prison industrial what?
May 21, 2006 7:54 PM   Subscribe

NewsFilter: 1 in every 136 US residents in jail or prison.
posted by sourbrew (73 comments total)

 
Related post.
posted by Gyan at 7:56 PM on May 21, 2006


Also google scholar for prison industrial complex
posted by sourbrew at 7:57 PM on May 21, 2006


...and about 65-70% of current inmates don't remember committing their crime. They were high or drunk at the time.

Or so I've heard.
posted by disclaimer at 8:09 PM on May 21, 2006


"The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons." - F. Dostoyevsky
posted by Mr. Six at 8:17 PM on May 21, 2006


"The report by the Justice Department agency found that 62 percent of people in jails have not been convicted, meaning many of them are awaiting trial."

So much for being innocent until proven guilty.
posted by homunculus at 8:17 PM on May 21, 2006


I would like to know how many of these people in jail are in jail for non violent marijuana distribution, but I suppose they are funding the terrorists.
posted by sourbrew at 8:22 PM on May 21, 2006


And how many of those are in jail for posession of marijuana or other not-really-all-that-dangerous recreational drugs?
posted by loquacious at 8:24 PM on May 21, 2006


As indicated in the article, drugs (and parole violations) 'swell' the numbers.

Evidence that the 'war on drugs' as it's currently being prosecuted is not working and never will.
posted by scheptech at 8:27 PM on May 21, 2006


.
posted by kozad at 8:28 PM on May 21, 2006


police state at work. just sayin...
posted by brandz at 8:31 PM on May 21, 2006


Prison industrial archipelago! That *is* still the highest rate of incarceration in the world, right?

This 2003 report (pdf) is the most up to date international comparison I could find at short notice:

The United States has the highest prison population rate in the world, some 701 per 100,000 of the national population, followed by Russia (606), Belarus (554), Kazakhstan and the U.S. Vi rgin Islands (both 522), the Cayman Islands (501), Turkmenistan (489), Belize (459),
Bermuda (447), Suriname (437), Dominica (420) and Ukraine (415).

posted by UbuRoivas at 8:31 PM on May 21, 2006


according to the new numbers we are now at 735 per 100,000....
posted by sourbrew at 8:34 PM on May 21, 2006


A few more, for comparison:
Australia: 115 (per 100,000)
Canada: 116
England & Wales: 141
Japan: 53
Syria: 93
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:38 PM on May 21, 2006


to do my part in the War on Drugs, I'm burning all the drugs I lay my hands on.
posted by carsonb at 8:39 PM on May 21, 2006 [1 favorite]


They used the "war" on drugs as a vector to take away many of our civil rights. The "war" on terrorism will take care of the rest.

Welcome to Prisontopia. Watch what you say, if you catch my drift.
posted by Afroblanco at 8:39 PM on May 21, 2006 [1 favorite]


I would *love* to know how many people are in jail or prison for drug related crimes. Prohibition: Just Say No!
posted by Justinian at 8:41 PM on May 21, 2006


Fences on the southern boarder, who know how long till fences on the northern one. Show your id to get in and out, a nation of prisoners, guards and owners
posted by edgeways at 8:48 PM on May 21, 2006


See also this comprehensive survey report thingy from a while back.

It's a constant source of humour black as freakin' night to me how the realities of America (at least as viewed from the outside) are so wildly divergent from the Freedom Mythology.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:00 PM on May 21, 2006


...and I have to say that this newsfilter was probably derived from the application in my recent MeTa post. Sorry about that - I should have known someone was going to use the results there to post newsfilter here.
posted by aberrant at 9:06 PM on May 21, 2006


actually I picked it up at Kos, news.google.com and huffington post before checking to see if it was here yet, but i like your app.
posted by sourbrew at 9:09 PM on May 21, 2006


How high do you think that rate would go if the Ann Coulters and Sean Hannitys had their way? I'll throw a purely ballpark guess out and say, oh, 3000/100,000. Of course, that's just a conservative estimate.

