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Who knew that locking up a far larger proportion of its citizenry than any other country made no sense? Apparently a lot of people knew. This Sunday's New York Times editorial condemning mass incarceration begins thusly:

For more than a decade, researchers... have been issuing reports on the widespread societal and economic damage caused by America's now-40-year experiment in locking up vast numbers of its citizens. If there is any remaining disagreement about the destructiveness of this experiment, it mirrors the so-called debate over climate change.
But just like the War on Drugs, the War in Iraq and the War in Afghanistan, knowing something is downright stupid and doing something about it are two different things.
...many politicians continue to fear appearing to be "soft on crime," even when there is no evidence that imprisoning more people has reduced crime by more than a small amount.
The Times might as well just come out and say it: mass incarceration is, indeed, The New Jim Crow, as the editorial demonstrates:
From 1980 to 2000, the number of children with fathers in prison rose from 350,000 to 2.1 million. Since race and poverty overlap so significantly, the weight of our criminal justice experiment continues to fall overwhelmingly on communities of color...

After prison, people are sent back to the impoverished places they came from, but are blocked from re-entering society. Often they cannot vote, get jobs, or receive public benefits like subsidized housing - all of which would improve their odds of staying out of trouble. This web of collateral consequences has created... "a highly distinct political and legal universe for a large segment of the U.S. population."

The piece ends without mincing words...
The American experiment in mass incarceration has been a moral, legal, social, and economic disaster. It cannot end soon enough.
Unfortunately, even if it cannot end soon enough, it will not end soon enough. After all, it's not like we as a society have anything better to do with the millions of lives and billions of dollars being so wasted.

Originally posted to jpmassar on Sat May 24, 2014 at 10:11 PM PDT.

Also republished by Prison Watch, Barriers and Bridges, Black Kos community, and LatinoKos.


To end mass incarceration we should

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Comment Preferences

  •  end the war on abstractions designed to perpetuate (19+ / 0-)

    the PIC just as the War on Terror has aided the MIC just as "putting more cops on the street" does not, as the Santa Barbara Sheriff said in his press conference "stop such crimes from happening" in reference to the incident in Isla Vista. It's all self-perpetuating industries advancing profit keeping a law & order industry in business rather than serving a community that could develop away from criminal enterprises allowing law enforcement to address the larger web of kleptocratic criminal enterprises  

    From 1980 to 2000, the number of children with fathers in prison rose from 350,000 to 2.1 million. Since race and poverty overlap so significantly, the weight of our criminal justice experiment continues to fall overwhelmingly on communities of color...
    After prison, people are sent back to the impoverished places they came from, but are blocked from re-entering society. Often they cannot vote, get jobs, or receive public benefits like subsidized housing - all of which would improve their odds of staying out of trouble. This web of collateral consequences has created... "a highly distinct political and legal universe for a large segment of the U.S. population."

    Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "If we appear to seek the unattainable, then let it be known that we do so to avoid the unimaginable." (@eState4Column5)

    by annieli on Sat May 24, 2014 at 10:25:39 PM PDT

    •  Corrections, schools, health care, infrastructure (6+ / 0-)

      are all profit centers for politically connected companies anymore.   We don't purchase public goods w/ our tax $.  Instead, we pay off privatizers whose goal is to provide "services" at the lowest achievable cost.

      What's truly scary in this field is that the for-profit prison sector can encourage stiffer sentencing as a means of fattening its margins.

      Some men see things as they are and ask why. I dream of things that never were and ask why not?

      by RFK Lives on Sun May 25, 2014 at 08:09:20 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Oddly enough, (22+ / 0-)

    the so-called experiment in mass incarceration followed closely on the heels of whatever successes the Civil Rights movement achieved.

    War beats down, and sows with salt, the hearts and minds of soldiers." Brecht

    by DaNang65 on Sat May 24, 2014 at 10:26:36 PM PDT

  •  I've posted about this a dozen times (16+ / 0-)

    My classes in GEO were generally 3/4 black men. Probably 50% were in  for minor drug infractions. Ridiculous

    "Just when you think you've lost everything, you find out you can lose a little more." Bob Dylan

    by weezilgirl on Sat May 24, 2014 at 10:32:52 PM PDT

  •  I have been calling for President Obama to issue (23+ / 0-)

    mass pardons for all non-violent drug offenders in federal prisons, and to call for Governors  to do the the same for state prisoners.

