Skip to comments.Why We Must Fix Our Prisons
Posted on 03/30/2009 2:17:52 PM PDT by backtothestreets
America's criminal justice system has deteriorated to the point that it is a national disgrace. Its irregularities and inequities cut against the notion that we are a society founded on fundamental fairness. Our failure to address this problem has caused the nation's prisons to burst their seams with massive overcrowding, even as our neighborhoods have become more dangerous. We are wasting billions of dollars and diminishing millions of lives.
"And, in the face of the movement toward mass incarceration, law-enforcement officials in many parts of the U.S. have been overwhelmed and unable to address a dangerous wave of organized, frequently violent gang activity, much of it run by leaders who are based in other countries."
"Against this backdrop of chaos and mismanagement, a dangerous form of organized and sometimes deadly gang activity has infiltrated America's towns and cities. It comes largely from our country's southern border, and much of the criminal activity centers around the movement of illegal drugs. The weapons and tactics involved are of the highest order."
"The Mexican drug cartels, whose combined profits are estimated at $25 billion a year, are known to employ many elite former soldiers who were trained in some of America's most sophisticated military programs. Their brutal tactics took the lives of more than 6000 Mexicans last year alone, and the bloodshed has been spilling over the border into our own neighborhoods at a rapid pace. One terrible result is that Phoenix, Ariz., has become the kidnapping capital of the United States, with more than 370 cases in 2008. That is more incidents than in any other city in the world outside of Mexico City."
"The challenge to our communities is not limited to the states that border Mexico. Mexican cartels are now reported to be running operations in some 230 American cities. Other gang activity--much of it directed from Latin America, Asia, and Europe--has permeated our country to the point that no area is immune. As one example, several thousand members of the Central American gang MS-13 now operate in northern Virginia, only a stone's throw from our nation's capital."
Before faulting Senator Webb solely on the basis of being a Democrat, keep in mind he is a strong Second Amendment advocate, and was among the strongest voices against Amnesty for Illegal Aliens. If his efforts lead to curtailing the vicious infiltration into our nation, I wish for our nation he finds success.
Please take the time to read the entire article before commenting. Senator Webb has related information provided on his site: http://webb.senate.gov/email/criminaljusticereform.html
Whoops ... I forgot to give the PARADE Magazine link for the article. Here it is:
I guess I missed that one in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
I didn't see the part of the article that mentions the substantial drop in national crime rates when more prisons were built.
More "Midnight Basketball" type fixes seem to be in store.
This needs a Barf Alert.
This is all I needed to read. What a complete joke of a post. Take the violent criminals in our jails kill them to make room for more.... continue this process until our streets are clean....
Tell that to the family who comes home to find their home burglarized. Tell that to the man or woman on the street who is mugged.
Tell that to the person who has his/her car stolen.
Any crime committed while under the influence is to be forgiven.
That will fix more for our prison system than some do gooder's feel good ideas.
He's also a back-stabbing SOB who switched from Republican to Democrat. Kick his ass out. Not but that he doesn't make a point or two about not incarcerating non-violent offenders---there ARE other things possible for them.
The problem is, prison contains 3 kinds of people.
The first kind, violent sociopaths who enjoy inflicting suffering, run the place. This has an extremely bad consequence on the second kind - shallow followers who are in some sense accidental or temporary offenders. They come out much worse than they went in. This is stupid and reckless social policy, and we need to stop it as soon as possible.
The third kind of prisoners are the unlucky folks who would normally get a slap on the wrist or a minor sentence, but who, through the incompetence or corruption of the lawyers who infect the process wind up in jail anyway. These guys also suffer at the hands of groups 1 and 2, and either come out unchanged or worse.
Allowing the minority of violent felons who enjoy inflicting pain to run our prisons is massively bad - a) because it’s morally wrong, and b) because it allows them to “reproduce” by converting others to their perverse value system.
The issue isn’t whether there are too many prisoners, or not enough. The issue is that the awful way prisons are run is harming society, and it’s getting rapidly worse.
My solution (briefly) is to separate group 1 prisoners from the rest. I personally think they should be killed, but isolation on an island for life with death for escape attempts would be OK with me, as long as it didn’t cost more money.
Dear Senator Webb,
When you have been the victim of violent crime then perhaps you will have enough credibility to speak to this issue. But until then your opinion is nothing more than a philosophical exercise without merit. I pray you and yours will not have to deal with this on a first hand basis as have I and millions of more victims in this country. But, if you should, I would not be surprised to hear you change your tune. These people were sent to prison, not a country club, and prison should be something less than comfortable as you describe it.
Most of the problems mentioned above can be traced back to the lack of control over our borders. I don’t see it having anything to do with our prison system. We can’t allow drugs and criminals to spread to every city before we start trying to fight them. That makes no sense at all but it is what we do.
News flash for you Jimmbo. The US Senate has deteriorated to the point that’s it’s a national disgrace.
Hey Senator, try making prisons so horrible that no one would ever want to set foot in one.
Just one thing - the reason they are so horrible is that the violent and sadistic minority of prisoners are in charge, not the guards and certainly not the State.
That the State - dispenser of justice and mercy - tolerates this situation greatly aggravates the problem of recidivism.
Instead of letting violent sociopaths dominate the other prisoners (that's a lot of FReepers idea of just punishment), they should be isolated or killed as a sign that the State dispenses justice with wisdom and mercy.