Sorry, couldn't resist.
posted by slatternus at 9:11 PM on May 21, 2006


How high do you think that rate would go if the Ann Coulters and Sean Hannitys had their way? I'll throw a purely ballpark guess out and say, oh, 3000/100,000. Of course, that's just a conservative estimate.

Nah, I'd say more like three percent.

Sorry, couldn't resist.
posted by phrontist at 9:21 PM on May 21, 2006


The real question is, if Coulters and Hannitys had their way, would the racial ratio change or remain the same?
posted by Clamwacker at 9:34 PM on May 21, 2006


While I find the numbers appalling, I find the conditions even more so. Nearly as bad as all that is the attitude most people have about our prisons: that they are humane places, at least good enough for criminals. Often followed by something like, "It's not as bad as Libya". Of course, who am I to tell them that Libya isn't a first world country.

While searching for stuff to sicken and sadden me, I did some personal reading on our prison system. This article was pretty representative of the others I read as well as the descriptions I've heard from those whom had spent time in one.
posted by a_green_man at 10:02 PM on May 21, 2006


Oh come on, isn't SOMEBODY going to stand up and defend this?

There are so many people out waving flags, talking about how GREAT America is and how wonderful our FREEDOM is. And how evil and awful and repressive all those other countries are.

Where are you now?

Hmmm?

Got so much "freedom" you can't even speak?
posted by InnocentBystander at 10:05 PM on May 21, 2006


that's a great article, a_green_man, it blew me away when I read it a year or two ago. is it just my imagination, or have there been a LOT more escaped prisoners in the past few years? i'm wondering if it's because of privatization (fewer guards), or it's just the idiot news channels love to treat all the escapes as big news?
posted by overanxious ducksqueezer at 10:24 PM on May 21, 2006


This is what happens when you privatize prisons, let them go public, make them beholden to shareholder interest and give them a strong lobby.

More incarcerations are better for the bottom line!

Gated communities at either end of the spectrum, I suppose.
posted by sourwookie at 10:53 PM on May 21, 2006


With that many prisoners, it's a good thing that prison guards can depend on convicts to police each other with the judicial use of rape, beatings and murder.
posted by stavrogin at 12:08 AM on May 22, 2006


lol n00b.

you better believe W doesn't get out of bed for anything less than 500k.
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 12:15 AM on May 22, 2006


Yep. We should definitely go vote for the incomptetent crooks.
posted by IronLizard at 1:40 AM on May 22, 2006


err incompetent.
posted by IronLizard at 1:41 AM on May 22, 2006


IMHO the US Supreme Court shouldn't be responsible for applying the law, they sould be responsbile for justice. A key KPI should be keeping the percentage of prison population between set figures, like the Reserve Bank of New Zealand must do with NZs inflation figure.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 2:02 AM on May 22, 2006


How can the Supreme Court be responsible for justice if they are having to decide whether someone gets a particular punishment not based on their actions but on whether there is adequate space left in their quota?
posted by biffa at 2:20 AM on May 22, 2006


"In 2004, nearly 7 million people were on probation, in jail or prison, or on parole at yearend 2004 -- 3.2% of all U.S. adult residents or 1 in every 31 adults."
posted by milquetoast at 2:31 AM on May 22, 2006


biffa: In the same way the Reserve Bank maintains inflation to within set figures by controlling monetary policy...

I have no idea how, but all I am saying is going on the data the Supreme Court's current approach aint working.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 2:42 AM on May 22, 2006


I'm pretty certain the Reserve Bank doesn't control inflation by sending some people to jail for a crime then letting some others off when the numbers in jail are getting too high. Your analogy makes no sense whatsoever.
posted by biffa at 3:13 AM on May 22, 2006


...keeping the percentage of prison population between set figures,...
Institute a quota system????
Sweet jebus! If you think the system is fucked-up now...
posted by Thorzdad at 4:28 AM on May 22, 2006


I'd hazard a guess that whatever happens in the Supreme Court is pretty far removed from what happens in the trial of a "common criminal". Supreme Court rulings become close to irrelevant if the accused in a local court is uneducated, lacks representation & is faced with an elected, untenured judge with an obvious vested interest in being "tough on crime".
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:49 AM on May 22, 2006


62% of the people inprisoned in this country have not been convicted of any crime.

