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I will no longer recite the Pledge of Allegiance to my country without amending the final sentence. Instead of "with liberty and justice for all," I will say "with incarceration and injustice for too many."

Lyrics from Native American folksinger Buffy Sainte Marie's "My Country Tis of Thy People You're Dying" echo in my mind as I see the stars and bars waving in the wind. "[…]hands on our hearts we salute you your victory-choke on your blue white and scarlet hypocrisy." To sing "my country tis of thee sweet land of liberty" is to speak with a twisted tongue.

Justice is not only blind—she is gagged. Freedom is denied to many of our citizens who remain shackled, bound, and who suffer cruel and inhumane treatment. There are dogs in animal shelters who receive better treatment and have more space than some inmates who are locked away in solitary.

Too many of us stood idly by as we allowed our nation to be crowned "Number One in the World" in prisoners.

Criminal InJustice Kos, a weekly series here on Daily Kos, each Wednesday covers the statistics and information about our "Incarceration Nation" in depth.

INCARCERATION NATION
The United States, which has less than 5 percent of the world’s population, has 25% of its prisoners. This is the highest incarceration rate in the world.
Over 2.4 million persons are in state or federal prisons and jails - a rate of 751 out of every 100,000. Another 5 million are under some sort of correctional supervision such as probation or parole.

The US remains the last of the post-industrial so-called First World nations that still retains the death  penalty, and we use it often. Nearly 3300 inmates await execution in 35 states and at the federal level, and it was not until the early 21st century that the US abolished capital punishment for juveniles and those with IQs below 70.

Add to these numbers the spouses, children and other family members impacted by incarceration, and the effect this has on the communities from whence the inmates came, and we begin to see how widespread the devastation is to our body politic.

All of the symbols and slogans we cherish here in the United States have little meaning as long as Justice—not blindfolded with impartiality—is simply cloaked in malice.

The battlecry of the French which was inspired by our revolution, "Liberté, égalité, fraternité," was never applied to me or my black ancestors. When black Haitians fought in our revolution, and threw off the very same French, our nation failed to support them. Our nation kept black people enslaved over 30 years after the British had abolished it, and it took a Civil War to effect emancipation.  

The French sent us "Libertas," the Statue of Liberty, to symbolize freedom, but the broken chain that lies at her feet has been forged anew into bars and barbed wire.

Reconstruction after the Civil War was replaced by the domestic terrorism of the Klan and Jim Crow. Voter disenfranchisement was effected with poll taxes, literacy tests and laws.

Forty-six years after the end of legal segregation we are subject to what law professor and civil rights advocate Michelle Alexander has dubbed "The New Jim Crow" in her seminal text The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the age of Colorblindness.

An interesting title; but though I agree with Alexander's premise, and suggest that her book should be required reading for all progressives, I take issue with her title. The status of our Criminal InJustice system goes far beyond Jim Crow.

I lived under Jim Crow—separate and unequal—but I was not shackled nor chained, nor locked in years upon endless years of solitary confinement. What we have now is far worse than Jim Crow.

We now have two USAs. One free, and the other either locked up, headed back into lockup, or destined to be locked up—do not pass Go and forget about 200 dollars.

In 2007, Pew issued this report: Public Safety, Public Spending: Forecasting America’s Prison Population 2007-2011

After a 700-percent increase in the U.S. prison population between 1970 and 2005, you’d think the nation would finally have run out of lawbreakers to put behind bars.

But according to Public Safety, Public Spending: Forecasting America’s Prison Population 2007- 2011, a first-of-its-kind projection, state and federal prisons will swell by more than 192,000 inmates over the next five years.

This 13-percent jump triples the projected growth of the general U.S. population, and will raise the prison census to a total of more than 1.7 million people. Imprisonment levels are expected to keep rising in all but four states, reaching a national rate of 562 per 100,000, or one of every 178 Americans.

As states struggle with budgetary problems the lure of privatizing prisons grows stronger. The ACLU of Ohio has taken an in-depth look at prison privatization, while states like California attempt to cope with serious overcrowding due in part to a "3 strikes ballot initiative."

SAN DIEGO– California prisons are paying the price after U.S. Supreme court ruled that the prisons must release 36,000 prisoners within five year; forcing them to either build more facilities, or outright release the prisoners.

Larry Gerston Ph.d., a political science professor at San Jose State University says that the three-strikes law may contribute to overcrowding.

    In fact, more than anything else, the problem was caused by the “three strikes” initiative passed by the voters in 1994, which allows judges to sentence twice-convicted felons to a minimum of 25 years in prison, regardless of the crime they are convicted of on the third occasion. Tens of thousands of prisoners are incarcerated because of that law, and the state has failed to build enough facilities to house them.

Inmates are fighting back and activists around the country are rallying support.
The Pelican Bay Hunger Strike continues and has spread to other facilities.

Please sign this petition: Support Prisoners on Hunger Strike at Pelican Bay State Prison.

Now is the time for all liberals, leftists, progressives and humanists to take a stand.

Let us rip the blindfold off injustice and make a commitment to redress the wrongs that have gone on for far too long.

Each one of us can take some simple steps to educate, organize and begin to make a difference.

Examine your own blogrolls, browser bookmarks, RSS feeds and Facebook links.
Add a site or organization that is actively organizing or disseminating information on changing the injustice system.

Pass the information on.

Some suggested links to get you started (please post other links you may have in comments):

Critical Resistance

The Corrections Project

Angola 3

Prison Abolitionist

Prison Culture

Black and Pink (LGBTQ)

Solitary Watch

The Innocence Project

National Jericho Movement

Women and Prison

We will not be able to change this system without an outcry. We need to pressure local, state and federal officials and agencies.  

But most important—we need to be better informed.  

Do you know how many jails and prisons there are in your state and how many people are incarcerated? What elected or appointed officials are in charge?

If the answer is no—take the time to find out. The Sentencing Project has a map that can help get you started.

"We who believe in freedom cannot rest"
Ella Baker

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 09:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by DKos Cannabis Law and Drug War Reform.

Poll

What experience do you have with the Criminal InJustice System?

9%371 votes
19%736 votes
7%274 votes
1%42 votes
0%13 votes
16%634 votes
42%1642 votes
3%116 votes

| 3831 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  should be amended to (10+ / 0-)

    with liberty and justice for all .. those with a net worth of over 5 million.

    Bad is never good until worse happens

    by dark daze on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 09:04:24 AM PDT

  •  thank you for this diary and these links (17+ / 0-)

    I just wish we could do more with our shame and outrage about this.

  •  Wasted lives, broken families, & billions (33+ / 0-)

    ...of dollars stolen from education, health, and programs that actually help people and make this a safer nation in which to live:  those are the legacies and the truths behind the horrific stats in this diary.

    Cause we find ourselves in the same old mess singin' drunken lullabies--Flogging Molly

    by dalfireplug on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 09:08:25 AM PDT

  •  I've registered inmates in four elections/ eom (18+ / 0-)

    "I have a right to my opinion!" Well, actually, no you don't. You can FORM an opinion and hold it dear, but you can't merely claim your opinion is true.

    by cityvitalsigns on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 09:08:30 AM PDT

  •  This is another one of those pesky facts: (16+ / 0-)
    ... our nation to be crowned "Number One in the World" in prisoners.

    That needs to be rubbed in the oligarchs' and politicians' faces unceasingly.

    It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

    by karmsy on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 09:08:35 AM PDT

  •  RE: Poll (6+ / 0-)

    You have no options for experiences on the enforcement side.  Why?  Seems like a recipe for a lopsided result and discussion.

    The more you learn the less you know.

    by quiet in NC on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 09:09:21 AM PDT

    •  Why should she? The system is weighted (14+ / 0-)

      toward enforcement, isn't it?  The poll's heading is specifically about the Criminal InJustice System.

      By the way, I answered more than one but also have friends and relatives who serve as police, guards, and wardens.  /shrugs

      Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.--MLK, Jr.

      by conlakappa on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 09:40:00 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I dont think your experience is uncommon (6+ / 0-)

        Working class families. I'd venture to say there are lots of of people who have LEOs  in the family as well as those who have served/are serving time  When there arent a lot of job opportunities in a community  people go one way... Or the other.

        Because the penal system doesn't rehabilitate well, there is a high rate of recidivism . So both,  in effect, can become "careers."

        © grover. My sockpuppet is a fuzzy blue muppet.

        by grover on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 11:11:10 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yep, boys [and increasingly girls] (7+ / 0-)

          who once played together are now men and women on either side of the bars.  The warden applied for jobs farther and farther away from home as he ascended the career ladder, I think, so he could put physical distance from the people he'd known.  I would think it took a high psychic toll on him.

          Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.--MLK, Jr.

          by conlakappa on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 12:17:39 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Happened to a childhood friend in LAPD (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            sberel, conlakappa

            (1 of 4 African American brothers in various law enforcement agencies) was called to a cell where his former neighbor (shared the same back fence) was awaiting trial for murder. For a while after he wanted to transfer, but didn't (DK why).