As it is, the actions of the State are incomprehensible to the broken people in prison, and run a very good chance of bringing them out worse than they went in.
How bout we quit making so many laws, seems like we don’t even know the laws anymore. Hundreds of new ones come out every year, or they make the current ones tougher.
I was just thinking about this problem the other day. As I see it, back when truly heinous crimes were punished by hanging in the public square, or by incarceration in horrifying prisons, the crime rate was a LOT lower.
Go back to hanging the thugs and murderers in public, and see how fast criminal activity drops.
Continue coddling these animals, and our crime problems are only going to get even worse.
Discipline behind bars is slim to none, at least in the NY State prison system, in which I worked for over 23 years. After Attica, the courts got involved in running the prisons, and that's when things started going downhill. In the early 80's, as the prison population exploded, Mario Cuomo started tossing the mentally ill out on the street, and NY Corrections began taking over the vacant institutions, and renovating them into dormitory-style, medium-security facilities. Because it cost too much to build actual prison cells, they added more medium-security facilities, using a similar design across the state, again, with dormitory-style housing units.
We ended up with a limited number of special housing cells in which to place our problem inmates. About a year before I retired in 2003, they ended up building a brand new 200-bed maximum security unit to house long-term disciplinary inmates. They did this at several other prisons across the state as well. Another problem that cropped up in the 80's, was the increase in the incarceration of inmates with mental health problems. When I started the job in 1980, the officers, not the medical staff were dispensing drugs like Sinequin, Stelazine, thorazine, etc., each night to the convicts. When you put them to bed each night in their cells, you went down the gallery with a crap-load of meds to give out. Some officers had so many inmates on meds, that they had to take them down on a cart. The Union finally did something about it, and the facilities were forced to put the responsibility for dispensing medications where it should have originally been, in the hands of the medical staff. We ended up with so many mentally ill convicts in the system, that the State opened up special mental hygiene satellite units at several maximum security prisons across the state. Again, when I retired in 2003, the medium-security facility I worked at was renovating one of the buildings to be used specifically as a mental hygiene unit. It had previously held two large housing units upstairs for general population, and a small special housing unit on the first floor.
Yet another problem was that the State didn't want the officers to do the job. All of the Department Commissioners in Albany, and facility Superintendents, and Deputy-Superintendents are political appointees. They serve at the pleasure of the Commissioner, who serves at the pleasure of the Governor. At the local level, management would discourage you from writing misbehavior reports on convicts, because in Albany's eyes, if your facility had too many misbehavior reports written, it meant as a Superintendent, you didn't have control of your prison. And that could mean you'd get demoted back to the last Civil Service title you held. Local management danced to the tune of Albany. They did whatever they were told because their jobs depended on it. Albany was more interested in having floors free of wax build-up than they were in knowing whether the convicts were doing drugs or carrying weapons. The best thing I ever did was retire early when I got the chance. I run into folks I used to work with from time to time, and they say it's worse now than it was when I was there. I haven't missed it one bit.
Oddly enough, the Dallas Fed reports $25 billion leaving the US for Mexico and Central America...in remittances, usually untaxed...
Politicians are always the first to talk and last to know.
Well, I have.
I made a few mistakes- more likely the same mistake several times when I was in my early twenties. I was a lazy alcoholic who stole instead of working. I also bummed off a lot of friends until they tired of me and made me move on.
Needless to say, I was in desperate need of correction. And fortunately, I was able to go through a treatment program before spending most of my 2 year sentence in minimum security. But before that, I had a good look, first at county jails, which are also quite dangerous and a few months in a maximum security prison with, as you would expect; murderers, rapists and child molesters.
It's very hard to straighten out in there. I wouldn't consider myself to have been a hardened criminal; and as my twenty plus years since my incarceration have shown- I was rehabilitated. But, it's very difficult to stay away from the predators, especially if you're in for a long sentence. As a short timer, I was able to mind my own business, keep my mouth shut and stay out of debt. If I had to stay five or more years, I don't know if I could have done it.
Obviously, there are some very bad guys in there, but even among the violent offenders, there were some decent people who made some very bad mistakes. I certainly don't have any answers for the prison system, but I know that not everyone who is there is a bad person. Some, like myself, find a way to re-enter society as productive members. And some even become conservatives. If someone can come up with a way to sort out the ones who can become productive citizens from the lifelong predators, I would be in favor of it.
I enjoyed learning about the experience of two insiders - a long time prison guard and a former prisoner. These are the people who could reform the prison system. They have daily experience within the prisons, not just sitting behind a desk like so many friend-of-politicians bureaucrats.
I have some confusion about our penal system. On one hand, I hear many saying that we have more people in prison than other nations. But then, I have seen cases of criminals who have very long arrest records and they are out on the street rather than being behind bars where they belong. It seems so haphazard.
Could it be that the more liberal judges let the younger offenders get off with little or no punishment which would account for many criminals having very long rap sheets with very little punishment. This could also have an effect of producing a lawless culture in certain communities. The younger criminals get very little punishment which makes them look like heroes to the kids. It could create a perverse incentive to become criminals. This might possible explain the contradiction of a society that has so many people behind bars and at the same time having a very high crime rate. This could be a case of justice delayed creating a culture of lawlessness which becomes the norm in some communities causing lawless behavior to spread.