I think we should have a revolution in the most literal sense. We let everybody in jail now for drug crimes out, and put all the police, the residents of the white house and congress in jail.
posted by empath at 5:06 AM on May 22, 2006


...followed by Russia (606), Belarus (554), Kazakhstan and the U.S. Vi rgin Islands (both 522), the Cayman Islands (501), Turkmenistan (489), Belize (459),
Bermuda (447)


Bermuda? What's up with Bermuda? Anyone?
posted by IndigoJones at 5:36 AM on May 22, 2006


62% of the people inprisoned in this country have not been convicted of any crime.

Actually, that's 62% of the 750,000 in jail, not the 2.2 million total imprisoned. It's still way too many, but there is a difference.
posted by EarBucket at 5:56 AM on May 22, 2006


"The report by the Justice Department agency found that 62 percent of people in jails have not been convicted, meaning many of them are awaiting trial."

So much for being innocent until proven guilty.

That is actually what jails are for. They hold people pre-trial who have not made bond or have no bond and they hold people who are serving very short active sentences. Where I live, that means sentences that are thirty days or less. Anyone serving more than a thirty day active sentence is in prison. Prison and jail are not the same thing.

I rarely see people convicted with possession of marijuana sent to prison. However, I do see people convicted of the sale or delivery of it sent to prison. Crack, cocaine, heroin, and crystal meth are the offenses for which people often get sent to prison for possession.
posted by flarbuse at 6:28 AM on May 22, 2006


The War on Drugs is overwhelmingly successful at achieving the goals of its designers. That is, the systemic disenfranchisement and social genocide of an entire segment of the US population.
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 6:47 AM on May 22, 2006


actually I picked it up at Kos, news.google.com and huffington post before checking to see if it was here yet, but i like your app.
posted by sourbrew at 11:09 PM CST on May 21


There is the genesis of an excellent post.
posted by dios at 8:00 AM on May 22, 2006


Bermuda only has a small population - about 60,000 people - so the statistics can quite easily get skewed, especially as its prsoners per 100,000.
posted by ZippityBuddha at 8:19 AM on May 22, 2006


Sourbrew, in the last Michigan governor's race, the Green candidate claimed he could balance the state budget and cut taxes if all non-violent drug offenders were released from state prisons.
posted by QIbHom at 8:58 AM on May 22, 2006


Don't forget that drug possession convictions are almost always the result of plea bargains of a package of much more serious offenses.

This isn't too say that the War on Drugs doesn't deserve re-examination -- just that you shouldn't be under the impression that legions of weekend tokers -- or even weekend snorters -- are cooling it in prison.

And, by the way -- if the War on Drugs were racist in conception or execution, why isn't the community of active African American and Hispanic politician doing something about it. They have a lot of power, and yet they carefully confine skeptical talk about drug policy to their most insignificant platforms. In other words, lots of play in the built-to-be-ignored policy papers of the Congressional Black Caucus, but none at all when those members are choosing which Presidential candidates to endorse in the states where they have huge power in the Democratic primaries and general elections.

(And that's to say nothing about the strongest growth contingent in the prison population -- white people being locked up on meth charges.)
posted by MattD at 10:31 AM on May 22, 2006


Good point. Still, I have to wonder- blue collar or white collar crimes?

And does the prison uniform include Bermuda shorts?
posted by IndigoJones at 10:32 AM on May 22, 2006


Don’t do drugs, m’kay?
Drugs are bad, m’kay?
posted by Smedleyman at 11:56 AM on May 22, 2006


I wonder how many "prisons = fascist government" opinionators live in hip, downtown areas that are curiously free of crime compared to 20, 30 years ago...
posted by frogan at 12:37 PM on May 22, 2006


frogan, I think i was the only one that used the word fascist, and then only in my tags. I live in rural SC in a college town, the arrests in my area are largely for marijuana use and under age drinking by college students. A lot of them are for drunk driving also... those I have less of a problem with. Although I think it would be cheaper for the cops to offer a free taxi service rather than set up road blocks. If they could come up with some sort of plan like this I would gladly support a large increase in DUI penalties.
posted by sourbrew at 1:15 PM on May 22, 2006


frogan: I wonder how many "prisons = fascist government" opinionators live in hip, downtown areas that are curiously free of crime compared to 20, 30 years ago...

