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Sometimes You Don't Get What You Pay For - American Prison Study

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posted on Jun, 8 2006 @ 02:44 AM
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There's an old saying, one that's generally true: "You get what you pay for." A new study being released throws that old adage into question, when it takes the American prison system to task. America spends more on its prisons than any other nation, and incarcerates more offenders as well, but the results of that labor have been downright miserable. With a recidivism rate hovering around 60% and a bevvy of problems inside the prisons themselves, everything from drugs to violence to AIDS - prisons are clearly not serving the American people.
 



www.latimes.com
Americans spend $60 billion a year to imprison 2.2 million people — exceeding any other nation — but receive a dismal return on the investment, according to a report to be released today by a commission urging greater public scrutiny of what goes on behind bars.

The report, "Confronting Confinement," says legislators have passed get-tough laws that have packed the nation's jails and prisons to overflowing with convicts, most of them poor and uneducated. However, politicians have done little to help inmates emerge as better citizens upon release.

The consequences of that failure include financial strain on states, public health threats from parolees with communicable diseases, and a cycle of crime and victimization driven by a recidivism rate of more than 60%, the report says.


Please visit the link provided for the complete story.


Politicians love prisons, because they bring jobs and the illusion of justice. But what do those prisons actually do for this country? Besides giving us the dubious honor of having more prisoners than every other country, they suck down dollars like a hoover, and spit out diseased, marginalized, mentally-unstable people like clockwork.

This country is transitioning to a system of for-profit private prisons, with the promised benefit of cost-efficiency and accountability. Of course we'll have neither. The state will pay (with you money), and the prison builders and owners will profit. Of course none of that will change the reality of our situation, which is up fecal creek sans paddle.

What's perhaps most disturbing is the crimes for which people are serving huge long sentences. Drug possession is a personal pet peeve of mine, because it seems to me that the state has no business whatsoever telling you what you can or can't put in your body, nevermind locking you up till kingdom come for simple posession. Should Americans be proud that they incarcerate more people than even notorious nations like Russia and China? I don't think so...

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[edit on 8-6-2006 by WyrdeOne]

[edit on 8-6-2006 by DontTreadOnMe]




posted on Jun, 8 2006 @ 01:44 PM
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Prison overcrowding is one of the most important issues in America today, and yet neither mainstream political party wants to address it. The main contributor to this problem is (as the author of this submission pointed out) our draconian drug policy. People can spend decades of time in prison for possession of MARIJUANA! Because of this our prisons are often filled beyond capacity and many prisoners who have committed more serious crimes (robbery, murder, rape, etc...) are given parole to free up room.

I very strongly oppose the death penalty if only for the reason that many people on death row have been shown to be wrongfully convicted. Hundreds of people have been wrongfully executed in the United States.

But this doesn't mean that I'm not in support of tough sentencing on serious crimes. I think that if you are convicted of murdering or raping (and I count molesting a child as rape) someone you should get life in prison without parole. It's sad that we have to give people multiple life sentences for it to actually mean "life in prison." When you get life in prison it should truly mean that you spend the rest of your life in prison. That way if you are wrongfully convicted and your name is later cleared of charges you can be released from prison instead of...well...dead.

Where would we get the room to keep such offenders in prison for the rest of their lives? Legalize marijuana. I am no way in favor of legalizing coc aine, or methamphetamine, or heroine. These are all drugs that will put you in a downward spiral to selling your house and all of your possessions and eventually giving fellatio in back alleys to fund your addiction. They are illegal for very good reasons. But marijuana? No one should spend decades, let alone years in prison for possessing pot. Nonetheless it's still illegal because politicians are getting too much money from Phillip Morris and pharmaceutical companies to legalize it. And while they are laughing all the way to the bank and our draconic drug laws remain unchanged, our prison overcrowding problem continues to get worse and worse with each passing year.

[edit on 8-6-2006 by ShakyaHeir]



posted on Jun, 8 2006 @ 01:54 PM
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Okay if you don't like prisons what would you suggest? Yes they don't work as well as we would like, but we can't come up with anything better. What would you have us do with people whom commit serious crimes but are not serious enough to warrant the death penalty?



posted on Jun, 8 2006 @ 02:11 PM
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While I tend, in general, to agree with your comments, I think you exaggerate the number of innocent people put to death.

The last time I looked into this particular problem, the rate of recividism did not seem to vary very much no matter what type of facility people were confined in. When you have a collection of people in close proximity to one another who are prone to illegal acts to begin with, the behavior of such people does not, and is not likely to, change for the better. On the contrary, such behavior is more likely to become reinforced. The best solution would seem to be to not send so many people to prison to begin with.

