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Torture Inc.
December 10, 2006 9:06 AM   Subscribe

Abu Ghraib revisited? Savaged by dogs, Electrocuted With Cattle Prods, Burned By Toxic Chemicals, Does such barbaric abuse inside U.S. jails explain the horrors that were committed in Iraq? [...] It’s terrible to watch some of the videos and realise that you’re not only seeing torture in action but, in the most extreme cases, you are witnessing young men dying. Channel 4-documentary on US prisons. (google video. Disclaimer: nasty stuff)
posted by Bravocharlie (105 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm not watching this. A country with five percent of the world's population that consumes twenty-five percent of the world's resources and incarcerates twenty-five percent of the world's prisoners is good at what they do.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:20 AM on December 10, 2006 [2 favorites]


I've already seen this and this shit is pretty disturbing and reprehensible. Although, to be fair, prison abuse is endemic in the US, but not to the extent and brutality that this tabloid-y piece makes it out to be.
posted by Falconetti at 9:21 AM on December 10, 2006


Meanwhile, in nearby Tampa, eight guards charged with aggravated manslaughter of a fourteen year old.
posted by phaedon at 9:24 AM on December 10, 2006


but not to the extent and brutality that this tabloid-y piece makes it out to be.

what's an acceptable level of brutality?
posted by matteo at 9:42 AM on December 10, 2006 [1 favorite]


...for every harmless gentle soul misplaced inside a jail...

The thing to do is outsource these folks to Bravocharlie's house, where they'll be rehabilitated by humane, gentle treatment. Not to imply that they need rehab, of course, they're all political prisoners of conscience anyway. Just turn 'em loose.
posted by jfuller at 9:43 AM on December 10, 2006


Falconetti : "prison abuse is endemic in the US, but not to the extent and brutality that this tabloid-y piece makes it out to be."

You mean the dogs were not rabid, the cattle prods were set down to minimum current and the toxic chemicals were not even that toxic, right? Yeah, this criminal non-citizens are all just a bunch of sissies who clearly deserve whatever they get. I wonder how far we are from some American State declaring all criminals "enemy combatants" and hence without any rights whatsoever.
posted by nkyad at 9:43 AM on December 10, 2006


what's an acceptable level of brutality?

How about a nice cocktail, a feather duster and a statuesque woman trained in a dozen schools of massage?
posted by loquacious at 9:45 AM on December 10, 2006


Prison deaths: a national shame
posted by homunculus at 9:51 AM on December 10, 2006


what's an acceptable level of brutality?

You mean the dogs were not rabid, the cattle prods were set down to minimum current and the toxic chemicals were not even that toxic, right? Yeah, this criminal non-citizens are all just a bunch of sissies who clearly deserve whatever they get. I wonder how far we are from some American State declaring all criminals "enemy combatants" and hence without any rights whatsoever.

I knew I would get hyperbolic responses like this. There is no acceptable level of brutality. I also said abuse was endemic and unacceptable. I did not mean to diminish the horror and my own family has been subject to abuse in US prisons, so it is not as if I am unsympathetic. The US prison system is fundamentally flawed and needs to be completely overhauled.

My point was minor and more about basic media literacy and discernment. This piece used morons like Arpaio to make a point about the entire US prison system. I didn't find the piece convincing as to the extent of the problem. It is clearly tabloid journalism, which doesn't mean it is all lies, but just that they have a point of view and they are going to marshal both facts and tricks to get the most sensationalist point of view across. I don't think prisoners are sissies or guards should be allowed to punch prisoners or anything like that. Just because I agree or am sympathetic with something doesn't mean I leave my critical faculties at home.

What the US needs to do is release all the drug criminals, remove or separate all the mentally ill prisoners, and allow some independent group like Amnesty International or an analogue have full access to prisons (none of this will ever happen though). The toleration and tacit approval of guard violence can only be checked by having oversight that is not sympathetic with the guards.
posted by Falconetti at 9:58 AM on December 10, 2006


Its easy not to go to jail. Obey the Law. And if you find yourself in jail, Obey the Guards! Its Prison! Not vacation!
Check out this site if your interested in what torture really means. http://www.loc.gov/vets/stories/pow-korea.html
Abu Ghraib was a fraternity initiation in comparison.
posted by tomas316 at 9:58 AM on December 10, 2006




Great, the "Abu Ghraib was just hazing" guy has showed up. Is that you, rummy?
posted by bob sarabia at 10:09 AM on December 10, 2006 [1 favorite]


Tomas, they didn't want to be in the fraternity.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:12 AM on December 10, 2006 [1 favorite]


The thing to do is outsource these folks to Bravocharlie's house, where they'll be rehabilitated by humane, gentle treatment. Not to imply that they need rehab, of course, they're all political prisoners of conscience anyway. Just turn 'em loose.
posted by jfuller


Wow. I can just about hear the sneer as you type those words from your oh, so perfect and meticulously pristine world.

Its easy not to go to jail. Obey the Law. And if you find yourself in jail, Obey the Guards! Its Prison! Not vacation!
Check out this site if your interested in what torture really means. http://www.loc.gov/vets/stories/pow-korea.html
Abu Ghraib was a fraternity initiation in comparison.
posted by tomas316


What about all those folks who are in the penal system erroneously? (An example from today's newspaper)
posted by leftcoastbob at 10:14 AM on December 10, 2006


Here's one guy who got the free pass. Norman Mailer decided Jack Henry Abbott was a harmless gentle soul misplaced inside a jail, and one with a great deal of literary talent, as shown by this vividly descriptive passage:

Here is how it is: You are both alone in his cell. You’ve slipped out a knife (eight- to ten-inch blade, double-edged). You’re holding it beside your leg so he can’t see it. The enemy is smiling and chattering away about something. You see his eyes: Green-blue, liquid. He thinks you’re his fool: he trusts you. You see the spot. It’s a target between the second and third button on his shirt. As you calmly talk and smile, you move your left foot to the side to step across his right-side body length. A light pivot toward him with your right shoulder and the world turns upside down: you have sunk the knife to its hilt into the middle of his chest. Slowly he begins to struggle for his life. As he sinks, you will have to kill him fast or get caught. He will say “Why?” Or “No!” Nothing else. You can feel his life trembling through the knife in your hand. It almost overcomes you, the gentleness of the feeling at the center of a coarse act of murder. You’ve pumped the knife several times without even being aware of it. You go to the floor with him to finish him. It is like cutting hot butter, no resistance at all. They always whisper one thing at the end: “Please.” You get the odd impression that he is no imploring you not to harm him, but to do it right. If he says your name it softens your resolve. You go into a mechanical stupor of sorts. Things register in slow motion because all your senses are drawn to a new height. You leave him in the blood, staring with dead eyes. You strip in your cell and destroy your clothing, flushing it down the toilet. You throw the knife away. You jump under the showers. Your clarity returns.