            Meteor Blades seems to do an outstanding job of community moderation despite the abject failure to be perfect.

            by catilinus on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 04:02:46 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  It is indeed lopsided to the prosecution (9+ / 0-)

        And in a world of "three strikes you're out" and requesting the death penalty for almost every felony- the concept of "justice tempered with mercy" no longer exists.

        Judges are rarely allowed to use their discretion - they have to go with legislatively imposed sentencing standards.

        And all of this comes from my experience as a public defender, I've spent far too much time visiting prisons to hear about drug violations where the sentencing in no way balances the crime.

        It breaks your heart and it has become ridiculously difficult to explain to people why I used to do criminal defense work. Even when I explain that everyone is entitled to a defense, that it is the state's burden to prove guilt etc... they still don't get it. It's a nation who thinks "Law & Order" or the awful Nancy Grace show is how the script should play out.

        Disgraceful!

        In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God ~RFK

        by vcmvo2 on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 11:22:27 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Me too. I have family members who (4+ / 0-)

        were incarcerated, and family members who are in law enforcement careers.

        I'm thinking that many families are like that.

        Erase the Hypocrisy, Erase the Denialism, Erase the Racism

        by blindyone on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 01:44:22 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  That's probably Other. (nt) (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kyril, Denise Oliver Velez, princss6

      curious portal - to a world of paintings, lyric-poems, art writing, and graphic and web design

      by asterkitty on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 10:52:06 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  "Other". Which can be explained in comments. (6+ / 0-)

      I have worked with corrections officers - and also done research studies with incarcerated people and with police officers.  

      I voted in my own poll -  I didn't select "other" since I have gone to jail, and have family members currently locked up.

      But the purpose of this diary was not to be "fair and balanced" since that would be a joke - given the stats on US incarceration.  

      What is lopsided are the number of people locked up - and the % who are black, latino, NA and poor.

      "If you're in a coalition and you're comfortable, you know it's not a broad enough coalition" Bernice Johnson Reagon

      by Denise Oliver Velez on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 01:43:12 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Other. My friend was on a jury where (11+ / 0-)

    a guilty person was acquitted.

    Black on black violence seems to follow street rules.  Witnesses recanted, where they had a strong story after the crime but seemed to change totally in trial.  The accused's gang, sitting in the courtroom, glaring at the witnesses.  The eventual acquittal, most likely due to the intimidation of these witnesses.  

    I think a guilty person getting off is as bad as the converse.  I think that if the victim had been white, it might have been different.  And, a mother's son is dead with no hope of justice.

    I hate to quote David Frum here but this may be more apropos, coming from him, "Yes the American media always loves a freak show. But a political party does not have to cooperate."

    by alliedoc on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 09:11:54 AM PDT

    •  Natural Reaction to the System (3+ / 0-)

      We have a system that is brazenly stacked against the poor and people of color.  

      These people aren't stupid.  The creation of "street rules" is a natural reaction by people who have lived generations with the "real rules" set against them.

      But society doesn't ask, "Why have these people created other rules to live by?"  Instead, society uses it as proof that this group is not fit for civilized society.

      •  That was my point - that they have "created (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        sberel, Denise Oliver Velez

        other rules to live by" as the ones of the system don't work for them.  There might be better forensics in a white v. black crime, or better attorneys.  Lots of differences.  My friend's experience was that there was no justice that applied in this case.  I am very sad for the victim's friends and family.

        I hate to quote David Frum here but this may be more apropos, coming from him, "Yes the American media always loves a freak show. But a political party does not have to cooperate."

        by alliedoc on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 02:08:16 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Convicting an innocent person is far worse (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sberel, alliedoc, Odysseus

      than letting a guilty one go free.

      I was once wrongly arrested for assault (hurling an object) on a police officer during a heated protest. I was innocent & charges eventually dropped (after hearing from a detective that they supposedly had photos of me hurling said object). If I'd been convicted-well, it would've vastly impacted my life & those around me (psychologically & financially).

      The fact that the person who was guilty was never punished (so far as I know) probably never resulted in dire consequences for society.

      One person in jail is part of a complex web of people that are negatively impacted by that incarceration, whether the person is guilty or innocent.

      Meteor Blades seems to do an outstanding job of community moderation despite the abject failure to be perfect.

      by catilinus on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 03:46:48 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I guess I am too naive about what happens (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        sberel, catilinus

        next.  Double jeopardy.  An innocent person can appeal.  But, as I said, I am not considering the impact of a guilty verdict on an innocent person.  And, technically, I don't get double jeopardy.  Thanks for the wake up call.

        I hate to quote David Frum here but this may be more apropos, coming from him, "Yes the American media always loves a freak show. But a political party does not have to cooperate."

        by alliedoc on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 04:04:33 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I'd amend this (9+ / 0-)
    We now have two USAs. One free, and the other either locked up, headed back into lockup, or destined to be locked up—do not pass Go and forget about 200 dollars.

    While there is not doubt two classes in the US when it comes to this issue, "one free" is not quite right, as the rights violations that serve mass incarceration and the drug war, like a lack of concern for 5th Amendment due process or 4th Amendments protections against unreasonable search and seizures, are migrating to all American society. We are simultaneously maintaining a system that is manifestly unequal yet increasingly effecting all of us (albeit unequally). In the long run, the rights of all of us are at risk if we don't challenge this system.

  •  Thanks Denise. The links are great. (23+ / 0-)

    I was not aware of this:

    After a 700-percent increase in the U.S. prison population between 1970 and 2005...

    It is truly staggering.  The 'three strikes' law is completely absurd--I read a while back that a repeat offender is now back in prison (for the rest of his life due to his age) for stealing a pizza.  That certainly keeps our streets 'safe'.  Injustice thrives in our court/prison system.

  •  War. On. Drugs. (14+ / 0-)

    I read and read and searched this article for any reference to the war on drugs - its a central engine driving what all this is about and adirect cause of or excuse for a return to said Jim Crow Laws.

    And I didn't see 1 reference to it. It's central to the problem.

    America's new Jim Crow system

    Michelle Alexander
    guardian.co.uk,     Thursday 31 March 2011 17.13 BST

    The US war on drugs created a whole new generation of the dispossessed, with millions of black people denied their rights
    Indeed the book referenced above by Ms. Alexander features this:
    In our lifetime the United States has become the world's leader in incarceration with 2.3 million people currently in the nation's prisons or jails — a 500% increase over the past 30 years.

    These trends have resulted in prison overcrowding and state governments being overwhelmed by the burden of funding an ever-expanding penal system.

    According to Alexander and other experts the catalyst behind the numbers is our nation’s “War on Drugs.”

    According to Alexander, “The War on Drugs is a war on African-American people and we countenance it because we implicitly accept certain assumptions sold to us by news and entertainment media, chief among them that drug use is rampant in the black community."

    But. The. Assumption. Is. WRONG.

    “According to federal figures, blacks and whites use drugs at a roughly equal rate in percentage terms. In terms of raw numbers, WHITES are far and away the biggest users — and dealers — of illegal drugs.”

    The Sentencing Project, which has an established reputation in the fight for real justice in this country has some rather disturbing facts regarding the trend to incarcerate black males. “More than 60% of the people in prison are now racial and ethnic minorities. For black males in their 20s, one  in every eight is in prison or jail on any given day. These trends have been intensified by the disproportionate impact of the "war on drugs," in which three-fourths of all persons in prison for drug offenses are people of color.”

    The can be no correction of this problem without addressing the unmitigated diaster of the war on drugs, which is a war on people and totally has roots in racism and prejudice.

    I am unsure why one would go out of one's way to NOT at least mention it in this struggle.....

    Republicans HATE America. Deal with it. / It's the PLUTONOMY, Stupid!

    by xxdr zombiexx on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 09:12:42 AM PDT

  •  Link to sign petition isn't working (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sberel, kyril

    Think I signed this already, but thought I should give it a try--link goes to change.org but doesn't seem to show anything.

    Thanks for this post/S

  •  great diary, electoral issue (17+ / 0-)

    many rural districts use prisons to inflate their population figures thus increasing their representation in elected offices. The inmates almost never come from or stay in these areas.

    -1.63/ -1.49 "Speaking truth to power" (with snark of course)!

    by dopper0189 on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 09:13:15 AM PDT

    •  The irony reeks (12+ / 0-)

      since these same "bodies" used to inflate numbers for representation purposes also can't vote if they are felons.

      Vi er alle norske " My faith in the Constitution is whole; it is complete; it is total." Barbara Jordan, 1974

      by gchaucer2 on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 09:33:19 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Felons have voting rights in some states: (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        gchaucer2, nicolemm, capelza

        A chat with you and somehow death loses its sting ~ Black Adder

        by trinityfly on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 09:48:36 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  could you please consider amending (14+ / 0-)

          your framing to "people convicted of felonies"?  My reasons for asking you to consider this are these:

          First, it reminds us that we're talking about human beings, not "criminal" abstractions who can be dehumanized and demonized - and are in the litanies of "get tough on crime."