    When I first called for President Obama to pardon all non-violent drug offenders someone made big fuss about state's rights and said only governors could do that.

    I don't know the details if I were him I might do it anyway and fight it in the Supreme Court as a civil rights issue, like we did with segregation.

    And Obama should either fire, or call for the resignation of that miserable DEA Czar Michele Leonhart that is destroying the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans and year, harming President Obama's, Eric Holder's, and the Democratic Party's  reputation in states that that legalized medical marijuana but she has ordered the DEA to continue to arrest and seize assets of state legal and licensed dispenseries.

    Presidents Obama, Clinton, and Bush could have all been arrested as youths for marijuana and two for cocaine, and instead of being Presidents spend 10 to 15 years in jail.

    And not matter what amount of time they served, with a felony on their records they would be inelegable for any federal aid including Pell grants and other college loans.

    So instead of being college graduates Rhodes Scholars, Presidents of the Harvard Law Review, they may have been lucky to be working at the supermarket.

    Yes they were lucky but over 775,000 Americans were arrested last year for Marijuana offenses despite what you've read about progress.

    These laws of course are selective enforced against minorities. Where is the Congressional Black Congress while 1/3 of all African American adult men are engaged with the criminal justice system in some way.

    It is totally hopeless to think we will be able to make any progress what-so-ever on poverty, ineuality, and other social problems as long as we systematically do this to ourselves - chop off entire racial groups at the knees, leaves families without fathers and mothers, and then like Paul Ryan blame them for their "cultural problems of the inner city."

    I wrote a post about a this vile DEA chief Michele Leonhard yesterday if you are interested in joining a petition demanding a resignation. It is the post about the VA rep telling President Obama to butt out of the DEA affairs. Great job JP masser.  

    Humor Alert! No statement from this UID is intended to be true, including this one. Comments and Posts intended for recreational purposes only. Unauthorized interpretations may lead to unexpected results. This waiver void where prohibited.

    by HoundDog on Sat May 24, 2014 at 11:32:05 PM PDT

    •  What incarceration creates (8+ / 0-)

      Wasted lives, potentially productive people warehoused.

      Anger, resentment, hostility, violence, crime.
      Mental illness, paranoia, deviance, institutionalization.
      Hatred and a desire for vengeance and destruction.
      Violence, retaliatory violence, culture of violence.

      Gangs as gene, oinkos and phratre for youth growing up without parents due to violence and incarceration.

      Communities organized around crime as a way of life going back generations, where you can't live in that community without being impacted by the harassment of gang members, the harassment of police forces, the total lack of any educational or employment opportunity for most children, other than a military which teaches institutionalized violence as a solution to problems rather than diplomacy as a viable alternative.

      Communities without mothers and fathers because of the wholesale incarceration of gangmembers

      A lack of positive role models

      A lack of successful entrepreneurs in a community who can offer jobs with opportunities to start successful businesses other than criminal enterprises such as drug dealing.

      Business ethics where long term partnerships are discounted relative to immediate profits.

      I suppose if your life expectancy as a free man or woman not disabled by despair, drug or alcohol abuse to deal with the despair and depression, or the wounds of a violently exploitative  lifestyle, or by incarceration is twenty something, and that is allowing for some rough patches, maybe a temporary out into the military, short term solutions like suicide make some sense but it doesn't have to be that way.

      We should encourage the emptying of prisons, the substitution of education for incarceration. We could  substitute the option of reward for accomplishment instead of the only option being punishment for failure.

      We could encourage parole instead of bail reducing the need for incarceration of people who simply can't afford to be free because they are poor and disadvantaged.

      We could make exceptions to encourage the stability of families just like we used to offer the option of service in the military as an alternative to jail.

      We might say here is a program where your parole officer is your wife or child or mother, some significant other who reports to us regularly on how you are doing at school or at work. Here's the school here's the job. Go be a success and it would cost less to provide that job and that school than what its costs now for incarceration and reduce the load on the courts and judges and strengthen the community and reduce violence and crime all at the same time..