So Mailer and others of the usual celebridiot crowd got Abbot released. Six weeks after his release, Abbott killed a young writer working as a waiter, with a knife he "just happened" to have with him.

Prisons are a nasty, wretched thing. Sadly, there's a reason we have 'em, and a reason why the people in 'em will always be low priority, with fewer people advocating for them that there are advocating for free-range chgickens. Moral: stay the fuck out of 'em, unless you have a really compelling, Thoreau-type reason for going. Then be ready, Thoreau-style, for what happens.


> What about all those folks who are in the penal system erroneously? (An example from today's newspaper)

We have a huge system of courts, and trials, and reviews, and appeals. It is certainly worth everybody's while to see that this system works as well as can be--given that this is Earth, not Heaven.
posted by jfuller at 10:20 AM on December 10, 2006


If you're going to posit that this type of prison policy is necessary, you're going to have to deal with the reality of the many, many, many, many other countries with lower incarceration rates and more humane prisons who have lower crime rates than the US.

The attitudes on display in this thread scream 'racism' to me.

I suspect many of you would not have the same reaction if it were white people receiving this treatment.
posted by empath at 10:24 AM on December 10, 2006


Wow we surpassed China then, but hey nice post.

The question to me is not so much that the prisoners have rights, but that THE GUARDS ARE NOT ABOVE THE LAW.
posted by j-urb at 10:25 AM on December 10, 2006


jfuller's right: America has the highest proportion of recidivist killers released via pressure from campaigns by major literary figures to prey upon us again in the world. Oh when oh when will the madness stop.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:28 AM on December 10, 2006




Jack Henry Abbott is not every prisoner. Sort of like how Norman Mailer isn't a parole board.
posted by j-urb at 10:32 AM on December 10, 2006


Moral: stay the fuck out of 'em, unless you have a really compelling, Thoreau-type reason for going. Then be ready, Thoreau-style, for what happens.

Was Thoreau a victim of prison rape?
posted by homunculus at 10:34 AM on December 10, 2006


Prisoners are needed for the next stage of the USA's economic development. Who's going to take the manufacturing jobs from the Chinese? Prisoners.

The USA is clearly headed for a two-tier society: one in which there are prisoner-slaves, and free-wealthy.

Quite a bit like China, actually, where the good jobs are terribly low-paying but come with all the benefits of company housing, health care, meals, daycare, schooling. Only instead of an at-will employment system, the US system will make damn sure its prisoners are beholden to the jobs and demands of the prison employer.

That's the only way to undercut the Chinese, because the at-will system means employers have to compete to attract employees. That becomes costly: in a competitive, thriving, at-will environment, employers have to provide better benefits. Prison slavery eliminates that cost.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:42 AM on December 10, 2006


See also: A Brief History of the Prison Industry.

Its easy not to go to jail. Obey the Law. Easy as 1 2 3
posted by landis at 10:44 AM on December 10, 2006


Prisons are a nasty, wretched thing. Sadly, there's a reason we have 'em

hopefully, the difference between detention and sadistic, pointless torture will probably be clearer to you once that burgeoning tumescence in your breeches provoked by watching the torture video will abate
posted by matteo at 10:45 AM on December 10, 2006 [1 favorite]


For those who chant 'Obey the Law':

1. Would you argue that every law ever written has been just?

2. Do you think every law now on the books is just, and is unassailably Constitutional?
posted by kid ichorous at 11:09 AM on December 10, 2006


We (the US and our society) need to ask what are prisons are supposed to accomplish. Most people in prison are there for drug crimes these days. It seems to me that many if not most should be prepared to be productive citizens of our society someday.

Others may never be safe to release and should be housed to keep them from society. The whole idea of retribution should not be part of the conversation.
posted by UseyurBrain at 11:11 AM on December 10, 2006


Matteo, trust me, I'm against sadistic pointless torture. But every outrage-of-the-moment link that ever gets posted here leads to topics that are more complex and difficult than any of you appear to want to understand. There is a not at all uncommon sort of person for whom what would be torture for you, being a rational individual, is just high-intensity communication, through the only channel of communication they haven't got blocked. Yes indeed there are plenty of hard Crips and Bloods and Aryan Brothers and Jack Henry Abbotts who won't be controlled except with beatdowns and bad dogs. And they must be controlled, by state violence, unless you want vigilante gangs springing up. Those two are the only available choices.


> The attitudes on display in this thread scream 'racism' to me.

You mean specifically anti-Black racism? You followed my link up there to the Aryan Brotherhood, yesno?


> many, many, many, many other countries with lower incarceration rates and
> more humane prisons who have lower crime rates than the US.

The lower crime rate is primary, the more humane prisons follow.

Also, many other countries deal with their criminal-level social problems in ways other than formal prisons. France, for instance, confines a large portion of its criminal underclass not in prisons but in the banlieues where the police don't go and Amnesty International never comes to inspect. And then says Eh bien, our prison population is small!
posted by jfuller at 11:18 AM on December 10, 2006


> For those who chant 'Obey the Law':
>
> 1. Would you argue that every law ever written has been just?
>
> 2. Do you think every law now on the books is just, and is unassailably Constitutional?

Obviously not. But, having already alluded to Civil Disobedience, let me also mention Socrates, who drank the hemlock instead of taking the offered easy out because he knew that his society was fucked up in many ways, and yet he had accepted the benefits of being a member of that society anyway.