          Next, not all people in prison were rightly convicted.  The Innocence Project and other organizations tackle issues of exoneration all the time.

          Finally, if we continually refer to "felons" in the same breath as "voting rights," this strengthens the right-wing meme that "criminals have more rights than you and I do."  It's false, of course - incarcerated people are treated brutally and their rights abrogated constantly.  

          I thank you in advance for considering my request.

          Teach us to listen to sounds larger than our own heartbeat; that endure longer than our own weeping in the dark. - Lillian Smith

          by RadioGirl on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 10:22:03 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  okay... (3+ / 0-)

            Having said that, 'People convicted of felonies' refer to themselves as felons in my experience while working with same.

            A chat with you and somehow death loses its sting ~ Black Adder

            by trinityfly on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 12:09:55 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Which makes it all the sadder (4+ / 0-)

              to think of oneself as a felon first and citizen second or not at all.

              •  It's a 'collar' and a 'jacket' that is not (0+ / 0-)

                easy to remove, to be sure.

                Having said THAT, I feel that diaries like these miss a larger point.  People who are poor and/or starving do not lay down and conveniently die.

                We can look at which of our citizens have become 'institutionally' poor by an unfair system that starts with eduction and ends with opportunity...there are numbers aplenty that define that and some will find themselves on the inside of jails.  I have never met an inmate who started out his or her life with the intention of 'screwing up'...often, they were just trying to survive.  Some are mentally challenged and could not see the consequence of their actions.

                However, there are bad people whose notion of screwing up is that they don't want to get caught while doing their bad things.

                I don't like the broad brush approach to defining those who contribute to society and those who take from society as all the same.

                Some people deserve the collar and the jacket that they will carry with them through life, because they are not done doing bad things.

                A chat with you and somehow death loses its sting ~ Black Adder

                by trinityfly on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 12:56:23 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Disagree. No one "deserves" being born (8+ / 0-)

                  into an inherently unequal system.  
                  You are pointing with a broad brush when you use terms like "bad things".

                  What "bad" things?

                  If I sell someone 5 bags of dope to sustain my habit - do I "deserve" to go to prison for life under a 3 strikes law?  

                  This society defines what is or isn't a "crime".  
                  What needs to be addressed is what does or doesn't constitute "criminal".

                  To be gay used to be considered both criminal and "deviant" behavior.  So under your premise - all gay people should have been incarcerated for doing "bad" things.

                  "If you're in a coalition and you're comfortable, you know it's not a broad enough coalition" Bernice Johnson Reagon

                  by Denise Oliver Velez on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 01:53:26 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Well, you got to the larger point, finally: (0+ / 0-)
                    No one "deserves" being born into an inherently unequal system.

                    Of COURSE not, Denise...and nowhere in my comment will you find that even alluded to.

                    Please re-read my words:

                    "People who are poor and/or starving do not lay down and conveniently die.

                    We can look at which of our citizens have become 'institutionally' poor by an unfair system that starts with eduction and ends with opportunity...there are numbers aplenty that define that and some will find themselves on the inside of jails.  I have never met an inmate who started out his or her life with the intention of 'screwing up'...often, they were just trying to survive."

                    It is the inherently flawed and unfair system that is the problem:  Lack of education and opportunity to start (Like I said).

                    I am aware that you are limiting your diary to the discussion of those who end up in prison for minor offenses and that is my gripe.  And with the following I will agree:

                    What needs to be addressed is what does or doesn't constitute "criminal".

                    "Bad things" are easily defined as crimes against victims.  That your scope is so narrow as to portray all people in prison as victims is astounding.  I expect you to have a broader view.

                    I have not heretofore seen you as a person who put words in others mouths to try and emotionally win a non argument:

                    To be gay used to be considered both criminal and "deviant" behavior.  So under your premise - all gay people should have been incarcerated for doing "bad" things.

                    A chat with you and somehow death loses its sting ~ Black Adder

                    by trinityfly on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 02:18:03 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  I really don't think you understand (8+ / 0-)

                      what I've written.

                      The prison system in this country makes every inmate a victim - regardless of whether or not they should be incarcerated.

                      "Crimes against victims" - what does that mean pray tell?

                      You are beginning to sound like another person who is in these threads .

                      I do not accept torture as legitimate treatment for any crime.  Period.  Do you even know how many people are incarcerated and subjected to solitary - for years on end?

                      Solitary confinement has been transmuted from an occasional tool of discipline into a widespread form of preventive detention. The Supreme Court, over the last two decades, has whittled steadily away at the rights of inmates, surrendering to prison administrators virtually all control over what is done to those held in “administrative segregation.” Since it is not defined as punishment for a crime, it does not fall under “cruel and unusual punishment,” the reasoning goes.

                      As early as 1995, a federal judge, Thelton E. Henderson, conceded that so-called “supermax” confinement “may well hover on the edge of what is humanly tolerable,” though he ruled that it remained acceptable for most inmates. But a psychiatrist and Harvard professor, Stuart Grassian, had found that the environment was “strikingly toxic,” resulting in hallucinations, paranoia and delusions. In a “60 Minutes” interview, he went so far as to call it “far more egregious” than the death penalty.


                      http://www.nytimes.com/...

                      Do you realize that our prison system is warehousing the mentally ill?

                      Isolating the mentally ill

                      At the all-solitary Colorado State Penitentiary, Troy Anderson has spent the last 10 years in isolation, never seeing the sun or the surrounding mountains, due to acting out on the symptoms of untreated mental illness.

                      Anderson has been diagnosed with ADHD, bipolar disorder, intermittent explosive disorder, anti-social personality disorder, cognitive disorders, a seizure disorder and polysubstance dependence, and he has attempted suicide many times, starting at the age of 10.

                      His mental health treatment in prison has consisted largely of intermittent and inappropriate medications and scant therapy, most of it conducted through a slot in his solid steel cell door. By Colorado's own estimate, 37 per cent of the prisoners in its isolation units are mentally ill.


                      http://southasia.oneworld.net/...
                      I have had family members murdered.  I have been a victim of both assault with a weapon, robbery and rape.

                      I still wouldn't want my dog to be put into the hellholes we call "penitentiaries".

                       

                      "If you're in a coalition and you're comfortable, you know it's not a broad enough coalition" Bernice Johnson Reagon

                      by Denise Oliver Velez on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 05:37:31 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  There are many prison reform coalitions (0+ / 0-)

                        that could use your help and there are also TONS of halfway houses that need help with re-entering "Citizens who have been convicted of felonies" (Are you listening, Radiogirl...did I say that exactly right?) who have finished their hard time.  

                        And:

                        You are beginning to sound like another person who is in these threads .

                        Probably another person who was unable to break through your shields: rigidity, shrillness,  and confrontation.  You are not looking for meaningful exchange, just preaching.

                        And since you were unable to understand "Crimes  against victims",

                        what does that mean pray tell?

                         perhaps in the context of the counterpart, "Victimless crimes", you can work out the meaning...but, perhaps not.

                        In the meantime, I'm glad you won't be sending your dog "up the river".

                        A chat with you and somehow death loses its sting ~ Black Adder

                        by trinityfly on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 09:19:39 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                  •  amen, denise. Thank you. n/t (5+ / 0-)

                    Teach us to listen to sounds larger than our own heartbeat; that endure longer than our own weeping in the dark. - Lillian Smith

                    by RadioGirl on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 07:57:03 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

    •  Yep. That was actually one of the changes (12+ / 0-)

      that my governor, O'Malley, made:  in terms of the census, people we counted where they were from, not in the prison's district.  It's not like they planned to settle in those areas upon release so wouldn't be getting any of the services that come with counting.

      Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.--MLK, Jr.

      by conlakappa on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 09:43:06 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Yes. And a majority of those rural districts (6+ / 0-)

      that benefit from counting inmate bodies are Republican.

      "Prison-based gerrymandering"

      http://www.laprogressive.com/...  

      "If you're in a coalition and you're comfortable, you know it's not a broad enough coalition" Bernice Johnson Reagon

      by Denise Oliver Velez on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 02:12:14 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  What can be done? (9+ / 0-)

    The war on drugs, the insane aggression of prosecution industry, the vast sentences for non-violent criminals, arresting and handcuffing 11 year olds, the virtually complete indemnification of prosecutors and police, the prison and prisoner industries.
    It is pretty hopeless, and only the financial bankruptcy of the state will bring around a re-evaluation.

    "How I hate those who are dedicated to producing conformity." William S Burroughs

    by shmuelman on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 09:13:30 AM PDT

  •  I am still trying to get my head around (20+ / 0-)

    the study about black men that they live better behind bars and its implications.  

    It's breathtaking.  Where it takes me is that the white supremacy society is so hostile that freedom itself has dire costs for Black people in this society.  Which is one reason why your amendment is so appropriate.

    Thank you for such a wonderful diary.

