBS News recently reported, the United States has less than 5 percent of the world’s population, but about 25 percent of its prisoners. As CNN recently reported, at 760 prisoners per 100,000 citizens, the United States jails its people at a rate seven to 10 times higher than most any other developed nation.
Either Americans are much more crime prone than, say, the Japanese or the British or this “reform” is insane. Worse, in a system of punishment followed by punishment, the insanity does not end with locking up our citizens in obscene numbers. No, after we set them “free,” we deny them re-entry into the mainstream of society with laws barring them from jobs, housing, loans, voting, schooling. How can you fix your life — why even try? — if you are denied the reward that should follow, i.e., the dignity of full citizenship? We close doors of advancement and opportunity to ex-felons, then wonder why so many end up walking back through the door to prison.
Once upon a time, there was an ideal that held that once a person had paid his “debt to society,” he was owed a second chance. That seems to have gone the way of vinyl albums and 69-cent gas. But our new ideal — punishment and then punishment — is short-sighted and unsustainable.
More and more prisons are private business enterprises - Jailing for profit… might it encourage more jailing than is necessary?
And how many of those prisoners are there for “victimless” crimes?
And how many of those prisoners are there because of the color of their skin and how our police/judicial systems deals with folks from “the other side of the tracks”
Yes to all of the above. I can tell you about jailing for profit. It’s now one of the only industries left in eastern Kentucky. These for profit companies come into economically depressed areas and build prisons which then must be filled of course. So they grease the palms of lawmakers to get more “tough” laws passed so every pothead and petty shoplifter gets locked up, thereby guaranteeing a steady stream of “customers”. It’s ridiculous.
Colbert interviewed a lady last night (I don’t recall her name or the name of her book). Some points she made were that 1) prison population has quintupled since the “war on drugs” was initiated. 2) Although the incidence of drug use and selling is about the same for whites as for blacks, many times more African Americans are imprisoned. 3) Marijuana should be legalized.
The lady was Michelle Alexander. Her book is “The New Jim Crow”.
“Either Americans are much more crime prone than, say, the Japanese or the British or this ‘reform’ is insane.”
Both are true; We are more prone to crime than many other first world nations, though Britain is catching up. We also cannot deal with this problem effectively. In a society were you can be jailed for jaywalking, or can sue McDonald’s for selling you hot coffee, why the hell not not make a profit off the prison system? (sarcasm)
Once upon a time, there was an ideal that held that once a person had paid his “debt to society,” he was owed a second chance.
That may have been the ideal but I suspect the practice was very different. To be an ex-convict then as now could often be the Mark Of Cain. A big honking Scarlett Letter which could keep you from getting any kind of a decent job.
It’s no better today and if anybody argues it’s worse, I won’t disagree with them.
Try getting a job at any of the big box stores if you were convicted of theft.
Yes to all of the above. I can tell you about jailing for profit. It’s now one of the only industries left in eastern Kentucky. These for profit companies come into economically depressed areas and build prisons which then must be filled of course. So they grease the palms of lawmakers to get more “tough” laws passed so every pothead and petty shoplifter gets locked up, thereby guaranteeing a steady stream of “customers”. It’s ridiculous
That plus the fact that we are ground zero for meth and Oxy users. The whole tristate area (Wv, So. OH, and Eastern Ky) is covered with so-called “pain clinics” that are nothing more than pill distribution centers. Every day reports from local TV stations show a rise of criminal activity and the jails are overflowing with abusers including the usual potheads. Moreover, our sainted gov. is privatizing the prisons while shutting down others to save money. It’s kind of a double edged sword as hundreds of prison officials are guards are out of work. Meanwhile, the prisons have no place to incarcerate the recent arrivals and many are sleeping on floors and hallways with fewer and fewer people to guard them. Can we say early release? Shades of Mississippi.
Homeowners and landlords and property tax beneficiaries and real estate agents, and mortgage companies, and banks, etc. stand to benefit economically from higher housing values. The economically challenged have less political power to promote lower housing costs, even if they thought of it as a political issue that they could possibly do something about. So there are forces at work that may promote the high cost of housing. I doubt that there is some consciously lead conspriracy, however.