      "la vida no vale nada un lugar solita" "The Limits of Control Jim Jarmusch

      by rktect on Sun May 25, 2014 at 04:20:18 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It doesn't necessarily create mental illness so (9+ / 0-)

        much as exist as a place to discard to the mentally ill. When over 50% of inmates have are mentally ill, that shows that we could give a fuck, despite all we say after a violent shooting, about actually treating the mentally ill. We, as a a society, want to remove the mentally ill from sight, not treat them. Only 1 in 3 prison inmates and only 1 in 6 jail inmates with mental illness receive any treatment for their mental illnesses in incarceration facilities.

        I agree, of course, that you're right to suggest that solitary confinement and other tortures can inflict horrific psychological damage. But we need to acknowledge that it is our chosen strategy to punish the mentally ill in incarceration facilities. It's not a byproduct; it's a goal.

        •  Lets say incarceration is a contributing factor (8+ / 0-)

          I consider juvenile facilities, poverty, malnutrition, homes broken because of the incarceration of a parent, alcohol and drug abuse, exposure to sexual abuse, bad examples of adult behavior, crime, despair, anxiety, desperation and institutionalization as a process which can lead increasing numbers of impressionable young minds to mental illness.

          Add to that the PTSD of those who chose the military or gangs as a way out

          Warehousing mental illness whether in mental institutions, group homes or detention facilities results in such torturous and miserable conditions that many mentally ill people prefer to be homeless.

          Benign neglect is no longer an option so punitive neglect with as you point out solitary confinement as the last recourse to avoid violence would drive anybody crazy if they weren't already there to begin with.

          At some point Paranoia strikes deep, then Schizophrenia as an escape mechanism, anti social behavior becomes the norm. There is a combination of institutionalized fear, suspicion, anger, resentment, despair, anxiety, depression, dependencies on medications none of which are positive influences on the mentally ill.

          "la vida no vale nada un lugar solita" "The Limits of Control Jim Jarmusch

          by rktect on Sun May 25, 2014 at 05:45:12 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Mass Incarceration (17+ / 0-)

    and the for profit prison companies like GEO go hand in hand.
    These companies have guarantees in their contracts that effictively keeps these prisons full.

    There are some things in life that when you see them or are informed about them that you immediately know that pure evil is at play.

    For profit prisons is the epitome of evil in my book. Whenever such a scenario exists, nothing remotely resembling good can possibly come from it, and we as a people better get a grip of what is going to come from it.

    This is such a dangerous precedent that it cannot be overstated and I truly fear that the nightmares that will transpire will make a Hollywood Horror movie pale by comparison.

    "We can either have democracy in this country or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both." Louis Brandeis

    by wxorknot on Sun May 25, 2014 at 02:48:22 AM PDT

  •  The herding instinct is, apparently, genetic in (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jpmassar, Darwinian Detrius, Woody

    some humans as it is in some dogs. Perhaps it is triggered by mobility -- i.e. just as a frog jumps in response to a particular kind of movement within its field of sight, some people may be prompted to provide direction to cattle or people moving around. We might even hazard the guess that the rate of a community's motility is directly related to the effort to make them stop.
    Or, in other words, perhaps U.S. migratory behaviors prompt the effort to keep more and more of the population in place. And it doesn't just affect the populating of prisons. There's also the proliferation of colleges that keep more and more youth in harness, as well as segregated housing for the poor, the rich, the elderly, the infirm, the homeless and the solitary individual.

    Segregation continues to thrive in the U.S. Some of it is exclusive; some is self-determined. Gated communities don't perceive themselves as exclusive. Rather they are composed of people who are quite content to shut themselves in. Walking about freely is a scary proposition to people who aren't used to it. That's not new. The Greeks had a word for it, agoraphobia.

    by hannah on Sun May 25, 2014 at 04:02:35 AM PDT

    •  What? Herding dogs have been bred to be herding (6+ / 0-)

      dogs. I have one. They didn't just happen to become herding dogs. Please don't defend our society's behavior by portraying it as instinctive. The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Our approach is not universal. It's not about inevitable human traits.

      •  Talents and aptitudes are not universal. They are (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        all, despite being genetic, variably expressed.
        Herding is a variant of hunting.

        by hannah on Sun May 25, 2014 at 06:23:21 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I read it as... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        jpmassar, Woody

        a different perspective on authoritarianism. Which may not be the root of this problem (I'd say that would be money in politics) but it's entwined at a deep level, just like racism is.

