Land of the Free Imprisoned

By: Mormon Heretic
March 17, 2014

We like to complain about human rights abuses in Communist China or North Korea. However, it is the United States with the highest incarceration rate in the world, and it is more than 6 times larger than Communist China. (The U.S jails 743 per 100,000 Americans; China jails just 122 per 100,000.) It seems that the United States is breeding criminals at a rate 6 times faster than China, and we have the highest incarceration rate in the world. Are we doing something wrong?

I’ve been watching several documentaries on Netflix lately. Bloods and Crips said that 1 in 6 black men are jailed. No wonder there are so many single-parent households in the black community. But this isn’t just a black problem. When we put criminals in jail, many view it as a their university. The Hispanic gang MS-13 (known as World’s Most Dangerous Gang) actually doesn’t mind getting arrested, because when they are released, they know how to be better criminals. Being released from jail is a badge of honor, and these criminals gain even greater respect. In the documentary, the Clinton Administration thought it would be a good idea to release these prisoners back to their home countries. The result: mega criminals with increasing violence have turned MS-13 into an international crime ring. It’s not simply an American problem any more. We’ve exported MS-13 to Mexico and Central America now.

And lest the Whites be left out, the Aryan Brotherhood runs an international drug operation from inside prison. They not only smuggle drugs inside prison, but organize murders, prostitution, and drug running. It seems like a good idea to lock up criminals, but let’s think about it again. We are putting the worst actors into a world where they teach each other how to be more evil. Both MS-13 and Aryan Brotherhood gang members have organized murders on prison guards, prisoners in other cities, and opponents “free” from jail. (Let’s not forget that even Warren Jeffs, hardly a criminal in the same sense as these gangs, runs the FLDS Church with an iron fist from jail. Apparently it’s not that hard to run an organization from jail.)

So prison officials are trying a new tactic: solitary confinement. But in California, 4 prisoners in solitary still managed to organize a large-scale hunger strike to protest their mistreatment even though they are not supposed to communicate with anyone. Somehow, these masterminds find a way. There is even some research that long-term isolation makes prisoners not only more mentally ill, but more violent. European countries not only don’t jail as many people as the United States does, but don’t resort to solitary confinement because it seems to make the problem worse.

When Joseph Smith ran for President, one of the things he advocated was rehabbing prisoners. Was he right? I’m fine with that for non-violent offenders. Yet some will complain that we should educate the law-abiding poor, rather than the prison population. I understand the sentiment, but many of the poor are the in jail because they turn to drugs or prostitution because they aren’t educated in the first place. Drugs are very lucrative, and if you’re bad a school, the choice of criminal activity is quite appealing. And if you are stuck in jail, rotting away, what are you going to do when you get out? You’re going to turn to crime. And it seems that there is some benefit to rehab.

recidivism rates for released prisoners in the United States of America is 60% compared with 50% in the United Kingdom. The report attributed the lower recidivism rate in the UK to a focus on rehabilitation and education of prisoners compared with the US focus on punishment, deterrence and keeping potentially dangerous individuals away from society.

White Supremecist Curtis Allgier serving a life sentence for killing corrections officer Stephen Anderson.

White Supremecist Curtis Allgier serving a life sentence for killing corrections officer Stephen Anderson.

Patrick Henry is famous for saying “Give me liberty, or give me death!” Is death a better option for violent gang members? In my mind, if someone organizes a hit from inside prison, this should be an automatic death penalty. In a recent case here in Utah, a white supremacist inmate faked a back injury, so he was escorted to the University of Utah for an MRI. He somehow managed to get the police officer’s gun and killed him. He was captured hours later. He pleaded guilty and has a life sentence. I think that such violent prisoners should be put to death quickly. I know that statistics show that blacks and men get executed at higher rates that women or other minorities, but in clear cut cases like this, I think this monster should not be allowed to breathe another breath. And I don’t want to keep spending money on more prisons. And exporting them to other countries so they can spread their violence (while well-intended at the time) is another bad idea.

What are your thoughts? Was Joseph Smith right? What do we do with violent criminals?

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38 Responses to Land of the Free Imprisoned

  1. Arnaud Amalric on March 17, 2014 at 6:15 AM

    Kill them all and let God sort them out

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  2. Howard on March 17, 2014 at 8:47 AM

    We poisoned ourselves with the lead additive in gasoline. It’s use and nonuse closely corrolates with both the rise and now the decline in crime rates. It lowers IQ and it is suspected in ADHD type symptoms. Since lead was removed crime rates are falling.