    What is the most loving thing I can do, right now? Rev Dr Mary Harrington

    by sberel on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 09:16:10 AM PDT

  •  This is our national shame (15+ / 0-)

    Important subject, and thank you for the excellent diary and the links you provided.  Will definitely follow up.

    Not only do we incarcerate at a shocking rate, but we then put prisoners on display for our entertainment on the various prison shows that MSNBC and other cable nets run constantly.  These shows absolutely sicken me.  Real Roman Coliseum kind of stuff, and we consider ourselves a civilized nation.  Far from it.

    you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows

    by Dem Beans on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 09:18:58 AM PDT

  •  i want to repeat an earlier comment (21+ / 0-)

    i linked a truly chilling report, in an open thread a while back:

    Michelle Alexander's new book- The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness:
    There are more African Americans under correctional control today -- in prison or jail, on probation or parole -- than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began. As of 2004, more African American men were disenfranchised (due to felon disenfranchisement laws) than in 1870, the year the Fifteenth Amendment was ratified, prohibiting laws that explicitly deny the right to vote on the basis of race.

    A black child born today is less likely to be raised by both parents than a black child born during slavery. The recent disintegration of the African American family is due in large part to the mass imprisonment of black fathers. If you take into account prisoners, a large majority of African American men in some urban areas have been labeled felons for life. (In the Chicago area, the figure is nearly 80%.) These men are part of a growing undercaste -- not class, caste -- permanently relegated, by law, to a second-class status.

    The cold passion for truth hunts in no pack. -Robinson Jeffers

    by Laurence Lewis on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 09:19:05 AM PDT

    •  Recent disintegration? (0+ / 0-)

      "The recent disintegration of the African American family is due in large part to the mass imprisonment of black fathers."

      If so, please account for the problem of the disintegrated African American family in 1965, when the Moynihan report was issued.

      •  i assume (6+ / 0-)

        she means recent as in several decades. but i hope you realize that the moynihan report is considered a classic example of blaming the victim.

        The cold passion for truth hunts in no pack. -Robinson Jeffers

        by Laurence Lewis on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 09:50:06 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The Moynihan Report (0+ / 0-)

          was widely pilloried for, IMO, making public what many preferred to remain veiled. If you actually read the report (you did read it, didn't you?), you'd be hard pressed to make the case that Moynihan 'blamed the victim.'

          However, even were it true that Moynihan blamed the so-called victim, it would still remain a fact that he pointed out what seems to be the identical problem in the black family, but decades before the drastic rise in incarceration rates of black males. This would need to be accounted for. Slamming Moynihan doesn't remove that necessity.

        •  The Moynihan Report was a complex statement (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          hmi

          that cannot be so easily dismissed.  Here is what William Julius Wilson (a distinguished and progressive sociologist) says about it in his 2009 book "More Than Just Race: Being Black and Poor in the Inner City":

          "liberal critics believed that Moynihan's cultural argments amounted to blaming African-Americans for their own misfortune. This criticism ignored Moynihan's careful attention to structural causes of inequality..."(p. 96).

          President Lyndon Johnson's June 4, 1965 Howard University speech, also written by Moynihan, called for jobs, housing, social welfare and health care programs to overcome inequality and strengthen black families -- not exactly the program of someone who was blaming the victim.

          Moynihan's politics were a complex blend of liberal and conservative positions and the report includes a serious effort to use a conservative starting point (family disorganization) and demonstrate that liberal structural changes to overcome the effects of racism and move toward a more equal society were needed in order to strengthen the family.

          Just a minor footnote on the complexity of history.  

      •  There Wasn't One (17+ / 0-)

        I really get tired of people trotting out Moynihan and his racist ass.  He called our families dysfunctional - because 77% in 1965 of our children were born to two parent households.

        Yes, you read that right.  Only a minority of our children were born into single parent homes in 1965.  Yet Moynihan, throwing away all pretense of objectivity (not that he ever had any - he admitted that a large reason he did the report to begin with was that the majority was sick and tired of hearing about what they owed Black folks from exploiting them in this country) nonethless called our families and our CULTURE dysfunctional families - and then proceeded to lay the blame for all on Black women who could not "succeed" in families because of the legacy of slavery.

        No mention of course of the racism that has kept Black men disproportionately out of the job market, public assistance policies that punished women with children if they had any man in their lives at all, none of that.

        Everytime someone brings up that racist tripe, the report, I want to spit.

        If you don't stand for something, you will go for anything. Visit Maat's Feather

        by shanikka on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 10:52:11 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  That is chilling. Thanks for sharing it. (4+ / 0-)
  •  Thank you for much for this. The growth of (23+ / 0-)

    the number of Americans behind bars in the past 40 years is just staggering. For me, one of the worst aspects of this is that prisons have become a for-profit industry. If we are worried about the debt and the deficit, we ought to be worried about the cost of keeping so many Americans behind bars, not to mention the impact that this has on their families.

  •  I was on a jury Feb 2010 (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    se portland, 4Freedom, kyril

    found 30 yo black man guilty of felony murder for whacking a drug dealer he was selling drugs to after an argument broke out.

    Your War on Drugs: Doc goes to jury duty

    Republicans HATE America. Deal with it. / It's the PLUTONOMY, Stupid!

    by xxdr zombiexx on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 09:22:43 AM PDT

    •  Wow, mine was less exciting (5+ / 0-)

      I was on a jury for solicitation. Granted the defendant was stop at a stop sign for ten minutes at 4:00 in the morning in a neighborhood known for prostitution, and when the cop went to investigate, she noticed his fly was down, but there weren't any prostitutes. The prosecution suggested that maybe they were hiding in the bushes.  At one point the defense objected to the line of questioning, and the judge rather testily said "I was wonder how long you were going to let that gone on."

      It was late in the day when the prosecution finished, so the judge asked us to come back the next day. The next day we sat in the jury room for over an hour when the judge came in to tell us she had dismissed the case. To her credit, she sent a good half hour with us taking question and discussing the case.

      I was up for a high profile capital murder case once, but the defendant plea bargained at the last minute to avoid a possible death sentence. I was relieved to not have to make that determination.

      It is possible to read the history of this country as one long struggle to extend the liberties established in our Constitution to everyone in America. - Molly Ivins

      by se portland on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 10:05:05 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Neo-liberalis creates prisoners (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    David Kaib, hmi, kyril

    Folks when has the rise in prisoners happened?  What neo-lib events have happened then shortly thereafter incarceration rates started to rise?  I'll help.  All of them.

    The neo-lib entitlement class, the neo-lib takeover of education, the neo-lib war on poverty, the neo-lib mysogination of the Bill of Rights and the Constitution have all diminished and in many cases completely removed the motivation of the left created poverty class and other weak people in other classes to exercise self restraint and practice self improvement.

    There are two types of people: Those who need to feel accepted by the French, and those who support Israel.

    by Jaack on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 09:23:05 AM PDT

    •  Geez, people uprated this? (0+ / 0-)
      * [new] Neo-liberalis creates prisoners (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:David Kaib, hmi, kyril, trashablanca

      This one is a classic troll.  The "neo-lib" stuff might have thrown off some of you but an obvious tip off is:

      have all diminished and in many cases completely removed the motivation of the left created poverty class and other weak people in other classes to exercise self restraint and practice self improvement

      Troll has already been tagged and bagged.

      If you ask "what color is the poster" when someone criticizes the President's policy or track record, you are probably a racist. If you assume white progressives don't like the President's policies because of his skin color, you are definitely a racist.

      by Celtic Pugilist on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 08:54:07 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The Pledge of Allegiance... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    hmi, trashablanca, grover, falina

    ...is a statement of ideals, not a realistic description.  Go ahead and say "with liberty and justice for all", because when you say that, you're saying something about what kind of country deserves your allegiance.

    The '60s were simply an attempt to get the 21st Century started early....Well, what are we waiting for? There's no deadline on a dream!

    by Panurge on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 09:26:36 AM PDT

  •  Many of the democratic checks, (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sberel, trashablanca, capelza

    like electing prosecutors, recruiting jurors from the population, making sentences legislatively-derived, and in some places electing judges, create a snowball effect of majoritarian bias.  The check is less effective when the defendant is "them," not "us". And it's not strictly race -- Cameron Todd Willingham was executed for being a redneck.  Until prosecutors, jurors, etc can identify with minority defendants, these trends will continue.  It also works the other way sometimes, with cognitive biases against victims, as in the Strauss-Kahn case.

    But as long as humans are imperfect, judges need to step it up and take a greater role in ensuring fairness.  The trouble is, trial judges lack the ability to make judgments about systematic unfairness, and many appellate judges lack the practical experience or ideological willingness to see it where it exists.

    "This world demands the qualities of youth: not a time of life but a state of mind[.]" -- Robert F. Kennedy

    by Loge on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 09:27:28 AM PDT

  •  Alternative Pledge of Allegiance (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sberel, dalfireplug, trashablanca
    "To liberty, equality and justice for all I pledge allegiance to by the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God among nations, indivisible one people born out of many."