Oppose the unjust and unconstitutional while you're on the outside. And if you're actually one of those harmless, gentle souls rounded up and sent inside for doing so, go in as Socrates did. But if you're Jack Henry Abbott, go in and stay there and be damned.
posted by jfuller at 11:26 AM on December 10, 2006


> The whole idea of retribution should not be part of the conversation.

"Retribution" is the same as "equity." Should equity not be part of the conversation?
posted by jfuller at 11:27 AM on December 10, 2006


> Most people in prison are there for drug crimes these days. It seems to me that many if not most
> should be prepared to be productive citizens of our society someday.

I'm against the self-proclaimed War on Drugs because of ineffectiveness, but it's a much harder question whether to allow freelance drug use and trafficking. The present crop of users--folks say they're not harming anyone but themselves by using, but I point to the absolutely hideous, murderous criminal gangs all over the world that they support whenever they score, and the 0 (zero) attention they pay to this uncomfortable fact. Legalize drugs in the U.S. and that won't change who controls production overseas. Do you think any amount of rehab would get this point over to them?

(Minor point, but why is it so very much the same croud who shouts "legalize drugs" out of one face and "criminalize tobacco" out of the other? Don't we see a tiny little inconsistency here? Seems to me the impulse to control and criminalize something is nigh-universal, and nobody but a few libertarian wingnuts is opposing it. Fuller apologizes for the topic drift.)
posted by jfuller at 11:39 AM on December 10, 2006


why is it so very much the same croud who shouts "legalize drugs" out of one face and "criminalize tobacco" out of the other?

Find me one person who says both of tehse things, and actually wants this to happen (rather than them pointing out the hypocrisy of one being legal while the rest aren't)

Honestly, though, your contrary act is tiresome. We get it, there are bad people. That doesn't give a state an excuse to act the way the US is acting in its prisons.
posted by Space Coyote at 11:44 AM on December 10, 2006


Clue.Less.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:59 AM on December 10, 2006


jfuller: let me also mention Socrates, who drank the hemlock instead of taking the offered easy out because he knew that his society was fucked up in many ways, and yet he had accepted the benefits of being a member of that society anyway. [...] And if you're actually one of those harmless, gentle souls rounded up and sent inside for doing so, go in as Socrates did.

Well, martyrdom is an option when you have the right ingredients: a charismatic victim, a crowd of witnesses, and sympathetic historians. But I don't think our average American has the privilege of being eulogized by Plato. :)
posted by kid ichorous at 12:10 PM on December 10, 2006


let me also mention Socrates, who drank the hemlock instead of taking the offered easy out because he knew that his society was fucked up in many ways, and yet he had accepted the benefits of being a member of that society anyway.

Hmm. I'm not so sure Socrates was being completely honest when he expressed this idea to Crito. He just wanted him (Crito) out of the way, as the guy was kind of an idiot. What Socrates wanted to do was prove a point about the injustice of the state: what kind of state, after all, would kill a man like Socrates? It seems like one can draw a parallel between the injustices of 4th century BC Athens and those of modern America, especially in regard to the prisons. Bitter, arrogant, bigoted, judgmental, completely self-assured idiots rule in both places, and punish people, at root, purely out of that hateful spite. It seems to me that that is the common thread between the persecution of Socrates and the "send 'em all to jail!" attitude prevalent today. And if anyone on this board reminds me of a modern day Meletus, it is jfuller.
posted by notswedish at 12:17 PM on December 10, 2006


(Minor point, but why is it so very much the same croud who shouts "legalize drugs" out of one face and "criminalize tobacco" out of the other?

You obviously don't live on the same planet that I do. I mean, what the fuck? No one says that.

Seriously though, no one is denying that some people in prison are very bad people. That's not the point, the question is how many of them are actually bad people we want to keep off the streets. I'm not especially terrified of the idea of pot-growing hippies wondering the streets.

If drug trafficking causes murder and violence, then arrest people for being murderous or violent. Throwing non-violent drug offenders only to economically pressure violent people is immoral on it's face. It's no different then killing civilians in war in order to economically pressure the government or the military.

Never mind that ending the war on drugs would end the careers of drug traffickers entirely
posted by delmoi at 12:25 PM on December 10, 2006


Hmm. I'm not so sure Socrates was being completely honest when he expressed this idea to Crito. He just wanted him (Crito) out of the way, as the guy was kind of an idiot.

Well, we don't really know do we? The "Socrates" we know is really only a character in Plato's writing
posted by delmoi at 12:29 PM on December 10, 2006


> How about a nice cocktail, a feather duster and a statuesque woman trained in a dozen schools of massage?

There came to me the likeness of a woman, fair and comely, clothed in white raiment, who called to me and said: "O Socrates - The third day hence, to Phthia shalt thou go."

posted by jfuller at 12:32 PM on December 10, 2006


jfuller, you need to bring more out of Athens to convince me that beating up inmates is ok.
posted by Bravocharlie at 12:39 PM on December 10, 2006


> If drug trafficking causes murder and violence, then arrest people for being murderous or violent.

Didn't we just try that in Afghanistan? Worked real good! And you were so for it!


> Throwing non-violent drug offenders only to economically pressure violent people is immoral on it's face.

Exactly how non-violent are they? I think somebody who buys Medellín Cartel coke or SLORC smack is an accessory to murder, and should be treated as an accessory to murder.
posted by jfuller at 12:47 PM on December 10, 2006


I think somebody who buys Medellín Cartel coke or SLORC smack ...

Thing is, opiates are used medically, as is cocaine. The pharms don't buy from these sources, and there would be no need to for anyone else if legal options were available.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:54 PM on December 10, 2006


JFuller, do you believe in alcohol prohibition too, then? By your reasoning, the 21st ammendment essentially rewarded all the distribution cartels and organized crime that sprung up in responce to the 18th?
posted by kid ichorous at 1:01 PM on December 10, 2006


Never mind that we *needed* an 18th ammendment to prohibit alcohol. Where's your ammendment that makes the war on drugs constitutional? I thought so.
posted by kid ichorous at 1:02 PM on December 10, 2006


Well, we don't really know do we? The "Socrates" we know is really only a character in Plato's writing

no
posted by noble_rot at 1:07 PM on December 10, 2006


kid ichorous,

We needed an 18th amendment to legalize national prohibition because the thinking at that time about the commerce clause was not as expansive as it is today. Under current interpretation, the commerce clause grants Congress the power to regulate anything that has a substantial impact on interstate commerce, and it's under that authority that they regulate drug trafficking. It's not hard to take issue with the current interpretation, but that's the justification.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:11 PM on December 10, 2006


delmoi : "The 'Socrates' we know is really only a character in Plato's writing"

We know three Socrates: from Plato and Xenophon, who actually knew Socrates and the one from Aristotle, who was a Plato's student.
posted by nkyad at 1:20 PM on December 10, 2006


If drug trafficking causes murder and violence, then arrest people for being murderous or violent.