All right, at least someone is sporting for the defense.
If Wikipedia is to be believed, the only country with more prisoners per capita than the US is Rwanda. However the US is far from the safest place to live. From these two conflicting facts, we can deduce three possibilities:
  1. The US has far more criminals per capita than other countries. This is statistically unlikely, and bordering on racist.
  2. The numbers are wrong.
  3. Arresting people doesn't lead to lower crime rates.
My money is on the last one.
posted by Popular Ethics at 1:17 PM on May 22, 2006


Let me recharacterize option 3: Arresting people is not the best way to lower crime rates.
posted by Popular Ethics at 1:19 PM on May 22, 2006


That might not be caused by having more prisons, frogan. The crime rate today is much lower compared to what it was 30 years ago, for a variety of reasons.
posted by zoogleplex at 1:22 PM on May 22, 2006


Popular Ethics: False trichomotomy. It could be something as whacky as better, more efficient, non-corruptable law-enforcement.

I mean, I don't believe it for a moment, but it could be. Even if it was simply a better equipped and larger law-enforcement community with incentives to convict, that easily could skew things.
posted by Sparx at 2:36 PM on May 22, 2006


In my county cops do not even need a high school diploma to enforce the law... this seems at odds with maintaining a corruption free law enforcement program.
posted by sourbrew at 2:58 PM on May 22, 2006


sourbrew: In my county cops do not even need a high school diploma to enforce the law... this seems at odds with maintaining a corruption free law enforcement program.

What's your reasoning?
posted by batou_ at 3:35 PM on May 22, 2006


well without a high school education you presumably know little about the framing of the constitution. You also presumably have little to no knowledge of the history of rights abuses which lead to its very careful crafting. Mostly though i just think that someone who has failed to escape high school is less likely to be ethical.

Granted the root cause of corruption is more likely to be low pay than education... I suppose you have me there, and I have no real evidence to support my assertion. It just seems wrong that someone charged with upholding what I regard as almost holy, the law of the land, should be someone who had problems being charged with completing algebra 2 assignments.
posted by sourbrew at 4:15 PM on May 22, 2006


Smedleyman: brilliant!



Is MattD a paid shill for the Republican party or just a free-lancer?

No evidence that drug convictions are plea-bargained from more serious crime. I suspect that's a red-herring.

And the African-American and Hispanic politicians as a powerful block that can change public policy!??!? MattD been samplin' the wares, y'know whatta mean?

Then the beaut: a weird misdirect about white people and crank. What up widdat?
posted by Mental Wimp at 4:53 PM on May 22, 2006


I agree totally with what what Sourbrew suggests about DUIs, but I envy him the set of experiences that seem to inform his stance toward law enforcment and incarceration.

if you'll excuse a minor derail, I hasten to point out that if he lived in, say, urban Columbia instead of the relatively mellow rural upstate (here's the statistics for the town closest to him compared to Columbia), he might have a very different set of experiences and possibly a different stance on using the word "fascist" to characterize law enforcement and "corrections" (ha!). Having had to deal with more than one very bad person on a physical level over the years, I'm sympathetic, if not entirely susceptible, to the cliche "a conservative is a a onetime liberal who's been mugged."

To get back on topic, I hope everyone will pause to reflect that there are lot of people in the slammer who legitimately belong there.
posted by pax digita at 5:18 PM on May 22, 2006


That's not entirely fair, I live in clemson. I grew up in greenville. Both of which are doing better than urban Columbia, however central is a town of maybe 3,000 people and is clearly going to have much lower rates than most other towns in South Carolina. Also I have had my fair share of run ins with unsavory characters. I have been robbed at gun point, had a hand gun aimed at me, as well as an AR17 assault rifle. Not to mention run ins that were less gun based and just plain violent.