        One good thing about music, when it hits you feel no pain -Bob Marley

        by Darwinian Detritus on Sun May 25, 2014 at 06:55:02 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Not true (0+ / 0-)

        All dogs have the herding instinct. All domestic dogs are descended from Siberian wolves. And those wolves' central hunting strategy is to work as a pack to encircle prey and drive it toward the alpha, who goes in for the kill, eats first, and leaves the rest for the pack. It's thought that our first alliances with wolves occurred because we are also diurnal pack predators who hunt large prey pretty much the same way. Rather than compete for the same food, we teamed up to run it to ground together.

        Since those days, we have harnessed this inborn circling behavior -- which existed in canines for millions of years before they lived with us -- toward our own ends. In the dog's mind, he's still "hunting" the livestock, moving it according to the wishes of the alpha (in this case, the herder). And he still thinks that he's doing this in exchange for a lamb lunch.

        This tendency has been brought forward in some breeds, and allowed to atrophy in others; but it's there in all of them. The most natural herding dog I ever saw was a 7-pound dachsund/yorkie cross (they called her a "doxie") who was set into a pen with a herd of sheep for the first time and had them all going her way in mere seconds. With a little training, she'd have been winning meets around the state.

        So it's not a learned behavior, nor one that we bred into them. To the contrary: where it's not strong, it's because we bred it out of them.

  •  Reparations (4+ / 0-)

    Anyone incarcerated for more than 4 months for a non-violent crime should receive reparations in the amount of $40,000/yr for loss of income and $10,000 per year for violation of their civil rights against cruel and unusual punishment. You are denying a person his freedom; there is no way to replace that.

    •  Not all non-violent crimes are equal. (5+ / 0-)

      Someone smoking a joint hurts no one - four months is way excessive, and the punishment for having a drug offense on one's record is beyond the pale. On the other hand, some of these banksters, with their non-violent crimes, have destroyed the lives of thousands, even millions, condemning the elderly to brutal poverty and younger folks to years of hard labor beyond what they otherwise would have suffered. Life in solitary, our harshest punishment, is too good for them.

      •  Banksterism isn't a non-violent crime. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        It involves the ruination of thousands, if not tens or hundreds of thousands of people's lives, besides just economic theft.

        It is so far more violent than shattering the proverbial window...

        •  Re-defining "violent crime" (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          blueoasis, Calamity Jean

          is not helpful to the discussion.

          Yes, the damage done is far greater than, say, what was done in Santa Barbara, or arguably even the 9/11 attacks. But that does not, in itself, justify re-defining it as violent crime.

          There is a reason we agree that terms carry the meaning that they do. If we redefine terms with a commonly accepted meaning to mean something different when we use them, communication becomes impossible.

          •  I disagree (0+ / 0-)

            What has been classified "violent crime" has never been static. It has changed over the years. Plus, think about why we don't call a crime that can destroy the lives of thousands violent? Who do you think writes the laws which legally define violent crime?

            Two hundred fifty years of slavery. Ninety years of Jim Crow. Sixty years of separate but equal. Thirty-five years of racist housing policy. Until we reckon with our compounding moral debts, America will never be whole. - Ta-Nehisi Coates

            by moviemeister76 on Sun May 25, 2014 at 11:05:50 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  We've re-implemented slavery. (7+ / 0-)

    The black male population is being enslaved.

    The banks have a stranglehold on the political process. Mike Whitney

    by dfarrah on Sun May 25, 2014 at 05:33:59 AM PDT

  •  I will riff on Naomi Klein here: (11+ / 0-)

    We should have a government-run fire dept because we don't want a market for fire. We should have government-run utilities because the only way to increase profits on them is either by chintzing on quality or decreasing supply. We should have government run prisons because we don't want a market for prisoners.

    Misconduct by the government is by definition NOT a government secret.

    by Doug in SF on Sun May 25, 2014 at 06:20:22 AM PDT

  •  It's all so ugly (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Woody, blueoasis, Calamity Jean

    The police being equipped with all the latest gizmo gadgetry to quell the people. The general indifference that far too many in law enforcement have for the general population. The beatings, the murders, trumped up charges against people arrested etc.