Didn't we just try that in Afghanistan? Worked real good! And you were so for it!

Wha? If you're going to go in and arrest people you normally start with arrest warrants, not the sorts of massive quantities of munitions that give neo-cons wet dreams...
posted by kaemaril at 1:25 PM on December 10, 2006


Congratulations, I think I just lost what little faith I had left in humanity. No species truly born with empathy for its own kind could do these things.

I am also staying the fuck out of your country.
posted by tehloki at 1:56 PM on December 10, 2006


The lower crime rate is primary, the more humane prisons follow.

What people often don't seem to grasp is that laws create crime. Passing more laws in an effort to 'reduce crime' is exactly like trying to put a fire out by pouring gasoline on it.
posted by Malor at 2:04 PM on December 10, 2006


Malor, you're confusing the legal concept of crime with the common-language concept of crime. Somebody invents something abominable to do, we go "That's a crime and scandal, there oughta be a law." Well, it's not a crime, legally speaking, until there is a law, but the deed was abominable before it was made criminal by passing the law against it, and it isn't passing the law that made it abominable. It is the need to control abominable behavior that generates such an astonishing number of laws. To then say "the laws created the crime" is sophistry.

To put this more graphically, let me propose that corporations should be allowed to do anything they damn please. What's with all these laws and regulations? They just create crime!

But really you're preaching to the converted here. I'm very much against leaving the suppression of abominable behavior to the government, with the consequent government monopoly of force, police brutality, dreadful inhumane prisons, and all the other things you all rightly rail against that are the direct consequences of the government monopoly of force. Somebody comes into my neighborhood and starts dealing dope to the kids, I or one of the other neighbors locate him and shoot him. No excessive crime, nobody becomes an inmate subject to inhumane treatment, problem solved. It's just those damned laws that make such a mess of such a simple situation.
posted by jfuller at 2:39 PM on December 10, 2006


If drug trafficking causes murder and violence, then arrest people for being murderous or violent.
Didn't we just try that in Afghanistan? Worked real good! And you were so for it!

I have no idea what you're trying to say. Are you talking about the war in Afghanistan where we supported the Opium growing Northern Alliance over the Taliban, which had nearly eliminated Opium production? Yes, I was for that, although not because of my feelings on Opium.

Exactly how non-violent are they? I think somebody who buys Medellín Cartel coke or SLORC smack is an accessory to murder, and should be treated as an accessory to murder.

You put gas in your car?

I mean, your arguments are so idiotic as to be laughable.


Never mind that we *needed* an 18th ammendment to prohibit alcohol. Where's your ammendment that makes the war on drugs constitutional? I thought so.


We didn't need an amendment to prohibit the sale of alcohol, but one was gotten to make it more difficult to revert

posted by delmoi at 2:40 PM on December 10, 2006


Oops, the second line in my last comment should be italicized, it's a quote from jfuller.
posted by delmoi at 2:43 PM on December 10, 2006


> You put gas in your car?

You forget, or maybe didn't know, that you're talking to mefi's single most rabid tree hugger here. But yes, sometimes I do--though I walk to work, in any weather, to keep it to a minimum, and I haven't gone anywhere on a jet plane in thirity years. But when I on occasion do use fuel, or eat food that was farmed with fuel, I am intensely aware of the blood content, and feel like a red-handed participant in the oil wars. If I ever get hauled before some hypothetical World Court of Retribution for this, I won't have a thing to say. Now then, drug purchasers who blind themselves to the blood on their purchases are worse than blind, they're dead from the neck up, and (to follow on from my reply to malor) that's a crime and there oughta be a law.



> I am also staying the fuck out of your country.

Hokay. Myanmar beckons.
posted by jfuller at 2:57 PM on December 10, 2006


Somebody comes into my neighborhood and starts dealing dope to the kids, I or one of the other neighbors locate him and shoot him. No excessive crime, nobody becomes an inmate subject to inhumane treatment, problem solved. It's just those damned laws that make such a mess of such a simple situation.
posted by jfuller


I am going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you have somehow o.d.'d on testosterone or some other boy-hormone. So I'm not going to tell you what an incredibly fucking stupid statement that is.
posted by leftcoastbob at 3:34 PM on December 10, 2006


Why that's plain charming of you, bob. I'll return the favor by not telling you how microscopically little I would care, if you did. Smiles all 'round, and cordiality rules the day.
posted by jfuller at 3:42 PM on December 10, 2006


Metafilter: that burgeoning tumescence in your breeches
posted by YoBananaBoy at 3:42 PM on December 10, 2006


. But when I on occasion do use fuel, or eat food that was farmed with fuel, I am intensely aware of the blood content, and feel like a red-handed participant in the oil wars.

Okay, well good luck with that.

So what is your point anyway? That prison abuse is bad, but that we shouldn't care because some criminals are bad as well?
posted by delmoi at 3:52 PM on December 10, 2006


jfuller,

I still have no idea how your arguments relate to legalising drugs, or to abuses of the American criminal justice system.

Of course drugs fund violent gangsters and terrorists. That is a direct result of prohibition; I would think that this would be patently obvious. Al Capone and Pablo Escobar were both made their fortunes because of prohibition, and a legal, regulated market for drugs pulls the rug out from these scumbags. Don't believe me? How many murderous liquor barons terrorise your streets today? No, instead, today, the Hells Angels and Vietnamese gangs terrorise my province because of your government's idiotic policies. Is there something inherent in pot farming that makes you a violent thug? Or does it have something to do with the fact that in the absence of any protection from the law, peaceful pot growers get muscled out, and the market is controlled by people ruthless enough to murder their competition.