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  3. Mormon Heretic on March 17, 2014 at 8:54 AM

    Howard, they still use lead in China, and then they send us their lead-paint toys. I’m not sure there is a very strong correlation there.

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  4. Hedgehog on March 17, 2014 at 9:23 AM

    The US allow lead painted toys?
    Banned in Europe. We have strict regulations on toy safety: https://www.gov.uk/toy-manufacturers-and-their-responsibilities

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  5. Howard on March 17, 2014 at 9:39 AM

    MH lead paint isn’t desirable but unless you sand it unprotected or try to eat it it is far less effective delivery method than airborn lead which is breathed. The more concentrated the emissions (read intercity) the greater the problem.

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  6. fbisti on March 17, 2014 at 9:53 AM

    Your opening argument: “We like to complain about human rights abuses in Communist China or North Korea. However, it is the United States with the highest incarceration rate in the world,” That, while not uncommon, is so completely specious that I hesitated to read further. While a thoughtful commentator can criticize our laws and certain sentencing requirements or patterns, there is no evidence that nearly all incarcerated did not actually break the law. Even if the U.S. has overly harsh sentencing and more active law enforcement than all others, it is comparable in no rational way to the state of human rights in China, North Korea, etc.

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  7. Nate on March 17, 2014 at 10:32 AM

    Great post with some great questions. I wish I had answers.

    Maybe if prisons were harsher, with a greater added focus on rehabilitation and reeducation. Eliminate capital punishment, because of the exorbitantly expensive appeals process, and use the saved money to create more effective rehabilitation plans. Life imprisonment is a fraction of the cost of actual capital punishment.

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  8. Howard on March 17, 2014 at 10:58 AM

    Heavy Metals and Crime

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  9. Jared on March 17, 2014 at 11:36 AM

    For those who look to the scriptures for answers the Book of Mormon provides insight how the Nephites dealt out justice.

    They preached the word of God to prisoners. 3 Nephi 5:4-6

    They would execute those who refused to defend their country. Alma 51:14-18

    They would execute those who sought replacing a government based on principles of liberty with a king. Alma 46:34-35

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  10. Mormon Heretic on March 17, 2014 at 12:26 PM

    Hedgehog, no the US has banned lead paint. However, a few years ago, toys manufactured in China for American companies were found to contain lead paint. It was an embarrassment for China, but indicates the problems they have with quality control. China has some of the worst air pollution in the world, and if they’re making lead toys for the U.S, why wouldn’t they make lead toys for Chinese consumers as well, where there are far fewer processes to check for lead?

    Howard, I’m not denying that lead causes developmental problems that might lead to crime. But I suspect that China has a much worse problem with lead than the U.S. does, yet has 1/6 of the incarceration rate. So even if there is a tie between lead gasoline and crime, it comes no where close to explaining why the U.S. seems to breed more criminals than the Chinese. I think you’re over-hyping the impact of lead. Correlation does not imply causality. What’s the real cause of our high incarceration rate?

    fbisti, glad you kept reading, despite the sensationalism in my first paragraph, and I hope you saw the real intent of the post. I do think that our current prison sentencing guidelines are an expensive problem that the Tea Party Types seem to ignore in their rush to cut spending–but they’re all for locking people up in expensive prisons. I also think that it is a little more than a little ironic that this country that prides itself on being the most free country in the world has locked up 6 times more people than Communist China. Are we really the land of the free with such a high incarceration rate? I don’t think Patrick Henry would like these numbers.

    Nate, I can appreciate that the appeals process is expensive, but it seems to me that we are executing the wrong people, and I’d like to see an expedited death penalty track for people who commit murder while incarcerated. I think it would be a better deterrent than simply 1st degree murder. Conspiratorial gang members who commit murder in jail need a better deterrent than life in prison that Curtis Allgier got, and I think the evidence in jailhouse murders is much more reliable than we often get in many 1-time murderers. I’m not sure what you mean by having harsher prisons. I don’t think it is a country club, nor would I ever want to visit, let alone live there.