    So much I can't agree with in the original pledge, not even starting with the "under God" part.

    "The great lie of democracy, its essential paradox, is that democracy is first to be sacrificed when its security is at risk." --Ian McDonald

    by Geenius at Wrok on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 09:30:46 AM PDT

  •  Very important information here, Denise (9+ / 0-)

    Thank you for focusing our attention on it.

    My forthcoming book (as yet untitled) on Barack Obama and American national identity will be published in Summer/Fall 2012 by Potomac Books. Look for it online and in better bookstores.

    by Ian Reifowitz on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 09:31:22 AM PDT

  •  Haven't said the pledge in years (8+ / 0-)

    which is tough working in a public school that requires it.
    It's the one Nation under God part that begins to take it apart, and then the liberty and justice for some finishes it off.

    Working link for petition is here:
    http://www.change.org/...

    Here is the truth: The Earth is round; Saddam Hussein did not attack us on 9/11; Elvis is dead; Obama was born in the United States; and the climate crisis is real. It is time to act. - Al Gore

    by Burned on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 09:31:48 AM PDT

  •  Thanks for all this information. (13+ / 0-)

    Imagine what would our politics be like if the majority of those incarcerated Black and Brown people were liberated and could vote.

    •  Right? I think of the wasted lives and what (13+ / 0-)

      happens when people are allowed opportunities.  I've talked about my cousin in CIK who spent time then did time for slinging.  He's now a developer/contractor [I know, I know; trust me I tease him about his being able to legally rip people off!].  He's gone green, even.  He obviously always had the business sense and the practical skills.  His message is about giving ex-felons the chance to be bosses, not just employees.  He had been working on developing a program with his city.  Unfortunately, both State and local governance has changed so I don't know what became of it.  He tries to inspire young people locked up to take their lives in different directions.

      Yet another cousin, who was actually the smarter of the two and did have legitimate businesses as well will likely die soon in prison if his petition to be released for health is denied.  He was sentenced under the kingpinship statute, which makes three-strikes seem mild and no parole possible.  

      Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.--MLK, Jr.

      by conlakappa on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 09:59:34 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  My brother (13+ / 0-)

    One of my brothers worked for several years as a volunteer at San Quentin teaching. He taught a very popular acting workshop to inmates serving life sentences. He believed this was one of the most effective ways he could help his fellow beings by helping them to learn to trust their emotions in a place where so many must shut down just to survive. I don't know whether he was right or wrong, but it was an extremely successful and popular course.

    My brother has shared some amazing stories about his work there. One thing that stays with me is that virtually all of the men he worked with serving life sentences at San Quentin were there because at one time when they were very young men, they were simply at the wrong place at the wrong time when something bad happened. And because they were poor and of color, they end up imprisoned for life.

  •  I have never, in my life, (11+ / 0-)

    been willing to state the pledge.  (This has gotten me into trouble a few times).  Loyalty oaths should end up in the dustbin of history.

    "The first rule of pillow fight club is do not talk about pillow fight club." --Keith Olbermann

    by Julie Waters on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 09:32:36 AM PDT

    •  When I was in high school in the early 80's (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Julie Waters, kyril, trashablanca

      Reagan had just been elected and with congress passed a bunch of stupid laws requiring all public school students to stand and recite the pledge every morning. I refused to do so because I believed it to be fascistic and unconstitutional, but never got any grief over it as my school was in NYC which was hardly Reagan country. Most of the other students stood up and recited it, like good sheep.

      I literally do not understand the purpose of the pledge, other than having to recite it once in one's life, if that, at least from a legitimate as opposed to oppressive point of view. Why do I have to swear an oath to a country of which I'm already a citizen, to which loyalty is already presumed, like innocence? And why do I have to repeat it every day? Am I seen as disloyal until proven otherwise? And if I did decide to be disloyal (whatever that means), you really think a stupid pledge would stop me? It felt like we were back to HUAC and McCarthy.

      "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

      by kovie on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 10:23:41 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I've only been in a position where it was expected (4+ / 0-)

        of me a few times.  At one point, at an honors ceremony, several of us were in front of the whole school.  I had no idea it was coming, but we were asked to recite it.  Everyone else pointed their heads up at the flag and recited it.  I silently looked downward and said nothing.

        In another situation, I was working at an elementary school and we had a big assembly the day after 9/11.  The principle suggested we might want to say it, though indicating that no one should feel obligated.  I was near a door and slipped out of the room.  

        In the first case, it created a big stir, and my attitude was, if you expect to recite something controversial, you do not spring it on me without warning or explanation.  I still would not have recited it, but I may have been willing to do so in a fashion that the school didn't find as embarrassing.  But when you spring something inappropriate on me in a public forum, do not expect me to comply with it just because I'm in front of a large group of people.  I am just not that easily swayed by public shame :)

        "The first rule of pillow fight club is do not talk about pillow fight club." --Keith Olbermann

        by Julie Waters on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 10:33:29 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Interestingly, I have no problem (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Denise Oliver Velez

          singing the anthem at public events, because I view it as a celebration of the good things about this country and a commemoration of those who have sacrificed for it (in more ways than just mlitary service as I see it) rather than as a compulsory oath/test of loyalty to it.

          Btw, I admire your standing up for principle at these events. I probably would have chickened out myself if I was on the stage with all eyes on me.

          "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

          by kovie on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 11:04:03 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  I was jailed (15+ / 0-)

    for 3 days after a draft board sit-in back in 69 or 70, at the Charles St. Jail in Boston.  Bill Baird (abortion advocate) was on the men's side at the same time.

    I dated a prisoner for several years, and helped to get his sentence commuted.  I was in minimum security, so that part wasn't terrible.  That was the same place Willie Horton was, and we sometimes played cards with him and his girlfriend.  That still makes my stomach turn over.

    My son has FAS and is mentally ill.  He has been in jail a few times both as a juvenile and an adult.  The mentally ill are another group that is too often housed in jails and prison.  In a sense, prison has become the new mental hospital, as mental hospital beds continue to dwindle.

    Thanks for this, Denise.  We really need to keep this issue active.

    When shit happens, you get fertilized.

    by ramara on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 09:38:40 AM PDT

  •  This is literally, my life's work (15+ / 0-)

    Currently in post-conviction/innocence, after many years in the trial courts.

    The waste of lives, not to mention money-- a huge part of many state budgets-- continues to infuriate me.

    At the International Innocence Conference a few months ago, there were 102 exonerees who had served a total of 1608 years in jail/prison for crimes they did not commit.

    Our  "justice" system is so very broken.

    I must be dreaming...

    by murphy on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 09:40:27 AM PDT

    •  I posted further down (6+ / 0-)

      about my uncle's case...he had a felony murder conviction overturned in 2010 but the state supreme court just vacated the habeus ruling. Would love to get your take on that if it's not too much trouble :)

      Will work for food
      Will die for oil
      Will kill for power and to us the spoils
      The billionaires get to pay less tax
      The working poor get to fall through the cracks
      -James McMurty

      -9.75/-8.26

      by SwedishJewfish on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 10:50:40 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I have a feeling (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        sberel, SwedishJewfish

        that they are not going to force the issue with your uncle. But, if they do, there are resources.

        One of the big ones is going to the press with the story and shaming them into backing off.

        And, why do they do it? Because they can, and because, at least theoretically, they owe your uncle a lot of money for their sloppy, maybe even deliberately incorrect processing of this case. (I'm being very polite here.)

        Not going into detail here for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is I recently was handed yet another factual innocence case and have to get back to work.

        There are just too damned many innocent people in prison.

        I must be dreaming...

        by murphy on Mon Jul 25, 2011 at 10:55:50 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Thank you for the advice (0+ / 0-)

          I like the press angle. That's something I was considering, I think I'm going to work on that...maybe post a diary, get fellow Kossaks to turn up the heat on them. You are right on with them not wanting to pay out too- they call every once and a while to casually "check up" on his health. They are so obviously hoping dies quickly so they have to pay up.

          Good luck with your new case, and thanks for the valuable work that you do.

          Will work for food
          Will die for oil
          Will kill for power and to us the spoils
          The billionaires get to pay less tax
          The working poor get to fall through the cracks
          -James McMurty

          -9.75/-8.26

          by SwedishJewfish on Mon Jul 25, 2011 at 12:49:02 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  I appreciate you lifes work (6+ / 0-)

      It's a thankless, hard, low paying calling but nothing is more needed than what you are doing. Thank you for your dedication and selfless perserverance.

      America could have chosen to be the worlds doctor, or grocer. We choose instead to be her policeman. pity

      by cacamp on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 01:01:42 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for this (7+ / 0-)

    http://www.change.org/... Petition link didn't work. There are 2 for Pelican Bay.

    Sad to think of lifes destroyed as result of US "justice system."