So, in this respect, I agree with you about most drug users--they should not be sent to prison. The same can be said for a number of first time offenders of other crimes as well. Lets reserve prisons for violent criminals and for those people that simply cannot be allowed to mingle with society--such as paedophiles.



posted on Jun, 8 2006 @ 02:31 PM
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Astronomer, indeed!


Prisons do serve a useful purpose, when society needs to segregate individuals for the good of everyone else. It's not a political liberal/conservative issue when a knife-wielding rapist is loose on the streets - it's a common sense public safety concern.

The concept of confinement is not fundamentally flawed, it's a fine way of dealing with anti-social individuals.

What is fundamentally flawed is the belief that victimless crimes need to be punished. It's an enormous waste of resources to prosecute and imprison individuals who haven't hurt anybody.

Drunk drivers face fines and wrist-slaps, and maybe if they get caught a dozen times they'll do a couple of months in the local jail. Meanwhile rapists and murderers routinely get bail, and a guy with a load of pills is looking at life. It's all upside down.

Also, there's a huge discrepancy in how poor offenders are treated, compared to wealthy offenders. That's honestly my second biggest problem with the justice system as a whole. Take the money out of the justice system, and stop prosecuting victimless crimes, and that would largely solve the problems we're seeing.

We don't need more prisons, we need a simplified, scaled-down, focused system of justice, whereby violent offenders are neutralized and non-violent offenders are rehabilitated. Also, it really bothers me that this country allows so much rape in its prisons. The cops joke about it, the judges see it as an additional form of punishment, and that's not the way it's supposed to be.

I also think the future may see a transition to more home-confinement, which saves the taxpayers bundles of money. It also allows a more normative environment to acclimate offenders back into regular life - there're never any guarantees, but the better prepared convicts are to face the challenges of life outside, the less the chances of a repeat offense.

How many guys get sucked back into a life of crime out of simple necessity? They get out, nobody but Wendys will hire them (and you can't live on minimum wage), but they have the skills necessary to support themselves through crime. Seems a pretty clear choice. Worst case scenario, they get sent back and the taxpayers have to clothe, feed, and house them for another term.

Give people a way to make a living, and they're less likely to resort to crime. Of course drug habits are a huge driving force behind property crime, and violent crime as well, but I don't think the answer is stiffer penalties for users. I think a better all-around solution is to de-criminalize drugs, thereby reducing the cost to the user, the profit to the distributor, and the incentive to do violence.

In brief, there are millions of Americans who would kill for a few hundred thousand dollars. There are comparatively few who would kill for a hundred bucks. Reducing the allure of drugs is as simple as reducing their real value.

Let's look at the situation from a little farther away. What do animals do to survive in the wild? They kill, in order to eat, to retain shelter, to protect their young. Being in a state of nature almost guarantees violence. The farther you remove a creature from the jungle, the less agressive they become.

Just look at the animals in the zoo. Most of them are perfectly content to lay around all day and sunbathe. Why? Because they're fed, and housed, and taken care of. There's little in the way of competition, and that reduces the pressure on them.

Extrapolate that to society, and it becomes clear that the best way to prevent crime is to eliminate the perceived necessity of crime. There will always be a few whackos, who kill for fun, or out of anger - and that's where prison comes in to the picture. Realistically, prison populations should be at about 10% of their current levels, if we were seriously committed to reserving them for hardcore anti-social violent-types.



posted on Jun, 8 2006 @ 02:34 PM
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I am not trying to rattle the cages, but I do believe in the death penalty. I personally believe that it is not used enough, and that it takes much too long between sentencing and the actual date with the needle.
I do agree that there have been those wrongly accused who have been put to death, and I feel for them and their families, however the number pales in comparison to the number of people in jail who should be dead. Those who have confessed, those who have no doubt whatsoever of their guilt - what is the reasoning for keeping them alive?
Take for instance the story all over the news right now about the man with the criminal record for sex crimes who bound, raped, and murdered that 20 year old college student.

www.foxnews.com...

He should never have been allowed back out on the street. He has no worth to society, and in my opinion he should already be dead.

The death penalty, would free up prison space in 2 ways IMO. First is the obvious, thin out the herds by killing them. Secondly, it would be a true detriment for committing crimes. Instead of getting 3 square meals a day, cable TV, workout areas, ability to get an education - which frankly is alot better of a lifestyle for alot of people than they would have on the street - they would be scared to commit these heinous crimes.



posted on Jun, 8 2006 @ 02:43 PM
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He should never have been allowed back out on the street. He has no worth to society, and in my opinion he should already be dead.


Well, I agree, in that particular case you're talking about. However, we must take care never to let our desire for justice overwhelm our good sense and good judgement. The appeals process is very lengthy for a reason, to prevent innocent deaths and the resultant bank-breaking lawsuits on the part of the families of the deceased.