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  11. Kristine A on March 17, 2014 at 12:48 PM

    Do I believe in the rehabilitation of prisoners. I’ll share two examples:

    1) I read a manuscript that has been submitted for publishing called “Letters to a Lifer”. A bishop’s wife in Pennsylvania, through randomness, ended up a pen pal of a 28 yr old man who had been given a life sentence as an accomplice in a murder at age 15. The bishop’s family has now “adopted” him as part of her family and they are involved in the Campaign for Fair Sentencing of Youth, which advocates for rehab programs and more lenient sentencing requirements for underage offenses. http://letterstoalifer.blogspot.com/

    2) My sister is an addict. For the last 10 years she bounced in and out of jail with numerous attempts to get back on her feet. In jail the prisoners just wait out their time while making dice out of toilet paper and toothpaste and talking about making and doing drugs again. It wasn’t until she was sentenced to state prison that they had her participate in a rehabilitation program. I can definitely say she’s now got her head on straighter than most regular people I know. Now, she may not be a violent offender, but it’s a personal experience of rehab working.

    PS In reference to crime rates and heavy metals, not saying it’s accurate or not — but even Freakonomics has pretty good statistics and arguments showing the correlation between passage of Roe v. Wade (legalized abortion for unwanted pregnancies) and a drop in crime rates. There’s a high correlation between unwanted children and crime. FYI

    PPS Jails and prisons are nothing like what popular culture understands them to be. A bunch of lazy prisoners eating steak and watching unlimited cable on the taxpayers’ dime? Yeah right, my sister has to earn wages or have family put money on her account to make phone calls, pay for paper, envelopes, stamps, shampoo, soap, etc. all at exorbitant rates. For every day in prison the state also charges her, and when released will have a massive bill to pay back to the gov’t via payroll deduction, a felony on her record that will likely limit her successful reintegration into society, etc. I have more nightmare stories of solitary confinement being handed out based on false pretenses from someone in authority. Being the sister of an inmate who visits prisons regularly humanizes prisoners and their families. I teared up at my last visit as the families were waiting in the visiting room and one by one prisoners would enter the room and families would jump up and hug and cry and love each other. I hadn’t seen a stronger testimony about the importance of family than I did that day.

    I realize this post is in regards to violent offenders, which I haven’t really addressed. But by in large our bloated prison system is due to our failed War on Drugs, and criminalizing addicts. Addicts don’t change without intervention. Jail isn’t intervention. I support Nate’s suggestion of getting rid of capital punishment and related appeals costs and sink those into rehab.

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  12. alice on March 17, 2014 at 1:07 PM

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/05/080527201839.htm

    Howard is right. There is very strong correlation.

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  13. Bren on March 17, 2014 at 1:14 PM

    It doesn’t help that when the Government turns over a prison to a private corporation there is usually an occupancy quota that needs to be filled (usually around 95%).

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  14. Jeff Spector on March 17, 2014 at 1:46 PM

    I wonder how lead affects personal responsibility? Many of us were exposed to lead-based paint over the years and most of us are not criminals. So, it is an interesting leap to make. Seems like yet another excuse-based approach.

    It is a chicken and egg situation. Where years from now, it will be the breakdown of the nuclear family and the easy availability of drugs that will be noted as the cause of this problem.

    BTW, the term “Howard is right” is officially banned from W&T…. :)

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  15. Howard on March 17, 2014 at 2:45 PM

    MH,
    There is a 20 year lag time. Apparently the damage is done during childhood in areas where there are high concentrations of vehicle emissions of lead such as the intercity near freeways and highways, the crime increase (or decrease) is seen 20 years later.

    America’s Real Criminal Element: Lead

    Leaded petrol for road vehicles was officially phased-out in China in 2000 and China is seeing a significant rise in crime.

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  16. Howard on March 17, 2014 at 2:52 PM

    Jeff Spector wrote: I wonder how lead affects personal responsibility? This is a good question. The link in #8 says sub-clinical levels of lead poisoning are linked to learning disabilities and attention deficit disorder and both are related to deviant behavior.