    In America if you are Black there is a damn good chance that someone you know is incarcerated. People of color are targeted by police and routinely arrested for the slightest provocation.  

    The mass incarceration in America where more people are behind bars than any. other. nation. on the. planet.
    Solitary confinement, not just a few weeks or months, but years...decades solitary confinement right here in America.

    The crime rate has been going down while at the same time the numbers incarcerated have continued to climb through the stratosphere.

    On and on it goes and to add to this toxic brew of injustice...  "For Profit prisons."

    If a person were into conspiracy theories and the like, the argument could be made that all of this is by design and they (the government) is preparing to lock a lot more people up. A lot, lot more.

    So CT aside. What is going on? What is this need to incarcerate Americans at unheard of levels when the crime rate is actually going down?

    Weathy banksters have stolen and harmed untold millions, yet the improvished are thrown behind bars at the drop of a hat with scant resources to fight any injustice served on them.

    These and thousands of other stories point to a system that is cruel beyond comprehension and we are told repeatedly that justice is blind?

    "We can either have democracy in this country or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both." Louis Brandeis

    by wxorknot on Sun May 25, 2014 at 07:42:32 AM PDT

  •  Your state's penal code (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jpmassar, kfunk937, moviemeister76

    What laws do you want to eliminate? Do you want to criminalize abortion? Should prostitution be criminalized, aside from practices like forcible trafficking? What laws do you think are too draconian?
    How are they incarcerating more people when there are fewer crimes? Longer sentences? Trumped up changes?
    I have surveyed parts of the Texas Penal Code and have some definite ideas about what I would repeal. Maybe I will post a series of diaries.

    Censorship is rogue government.

    by scott5js on Sun May 25, 2014 at 08:55:40 AM PDT

  •  Part of the Reagan Revolution (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jpmassar, kfunk937, Calamity Jean

    The Reagan administration did not "just say no to drugs." It launched the wave of mass incarceration we are talking about and intimidated many Democrats into co-operating.
    There was also the mater of S-E-X. There was a wave of prosecutions of supposed satanic cults that supposedly sexually abused children. It was all very questionable.
    The there were the run-of-the-mill crimes. Greater sentencing. There may have been some benefits from this, but we are stuck with a massive industry with a vested interest in trying to control people.
    Do you have friends who are ambivalent about abortion? Raise the issue of an oversized criminal justice industry.

    Censorship is rogue government.

    by scott5js on Sun May 25, 2014 at 09:14:23 AM PDT

    •  And Bill Clinton accelerated it. nt. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jpmassar, kfunk937

      "Today is who you are" - my wife

      by I Lurked For Years on Sun May 25, 2014 at 09:22:00 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  And there was Ann Richards (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        jpmassar, kfunk937

        About 1993 I was at an endorsement meeting of the Harris County Democrats (Houston) where it endorsed a bond issue to build more prisons. The governor was pushing it. A friend of mine in the Legislature supporting it, but her staff did tell me about CURE when I asked who was opposing. Building more prisons did not get Ann Richards re-elected.
        As for Clinton, I would not expect a lot of the White House. A movement must begin at the lowest levels and work upward. A good place to start would be races for the Legislature with no incumbents.

        Censorship is rogue government.

        by scott5js on Sun May 25, 2014 at 09:33:49 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Incarceration is likely to keep increasing (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blueoasis, Calamity Jean

    because there aren't enough jobs for people who aren't in prison. If all the non-violent offenders were released today, most of them would join the ranks of the long-term unemployed.

    We have a serious economic problem: too many people trying to fill too few jobs. This is a structural problem caused by hoarding of wealth at the top and thus too little economic demand by the masses, and also automation and offshoring to countries that pay the equivalent of "prison wages."

    One way of dealing with this problem is to put even more people in prison. The other way would be to change the economy by making it more equitable. If the latter doesn't occur, imprisonment will continue to increase, as simply a way of removing the ever-growing number of jobless from the streets.

    The most serious problem in American politics today is that people with wrong ideas are uncompromising, and people with good ideas are submissive and unwilling to fight. Change that, and we might have a real democracy again.

    by Eric Stetson on Sun May 25, 2014 at 11:09:09 AM PDT

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