As for the people who buy drugs not knowing, or perhaps knowing too well where it came from and what it's funding, I fail to see how their moral failings are any worse than those who buy diamonds and fund wars in Africa. Does the fact that drugs happen to be illegal make these drug users people who deserve to be beaten, raped and infected with AIDS, because by using they were being "accessories to murder?" I guess those junkie whores deserve to be murdered by serial killers too.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 4:02 PM on December 10, 2006


Those beating the "unjust and unconstitutional laws" drum in this thread are taking the easy way out (and doing little service to the cause).

Most jail-time laws are still contentious if not widely supported by a scared or callous us-them populace (yes, including soft drug laws). The main point should be that if you dare cross the line of legal/illegal behaviour, you haven't entered into Draconian territory. The dangerous attitude here is not that laws are just simply because they are enacted, but that there exist a class of "lawbreakers" who deserve whatever they get once they've crossed that line.

And they truly, truly believe that convicts only have privileges, not rights. (but then, I'm of the op that most people believe this of everyone, and just don't make the distinction)
posted by dreamsign at 4:04 PM on December 10, 2006


I think dreamsign makes a very good point. One issue is what are the transgressions that even deserved to be punished. Another issue is what is acceptable as punishment. They are related questions but not even remotely coterminous.
posted by Falconetti at 4:23 PM on December 10, 2006


It's a widely-held belief among people I've met that committing a crime should somehow make you lose fundamental human rights. It's kind of scary (which brings me back to the "no faith in humanity" bit).
It's my belief that to support the current incarnation of the prison system is to tacitly condone the well-known systemic torture and rape that goes on in prisons, either of inmates by guards or inmates by other inmates.
posted by tehloki at 5:02 PM on December 10, 2006


There is a reason for jails and rehabilitation. The way they function, at least here in the US provides almost no benefit to the people incarcerated nor to society at large.

There are some people who have broken the social contract to such an extent that they cannot ever be trusted to be a member of society again, but that doesn't abrogate the prison caretaker, standing in for society's role to treat them with dignity and respect.

As to drug criminals; pot is a weed, it will grow damn near anywhere. If we let all the potheads out of jail, and legalized it, there would be no distribution channel. Everyone who wanted it could grow their own.

I can't speak to legalizing "hard" drugs, as I just don't have enough information about the drugs themselves, nor the potential fallout from making it easily accessible, but my instinct is to suggest that were those drugs available in pharmaceutical grade via prescription that it would eliminate a significant portion of the criminal behavior that surrounds the trafficking.
posted by dejah420 at 5:19 PM on December 10, 2006


It's a widely-held belief among people I've met that committing a crime should somehow make you lose fundamental human rights. It's kind of scary (which brings me back to the "no faith in humanity" bit).

tehloki, it's called social contract theory, and some version of it lies at the heart of most of the societies we identify with Enlightenment values and the rule of law.
posted by adamgreenfield at 5:26 PM on December 10, 2006


It's a widely-held belief among people I've met that committing a crime should somehow make you lose fundamental human rights.

Ditto. But a thing bestowed or withheld is a privilege, not a right. If you feel like getting a little depressed, quiz as many people as you can on this over a short span of time. Find out how few people really believe in human rights.
posted by dreamsign at 5:31 PM on December 10, 2006


Narcotic legalization would do so much for the legal system; taxes brought in on previously-illegal drugs would create surplus public funds, drug gangs with their pushers and their guns would have no power without their inflated revenues, along with a host of other benefits that have been named by people more eloquent than me.

However, the sober conservative crowd would have no legal recourse for condemning the drug users they hate so venomously. They need the scapegoat; they need the streets to be full of people to look down on, to blame for society's ills. They need This is why they will never allow it to happen.
posted by tehloki at 5:32 PM on December 10, 2006


taxes brought in on previously-illegal drugs would create surplus public funds

Don't get me wrong; I think that US (and Canadian) drug laws are way off, but legalizing, and profiting, off of narcotics just reminds me too much of the VLT situation in Canada. Where the gov plugs in something like 1% of the profits gained into "assessing the addiction problem". They're hooked on the coin, and not letting go anytime soon. Freaking vultures, preying on human weakness, and they know it.

Do you want your gov to be a pushers, too?
posted by dreamsign at 5:43 PM on December 10, 2006


I'd rather the government be pushing drugs on us than some guy in an alley, or a large corporate interest. Government PSAs are so bland and ineffective. At least, they're a lot less effective than "beat you unconscious and shoot you up".
posted by tehloki at 5:46 PM on December 10, 2006


jfuller writes "Exactly how non-violent are they? I think somebody who buys Medellín Cartel coke or SLORC smack is an accessory to murder, and should be treated as an accessory to murder."

Bought any diamonds in the last, oh, century or two?

jfuller writes "Somebody comes into my neighborhood and starts dealing dope to the kids, I or one of the other neighbors locate him and shoot him. "

Sorry... I seem to be missing something. You call yourself a tree-hugger, and then you're advocating vigilantism and murder? Did you forget your meds today?

jfuller writes "But when I on occasion do use fuel, or eat food that was farmed with fuel,"

...or use computers that are made out of plastic, which comes from...
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 5:48 PM on December 10, 2006


or using electricity off the grid, which comes from....
or even using non-locally made products, which are shipped on trucks burning...
posted by tehloki at 5:51 PM on December 10, 2006


I found the testimony of the rapist and his defense lawyer particularly stirring: Those Americans are great big sadistic bullies! Too bad there isn't A SYSTEM OF LEGAL REPRESENTATION THAT GRANTS EACH PRISONER A VOICE.

Scandal at Brazoria "while George Bush was governor"? Didn't mention it was a privately run prison, did they? Or that the subsequent FBI investigation netted the convicts US$2,200,000?

Did they mention that Valdez was on death row for killing a corrections officer? No, they didn't mention that, because it undermines the ludicrous thesis of the thing: that that's simply how corrections officers treat all prisoners.

Hey, I think Valdez was murdered. But do these "journalists" really think lying by omission and systematic distortion are tenable means of exacting justice?
posted by Legerdemain at 5:52 PM on December 10, 2006


wow, it's really hard to argue with everyone at once, but

"Did they mention that Valdez was on death row for killing a corrections officer?"