    "IJDH provides the tools for people who care about Haiti to make a real difference on the ground."-- Bishop Thomas Gumbleton

    by allie123 on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 09:45:14 AM PDT

  •  Something I brought up (6+ / 0-)

    in a diary long, long ago:

    9. Keeping people out of prison

    Overton Window status: Radical

    As a society, we dislike crime, but we don't dislike it that much. That is, we're not especially interested in making sure it doesn't happen; we'd rather let it happen, then punish the hell out of whoever did it. Every time we're given the choice, it seems, we favor punishment over prevention. As a result, the United States incarcerates both a larger number (2.3 million) and a higher percentage (751 per 100,000) of its population than any other nation in the world. Yes, we even beat Russia and China, as well as -- in percentage terms -- Syria, Zimbabwe, North Korea, Cuba and Myanmar, some of the most notorious police states in the world. And we do this even though it's fairly obvious that prison serves little or no rehabilitative purpose, instead immersing inmates in a pressure-cooker stew of authoritarian and street values -- not exactly a recipe for functioning at a high level in mainstream society.

    Assuming that our high incarceration rate reflects a proportionally high crime rate, why do we have so much crime? America is sometimes portrayed as a society that relishes and glorifies violence, and that's true of at least a couple of the folkways that make up our nation, which traditionally have been inclined to settle scores violently. But America isn't unique in having quick-tempered honor cultures, even among Western industrial democracies; yet Ireland imprisons only 76 out of every 100,000 citizens, and Italy, 75. What are these countries doing to suppress criminality that we're not? This question, rather than the breathless headlines of the local TV news, is what should keep us up at night.

    Of course, crime isn't solely an outgrowth of violent culture; it's also a rational (though unlawful and immoral) response to a perceived lack of legitimate opportunities. In many cases, this perception is real. Take census data on commuting times and plot it on a map of Chicago, and you'll see a huge swath of the South Side where the average commute takes more than 40 minutes. What that tells you is, this is where the jobs aren't. Violence may be deeply ingrained in our culture, but deliberate deprivation of opportunity doesn't have to be. The mistake is in thinking that with one or two minor incentives, such as property tax write-offs or expedited development permit approvals, the free market will create jobs where there's a demand for them. That's not how the market works. Jobs are not a product, labor is a product, and as long as I can remember, except for a brief anomaly in the late 1990s, it's been a buyer's market. Inner-city job creation (and let's not kid ourselves -- the inner city is where we're finding most of our prison inmates) is something that has to be undertaken deliberately, as a matter of policy, and as a sincere priority. Yes, the cost of doing this right would be astronomical -- but so is the cost of holding 2.3 million Americans in prison.

    The roadblock here seems to be people's unwillingness to spend money on the poor -- in the public mind, the undeserving poor, those folks with no morals and no work ethic who break everything you give them. This is why you get postcards from your Congressmen asking you to check off whether you consider "helping the middle class" a top policy priority, never asking the same about helping the poor: We all want the poor to have better lives, but not if it means we have to contribute. I have to ask how moral it is to dangle jobs out of people's reach, offer them only the most cheaply built shelter and public facilities, and lay all the blame for their condition on them. To prevent crime, attack the reasons behind it: lack of economic opportunity, lack of adequate education, lack of community investment (financial and emotional), police aloofness and brutality that pits community against authority and causes concerned and cooperative citizens to be ostracized as "snitches." And make the consequences of crime logical, not merely punitive: drug treatment for drug possession, restitution for property crimes, apologies of action for violent crimes. Surely we can think of better ways of persuading convicts not to commit future crimes than forcing them to attend a university of violent criminality.

    "The great lie of democracy, its essential paradox, is that democracy is first to be sacrificed when its security is at risk." --Ian McDonald

    by Geenius at Wrok on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 09:46:50 AM PDT

  •  Marijuana crimes (9+ / 0-)

    Legalization of marijuana would be a good place to start.  I don't have the stats, but a huge percentage of US incarcerations have to be attributable to this.

    And every one of them is a needless incarceration.

    Fuck with the truth at your own peril. -Anonymous

    by thenekkidtruth on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 09:47:08 AM PDT

  •  Private Prisons Spend Millions On Lobbying (10+ / 0-)

    This is from an article dated  June 23, 2011 at Think Progress

    According to JPI, the private prison industry uses three strategies to influence public policy: lobbying, direct campaign contributions, and networking. The three main companies have contributed $835,514 to federal candidates and over $6 million to state politicians. They have also spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on direct lobbying efforts. CCA has spent over $900,000 on federal lobbying and GEO spent anywhere from $120,000 to $199,992 in Florida alone during a short three-month span this year. Meanwhile, “the relationship between government officials and private prison companies has been part of the fabric of the industry from the start,” notes the report. The cofounder of CCA himself used to be the chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party.

    Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and GEO Group made over $2.9 billion in revenue last year. Here is what CCA views as the challenges the industry faces.

    The demand for our facilities and services could be adversely affected by the relaxation of enforcement efforts, leniency in conviction or parole standards and entencing practices or through the decriminalization of certain activities that are currently proscribed by our criminal laws. For instance, any changes with respect to drugs and controlled substances or illegal immigration could affect the number of persons arrested, convicted, and sentenced, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them. Legislation has been proposed in numerous jurisdictions that could lower minimum sentences for some non-violent crimes and make more inmates eligible for early release based on good behavior. Also, sentencing alternatives under consideration could put some offenders on probation with electronic monitoring who would otherwise be incarcerated. Similarly, reductions in crime rates or resources dedicated to prevent and enforce crime could lead to reductions in arrests, convictions and sentences requiring incarceration at correctional facilities.

    ~ CORRECTIONS CORPORATION OF AMERICA 2010 ANNUAL REPORT

    It is possible to read the history of this country as one long struggle to extend the liberties established in our Constitution to everyone in America. - Molly Ivins

    by se portland on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 09:50:54 AM PDT

  •  The Children's Defense Fund (17+ / 0-)

    has documented how all of this starts with the Cradle to Prison Pipeline.

    Many communities across the country are beginning to work on this through efforts like the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative.

    Data shows that most youth who are locked up in detention are placed there for minor offenses and that locking them up at these early ages only serves to increase their likelihood of ongoing involvement in criminal activity.

    Due to this, finding community alternatives to detention is critical. Please check and see if there is an initiative like this in your community. If so, get involved. If not, ask why.

    Finally, Sis Deo - its so wonderful to see something like this on the fp!!!!!!! Thank you!

    Almost everything you do will seem insignificant, but it is important that you do it. - Mahatma Gandhi

    by NLinStPaul on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 10:05:35 AM PDT

    •  Pen. judges took bribes to (11+ / 0-)

      send children to private jails. The YouTube is kind of long, but worth watching.

      It is possible to read the history of this country as one long struggle to extend the liberties established in our Constitution to everyone in America. - Molly Ivins

      by se portland on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 10:23:57 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Juvenile Justice (0+ / 0-)

      I have no problem with giving those who commit crimes like spraying graffitti, skipping school, stealing from a 7/11, or stereotypical "juvenile" offenses "second chances". I do, however, think those teenagers who rape, shoot, murder, stab, molest, and engage in violent crimes should be tried as adults.

      •  The prefrontal cortex -- (7+ / 0-)

        the part of the brain where "executive" decision are made, the part of the brain the regulates risk-taking -- is not fully developed until a human is about 25 years old.

        Children and adolescents do not have the physical capacity to make adult decisions until they are in their mid twenties.

        This isn't voodoo speculation. It's being replicated in research repeatedly.

        Do you understand what this means? You're willing to toss away the lives of teens for making impulsive decisions they have diminished capacity to control. Where is the justice in that?

        There is a reason that criminal cases are bought as State (or People )  vs John Doe  and not Victim vs John Doe. The state is supposed to be evaluating the case on behalf of ALL citizens. Would an impulsive violent 14 year old end up being a violent 40 year old if he received intensive counseling, probably meds and other serious intervention? It's likely not.  

        But trying and sentencing him as an adult, we'll never know.

        Adolescents, especially minors, are NOT adults.

        © grover. My sockpuppet is a fuzzy blue muppet.

        by grover on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 12:08:08 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Okay, you again with that litany of crimes (7+ / 0-)

        that, what, you read in a book somewhere?  Come citing stats and I will have no problem with accepting them.  Until then?  Broken record with a lost groove.

        Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.--MLK, Jr.

        by conlakappa on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 01:03:52 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Just like on TV! Not (5+ / 0-)

    Go on over and have a look for yourself.  You don't even have to go inside the jail.   Any day of the week you can go to your local courthouse and ask what judge is doing arraignments today.  Sit in the pews (it's your constitutional right).  Pretty soon they bring them in.  

    Have you ever seen a man in manacles?  Even on TV?  They don't show it because the sight is too amazing to stand.  This isn't Star Wars, it isn't some Tolkien fantasy, it isn't the Middle Ages:  There he is, in an orange jumper, and he is chained like an animal, hands in front, and his feet are chained up, too.  The chains are always bright and new and shiny.  I'll skip the arraignment itself; let's go backstage (yes, backstage; this can't really be happening to anyone, right?).  Look there! It's a cage!  Maybe two or three.  An SRO cage, just big enough for a man! And guess what's in the cage!  Yes, a man--a man in a cage.

