Prison Nation

Prison Nation
Posted by CN Staff on March 10, 2008 at 06:08:34 PT
Source: New York Times
USA -- After three decades of explosive growth, the nation’s prison population has reached some grim milestones: More than 1 in 100 American adults are behind bars. One in nine black men, ages 20 to 34, are serving time, as are 1 in 36 adult Hispanic men.Nationwide, the prison population hovers at almost 1.6 million, which surpasses all other countries for which there are reliable figures. The 50 states last year spent about $44 billion in tax dollars on corrections, up from nearly $11 billion in 1987. Vermont, Connecticut, Delaware, Michigan and Oregon devote as much money or more to corrections as they do to higher education.
These statistics, contained in a new report from the Pew Center on the States, point to a terrible waste of money and lives. They underscore the urgent challenge facing the federal government and cash-strapped states to reduce their overreliance on incarceration without sacrificing public safety. The key, as some states are learning, is getting smarter about distinguishing between violent criminals and dangerous repeat offenders, who need a prison cell, and low-risk offenders, who can be handled with effective community supervision, electronic monitoring and mandatory drug treatment programs, combined in some cases with shorter sentences.Persuading public officials to adopt a more rational, cost-effective approach to prison policy is a daunting prospect, however, not least because building and running jailhouses has become a major industry.Criminal behavior partly explains the size of the prison population, but incarceration rates have continued to rise while crime rates have fallen. Any effort to reduce the prison population must consider the blunderbuss impact of get-tough sentencing laws adopted across the United States beginning in the 1970’s. Many Americans have come to believe, wrongly, that keeping an outsized chunk of the population locked up is essential for sustaining a historic crime drop since the 1990’s. In fact, the relationship between imprisonment and crime control is murky. Some portion of the decline is attributable to tough sentencing and release policies. But crime is also affected by things like economic trends and employment and drug-abuse rates. States that lagged behind the national average in rising incarceration rates during the 1990’s actually experienced a steeper decline in crime rates than states above the national average, according to the Sentencing Project, a nonprofit group.A rising number of states are broadening their criminal sanctions with new options for low-risk offenders that are a lot cheaper than incarceration but still protect the public and hold offenders accountable. In New York, the crime rate has continued to drop despite efforts to reduce the number of nonviolent drug offenders in prison. The Pew report spotlights policy changes in Texas and Kansas that have started to reduce their outsized prison populations and address recidivism by investing in ways to improve the success rates for community supervision, expanding treatment and diversion programs, and increasing use of sanctions other than prison for minor parole and probation violations. Recently, the Supreme Court and the United States Sentencing Commission announced sensible changes in the application of harsh mandatory minimum drug sentences.These are signs that the country may finally be waking up to the fiscal and moral costs of bulging prisons.Source: New York Times (NY)Published: March 10, 2008Copyright: 2008 The New York Times CompanyContact: letters nytimes.comWebsite: Articles: Record-High Ratio of Americans in Prison're Still #1! America's Gulag Keeps Growing Prison Industry: Big Business or Slavery? 
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Comment #11 posted by unkat27 on March 11, 2008 at 15:59:45 PT
 Prison industry in the US: big biz or slavery?
Excerpt: ""Prison labor has its roots in slavery. After the 1861-1865 Civil War, a system of “hiring out prisoners” was introduced in order to continue the slavery tradition. Freed slaves were charged with not carrying out their sharecropping commitments (cultivating someone else’s land in exchange for part of the harvest) or petty thievery - which were almost never proven - and were then “hired out” for cotton picking, working in mines and building railroads. From 1870 until 1910 in the state of Georgia, 88% of hired-out convicts were Black. In Alabama, 93% of “hired-out” miners were Black. In Mississippi, a huge prison farm similar to the old slave plantations replaced the system of hiring out convicts. The notorious Parchman plantation existed until 1972.During the post-Civil War period, Jim Crow racial segregation laws were imposed on every state, with legal segregation in schools, housing, marriages and many other aspects of daily life. “Today, a new set of markedly racist laws is imposing slave labor and sweatshops on the criminal justice system, now known as the prison industry complex,” comments the Left Business Observer.Who is investing? At least 37 states have legalized the contracting of prison labor by private corporations that mount their operations inside state prisons. The list of such companies contains the cream of U.S. corporate society: IBM, Boeing, Motorola, Microsoft, AT&T, Wireless, Texas Instrument, Dell, Compaq, Honeywell, Hewlett-Packard, Nortel, Lucent Technologies, 3Com, Intel, Northern Telecom, TWA, Nordstrom’s, Revlon, Macy’s, Pierre Cardin, Target Stores, and many more. All of these businesses are excited about the economic boom generation by prison labor. Just between 1980 and 1994, profits went up from $392 million to $1.31 billion.""I like to call it the PIG: Prison Industrial Giant
 The prison industry in the United States: big business or a new form of slavery
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Comment #10 posted by ekim on March 10, 2008 at 20:36:40 PT
two writers from wire on npr today saying dw lost
and said the drug laws could be changed like was done in the first prohibition on Talk of the Nation also
 today on NPR the Diane Rehm show -- Diane had on guests that were talking about the seed banks and the new one in Norway mountain. 