Wow.. just.. what are you thinking? Because he killed a corrections officer, the guards have a right to revenge? Stop sympathizing with these perpetrators of systemic, unwarranted violence.
posted by tehloki at 5:54 PM on December 10, 2006




tehloki, it's called social contract theory, and some version of it lies at the heart of most of the societies we identify with Enlightenment values and the rule of law.

Uh, social contract theory does not call for the dehumanization of violators, which is what we are talking about.
posted by delmoi at 6:12 PM on December 10, 2006


Jfuller reminds me of these people unable to think rationally because it would violate the 'rules' that have been set up around them.

I mean the thinking is just so muddled. Buying drugs causes violence. But so does supporting prohibition. It's impossible to be member of society without being a party to suffering somewhere. Anyone who pays taxes funds drug prohibition, and in turn subsidizes the illegal narcotics industry just as surely as he subsidizes the tobacco industry or the fuel ethanol industry.

He also conflates every single person he disagrees with into one, thus his crack about how people want to illegality nicotine and legalize everything else, and how I didn't support the war in Afghanistan.

Also, Jfuller you never answered my question. I'll state it again: what's your point? It seems like all that matters to you is lashing out rather ineptly at those who would chose not to buy in whole heartedly with the current power structure. How boring.
posted by delmoi at 6:21 PM on December 10, 2006


Its easy not to go to jail. Obey the Law. And if you find yourself in jail, Obey the Guards! Its Prison! Not vacation!
Check out this site if your interested in what torture really means. http://www.loc.gov/vets/stories/pow-korea.html
Abu Ghraib was a fraternity initiation in comparison.
posted by tomas316 at 9:58 AM PST on December 10

i haven't watched either this reference or the original post reference. i've seen dachau. that was enough to convince me of the depths to which we are capable of sinking.

but in response to this lame post...

the difference is that that was them and this is us. and if we aren't any different then what are we fighting for?

grow a heart
posted by altman at 7:09 PM on December 10, 2006


Medellín Cartel coke or SLORC smack is an accessory to murder, and should be treated as an accessory to murder."
Bought any diamonds in the last, oh, century or two?


Used a computer that contains tantalum capacitors? A digital watch? Medical equipment?
posted by five fresh fish at 7:11 PM on December 10, 2006


Drive a gas-powered car? Buy anything from China?
posted by tehloki at 7:40 PM on December 10, 2006


I do some work for the court (competency evals, dispositional recommendations, etc-- not treatment) in the jails (pre-trial), and I am always surprised at how long a person can be in jail without a trial: 6 months is the average, but I have seen as long as 4 years.

These people can't make bail, or can't afford it-- and so they wait while overbooked courts (I once was case #24 out of 51 and I was on by noon) process-- not try, really, but process-- the cases. And if the PD isn't ready, how can they stall? Finding someone "not competent" is an excellent way to get them committed for 30-60 days of psychiatric treatment to "restore them to competency." Of course, "commitment" often is simply back to their regular cell; and re-commitments can happen again, and again, and again.

Here's the point: In the 5 years I've done this, I have never heard an inmate complain about this. They accept this as part of the system, they are neither bitter nor pessimistic. They figure it ends up as "time served" when they go for a plea bargain. But the people who are absolutely insane with anger over this, resentful to the point of violence--are the corrections officers. They want "that shit OUT!" They think jail (as opposed to prison) is too kind, comfortable for them. Violence is a short step away.
posted by TheLastPsychiatrist at 7:50 PM on December 10, 2006


The USA is clearly headed for a two-tier society: one in which there are prisoner-slaves, and free-wealthy.

You're not serious.

Well, you're not serious and sane.

No, instead, today, the Hells Angels and Vietnamese gangs terrorise my province because of your government's idiotic policies.

Blatantly false. If someone terrorizes your province persistently and successfully, it's because your province isn't willing to deal with it. It's because of your government's idiotic policies.
posted by oaf at 8:08 PM on December 10, 2006


oaf, I think he has a point. The current trend seems to be in the direction of more legislation, more criminals, more prisons, and less personal freedom for the average guy. Extrapolate it and the prisoner vs. wealthy society is what you get.
posted by tehloki at 8:12 PM on December 10, 2006


tehloki, you're anticipating a perspective and projecting it onto me. I was stating precisely that, that his murder should be prosecuted as murder. I think murder is criminally and morally wrong in all circumstances, if that even needs to be said!

But by omitting the motive in the video, the filmmakers are twisting the case into a demonstration of the commonality of murder in American prisons. And clearly, absent that motive of revenge, the man would not have been killed in the first place! (Until it was his turn... Death row and all...)
posted by Legerdemain at 8:13 PM on December 10, 2006


Oh, and our government's idiotic policies (specifically drug legislation) are a direct adaptation of your government's war on [insert abstract concept here], so please, drop the arrogance.
posted by tehloki at 8:14 PM on December 10, 2006


Did they mention that Valdez was on death row for killing a corrections officer?

Um, Yes. Yes they did. They also mention that he wasn't beaten to death until he began to write about life in prison for publication in a local newspaper.

No, they didn't mention that, because it undermines the ludicrous thesis of the thing: that that's simply how corrections officers treat all prisoners.

Hum. That's not really the thesis that I saw presented. I mean, you'd have to have lost some marbles to actually believe your thesis. They were trying to establish that unnecessary and severe brutality is pervasive in much of the US prison system, which I think they did a pretty good job of for a sixty minute documentary. And really, isn't that something that's very close to being common knowledge (like evolution and global warming)?
posted by cytherea at 8:52 PM on December 10, 2006


Oh, and our government's idiotic policies (specifically drug legislation) are a direct adaptation of your government's war on [insert abstract concept here], so please, drop the arrogance.

By their choice. Stop the bashing. It's your government's choice. Not ours.
posted by oaf at 8:55 PM on December 10, 2006


(at least outside the US.)
posted by cytherea at 8:55 PM on December 10, 2006


oaf,

I have seen Eric Sterling, former assistant counsel for the House Judiciary Committee, claim that the USA will use diplomatic pressure to persuade other countries not to change their drug policies.