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  17. Mormon Heretic on March 17, 2014 at 3:01 PM

    Kristine, excellent comments, and I do think that the criminalization of drugs, rather than rehab has increased our incarceration rate unnecessarily. A researcher I spoke with at the U of Utah said that we use the jail system as our mental health system, and there are certainly big problems with that. I do think that rehab would be a wiser use of tax dollars, rather than 3 strikes and your out for some petty drug offenses. We are paying a lot of money to house these inmates. We tried prohibition, and it didn’t work. Perhaps we should follow Colorado’s example, tax certain drugs like marijuana, and not only would we balance out budgets with higher tax revenues, but we could spend less money housing non-violent drug offenders. I agree with Bren that privatizing prisons is a bad incentive to increase jails, rather than decrease them as the gospel would have us do.

    Howard and Alice, I’m not disputing the studies you cite, but how do you explain the lower incarceration of China which has serious lead pollution problems? Kristine, I did a post on that Freakonomics episode, Abortion and Crime. Just like lead exposure, it has a 20 year lag and the Freakonomics guys think it is a better predictor of the crime drop. (To be fair, they didn’t discuss lead per se. It could be that both abortion and lead could explain the crime drop, as well as other factors.)

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  18. Howard on March 17, 2014 at 3:09 PM

    MH it’s pretty hard to respond to your question given your broad assertion of serious lead pollution problems in China. How is it being ingested? How long has it been going on? Where are the heaviest concentrations? Links please.

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  19. Mormon Heretic on March 17, 2014 at 3:20 PM

    Howard, you already provided a link about crime in China, but it doesn’t quite explain the 6 times difference in incarceration rate. Not only that, but they have a brutal abortion policy–that seems to support the Freakonomics guys hypothesis better than the lead hypothesis. They’ve had a 1 child policy for how long now? It’s a lot longer than 20 years….and they’ve had leaded gasoline for a lot longer than we have too. The fact that their economy is taking off and polluting the environment now is well-known. So sure, let’s blame lead for some of the crime increase in China, but the incarceration rate is still 6 times lower.

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  20. Howard on March 17, 2014 at 3:43 PM

    MH asks: how do you explain the lower incarceration of China which has serious lead pollution problems?

    Here is how Supremacy Claus answered your question:

    My 2007 study showed the same relationship between lead exposure and crime trends in every one of nine nations where I could find reliable blood lead, lead emissions, and crime trend data. The crime data from many nations are suspect, and blood lead and emissions data are even harder to find. Almost all data from China are suspect, with Senior Chinese Officials acknowledging that they look at electricity use to measure economic trends because they don’t trust their own reported data on GDP. China claims to have a low crime rate, but acknowledges having an extremely high rate of executions per capita, suggesting that crime is a bigger problem than they admit.

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  21. Mormon Heretic on March 17, 2014 at 4:07 PM

    Ah, so they execute people rather than imprison them…. Well that does explain things a bit…. I do think they don’t put up with MS-13, Aryan Brotherhood, or Bloods and Crips, so maybe execution is the answer to a high incarceration rate…… :)

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  22. Howard on March 17, 2014 at 4:13 PM

    The Wall Street Journal 2011: Hard Times, Fewer Crimes

    John Donohue and Steven Levitt have advanced an additional explanation for the reduction in black crime: the legalization of abortion, which resulted in black children’s never being born into circumstances that would have made them likelier to become criminals. I have ignored that explanation because it remains a strongly contested finding, challenged by two economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and by various academics.

    Tests have shown that the amount of lead in Americans’ blood fell by four-fifths between 1975 and 1991. A 2007 study by the economist Jessica Wolpaw Reyes contended that the reduction in gasoline lead produced more than half of the decline in violent crime during the 1990s in the U.S. and might bring about greater declines in the future. Another economist, Rick Nevin, has made the same argument for other nations.

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  23. Howard on March 17, 2014 at 4:42 PM

    US incarceration rates have been declining.

    The juvenile incarceration in the US rate has fallen 41 percent in the past 15 years, reaching the lowest level since 1975 Christian Science Monitor

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  24. Geoff -A on March 17, 2014 at 5:08 PM

    Joseph Smith also wanted prison inmates taught a trade before they are released. I thought this was a really good idea, as it would give them the satisfaction of creativity, as well as a means of supporting themselves.

    Yes the land of the free for the privledged.