I still support my liberal stance, because my liberal views would have them deprived of guns. I know the old adage about being young and liberal vs. wealthy and conservative, but I agree with colbert "that reality has a well known liberal bias"
posted by sourbrew at 6:13 PM on May 22, 2006


i suppose AR 17 assault rifle is a bit redundant.
posted by sourbrew at 6:15 PM on May 22, 2006


also one more final note, Clemson has about 30,000 people total. I would imagine that the statistics would be much larger if there were actually 100,000 people living here. Although it's pretty disgusting that the level of rape is as high here as it is... I would imagine that is fairly standard across many college campuses though sadly.
posted by sourbrew at 6:17 PM on May 22, 2006


All right, at least someone is sporting for the defense.

Somebody has to be the DR (Designated Right-Winger) in the Metafilter League. ;-)

If Wikipedia is to be believed, the only country with more prisoners per capita than the US is Rwanda.

Can we seriously make ANY comparison between the US and Rwanda in anything and have it said comparison hold ANY water? Rwanda? Seriously? The two countries are totally, utterly different in every respect. It's like comparing a chimp to a woodpecker. Sure, they both breathe oxygen...

However the US is far from the safest place to live.

And then there's the other end of the spectrum. What are the safest places to live? Switzerland? Singapore? San Marino? Small, high-income countries with incredibly homogenous populations, and in Singapore's case, brutal human rights records?

Arresting people is not the best way to lower crime rates.

I guess you mean "jailing people for minor offenses when other strategies (e.g. rehab, education) are available is not the best way to lower crime rates." Now here's where I actually agree with you ... not the best way, certainly. But crime rates have lowered while jail rates have skyrocketed ... hmm. Hey, is that a broken window I see...?

So, I'm sure someone will point me to the correlation implies causation article now. There, I saved you the link...
posted by frogan at 8:18 PM on May 22, 2006 [1 favorite]


frogan:Somebody has to be the DR (Designated Right-Winger) in the Metafilter League. ;-)

Good on you.

Can we seriously make ANY comparison between the US and Rwanda in anything and have it said comparison hold ANY water? Rwanda? Seriously? The two countries are totally, utterly different in every respect. It's like comparing a chimp to a woodpecker. Sure, they both breathe oxygen...

OK then, what kind of exceptionalism drives the US prison rates? Rwanda has a generation of genocidiers to deal with. What's the US' excuse?

And then there's the other end of the spectrum. What are the safest places to live? Switzerland? Singapore? San Marino? Small, high-income countries with incredibly homogenous populations, and in Singapore's case, brutal human rights records?

You're justified in calling me out on this. I haven't researched any numbers. But would you contest that there isn't a safer, heavily eavily urbanized, multi-racial country in the world? Then again, you may be on to something with the link between income disparity and crime. That's another area where the US is exceptional among developed nations.

I guess you mean "jailing people for minor offenses when other strategies (e.g. rehab, education) are available is not the best way to lower crime rates." Now here's where I actually agree with you ... not the best way, certainly. But crime rates have lowered while jail rates have skyrocketed ... hmm. Hey, is that a broken window I see...?

I'm familiar with the Broken Window theory, but there's another way to interpret it: (I'm stealing this from an earlier thread, but I can't find the post to credit) People judge risk more by the chance of getting the wrong outcome than by the consequence of that mistake. (the post had a story about inneffective train crossing barricades, but more effective police surveillance signs - grr, why can't I find it.) So better policing, not the threat of long sentences, reduces crime (This policing need not even be performed by the state. Bolstering community groups to take back their neighborhood can have the same effect).

If you agree that there are better ways to combat crime, how can you defend the current "solution"? Your "Hey, but it seems to be working" test is far to dangerous to apply to public policy. For instance, mandatory sterilisation of all but state-approved mothers would likely also reduce crime...
tally-ho
posted by Popular Ethics at 9:24 PM on May 22, 2006


...central is a town of maybe 3,000 people and is clearly going to have much lower rates than most other towns

Less crime overall, I can understand, but lower rates? Maybe if the reporting of crime is less efficient...I once read that larger cities appear to have higher crime rates for that very reason. I've noticed there's plenty amount of violent crime in college towns and right on campuses, too.