    In Manhattan Criminal Part, the cages last time I looked were built into a wall made of white tile--the kind of white tile you might see in a public restroom.  It's like there was supposed to be a shower or something there, only with bars instead of a shower curtain.  That's your guy in there.  They chain him and bring him out, and he gets arraigned--formally charged--and he pleads and usually gets bail set.  You can sit there and watch all these people brought out in their chains and charged and bailed or not, and what has to occur to you is:

    Don't they ever lock up any white people?  Ever? Just once? You know, like in the movies and on TV where every criminal is white and all the cops are black?

  •  I worked on the Ciaran Ferry campaign (5+ / 0-)

    Ciaran Ferry was first imprisoned in Northern Ireland. in 1993 for being a passenger in a car in which weapons were found; after being held for two years without trial, he was sentenced to 22 years in prison.

    He was released in 2000 under the prisoner-release terms of the Good Friday Agreement, and moved to Colorado to start a new life as a landscape designer.

    In 2003, Ciaran and his American wife attended a formal interview relating to his request for permanent residency in the U.S.  He then found himself at the wrong end of our misguided "war on terror" following September 11, and was arrested by ICE for "overstaying his visa" and held for nearly 2 years in prison in the U.S.

    On the local front, I've worked to get Craig Watkins elected and re-elected, and support his work with The Innocence Project.

    Our overzealous incarceration rate makes me ashamed of this country.

  •  My line was always (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sberel, kyril, trashablanca
    "With liberty and justice for all who can afford it"

    And my only experience with the criminal justice system (other than as a victim of and witness to crime) is through friends and relatives, one of whom belonged to a gang as a youth and spent time in juvenile, another of whom was briefly detained in an airport after 9/11 for making a really tasteless joke.

    Actually, my family and I and a friend were recently the victims of a deliberate misuse of local police by someone we knew with whom we were all having a dispute. When my family and I approached his house to talk to him, he called the police on us so we had to leave. When the friend approached his house in a separate incident, he refused to leave so he had him arrested and spend the night in jail, which cost him a lot in legal fees and social embarrassment.

    Just as government uses the legal and criminal justice system to keep people down, so do private individuals and organizations. What is supposed to be a system meant to enforce actual law and order has become a system that keeps "undesireables" down--at huge profit to the criminal-industrial complex.

    "Liberty without virtue would be no blessing to us" - Benjamin Rush, 1777

    by kovie on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 10:14:09 AM PDT

  •  Thank you, Denise. I think this is (17+ / 0-)

    one of the most profound civil rights struggles of our time - and it cuts so many ways.  The profiling and brutality; the racial coding implicit in enforcement of "neutrally worded" laws, prison-based gerrymandering that corrupts the very idea of one person, one vote, voter disenfranchisement.  

    The collateral damage to individuals, households, families, and whole communities is so profound:  releasing individuals back into society barred from public housing if they've been convicted of felony drug crimes; denying educational aid and access to food stamps; releasing prisoners with deteriorated health and chronic, life-threatening conditions (including HIV/AIDS) back into society with no money, precious little access to jobs, and no decent health care.  

    I am beyond grateful to you for continuing to highlight this massive violence/injustice/corruption that traces its roots right back to slavery.

    Teach us to listen to sounds larger than our own heartbeat; that endure longer than our own weeping in the dark. - Lillian Smith

    by RadioGirl on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 10:16:56 AM PDT

  •  This is a heartbreaking discussion, but a needed (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sberel, kyril, dalfireplug

    one.

    For the rest of us, there are over 800 FEMA camps dotted around the country. They have been built due to recent laws passed by congress, or federal court opinion.

    In August 2002, then Attorney General John Ashcroft called for American citizens who are deemed ‘enemy combatants’ to be detained indefinitely without charge and independently of the judiciary. [21] This legal position was upheld in the case of a US citizen detained abroad by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in a January 2003 ruling. [22]

    In October 2006 the Military Commissions Act was passed by Congress. [23] The legislation applies to non-US citizens and permits individuals labeled as ‘enemy combatants’ to be imprisoned indefinitely and without charge. It also denies non-military tribunal judicial review of detainment (Section 7), disregards international treaties such as the Geneva Convention, and states that it is the President who defines what constitutes torture (Sections 5 & 6).

    In January of 2007 the American Civil Liberties Union released a report based on documents obtained by a Freedom of Information Act suit showing that the Pentagon had monitored at least “186 anti-military protests in the United States and collected more than 2,800 reports involving Americans in an anti-terrorist threat database.” [24]

    For some time FEMA has been renovating and constructing new detention camps throughout the country. In January 2006 Haliburton subsidiary KBR announced that it had been awarded an “indefinite delivery / indefinite quantity contract to construct detention facilities for the Department of Homeland Security worth a maximum of $385 million over 5 years. [25]

    The vague wording of these acts could be extended to include some of the more inflammatory rhetoric we post here. If the right has its way, our prisons and FEMA camps could have many, many new occupants.

    When we support prisoners rights, we may well be protecting our own futures.

    Hate is going on in this world and it has to stop. Hate causes a lifetime of pain. ~ Mark Stroman 7/20/11

    by 4Freedom on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 10:17:21 AM PDT

    •  I've been hearing about FEMA camps (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kyril, trashablanca, dalfireplug, blueness

      since Clinton was president, and it was a favorite subject of Glenn Beck. With all due respect, 4Freedom, this is a bit to cranky for me.

      It is possible to read the history of this country as one long struggle to extend the liberties established in our Constitution to everyone in America. - Molly Ivins

      by se portland on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 10:37:32 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  way off topic and very CT n/t (4+ / 0-)

      America could have chosen to be the worlds doctor, or grocer. We choose instead to be her policeman. pity

      by cacamp on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 01:13:28 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •   I think the increased ability of government (0+ / 0-)

        to engage in civilian oversight, coupled with the extensive network of FEMA camps is something to consider.

        There is a trend towards increased militarization in our society. We are using Predator drones in six sovereign nations. This is something like the 128th day of our engagement in Libya. Our defense industry has embedded military manufacture in all fifty states, and that manufacture increasingly utilizes prison labor.

        The government now has more reasons to incarcerate more citizens for more speculative charges, should it chose to exercise its new powers. I don't find that prospect very reassuring, however you chose to label that 'concern'.

        Hate is going on in this world and it has to stop. Hate causes a lifetime of pain. ~ Mark Stroman 7/20/11

        by 4Freedom on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 07:43:18 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Pelican Bay Hunger STrike is over. (7+ / 0-)

    It ended last week.  Here's the diary.  The strike is evidently continuing at Tehachapi. It is not clear to me whether the prisoners there don't accept CCDR's telling them the strike is over, or whether they have decided to continue on their own.

    If you want to continue advocating for humane treatment in California's prisons, and I hope you will, these are the addresses and numbers:

    Secretary Matthew Cate, Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, 1515 S Street, Sacramento, CA  95814, Telephone: (916) 323-6001

    Governor Jerry Brown, State Capitol, Suite 1173, Sacramento, CA 95814, Telephone: (916) 445-2841

  •  This is why many middle-class voters reject (0+ / 0-)

    liberals. And I get flack here all the time for saying this, but I can understand why working class voters don't support liberals. What does this agenda do for them? Do you think most working class people who play by the rules really care about the "civil rights" of convicted felons, many of whom have committed violent crimes?

    I agree with some people here on changing drug laws. I used to be deadset against drug law reform, but I've changed my mind over the years. I agree that drugs should be decriminalized--or people convicted of nonviolent drug offenses going to diversionary or treatment programs.

    But I also don't really feel bad for people who kill, rape, sodomize, assault, stab, shoot, or molest others. And I have no problem if people like that get locked up.

    •  They will give us flack (8+ / 0-)

      untill they or a family member gets locked up, and they get to see firsthand what we have been screaming about all this time.

      Will work for food
      Will die for oil
      Will kill for power and to us the spoils
      The billionaires get to pay less tax
      The working poor get to fall through the cracks
      -James McMurty

      -9.75/-8.26

      by SwedishJewfish on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 10:44:47 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  But I have gotten flack from several posters (0+ / 1-)
        Recommended by:
        Hidden by:
        soothsayer99

        in the Criminal Injustice Kos series. Why should I really care about those who go to jail for committing violent crimes?

        I'm more concerned with the problems facing middle class families. It just really grates me to see that there are millions without work, people who can't afford college, and people without adequate healthcare, and so forth--people who have played by the rules--and yet a great deal of energy on this site is expended advocating for those who have violated the rights of others and harmed other people.

        It bothers me a lot on a personal level.

        •  I understand and empathise with your position (6+ / 0-)

          But, for starters, you are looking at this through the wrong prism. The majority of those locked up were NOT convicted of violent crime. The majority of them are there for drug offenses.