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  25. Douglas on March 17, 2014 at 6:13 PM

    #11 (Kristine) – I can’t feel sorry for your sister even if her crime was mere “possession” of illicit drugs or related (ex: possession with “intent” to sell). Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time. Trouble is, it seems that her family, yourself included, is in effect being “punished” far worse than she. I hope she recalls your efforts to visit her, be supportive, and how it’s weighed heavy on your heart if once out she’s tempted to “use” again. She has to pay through the nose for luxuries that you and I can get at Wal-Mart for a lot cheaper? Again, too bad. Maybe she’ll appreciate her freedom. Having to repay the taxpayers for the “three hots and a cot” (quality of same I wouldn’t necessarily vouch for)? You betcha. She made it necessary to be incarcerated, in the view of a judge and/or jury, IAW the law. She need only look into the mirror when she wants to know who is to blame.

    Prison SHOULD be harsh. Fair, yes (I’m not naive as to the abuse and explotation of helpless prisoners by corrupt staff and fellow inmates, but, again, who’s to blame for their predicament?), but HARSH. It should be a place you don’t want to go. The trouble with the liberal sob-sister mentality towards many of these malefactors is that they’re good…oh, they’re good at making with the proverbial sad puppy eyes and calling attention to “poor, poor, pitiful me”. They’re good at exploiting naivite and compassion of family and friends. I would that they were just as skilled at becoming truly pentinent. It’s called a PENITENTitary, but I seldom see much repentance going on.

    I’ve got a family member that just got out of the joint. I hope that he’s changed, but I’m not holding my breath. Compassion is for those that merit it. Even our Savior isn’t stupid (well…duh…). He is willing to extend His mercy to all that call upon Him, but He won’t be mocked.

    Of course, I’m very much in favor of legalization of recreational drugs, never mind the harm they cause, which is considerable. A matter of it shouldn’t be a crime to possess anything, unless somehow that poses a clear and present danger. Keeping a B61 Thermonuclear Bomb in my barn might just be considered a criminally reckless act, gee, I dunno. I support the right of tweakers, potheads, and other assorted ilk to be idiots, so long as they don’t inflict harm resulting from their idiocy. I want prison for those that steal, rob, rape, assult, batter, and other crimes where there’s actually a victim.

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  26. Douglas on March 17, 2014 at 6:52 PM

    #13 – Breen, if you think that only Privatized Prisons find a way to “meet their quota” or otherwise justify their existence, you’re naive and misled into identifying the “Evil Corporations” as culprits. The entire Prison-Industrial Complex, whether any privatization is involved, fairly much does that. Cops, Judge, other court employees, and the entire system of Prisons and Jails are testament to the principle that when the only tool you have is a hammer, everthing looks like a nail.

    But what else can we do? Certainly we don’t want Government to fail in its primary duty, which is to protect us from enemies, foreign and DOMESTIC. Some are sent to prison who more properly belong in a mental institution. Others who ought to be locked up and the door welded in place yet run the streets free to wreak further mayhem. The system is screwed up.

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  27. Kristine A on March 17, 2014 at 8:14 PM

    Teaching trades in jail/prison is a genius idea! The biggest cause of relapse is lack of opportunity for former criminals (lack of skills, lack of employers willing to hire, etc.).

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  28. Mormon Heretic on March 17, 2014 at 11:16 PM

    #25, I can’t think of a point of view more diametrically opposed to Joseph Smith.

    You claim that “I’m very much in favor of legalization of recreational drugs”, yet “Prison SHOULD be harsh.” Why do you favor harsh prison when you favor legalization for drug addicts? This makes no sense.

    Are you saying that prison is not harsh? What pray tell would you add to the harshness? Chain gangs? Forced labor? Medical experimentation? Should the prison population be forced to donate organs? What part of harsh are the prisons not doing?

    Should the polygamists of Joseph’s day have been subject harsh treatment? After all, polygamists “made it necessary to be incarcerated, in the view of a judge and/or jury, IAW the law. [Polygamists of Joseph's day] need only look into the mirror when [he/]she wants to know who is to blame.”

    Do you honestly claim to follow THE prophet? Do you honestly claim to belong to the same church as Joseph? Because your views about prison are 180 degrees opposite of what he advocated.

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  29. Mormon Heretic on March 17, 2014 at 11:18 PM

    Kristine, I’ve heard some people argue that employers should no longer ask about prison sentences, precisely because prisoners have a high unemployment rate. Tough, Caveman Doug says, but then former inmates return to crime (because how are they supposed to make a living?) and we send them back to jail at taxpayer expense. The cycle resumes. But Doug is fine with that….. HE likes to pay higher taxes to support the prison industrial complex. Apparently he’s all for the economics of prisons.

