Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

What the US is becoming: Our prisons

with 9 comments

The simultaneous effort to put more people in prisons (driven by idiotic drug laws, mandatory sentences, and a private prison industry doing all it can through funneling a portion of their profits back to legislators—kickback, in effect—to make more offenses require prison time and pass things like the 3-strikes law (a third felony conviction gets a mandatory life sentence)) and also the effort to provide less revenue to states (by cutting taxes) means that the US prison sentence in many states is as bad as any third-world dictator’s prison.

Take a look at this story by John Rudolf:

Late on the night of August 4, 2010, a badly beaten young man arrived at the trauma ward of Jackson Hospital here. Although the patient was hardly a flight risk, security was tight and prison guards crowded into the emergency room as doctors began treatment.

The patient’s limp body spoke to the savagery of an assault that had left deep contusions on his legs and torso, and inflamed knots bulging from his head and face. He was unresponsive, with fixed and dilated pupils, and doctors quickly diagnosed a traumatic brain injury. Only a ventilator kept him alive. He never regained consciousness and died the next day.

His name was Rocrast Mack. An Alabama prison inmate, his death at age 24 came at the hands of six corrections officers, who took turns battering him with their fists, feet and batons in retribution for a minor altercation with a female guard earlier that night, according to witness accounts and prison records.

Civil rights advocates call Mack’s death an avoidable tragedy, the inevitable product of a profoundly dysfunctional state corrections system in Alabama that ranks among the very worst America has to offer.

It is a system flooded with low-level drug offenders like Mack, who was sentenced to 20 years behind bars after pleading guilty to selling $10 worth of crack cocaine to an undercover cop in 2009.

Alabama is also emblematic of a broader problem facing America’s prison system: In many states, there simply isn’t enough room to hold all of the people who are incarcerated. Against that tableau, inmates often born and bred in hard luck circumstances now find themselves mired in a loop of violence that extends from the street and into prisons themselves.

Yet even in a nation that has little to boast about in terms of prison efficiency and quality, Alabama stands out for what appears to be the sheer brutality and freewheeling nature of its corrections system.

Starved of funds, the state’s aging prisons suffer from the worst overcrowding in the nation, operating at an average of 190 percent of their design capacity. Ventress Correctional Facility, where Mack died, is an outlier even by this standard. Built in 1990 and designed to accommodate just 650 men, the facility now holds 1,665 prisoners — more than 255 percent of its capacity. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

26 November 2011 at 3:03 pm

Posted in Government, Law

9 Responses

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  1. It’s stunning to know that if you wear a badge in this country, you effectively have a licensed to kill, and the system will cover for you. Then there’s this familiar type of case, where DNA easily convicts you, but won’t free you if you’re already in jail:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/27/magazine/dna-evidence-lake-county.html

    “Post-conviction evidence is irrelevant” said the prosecutor, and then he goes on to simply make up a story of how the defendant might have killed the victim anyway. Orwell couldn’t make this stuff up!

    zaine_ridling

    27 November 2011 at 1:33 am

  2. It seems there is no comprehensive end in site, for Government incarceration programs other than to pass the buck on to a pseudo-privatization program, that will benefit many politicians and their respective interests, so in that sense mention the “Pseudo”.

    The program as it seems now is to get tougher on criminal behavior (including drug possession and use) without taking into account that there is NO more space to house, let alone rehabilitate (a joke) the imprisoned subject.

    i can only assume that we are courting disaster as many that are imprisoned come our more savvy on how not to get caught “next time” if they actually make it out, that is.

    Nick

    27 November 2011 at 11:10 am

  3. Quite a few politicians don’t seem to realize that almost all those people they put into prison eventually return to society. The goal (I would think) is to maximize the percentage that return to become productive members of society, but the current practices don’t even attempt to address that goal. Rather, the prisoners are warehoused under conditions that I believe exacerbates their anger and hostility and returns them in a more dangerous and aggressive state than they entered: as you say, a training ground for future offenders.

    LeisureGuy

    27 November 2011 at 11:31 am

  4. When private prison corporations lobby congress and state legislatures as “jobs programs” for rural areas, imagine the opposition’s political ads in the next campaign if he refuses. Seems it would be best to focus on the two categories of offense that are most likely to recidivate: (1) property crimes (larceny), and (2) assault.

    Nah, that would make sense.

    zaine_ridling

    27 November 2011 at 11:55 am

  5. A good point and I have been contemplating issues that could be instituted to reverse the trend you mention.

    In referring to the old adage of “Idle hands are the devils tools” I have been pondering the possibility of putting the bulk of the prison population to work. I mean real work, not just mundane banging out license plates. Productive meaningful work might instill work ethic, satisfaction of accomplishment thereby bettering one’s self esteem.

    If it was work that offered the opportunity to learn a trade through prison apprenticeship it might actually have a profound effect on the re-occurrence and re-incarceration percentages of the inmate population.

    Chain gangs ? Maybe, if they were properly monitored it might work, we all know very well that the bridges and highways are a mess and there’s no money going into to rebuilding them. there so many infrastructure “shovel ready” (taking from you know who..) projects out there. This type of work and skill is always in demand.

    How do we monitor the inmates ? well that’s easy, not the “Cool hand Luke” way but with ankle bracelets and baby drones that are equipped with laser guided Air to Ground ‘hell fire’ Tazer darts. :)

    Nick

    27 November 2011 at 12:10 pm

  6. Useful employment is good. My uncle Earl, after retiring from the Navy (Chief Commissary Steward) got a job in charge of the kitchen at a prison “honor farm”, in which prisoners raised crops and worked in the kitchen. That arrangement seems good: they raise food and consume what they raise, which feels like worthwhile accomplishment and teaches many useful life skills (planning, patience, cooking, etc.).

    The problem with the chain gangs and the enforced work on infrastructure projects is that it (a) competes directly with civilian workers who seek employment and have not committed crimes, and (b) it looks very like slave labor unless the workers are paid a reasonable fraction of prevailing wage (basically, prevailing wage minus room and board), and states cannot afford that. Some states (particularly in the South, where chain gangs were common) are more comfortable with slave labor than others, but I believe it would be corrosive to the US to adopt such a program—though what we have now is not much better.

    LeisureGuy

    27 November 2011 at 12:23 pm

  7. I like the idea of having Prisons move towards self reliance projects. I believe there are several prisons where they grow their own vegetables – one in the south I read about, is saving of $15,000 a year on produce – they should be allowed to have cows and hogs as well and come to think of it a Prison could become almost completely self reliant, with it’s own electrical plant (windmills, bicycle power for radios and TV’s)

    I understand your point about taking away Jobs from the work force and yes on infrastructure jobs it would hurt the law abiding but then can we really afford paying a person $14.00 an hour to hold up a “slow down” sign for 8-10 hrs a day ? Granted the inmate can’t be ‘farmed out’ all over the country either but there are a lot of jobs that legal hard working Americans will NOT do, like picking up garbage on an interstate or picking vegetables if it is not at least $10.00 – $12.00 an hour.

    So many things that we won’t do ourselves but yet want or need it done.

    Nick

    27 November 2011 at 1:13 pm

  8. Had to return to share this quick TED talk (3:50):

    Worth a look.

    zaine_ridling

    29 November 2011 at 3:44 am

  9. Very nice. Thanks. I did not know that expression of Heidigger. More reading needed. :)

    LeisureGuy

    29 November 2011 at 6:28 am


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