Skip to comments.The Prison-Industrial Complex
Posted on 02/13/2014 6:39:45 AM PST by Notary Sojac
The recent commutation by President Obama of eight lengthy individual sentences for drug abuse is a tiny but significant gesture, as Americas long indulgence, spiked intermittently into passionate support, for draconian hypocrisy in its failed War on Drugs yields grudgingly to the forces of reason and decency. This follows the reduction in the disparity of sentences for crack as opposed to powder cocaine from 100 to one to 18 to one. There are a number of reasons for this change, but the principal one, apart from the absurd starting imbalance, is that the cocaine-using middle-class and university white people are powder customers, and the generally poorer African Americans tend to be crack users. The first black president and attorney general in U.S. history were not impetuous in their haste to make this change, and 18 to one is still an unsupportable discrimination.
Various states, with the encouragement of a handful of more creative public-policy thinkers, such as Newt Gingrich (who despite his temperamental unsuitability for high public office is an original mind at times), have released significant numbers of nonviolent offenders because of budgetary restraints and the hideous expense of the custodial system. There is a state-supreme-court mandate in California to reduce prison overcrowding, which has reached proportions of deemed unconstitutional inhumanity. Unfortunately, it is practically impossible to discern much sense of traditional aspiration for reform, of the kind that fired the minds and ambitions of great statesmen of the past, not just ostensible radicals like William Jennings Bryan or even Eugene V. Debs, and the British Shaftesbury, Bright, and Cobden, but such great and sometimes apparently conservative officeholders as the Roosevelts, Wilson, Disraeli, Gladstone, Lloyd George, and Churchill. They were all motivated by companion desires to preserve and strengthen the societies in which they lived, but to make them better and fairer. Little of this spirit remains in most countries, and practically none in the United States, where all politics is money: Members of the Congress represent the leading pecuniary interests in their states or districts and presidential candidates raise a billion dollars each so that mighty computer programs and advertising blitzes can fight each other for the heart and mind of an ever more disappointed, cynical, and under-served electorate.
Jim Webb, a thoughtful former Democratic U.S. senator from Virginia, lamented that the U.S. has six to twelve times as many incarcerated people as its nearest comparable, prosperous democracies (Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom), and that it has 48 million designated felons. Even if the large number of those who are lumbered with distant and unstigmatizing offenses, such as disorderly conduct or a failed breathalyzer many years ago (though the American reciprocal-enforcement system is apt to keep them out of cooperating foreign countries, such as Canada), are subtracted, that still leaves about 20 percent of adult American males as felons. This is preposterous. Senator Webb said there were three possible explanations for this: Those other countries are less concerned with crime, which is bunk; or Americans are uniquely tempted by and addicted to crime, which is also bunk; or there is something fundamentally amiss in the U.S. criminal-justice system (bingo). Webb promised, in 2009, a blue-ribbon commission of inquiry and recommendation, but he did not seek reelection to the Senate, and after the usual flutter of attention, the whole idea just vanished into the ether.
The real problem is that American prosecutors, as I have had occasion to write here before, terrorize the entire country with impunity. They win 99.5 percent of their cases, 97 percent without a trial (as against much lower success rates in Canada and the U.K.). The plea-bargain system has been misshapen into the extortion or subornation of incriminating perjury in exchange for immunities, including from charges of perjury. And whatever liberties the prosecutors take are never punished. This occurs not only in such instances as the infamous Thompson case, in which a penniless and simple African American sat on death row for 14 years because prosecutors suppressed exculpatory evidence, and the Supreme Court overturned a large damages award in the innocent mans favor when he was cleared because prosecutors enjoyed an absolute immunity other than from the local bar, whose sanctions are only professional. The seven-term U.S. senator Ted Stevens of Alaska was convicted on the basis of what was found to be gross prosecutorial misconduct, lost his bid for an eighth consecutive election by only 2,000 votes, and only then was exonerated. There was no sanction except excoriation for the prosecutors (though one of them committed suicide).