    Now I admit to being conflicted about this idea. Rapists shouldn’t get jobs with children. Thieves shouldn’t get jobs at banks. So I understand the concern of employers. But we can’t seem to build prisons fast enough. Housing prisoners is a big drain on taxpayers, and I’d rather the prisoners could get a skill (say construction, plumbing, etc) in which they could contribute to society, rather than drain it. But Doug’s sense of justice seems that rotting away in jail is more economical to taxpayers.

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  30. Douglas on March 18, 2014 at 10:35 AM

    #28,29 (Heretic). – Yes, I DO follow not only the teachings of the DEAD prophet (Joseph Smith), but also he that is the legitimate successor currently serving as President of the Church (Tommy Monson).

    Chain Gangs? Works for “Sheriff Joe” Arpaio who runs the Maricopa County Jail. From what I understand, there’s a waiting list, even for females! I like his attiude…no coffee (they can have all the coffee they can afford when they get out), nothing other than PBS, Disney, and CNN on the prison TV network, and if they complain about how hot the “tent city” gets, reminds them that brave men and women serving in the military endure worse in the Middle East, so SHADDUP! Yet the harshness that I speak of is that cons are locked up with their fellow cons, and the primary job of the correctional staff is to keep them inside. That alone makes the setting fairly grim, don’t you think?

    Heretic, your name-calling and strawman arguments reveal you as intellectually dishonest. No, I don’t ‘support’ the prison-industrial complex, that’s a great deal of what’s screwed up about the system. Ever heard of CCPOA (California Correctional Peace Officers Assocation). One of the strongest public-sector unions that’s ever existed, and they’ve had this state by the proverbial short hairs for decades, and not merely for wages, benefits, and pensions (which are huge)…my son-in-law’s mother, recently retired as a correctional officer (not even a Sergeant), makes over $100K in RETIREMENT after 25 years of service (she’s 55). Some Correctional Lieutenants and Captains are pulling down over $200K/year, and continue THAT in retirement. Pay’s really good, at least in the “Golden” State, to mix it up with the bad boys. When any effort is made to de-criminalize pot or other recreational substances, any guesses as to who is at the forefront of the opposition? Do you think they’re interested primarily in justice and/or public safety, or what justifies their exhorbitant compensation?

    A friend from years back stated his opposition to building more prisons…”they’ll find a way to FILL them”. At the time, I would have said, “well, duh, the current ones are overcrowed to the point where prisoners are winning lawsuits…”. But maybe this guy had it right. It seems that there’s too many parties that have financial interest in constructing and operating prisons that there’s undue influence in the criminal (in)justice system. And I’m certainly not soft on criminals, but it seems we’re not putting enough of those that need to go and stay there, and putting too either nonviolent “offenders”, often whose “offense” is their own penchant for forbidden intoxicants, or even those that aren’t crminals at all, but merely mentally ill, are behind thrown behind bars simply b/c they can’t be allowed to run free but there’s no other place for them. The “economics” I’m in favor of re: prisons is what it takes to safely incarcerate the violent, dangerous felons. For the rest, work-release and restitution would be just as ‘punitive’ and far more productive. Learn a trade? Fine, but what duty does the public owe a malefactor for vocational training? I’d rather see public monies FIRST expended for vocational training, if any are spent at all, on the LAW-ABIDING first. Geez, we have all too much of the ‘entitlement’ mentality infecting and destroying the moral fabric of America today, do we need to reinforce it upon those that have a ‘debt to society’ to pay? Let the released cons swing a mop or dig ditches and go to night school like any kid fresh out of high school does.

    If Government stinks at running social-welfare programs for the (generally) law-abding, I fail to see how it will succeed for the crminal element. Nice in theory, doesn’t work in practice, b/c you’re dealing with VERY flawd “hew-mon” beings. The trouble with any setup that any moron could work with is that you get only morons to work with.

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  31. Mormon Heretic on March 18, 2014 at 11:43 AM

    Mark Twain once said, “it is better to keep your mouth shut and be thought an idiot, than to open it up and remove all doubt.”. Doug, seriously you should take that advice. Your straw man argument was not only self contradictory, but you failed to tie your harshness argument in a way that shows Joseph Smith would support the nonsense your have spewed here. I now bow out of the conversation. I like intelligent conversation, and I’m not having it with you.