The appeals process could be streamlined, and in fact needs to be. One of the challenges is fitting people in a courtroom, when the docket is stuffed with petty crimes. It's shameful that minor offenders can wait 30 months or more in confinement, waiting for a court date.



Secondly, it would be a true detriment for committing crimes. Instead of getting 3 square meals a day, cable TV, workout areas, ability to get an education - which frankly is alot better of a lifestyle for alot of people than they would have on the street - they would be scared to commit these heinous crimes.


There's no proven detterence value to the death penalty. There are many countries all over the world where the death penalty is applicable for drug offenses, and it doesn't seem to have any effect.

Honestly, I prefer exile to death - I think it's a better solution in every way. Because this country has little history with the process of exile, one needn't wade through a massive bramble patch of overlapping statutes to get the job done (unlike execution, which has a long and storied tradition in this country).

It keeps the hands of the state clean, it sends a much better message to people (I think), and it costs a lot less. The only question is, where do you send them? Any ideas? I've considered the desert, the moon, the arctic, and the north woods - none of those are perfect though.

Any chance we can re-open Australia as a penal colony?


Seriously though, exile is a good option. It sends the right message - if you don't appreciate society, you stand to lose access to the benefits it provides. If people aren't willing to act in a civilized manner, they don't deserve to live in civilization. They want to act like animals, killing and raping? Let them live like animals then, and compete with animals for their food and shelter.



posted on Jun, 9 2006 @ 08:27 AM
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Well, I agree, in that particular case you're talking about. However, we must take care never to let our desire for justice overwhelm our good sense and good judgement. The appeals process is very lengthy for a reason, to prevent innocent deaths and the resultant bank-breaking lawsuits on the part of the families of the deceased.


In theory, the lengthy appeals process makes sense, HOWEVER, there are many people who are hands down, no question guilty, who are in jail for a decade or more waititng for their date with the hangman. Why wait on these cases. Let's use a name we all recognize as an example- Charles Manson - why is he breathing?
Or how about that BTK killer - again I ask why? For these types of cases it should be over and done - swiftly. Killers, rapists, anyone who commits crimes against children - Sorry, you blew it - let's find the vein in your arm. How about that piece of garbage who was caught on video tape abducting that little girl behind a carwash, then he proceeded to rape and kill her? Give me one reason he is still alive. I don't want to hear insanity, or I had a bad childhood, or Daddy didn't give me enough attention. If they are a danger to society, then they are just that. A danger to society. Kill them.
For the types of cases where there is doubt, then that is a different story.



There's no proven detterence value to the death penalty. There are many countries all over the world where the death penalty is applicable for drug offenses, and it doesn't seem to have any effect.


You make a valid point, however, there would certainly be no repeat offenders. Also I have to assume, and it is purely an assumption on my part, that there would be some measurable decrease of crime if the Death Penalty was used more often. It might be very small, but I believe there would be some. How many murderers and rapists are in prison? I'll bet the number is pretty staggering. Start there.
I'm not talking about the guy who gets busted with some pot. I'm talking about the hardcore, hardened murderers and rapists. The guy who goes into a convenience store and blows someone away for 50 bucks in the register. The guy who preys on women and children, abducting, raping, and violently beating his victims. The arsonist who kills a family by lighting their house on fire. I truly believe that all of these people should be killed. I'm sorry if I offend anyone, but I truly believe that if you commit these acts, you have lost ALL of your "rights".



posted on Jun, 9 2006 @ 11:36 AM
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Killers, rapists, anyone who commits crimes against children - Sorry, you blew it - let's find the vein in your arm.


I'm in total agreement with that.


My only concern is that we may usher in a witch hunt situation, where an accusation alone is enough to guarantee you a spot on the firing line. I never want that to happen to anyone, especially me!


To quote Marv from Sin City, "You can't kill a man without knowin' you ought to."

There are many, many cases where the appeals process is a formality, designed to suck money out of the public coffers and deposit it into the pockets of lawyers. There are also cases where a reasonable amount of doubt persists, and I think in those cases the appeals process is justified.

But in the case of confessions or locked-tight evidence (video+DNA+witnesses, etc.) - expedite the process, by all means. And as I said, if we stopped mucking about with victimless crimes, the justice system could focus on the really heinous crimes, murder, rape, child abuse, and so on.



I truly believe that all of these people should be killed. I'm sorry if I offend anyone, but I truly believe that if you commit these acts, you have lost ALL of your "rights".


Well, you haven't offended me, for what it's worth. I agree with you. When a person takes advantage of society, and takes much more than they give, and actually go out of their way to make other people miserable, we don't need 'em.

I really wish there was a good place to send these folks, where they could die at the hand of animals far more vicious than they could ever be. I think that might clear up some of the moral objections to the death penalty, if it was nature doing the killing and not the state.



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