No serious analysis can sustain the conviction of Lewis Scooter Libby, former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, and his sentence was commuted, but he was convicted in the relentless operation of the American criminal-justice system, whose conviction rate is as high (though the sentences are not as severe) as that of the French Committee of Public Safety that produced the Terror of 179394. But at least the entire Committee, led by Maximilien Robespierre (except for the war minister, Carnot), and their prosecutor, Fouquier-Tinville (who inevitably claimed only to be doing his job), concluded this macabre chapter of French history by themselves being executed on a guillotine raised to a new height and moved for the purpose to the most frequented square in Paris. No one is asking for that, but some had dared to hope that the assault on Stevens and Libby, striking so close to the highest eminences in Congress and the administration, would rouse some sense of self-preservation among elected officials opposite this rogue state-within-a-state that the prosecutocracy has become. Robespierre was brought down when he attacked the epochally cunning and insidious master of the underworld and long-serving police minister, Joseph Fouché. The American terror, comparatively bloodless but massively more widespread, continues, impervious to endlessly repeated exposés of its iniquity, and of its mockery of American claims of world leadership in civil rights, personal liberty, and the rule of impartial law.
Bill Keller, writing in the New York Times on January 26, optimistically stated that in recent years Americans have begun to wise up to the idea that our overstuffed prisons are a shameful waste of lives and money. . . . Our prisons are an international scandal. He was correct, certainly, but yet no legislative spirit of reform takes root, apart from the aborted Webb commission. U.S. and district attorneys have been fattened to a state of hypertrophic authoritarian obesity, first, in the 1970s, by black radicalism and the agitations of the feminists to the effect that almost all American males were potential unrepentant rapists, and then by the pandering of the whole political class. The Left, Robert Kennedy, and Nelson Rockefeller were as remorseless as Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan in all the rubbish about mandatory minimums, three strikes and youre out, truth in sentencing, and so forth, as legislators usurped the role of judges and abolished parole. They all postured about the War on Drugs, which has cost over $1 trillion and imprisoned more than a million people, while drugs pour in in unprecedented quantities through Americas porous southern border. Obviously the government isnt serious, because the greatest military power in the world could certainly secure its border if it were serious. The correctional officers unions are the worlds largest and most effective agitators for unskilled labor, and the private-sector prison companies that ignore any rehabilitative efforts and run no-frills prisons satisfy the need of the states to avoid more debt but cost much more by the demands they make for occupancy levels. They are both, like the countrys police associations, a constant and effective pressure for more convictions on more charges, and for longer sentences. It is a financially corrupt, morally bankrupt, and broadly inhumane process, and there are no visible forces of reform among elected officials.
But there are decent and altruistic people as well as budgetary restraints. It is America, after all, the land of Norman Rockwell and Henry David Thoreau, as well as of unrestrained prosecutors, and decency has its rights. Keller recounts in his article that pressures for less absurdly severe sentences are starting to prevail, including in California and New York, despite resistance from prosecutors, who like them as bargaining chips in their stacked plea-bargain negotiations; and that supervision, which involves twice as many people as the incarcerated (roughly five million, against half that are actually in custody), is being revised to try to do other than ensure the maximum possible recycling of released people back into the prison system. Specialized courts, for drugs, veterans, and domestic violence, have been established with some aptitudes for addressing distinctive problems. Some employers are dispensing with the inquiry about previous arrest, Target Corporation being the principal such employer. Keller reports that more sophisticated police work adds to deterrence and removes some of the contagious criminals, but notes that all these trends are at war with the endless pressure from prosecutors, police, the private prison industry, and correctional officers unions (almost a million strong and very aggressive politically).
What is missing is the genuine reformer, the politician prepared to advocate, vote for, and sell to his constituents the virtue of making America a fairer place. If this group does not assert itself in its real numbers, it will not be just the victims of the prosecutocracy who lose. The United States cannot be governed exclusively by police chiefs and less creditable self-seekers.
Those other countries are less concerned with crime, which is bunk; or Americans are uniquely tempted by and addicted to crime, which is also bunk; or there is something fundamentally amiss in the U.S. criminal-justice system (bingo).
At this point, any attempts to overturn the legal system in this country and/or the federal government in general would require an uprising of the citizenry unlike the world has ever seen. I just don’t think Americans have it in them anymore.
Conrad Black was interviewed for the Limbaugh Letter recently. It would seem that BOTH Republicans and Democrats would do something about this issue. It would suggest that the parties are too much the same. 3 strikes passed here in Calif. There is nothing wrong with saying it should be reconsidered.On the other hand I don’t feel sorry for someone who is dumb enough to end up in the clink.
Drop in U.S. Cocaine Use Due to Waning Popularity, New Colombian Drug Strategies
By Join Together Staff | July 29, 2013 | Leave a comment | Filed in Drugs
The dramatic decrease in cocaine use in America is due to a number of factors, ranging from changing trends to new drug control strategies implemented by Colombia, according to NPR.
The 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found the number of Americans ages 12 or older who are current users of cocaine has dropped by 44 percent since 2006.