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  32. Douglas on March 18, 2014 at 12:40 PM

    #31 -0 you just don’t like being “owned”, as the kiddies put it.

    Who can say what Joseph Smith WOULD have said, considering that crime was not the public issue in his day that it is now? Nor was the Government as pervasive. Law enforcement as we know it today was virtually non-existent. Some, not all states, had by 1844 constructed prisons…many were based on the “Penitentiary” model then in fashion in the UK, which envisioned them as more “men’s colonies” where the cons quietly reflected on their misspent lives. Nice theory…often the result was a Bastille-like hell-hole where even I in my most vengeful of moods couldn’t consign the most heinous criminal to suffer therein.

    What we have today, flawed, yea, VERY flawed, is still far better than how we dealt with criminals in the Prophet’s day. Horse thives WERE commonly hanged or otherwise summarily executed, by a sheriff’s posse if a vigilante mob didn’t get to them first. Was not the Prophet and his brother Hyrum’s own demise brought about by a vigilante mob with the tacit consent of the local constabulary? If “Brother Joseph” could talk to use today and had the inclination, I do wonder what he’d have to say on the subject. But THAT’S why we have a present-day prophet and the other GA’s, and I suspect Smith would say, “heed them”. I also suspect that in reality you know very little about the Prophet and his work, only what you conveniently filter in liberal politics. However, the scriptures, especially the Doctrine and Covenants, and a wealth of Church history are there for you, so have it, brother.

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  33. Mormon Heretic on March 18, 2014 at 12:52 PM

    “Who can say what Joseph Smith WOULD have said?” Uh, go read up on his Presidential Platform. I mentioned it in the OP, and I’ve written in much greater detail about it in the past. We know exactly what the platform said. In addition to prisons, he had a great idea to avoid the Civil War, cut the size of Congress, and many other interesting tidbits: http://mormonheretic.org/2009/04/21/joseph-smiths-presidential-platform-2/

    I can’t possibly compete with someone who not only doesn’t know the facts, but makes them up, contradicts himself constantly, rambles endlessly about all sorts of stuff not related to the topic at hand, all the while quoting fictional movie characters (like a bad imitation of Mystery Science Theater.) That’s intelligent conversation. Yup, you own me. I give up. You win.

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  34. Douglas on March 18, 2014 at 2:55 PM

    Smith’s idea was hardly original, not that it made him any less a Prophet or Presidential candidate. He was in line with an idea that was gaining acceptance in the US.
    Heretic, I don’t “make up” anything, especially with the rather outrageous compensation packages that California Correctional Officers have going. I get the pleasure of writing yet another fat cheque to “Uncle Jerry (Brown)” this year for the privlege of living and WORKING in the great State of Californi(cate) this year. Perhaps I got it all wrong…maybe instead of an arduous Engineering program, then Graduate school, then thirty years of various assignments working as a DoD civilian employee, I should have signed on with CA DOC at age 21 as a correctional officer. After 25 years, if I hadn’t made Sergeant, I could have been retired on 80%pay, and if I was too stupid (or honest, sometimes that’s the same) to work out a “disability” claim that would fatten my “retirement” to nearly 100%. If having made Sergeant or better I could be pulling down in excess of $125K right now.
    My mother, God rest her soul, was right. At least about “forget college grads are a dime a dozen”. She advised me to become a plumber. They’ll be needed as long as folks go to the bathroom and bathe, right? Well, she knew nothing about walking “the most dangerous (but profitable) beat in California”…if you’re going to be a jerk, be one with a uniform, badge, baton, and taser, and get WELL PAID for it! Maybe I decry the system solely b/c I missed the opportunity to get in on the scam myself.

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  35. Mormon Heretic on March 18, 2014 at 11:21 PM

    “Smith’s idea was hardly original, not that it made him any less a Prophet or Presidential candidate. He was in line with an idea that was gaining acceptance in the US.”

    You made that point up.

    Your tangent on corrections officer pensions is completely off topic and irrelevant to the OP.

    “Penitentiary” comes from the Quakers. They thought that solitary confinement, with just a window in the ceiling (a window to God) would allow prisoners to become more penitent. It didn’t work, and in fact, they found that the prisoners not only weren’t penitent, but were more violent. Europeans abandoned solitary confinement because it was found to be completely counter-productive. Solitary confinement actually breeds more criminal behavior, not less. That’s why the U.S. harsh prison systems are making the incarceration rate worse, not better. Check out the Netflix link I posted in the OP.