I salute your liberal stance -- it's especially morally courageous in view of what you've experienced. But don't kneejerk terms like "fascist" get in the way of a mature discussion of crime and incarceration? The namecalling seems inconsistent with your espoused values.
posted by pax digita at 10:19 PM on May 22, 2006


pad digita...

in the database you linked crimes are ranked per 100,000 citizens so in a city of 3,000 they would appear to be disproportionately lower.
posted by sourbrew at 10:53 PM on May 22, 2006


damn pax digita
posted by sourbrew at 10:54 PM on May 22, 2006


OK then, what kind of exceptionalism drives the US prison rates?

Whatever it is, you can't make the U.S. to Rwanda to Switzerland comparison. That dog won't hunt.

Name another country in the U.S. class. Britain? Germany? Japan? Canada? France? I guess if you smush them all together you end up with something approaching the same size and makeup of the U.S. Are their crime rates lower? Yes. But it's the social, cultural and economic differences that spell the difference in all of those countries, and you can't overcome those by waving the wand of "let's not lock so many people up, smile on your brother, everybody love one another right now."

If you agree that there are better ways to combat crime, how can you defend the current "solution"?

Because it's not a binary question with only one right answer. Law and order works. So does improved domestic economic policy. I think everyone would like to see more of the latter, obviously. Gun control would be sweet (I'm not that far over on the DR side). But I guess I just have a soft spot for cops catching bad guys.

But moreover ... law and order does not automatically equal fascism (which is the overall point I'd like to make), and anyone who uses that particular F-word on this subject is just an inflammatory dunce with a lack-of-perspective problem.

Side note: It would be a fun exercise to compare how much money is spent on jails and how much money is spent on public defenders. I mean, I'm sure the jails "win" that one ... but really, how much is spent providing free public defense for the underprivileged as a percentage of money spent on all criminal justice systems in the U.S.?

(don't hit me with efficacy questions on that one ... different subject)

Side note on broken windows theory: See "The Tipping Point" chapter on this, specifically the subway turnstile jumpers in NYC. Cops set up special units specifically to bust turnstile jumpers and book them right there in the station. The numbers elude me here, but it turned out that something like 1 in 10 had an outstanding warrant for arrest, and 1 in 20 had a weapon.

The Freakonomics guys dispelled this interpretation, making some valid points. But still ... score one for law and order.

For instance, mandatory sterilisation of all but state-approved mothers would likely also reduce crime...

Not gonna touch that with a ten-foot keyboard. ;-)
posted by frogan at 11:43 PM on May 22, 2006


in the database you linked crimes are ranked per 100,000 citizens so in a city of 3,000 they would appear to be disproportionately lower.

In small-town SC, crime rates per 100k appear to be lower, yet in Bermuda (see upthread) incarceration rates per 100k appear to be higher? From that, I hope that whenever I see "x per y" statistics, I'll remember to stop and check what the actual population size was.

I'm sorry to see you've resorted to swearing at me -- I'm just pointing out what you've said.
posted by pax digita at 7:02 AM on May 23, 2006


no i wasn't cursing at you i was cursing about having made a typo... the comment above i said pad digita instead of pax digita so i was merely correcting my self and cussing my stupidity. I am also curious what the deal is with Bermuda... seems to be an odd place to have that much crime.
posted by sourbrew at 10:03 AM on May 23, 2006


a_green_man: "This article was pretty representative of the others I read as well as the descriptions I've heard from those whom had spent time in one."

That article paints a sickeningly medieval picture. A privatised, unregulated prison system staffed by people who despise the inmates? Really, it's monstrous. And yet, it's taken for granted. Baffling.
posted by Drexen at 10:25 AM on May 23, 2006


Sorry, didn't read the whole thread so don't know if this got linkage, but here is the Guardian's take. A good article, excepting the "it is irrelevant" what prisoners get paid (slave labour anyone?).
posted by dreamsign at 11:35 AM on May 25, 2006


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