One reason cocaines popularity has declined is it simply went out of fashion, according to Peter Reuter, a professor of Public Policy at the University of Maryland, who researches drug problems. The drug went out of vogue a long time ago, he told NPR. Lots of people experiment with it, but very few of the people that experiment with it in the last 20 years have gone on to become regular users of it.
Sorry but the bingo is bunk too. The real reason our incarceration rate is so much higher than other industrialized nation is that we have a certain demographic in our population that they do not. This demo, as a whole, has proved to be violent and criminal. I don't care what anyone says I see it every day where I live.
Civil discipline should result from actions that deprive others of life, liberty, and property arbitrarily and/or without due process. If drugs are administered in a manner that does harm to others, then the one who administers them should be punished. We struggle with the nature and extent of harm caused by recreational drug use. It is not an easy reality to address, especially since there are wide differences of opinion, tolerance, and use.
I believe there are too many people who are punished too severely for minimal offenses, and that the system as it stands deprives many of quick access to justice. There are some who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo; who benefit from instilling unnecessary red tape. Most of them are in DC, but those types may also be found at every level of government.
We are at a point to where so many companies depend on our ‘police state’ for profits and individuals for their livelihoods, it has taken on a life of its own. Just imagine how many people would lose their jobs if we ended drug prohibition and a good part of the domestic side of our “War on Terrorism”. Of course, most of those jobs should have never existed in the first place, and the people doing them produce exactly NOTHING.
Funny how when the federal government proclaims a “War Against (x)”, our wallets get plundered, the Constitution shredded, and the problem the so called “War” was intended to address only gets worse/continues unresolved.
I recently had an acquaintence go to prison where I have visited on several occasions.
The people who are in prison are not functioning adults and from what I have seen they will never be functioning adults in a complex modern society.
That said, they don’t seem to be bad people.
I think we have quite a few uninhabited islands that we should provide shelter and food and drop them off there.
These islands are uninhabited mainly due to being too far away to be economically viable. They actually have decent climates.
“U.S. and district attorneys have been fattened to a state of hypertrophic authoritarian obesity...”
Chris Christie comes to mind.
I learned all I needed to know when Jenny Granholm made a deal with Arnold Schwarzenegger to ship California prisoners to Michigan to keep union guards employed.
I never heard it said better.
There's a lot of money to be made-court fees,lawyer fees, hearing fees,asset forfeiture.
Many of the people who are violent prisoners did not start out that way, but were transformed when they were subjected to,great violence in the system. The majority of prisoners, if they were kept separate from violent thugs, would be reasonably happy to serve their sentences reasonably quietly.
I think a lot of the problem is with people who are raised with no moral or spiritual instruction. Like most people in our consumer culture they are exposed to all the wonderful things that can be had: nice cars, clothes, houses, etc. But lacking a moral center they don’t follow the normal route for obtaining these things I.E. work hard, get educated, save money. With a lack of morals they take “shortcuts”. IOW they steal, sell drugs, rob, rape and kill. Complicit in this amoral subculture is liberals and progressives who promote a sense of entitlement. They tell people that they have a “right” to the good life, wthout engaging in any work to secure said life. Right after I got my drivers license I told my dad I wanted a car. He left and came back a few minutes later with the paper. He told me “part time jobs are in the middle section, used cars are in the back” -end of discussion. That’s what those people needed when they were young, but didn’t get.With some of the worst criminals it wasn’t that they were raised wrong, it’s that they weren’t raised at all. They either raised themselves or were raised by the street. They would’ve been better off being raised by wolves.
“The real reason our incarceration rate is so much higher than other industrialized nation is that we have a certain demographic in our population that they do not. This demo, as a whole, has proved to be violent and criminal. I don’t care what anyone says I see it every day where I live.”
Martha Stewart spent 5 months in our jail system. For WHAT? She’s not violent. She was ensnared by a simple lie. For that reason alone, she was incarcerated.
Who cares? Martha Stewart is not indicative of the problem being addressed in this article or on this thread.
The judiciary and the administrative state collude to extort a plea.
Exactly. I have lost most, if not quite all, of the respect I ever had for this country as a “government of laws, and not of men.” A law is whatever they say it is. A crime is whatever they say it is. With a little arm-twisting, they get you to say it, too.
Free Republic has changed a lot over the years I’ve been here. Ten years ago, this article would have been shouted down as being a bunch of liberal claptrap. I think it’s good that more people are opening their eyes to what this republic has become. It’s sad that we’ve gone so far down the path of authoritarianism that the only real solution is a lot of death and destruction.