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  36. Douglas on March 19, 2014 at 5:45 PM

    I would tend to agree on solitary confinement. I feel it should be used ONLY when the con is such a behavior problem or his gang activity poses such a “clear and present danger” to fellow inmates, staff, or the public and if there’s no viable alternative. Even then, it ought to be considered temporary. In practice, as for example, at Pelican Bay State Prison, where’s it’s institutionalized into the SHU (Secure Housing Unit), it’s a way of life, and since many there are lifers, quite literally. The legality of this CA DOC practice is, in fact, under serious challenge:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pelican_Bay_State_Prison#Lawsuit

    I will admit to being “conflicted” on this. On the one hand, these are despicably violent offenders who can’t even make it in max security prisons. It’s hard to feel sorry for them if they go batso in solitary. OTOH, since many, will, in fact, get “out”, the wisdom of institutionalized brutality is highly questionable if it turns out violent schizos to wreak more havoc on the streets. Obviously the morality of deliberate, institutionalized brutuality is questionable and typically repugnant, especially to those that believe in the Savior’s love and mercy. Just being confined with the other crooks and sociopaths makes prison no cakewalk (at least for most), and that doesn’t bother me of itself. What bothers me is where the correctional officers become as brutal and psychotic, if not more so, than their charges. Witness the said episode of “gladiator fights” at Corcoran:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/California_State_Prison,_Corcoran#History

    (Sorry, don’t do Netflix. Amazon Prime, baby…)

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  37. Bren on March 20, 2014 at 11:27 AM

    Douglas, not sure why you put Evil Corporations in quotes. I didn’t say that. Yes the prison system is scewed up, no matter who runs it. But as far as I know we don’t have documentation that shows the State needing to maintain a occupancy quota. It might exist, I don’t know.

    Ultimately most people do not pay attention to this segment of our society because it does not effect them. I think if more people knew that prisions HAD to maintain a certain number of inmates then maybe we would wake up.

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  38. Douglas on March 20, 2014 at 3:19 PM

    #37 – I put “Evil Corporations” in quotes b/c Corporate America is the whipping boy for the self-styled “Progressives”. Prisons for Profit isn’t necessarily a bad thing, IF, in fact, the taxpayers are getting a better deal than through the traditional bureaucracy. Progressives, being nothin more than “Commie Lite”, see ANY profit as wrong and/or evil when it’s the result of free enterprise, hence why the quote marks. However, the case for privatized corrections isn’t panning out. There’s no evidence that their more effective in terms of violence or recidivsm.

    To not see the prison-industrial complex as not inventing ways to keep prisons full is being naive about the nature of bureaucracy. Cops, correctional officers, probation officers, etc and especially their UNIONS aren’t in the “Going out of business, Business”. Sure, since prison construction is a time-consuming and capital-intensive activity, it should be no surprise if bed space seems to lag demand. But there’s more afoot…California, after the tragic Polly Klaas case (her killer, Richard Allan Davis, is STILL alive, WHY?), put out “Three Strikes” and many states have followed suit. This has filled up the spaces at CA DOC facilities for men, and is turning it also into a geriatric facility for cons. The rate for violent crimes in CA HAS dropped dramatically, but is it b/c the “worst of the worst” are being locked up for good, OR, is it b/c of a drop off in the portion of young males as opposed to overall population (that disproportionately commit crimes)? Who can say? But thanks to either “smart” law enforcement or moral panic, California has a far higher portion of its residents behind bars than ever. Even if a great deal of them are too infirm or mellowed out to do significant harm..or so we’d think. Ask the families of Mary Vincent (fortunately alive, unfortunable w/o the ‘factory original’ arms) and Roxanne Hayes (murdered). At least my former home state, Florida, did what had to be done in a relatively timely manner.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawrence_Singleton

    “Most people” should pay attention to this issue, due to high costs to the taxpayer and/or negative societal effects. Too many prisons are “out of sight, out of mind”. It shouldn’t take either having a loved one behind bars, or worse, a loved one maimed or dead on account of these criminals to understand the criminal justice system is neither just, or fighting crime adequately, and it sure ain’t cost-effective.

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