i sent her email of the Vt senate voting for industrial hemp and gave the cnews site.and listed the popular mechs 1938 billion dollar crop and gave site .hope someone reads all the email -- there must be so many more people calling as i have not been able to get in for over ayear.
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Comment #9 posted by FoM on March 10, 2008 at 15:29:26 PT
I go to the site many times everyday. I don't comment very often but I have said it before and I'll say it again. I love shiny, happy people.Shiny, Happy People follow my heart always. 
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Comment #8 posted by potpal on March 10, 2008 at 15:04:43 PT
ot fom
I'm sure you have been to I'd encourage you to visit there often and get involved. Make calls if you have cell phone time. It's easy and rewarding. Clinton hood winked Ohio with the Nafta bull. Hillarious today, the Clinton offering Obama the VP position. Obama said that its the first time in history that the second place candidate offered the front runner the VP spot. Desparation. Per Bill C, the VP has to be a man ready to take over the presidency being just a heart beat away. I thought she yesterday he wasn't ready to be the president? I use to like the Clintons. Hillary would make a good VP for McBush. Obama 70 Clinton 30 Mississippi...start calling PA.Peace.
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Comment #7 posted by FoM on March 10, 2008 at 14:16:50 PT
I'm with you. My husband and I are fired up and ready to go. 
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Comment #6 posted by potpal on March 10, 2008 at 14:09:43 PT
Where we are heading
Half the people in jail the other half guarding them.I'm voting for Obama. It's a start.
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Comment #5 posted by dongenero on March 10, 2008 at 13:31:26 PT
right unkat27
They can't do what is rational, what is right from a human rights standpoint because, "it's a major industry" and people are making money off of trampling other's rights.I guess they really can't do what's rational because money makes them irrational.
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Comment #4 posted by unkat27 on March 10, 2008 at 11:42:50 PT
Stop Suppressing the Issue, Dummies!
"Persuading public officials to adopt a more rational, cost-effective approach to prison policy is a daunting prospect, however, not least because building and running jailhouses has become a major industry."It wouldn't be so hard if more pundits and journalists would give it the rag-time and air-time it needed, instead of suppressing it and relegating the issue to the "Projected Censored" list.
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Comment #3 posted by museman on March 10, 2008 at 08:57:12 PT
bottom line
"Persuading public officials to adopt a more rational, cost-effective approach to prison policy is a daunting prospect, however, not least because building and running jailhouses has become a major industry."Crime is an invention of the state. Who's behind bars, and for what?But the real criminals get away with mass destruction, world contamination, and still get to ride in bullet-proof limos. Lets elect one now!
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Comment #2 posted by Sam Adams on March 10, 2008 at 08:08:39 PT
NY Times 
The NY Times should be congratulating themselves in this editorial! They're the ones who have been steadily advocating and editorializing in favor of harsh prohibitionist policies for YEARS. They endorsed Rudy Giliuani after he locked up half the brown people in New York City.
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Comment #1 posted by Sam Adams on March 10, 2008 at 08:07:06 PT
Big Pharm
Pharmaceuticals found in US drinking water
Trace quantities could endanger wildlife, humans
By Jeff Donn, Associated Press | March 10, 2008NEW YORK - An array of pharmaceuticals - including antibiotics, anticonvulsants, mood stabilizers, and sex hormones - have been found in the drinking water supplies of at least 41 million Americans, an Associated Press investigation found.
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