BootsnAll Travel Network


This hot news item got my attention. It points to the execrably stupid fact that the USA incarcerates more people per capita than anywhere else in the world. This is an invitation to my friends John Speer (who is on the verge of gigantic life changes and may not have time) and Stephen Brody to chime in on this topic, about which they are quite knowledgable. Anyone else with strong feelings, opinions, knowledge, or experience of the subject is welcome to have their say, too.

Tags: , ,

4 responses to “Prisons”

  1. RetiredSyd says:

    Well clearly we won’t get this whole crime thing under control until everyone is behind bars! But we’re well on our way, huh?

  2. I like the preceding comment! Only too true I’m afraid …..

    Nothing very new here, at least thirty years ago the United States headed the rates of incarceration in the western world, closely followed by Great Britain . For comparative purposes here I think we can disregard China, where the statistics are perhaps even more unreliable and in any case dependent on a different ethical system, if any at all.

    The Criminal Justice business supports a very large work force which includes also an academic sub-industry of criminologists, sociologists and so on, amongst all of whom it would be fair enough to say that a prime consideration is keeping themselves in employment. That’s one reason why ‘crime’ continues to ‘grow’; there are quite a few others less easy to analyze. In any case, for all their busy activity over many years the academics have produced very little in the way of useful results, partly by carefully avoiding the real issues. What they have established, as far as anything can be, is that there are no identifiable personal ‘causes’ of a criminal propensity if indeed such a thing exists at all, and that none of the customary measures for discouraging or preventing crime are very effective, largely what common sense would tell anyone in the first place. Except theoretically the more fundamental questions about what constitutes ‘criminality’, why it is that certain misbehaviours are selected as ‘crimes’ where others are not, why it appears to occur in waves, its relation to broader historical and social conditions and so on, have received little or no practical attention. It is not coincidental, surely, that the second half of the eighteenth century, during the years approaching Revolution, was extremely violent and unsafe, improving in the nineteenth as a higher level of general prosperity was attained with ‘crime’ reaching perhaps an all-time low after the last War, when there were other more important things to worry about. Since then there has been a steady increase, or anyway in the recorded statistics, themselves subject to query. Nor can it escape notice that several European countries, notably Holland and Scandinavia, enjoy a relatively low rate of crime with minimal rates of incarceration and defy the traditional Anglo-Saxon claim that without punishment, or deterrence to use a politer word, “society would fall apart”. The truth more likely is that disintegrating or insecurely-maintained societies produce more crime, not the other way about. Here, as the most extreme example, we have to look at the United States, a country living in an acute state of fear, confusion and, in spite of appearances, social disharmony, the greed of a few supported by the slavery of the many maintained in a state of ignorance by fraudulent promises of ‘success’ for obedience. In the meantime, the most wicked crimes, in terms of large-scale theft and official ‘terrorism’, go not only undetected but held up as models of how to get on. It’s hardly surprising, to uphold that state of affairs, that any frustrated individual who protests or gives up in the struggle should find himself in a maximum security jail as a dangerous threat.

    I can’t speak with much authority about who exactly populates North American prisons, but I can with reference to Britain, where something like ninety per cent of the prison population could better be described as minor nuisances and failures of conventional respectability than hardened villains. There are plenty of those about, but they’re all at liberty. As for the disproportionate numbers of black inmates, that can better be ascribed to other reasons than innate anti-social tendencies and which I probably don’t have to elucidate. The whole subject is not, obviously, a simple or uncontroversial one, but it might be more so were it examined straightforwardly and not as a sensationalised vehicle for inducing adherence to the status quo or as propaganda for political opportunists.

  3. Kathryn says:

    Bravo! Well-said, both of you!

  4. Rachel says:

    Chrystos, one of my favorite poets, mentions that America loves to warehouse its people. Warehouses exist for young people and old people, people who are “too” too of whatever isn’t in current vogue.
    I volunteered at a county jail where two deputies told me that most of the time when they arrested women, the arrests they made were for prostitution and drug related “crimes.” Then they laughed and said that most of the women “were”……….then they made the physical motion of twisting their fingers in circles near their temples, like people do when they are insinuation someone is mentally ill, which is how some people respond to anyone who doesn’t fit their view of “normalcy” whatever that is. So my response years later after I’ve thought that situation through, is that if someone is mentally ill and homeless on the streets, what is so criminal about trying to survive. It isn’t like folks could just even walk in and get a job somewhere if they are so mentally ill.

    Further, I watched a woman dash through a store recently toward a friend saying “I’m so excited, I’m so excited!” And two other women looked at each other, cocked their heads and frowned, saying “some people are straaaaaaaaaaange.” I said, “some people are very excited and express their feelings.” I agree with John that folks can get arrested just for protesting, and be labeled as “dangerous.” I’ve seen it happen, and in Portland only a few years ago, peaceful protesters were pepper sprayed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *