posted on Jun, 12 2004 @ 03:34 PM
I worked in law enforcement until 1997, when I changed careers last. I worked for a bureaucracy that dealt with prisoners and other law enforcement
agencies on an hourly basis. My boss's job was to deal with them in an official capacity, I talked to their people on the phone. I was kind of like
the "radar o'reilly" on the old M*A*S*H* sitcom.
Rant is partly right. Jail and Prison are not ALWAYS the same thing. Legally, most states refer to all incarceration as 'imprisonment,' hence
anyone holding you is a prison. In many southern states, prisons are for punishment, jails are for the accused. So there ARE "county prisons" in
some states. Even more confusingly, there are state jails.
Federal laws, other than civil rights issues, only apply in Federal jails and prisons. State laws govern state and county facilities.
Generally, in most western states, county lock-up varies wildly from one institution to the next. One will be a place that is so ultramodern that it
looks like a rehab clinic, the next will turn out to be "the Hole" that looks like the set of "midnight express."
In Texas, where I worked, (like most southern states) Prisoners have an UNALIENABLE right to the county law library, so that they can assist in their
own defense. You can be charged with oppression for denying lawbooks, even for people otherwise on total lockdown. The only qualifying reason is if
they are intox'd and might puke on the books(!)
I know of a county jail in tx that removed the weight-room. So prisoners requested tomes from the library and benchpressed volumes of Black's Law
Dictionary and Vernon's Civil Statutes.
The real reason for TV's in jails is that it began as a great way to bargain with inmates. But most younger inmates are so addicted to TV that it
really isn't something to bargain with. If they are under 30, and you remove their TV's, you'll have to put them on suicide watch within a day or
so. They simply cannot think without a TV set on all the time. They turn their faces to the wall and quit eating. It's horrible.
* * * * *
Yes, I have seen people in prison I thought were innocent. They were about 1 in 500 inmates or so.
And "Law & Order" is one of the most realistic shows on TV. The only unrealistic thing is that every case goes to trial. In truth, 97% of the
felony cases we handled plead out between grand jury and empanneling the trial jurors. Most accused make the prosecutors prove their serious, then
they'll cave for a shorter sentence.
The only prob with L & W is that most people think it shows all U.S. systems. Which it doesn't. New York law is, in my opinion, some of the most
f'd up procedural statutory systems in the U.S. Most eastern states are based on it, though.
For instance, many western states outside of the west coast are at least partly influenced by "Code Napolean" from French and Spanish colonial days.
TX is like this. TX does not have degrees of murder. It has murder and capital murder, which is murder to coverup another ongoing crime. And by
its name, it opens up capital punishment. Shooting a cop while robbing a bank is the classic example.
I was watching a conspiracy show about how LBJ had Kennedy killed. They were saying that one associate of LBJ had previously done time in Texas for
"1st degree murder." They said it several times..... which makes me think it was b.s.
Part of my job was to be present for prisoner interrogation. I never saw anything like Abu Ghraib. That is so far beyond my experience I cannot even
comment on it in a meaningful way, except to say that anyone from an enforcement background knows the law well enough that they could never be
manipulated into crossing SO MANY boundaries. Most of those twerps must have been total newbies to even be in the same room.
In my experience, it was easy to tell who was innocent, or shall we say more conservatively, who would later be found innocent. Mot "criminal
masterminds" have an answer for your every question. They have thought out their alibi, and only trip up when you hand them information that says
they screwed up. My favorite is the old "If you were never there, why would we find your fingerprints on the phone?" Then the perp shouts, "you
couldn't find my prints on the phone, because I wiped it down with windex!" next case.
The innocent ones were easy to spot. They burst into tears, demand a Bible and a lawyer, and refuse to participate in the questioning. So if you
respond that way, most cops will tend to believe you're innocent. The perps have an answer to everything. How the gun got there, who saw me last
thursday night, etc.
Personally, I think prisons could be made much more effective and cheaper. Here's my "to do list."
1. Get rid of "trustees." They aren't. They are usually the ones who facilitate escapes.
2. Sentence people to days of labor rather than time sitting in a cell. The mere passage of time doesn't change a criminal's attitude. Work
actually does have a beneficial effect in my experience. With the 'days of labor' approach, the prisoner doesn't work except when he chooses to,
but doesn't reduce his sentence except through his own efforts.
3. Individual cells for sleeping. That's just common decency. Most prisoners would choose an individual cell the size of a broom closet over
sharing a room at the Ritz with Stinky, the animal molester who's in for life . . .
4. Token economy. They earn points for good deeds, and that is the only way to buy candy, etc, which must be consumed on the spot. This has worked
really well in mental institutions, which have a lot of overlap with jails.
5. Teach art. Seriously. Most perps totally cannot express themselves. Most felony cells have a resident artist who teaches other inmates.
Artistic ability is about the only thing they respect in each other. And yes, it makes them employable on the outside. Tattoos and Airbrushing
streetrods are both growth industries.