Is it still the choice of those countries? In some sense, yes. But let's also recognize that the USA can have a large influence on other counties' domestic policies.
posted by BigSky at 9:16 PM on December 10, 2006


I wish the media would focus on this issue more, but for a lot of Americans, I guess it's a non-starter. It's strange how some people can think that prison violence is okay, EVEN AGAINST THE WRONGLY CONVICTED, just because "most prisoners are bad people."

I just hope that someday we can have an open debate about the whole prison labor system, since for-profit prisons have kind of snuck in without any public discussion at all. I'm always surprised how little people know about it... any time I mention it, I get a blank stare, followed by the usual "well *I* shouldn't have to pay for them to sit around and watch TV..."
posted by mazatec at 9:56 PM on December 10, 2006


oaf writes "Blatantly false. If someone terrorizes your province persistently and successfully, it's because your province isn't willing to deal with it. It's because of your government's idiotic policies."

Actually no. Canada is routinely bullied by the USA into parroting USA anti-drug talking points. It's only in recent years that we've grown a pair and started treating marijuana rationally, amongst other things. Honestly, would the harm reduction approach to heroin usage in Vancouver fly anywhere in the USA? 'Course not.

oaf writes "By their choice. Stop the bashing. It's your government's choice. Not ours."

Some choice. "Do this or we'll stop trading with you." Hobson's Choice, isn't that called?

But whatever.. you are unable to see that the USA does anything wrong, that the USA is a global bully, that your country is completely and irredeemably fucked.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 4:19 AM on December 11, 2006


oaf writes "Blatantly false. If someone terrorizes your province persistently and successfully, it's because your province isn't willing to deal with it. It's because of your government's idiotic policies."

Actually no. Canada is routinely bullied by the USA into parroting USA anti-drug talking points. It's only in recent years that we've grown a pair and started treating marijuana rationally, amongst other things. Honestly, would the harm reduction approach to heroin usage in Vancouver fly anywhere in the USA? 'Course not.

oaf writes "By their choice. Stop the bashing. It's your government's choice. Not ours."

Some choice. "Do this or we'll stop trading with you." Hobson's Choice, isn't that called?

But whatever.. you are unable to see that the USA does anything wrong, that the USA is a global bully, that your country is completely and irredeemably fucked.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 4:19 AM on December 11, 2006


^^ Now that's a post that's true enough to say twice.
posted by tehloki at 4:34 AM on December 11, 2006


Legerdemain writes 'But by omitting the motive in the video, the filmmakers are twisting the case into a demonstration of the commonality of murder in American prisons.'

Did you actually watch the film? Much was made of the fact that he'd killed a corrections officer, and at no point was that particular case presented as being representative of the treatment of prisoners.
posted by jack_mo at 5:31 AM on December 11, 2006


Would an acceptable alternative be to drug all these inmates senseless? Put 'em all on Thorazine and warehouse them? It might be more humane and cheaper too.
posted by pax digita at 5:48 AM on December 11, 2006


much the same croud who shouts "legalize drugs" out of one face and "criminalize tobacco" out of the other? Don't we see a tiny little inconsistency here?

as others have said I don't think anyone actually holds those positions simultaneously, but what some people may advocate is an equally rational level of regulation for both substances. All of these drugs are potentiallly dangerous, addictive, and full of negative consequences, but they are also largely enjoyable and desired by many individuals. The key is finding a way of neither promoting nor attempting to completely eliminate their use. Allowing them to be freely marketed by private companies looking to make a profit is going to lead to an increase in use, and the fucking over of individuals in pursuit of a dollar. Prohibiting use entirely drives the whole market underground and while general use is decreased, it is marginalized, and consequences tend to be much more dire.

The context of use can have a significant effect - drinking in a saloon pre-prohibition was a lot more like going to a crackhouse than going to a bar is today - it was not a gentile social act, and public drunkenness & its repercussions were a real social problem at the time. Also, much like modern day drug users, they often didn't know how strong the alcohol was exactly. So if modern day drugs could be regulated for strength & purity, available only through limited outlets, not advertised or sold for profit, taxed, etc, it is possible we could decrease terrible consequences of the drug itself, and it is certain we would decrease the terrible consequences of the black market. General use might rise.
posted by mdn at 6:07 AM on December 11, 2006 [2 favorites]


Before we talk about crack prescriptions and heroin bars, let's focus on ending prohibition for everybody's second favourite smokeable herb. Baby steps, people. It's hard to get alarmist headlines with "Marijuana Use on the Rise! 7-11 Reports Record 1st Quarter Revenues!"
posted by tehloki at 6:13 AM on December 11, 2006


pax digita--

they do that already, that was a little of my earlier point. Society has no particularly effective way of dealing with misdemeanors and cases of simple/aggravated assault. There's too many to incarcerate in prisons. There's too many to deal with in courts. There's too many for public defenders to handle.

A MINORITY of these cases are done by truly psychotic individuals (for here, I mean people whose crime was the direct result of psychosis). However, behavior is now medicalized, so that someone assaulted a person suggests they were mentally ill. And it is up to the DA/courts to show that he wasn't. It's like an insanity defense creep, with burden of proof reversed.

But because of the massive number of cases, and the potential for disaster if they are not adequately handled, and society's Plan B that we treat behavior as a psychaitric illness, "chemical restraints" (injectable Haldol mostly, thorazine as well) are extremely common. Even more common is the liberal prescribing of oral antipsychotics in jails: the inmante wants "something to sleep" and the jails don't want trouble.

Let me point out again: this is in the jails, this is PRE-trial. Imagine what happens after a conviction.
posted by TheLastPsychiatrist at 6:15 AM on December 11, 2006


Ok...everyone isright here. But I do have this objection to the comment about Mailer. Yes. He made an honest mistake. But he did not let the guy out. He helped appeal and a judge let the guy out. How many people that ought not see daylight outside prison are set free to kill again--and all without Mailer's help?
posted by Postroad at 8:03 AM on December 11, 2006


Legalize drugs in the U.S. and that won't change who controls production overseas.

Legalizing drugs would, among other things, open markets in the U.S. for drug production and sale. This would immediately reduce the black market for drugs. Overnight, pharmaceutical companies would apply for licenses to grow, package, and sell popular drugs. Marijuana would be available for purchase within weeks from Walgreens. The flow of money to overseas drug markets would be dramatically reduced. That the overseas markets would still exist is inconsequential.
posted by odinsdream at 8:17 AM on December 11, 2006


I or one of the other neighbors locate him and shoot him.

I don't trust your aim.

Would you kill one civilian to save the lives of two?
posted by mattbucher at 8:23 AM on December 11, 2006


Perhaps a true story might add to this debate. A friend of mine who sold incense in south chicago approached another friend after discovering his mother raped and stabbed repeatedly until dead. We told him to call the police, we should have told him to contact a lawyer. He was arrested, interrogated so brutally he was barely recognizable when we visited him in jail. He told us he signed his confession because he thought it was the only way they'd stop beating him. He was incarcerated for almost 2 years before trial, not only dealing with the death of his mother, but with being wrongfully inprisoned in cook county jail, a notoriously dangerous place to be incarcerated. One person, a close friend of mine, took up his cause, calling lawyers who agreed to represent his case. Eventually, he was released, settled his suit out of court, and I can say having spoke with him a few days ago, he is still doing well, getting his GED etc. Happy ending save for the two women the killer raped and murdered while the police were not investigating the case during my friend's jail time. Had that one person not done something (partially because he felt bad for telling him to call police when doing so led to his being beaten and jailed), my friend would still be jail, even on death row. His case has caused interrogationg in Illinois to be videotaped, and his was the first video confession overturned. The police beat him up bad, withheld evidence of rape (which would have immediately exonerated him) and stopped searching the real killer. recent news on story. This is one story. Here in south chicago, I've heard dozens more like it. This is not the exception, but the norm. The amount of racism and fury to jail people in this broke system in order to appease a very frightened paranoid constituency is dismantling our liberal democracy daily. Some people deserve lock up. But this kind of system interferes with real police work. The real killer in this case was arrested for unrelated charges until he confessed to killing my friend's mom. Even then the cops wouldnt let my friend go until a judge dismissed the case. Crowley put it well: "I am not an anarchist. Imagine the cops running around free." well, Aleister, they do now.
posted by sarcasman at 9:40 AM on December 11, 2006 [2 favorites]



From sarcasman's link:
Bell, who suffers from mental illness and mild retardation, confessed to the murder on videotape after police interrogated him for more than 50 hours, according to court documents. Bell said the officers became verbally abusive and at one point, an officer struck him in the head.

Forensics investigators collected blood and semen samples from the crime scene in July 2000, but the DNA was not examined until a Cook County judge ordered the tests in May 2001, according to court documents.

The Cook County's State's Attorney dropped charges against Bell in January 2002 because the DNA evidence linked another man to the crime.


That is a truly ugly story.
posted by leftcoastbob at 3:15 PM on December 11, 2006


Once, as a child of 12, I was accused of harassment and vandalism by a police officer, and nearly went downtown for it. Somebody had been leaving threatening letters and obscene drawings in my neighbour's mailbox, writing inflammatory comments on her door, and had smashed a few of her windows. Apparently, she told the officer that came to investigate that she thought I had done it (i'm assuming it's because I lived next door). With no further evidence than that, the cop is in my backyard, asking me dangerous questions; questions that could make me incriminate myself. "Do you disike your neighbor?" and "Why did you wirte those things?" and such. He really, really wanted to either trick me or intimidate me into confessing.

That day, I learned a valuable lesson. Cops don't want to catch the right man. They want to catch -a- man. They couldn't give two shits if you're innocent or not; it's a matter of finding somebody "guilty enough". They get acclaimed for getting the job of "solving the crime" done either way.
posted by tehloki at 8:16 AM on December 12, 2006 [1 favorite]


Don't forget the small time, non-violent offenders who are sentenced to a short term (a few years) in prison.

Upon release, many are shell-shocked and psychologically damaged by the abuse and violence they have suffered, have been trained in criminality by hardened career criminals, are unable to find jobs or apartments due to their felony records and owe favors to the prison gangs they had to join in order to survive their time behind bars. In short, many are released as much more dangerous men than they were upon sentencing.

I don't see how anyone in their right minds could truly think that this sort of "justice" is good for a society.

What's the goal, people? A safe society with reasonable crime rates or retribution at all costs?
posted by syzygy at 9:26 AM on December 12, 2006 [2 favorites]


Hear hear, syzygy.

I've always held the belief that the best way to quickly and definitely reduce crime rates is to stop classifying ridiculous shit as "crime".

I'm sure marijuana smokers are such a danger to society that they need to be put in a box for years with violent sociopaths to teach them how to become violent sociopaths, and then returned into society unable to seek gainful employment. Yeah, that'll sure stop them from committing any more crime.
posted by tehloki at 9:46 AM on December 12, 2006



That day, I learned a valuable lesson. Cops don't want to catch the right man. They want to catch -a- man. They couldn't give two shits if you're innocent or not; it's a matter of finding somebody "guilty enough". They get acclaimed for getting the job of "solving the crime" done either way.


One day I was little, and someone, of a certain group, did something. After that, I knew that all people of that type always act that way, and always think the way that I ascribe to them.
posted by Snyder at 2:19 PM on December 12, 2006


Snyder: If you recall from alllll the way back at the beginning of that post, I was 12.

You're acting like I couldn't have possibly reinforced that opinion from hearing of other such events, listening to the media and tracking news stories throughout the rest of my life. I didn't just form the "rule" and then withdraw into an informational vacuum. Every tragic news story about innocent men being beaten, imprisoned, and generally getting fucked over by the police further supported my belief that police officers are more concerned about catching somebody than they are at catching the perpetrator.

I'm sorry if I phrased in in a way that made it appear my system of logical reasoning was as presumptuous as yours.
posted by tehloki at 6:43 PM on December 12, 2006


I didn't just form the "rule" and then withdraw into an informational vacuum.

Nooooo... I suppose not. More like you started a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Rather like when I purchased my car. It's an unusual model, probably not more than a few thousands across Western Canada.

Guess what car I notice a whole lot these days?

It's not that there are more of them. I'm just more aware of them.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:00 AM on December 13, 2006


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