          You also need to think about it in practical terms. If you send someone to prison, and that prison is overcrowded, and they are treated with brutality, and they have to form associations with gangs in order to survive, and you give them no outlet for rehabilitiation- when you let that person out they are going to be 10x more dangerous than they were before. And because of the laws we have that still treat people as felons even after they have served their time, the chances are very high that they will be stigmatized and will have no luck getting a job, or a home, or any semblance of a normal life. So the odds are VERY high that they will re-offend, and end up back in prison. The cost to society is just staggering- we have more per capita incarcerrated than any country on the planet.

          And it goes further than that- the incarcerrated are disproportionately male, black, and from low income communites. They often leave children behind. So you have a whole generation of children being raised without their fathers (and increasingly without their mothers too, as the female population is growing at an alarming rate) and those children need money from the state to help support them-so not only are you paying to incarcerrate the parents, you pay to help raise the children they leave behind. The cost is just staggering, and the human cost is something that is beyond comprehension but is something you can see in the stark landscape of the inner city, where these communities are falling apart. And it eventually effects all of us. Including middle class families who are struggling.

          So to me, it's not a matter of being soft on crime, it's a matter of looking at the broader implications of a broken system, and saying "this is unsustainable, and we need to do something different"

          Will work for food
          Will die for oil
          Will kill for power and to us the spoils
          The billionaires get to pay less tax
          The working poor get to fall through the cracks
          -James McMurty

          -9.75/-8.26

          by SwedishJewfish on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 11:50:42 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Hold up. (12+ / 0-)

      You think sodomy is a crime, comparable to rape and murder, that ought to be punished?

      But I also don't really feel bad for people who kill, rape, sodomize, assault, stab, shoot, or molest others.

      Lawrence took care of that back in 2003, dearie.

      If the people one day wish to live / destiny cannot but respond / And the night cannot but disappear / and the bonds cannot but break. -- Abu'l-Qasim al-Shabbi

      by unspeakable on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 11:05:31 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  oceanstar17 - you are probably the most (10+ / 0-)

      vocal resistor here on Daily Kos   in dealing with these issues.

      I was sure you would comment here - since you have persisted in doing so in most of Cik's  diaries, and one by Meteor Blades.

      Your meme of "kill rape sodomize" is the same fear-based litany recited by the hard right.

      The vast majority of incarceree's are in for non-violent offenses.

      "If you're in a coalition and you're comfortable, you know it's not a broad enough coalition" Bernice Johnson Reagon

      by Denise Oliver Velez on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 12:55:04 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  total bullshit, first a lie then more bullshit (7+ / 0-)

      first the teabagger lie..

      And I get flack here all the time for saying this, but I can understand why working class voters don't support liberals
      the truth is working class people like me ARE liberals only rightwing propagandists spew the lie that we aren't.

      Next the real bullshit..

      Do you think most working class people who play by the rules really care about the "civil rights" of convicted felons, many of whom have committed violent crimes?
      the real truth is that working class people are the ones who are sufering in prison and are the victims of the prison industrial complex. Who the fuck do you think is filling the prisons, rich people? You damn right working class people, like all of us, care about convicted felons since so many are from their families.

      And then the final lie..

      But I also don't really feel bad for people who kill, rape, sodomize, assault, stab, shoot, or molest others. And I have no problem if people like that get locked up.
      only stupid fools think the prison population is made up of murderers and violent criminals. A short check will show that most prisoner don't fit into your rightwing meme at all and soon they'll be returned to our communities. Try to wake the fuck up or go back to redstate where those types of lies are swallowed whole.

      America could have chosen to be the worlds doctor, or grocer. We choose instead to be her policeman. pity

      by cacamp on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 02:30:20 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  An article printed in the Atlantic might be of (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sberel, kyril, trashablanca

    interest to some.

    http://www.theatlantic.com/...

    The Brain on Trial

    Advances in brain science are calling into question the volition behind many criminal acts. A leading neuroscientist describes how the foundations of our criminal-justice system are beginning to crumble, and proposes a new way forward for law and order.
    By David Eagleman

  •  I checked "other" because... (5+ / 0-)

    ...less than two years ago my daughter and I were tied up and robbed at knifepoint by a 52-year-old drug addict/repeat offender. He had entered her Manhattan apartment through an open window near a fire escape and jumped out at us from behind the front door when we returned from having dinner on a warm October night. It was as terrifying as you imagine it would be.

    The man was arrested a few weeks later. Our robbery was one of a string of seven, all home invasions, that occurred over a period of only a few weeks, a spree that began within a few months after he was released from his most recent incarceration. We learned from news accounts of his arrest that he had spent most of his adult years in prison for various robbery and assault convictions.

    I'd never been the victim of a violent crime before, so I don't know if my experience is typical. But when the man left the apartment and we untied ourselves and called 911, the police arrived within minutes. They treated us with kindness and professionalism over the subsequent weeks and months as we helped identify a suspect, picked him out of a lineup, and testified before a grand jury.

    Were we treated well because we are white, middle-class people? I don't know. I know some of the other victims were not that, and from what little I was permitted to see of them, the police treated them equally kindly. (The robber himself had a Hispanic name but looked entirely white.)

    The guy who robbed us is a dangerous guy. I don't know anything about his life story apart from his criminal record, but it's fair to assume it wasn't a happy one.

    I can't fault the police for doing their job. But I do have to ask whether in an alternative world, where drug addiction is treated as a medical condition instead of a crime, and addressed through treatment and support rather than repeated cycles of arrest and incarceration, incidents like this would even happen.

  •  Pledge (5+ / 0-)

    I do not say the Pledge of Allegiance or stand up when the flag is presented. I am not proud to be an American simply because I had no choice in the matter -- I was born here. My country has done some good things and committed atrocities as well. I see no reason why I should not vote, behave and live as a rational person rather than ascribe to some emotional, nationalistic political mindset.

    And this is neither a "Christian nation" nor "one nation under God." All nations are under God.

  •  All the experiences I've had... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sberel

    with the justice system in the US were much, much better than the experiences I had with the justice system in certain other countries (where one has to be afraid of the "law enforcement" more than of the criminals). The incarceration rate though is totally atrocious, and largely due to criminalization of non-criminal behaviors.

    •  In theory, sure, it's better with its (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sberel, blindyone, soothsayer99, princss6

      presumption of innocence, Miranda, etc.  But how that all actually pans out for those who are poor?  Not so much.  Let's start with the notion of a speedy trial, it can only be so speedy as the dockets allow.  On law shows, victims of the people on trial still have their wounds and fresh bruises.  How is that possible if people have to wait years for trials?

      Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.--MLK, Jr.

      by conlakappa on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 01:18:56 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Public Defense - NOLA (10+ / 0-)

    I'm currently interning for the Orleans Public Defenders, operating in the area with the highest incarceration rate in a state that has the highest incarceration rate in the world. With repeat offender statutes, we've seen people go to prison for life, or more commonly 20 years, for a 4th offense of possession of pot. No growing, no dealing, just possessing.

    Even if you're innocent, if you're too poor to afford bail, you stay behind bars for over a year at times just awaiting trial.

    It's absurd. The incarceration system IS the civil rights movement of our generation. I'm just afraid that people will forever fail to notice since the faces of those impacted are behind bars.

    Just look at that story from a month ago, "man robs bank of 1$ to get free health care." The reaction was, "look what terrible health care we have" when in reality it should have been "Does he realize he will hardly get any treatment at all behind bars? Not to mention the increased risk of contracting other illnesses, being raped, abused by guards, etc?"

    tl;dr The criminal justice system, and prison system, needs an incredible amount of reform.

  •  You want to know about injustice? (14+ / 0-)

    My uncle was incarcerrated for 15 years for a murder he didn't committ. He and his codefendant were sentanced to 80 years- but the conviction was overturned about a year and a half ago. Here is the news article about it:

    http://hosted2.ap.org/...

    And then, a couple week ago  on July 9th, the CT supreme court THREW OUT that ruling.

    http://hosted2.ap.org/...

    So now he is facing the possibility of going back to prison, for a crime he was found ACTUALLY INNOCENT of (those were the judges words when they freed him.

    Because while the burden of proof for a conviction is on the state, after you have been convicted of the crime the burden of proof to not just prove you are not guilty but ACTUALLY INNOCENT is on you. And that is a very high bar to reach, especially in a case with no physical evidence like this one. This is the same dilemma that the lawyers for Troy Davis are facing.

    He has stage 4 colon cancer and was told he had 6 months to live over a year ago.

    He is still wearing an ankle bracelet, but he's so emaciated from the cancer that it's falling off now...so they are getting him a new one.

    Because you know, this dying, innocent man poses such a threat to society.

    Photobucket

    Will work for food
    Will die for oil
    Will kill for power and to us the spoils
    The billionaires get to pay less tax
    The working poor get to fall through the cracks
    -James McMurty

    -9.75/-8.26

    by SwedishJewfish on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 10:40:38 AM PDT

    •  I am so sorry to hear what happened to you (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      SwedishJewfish, asterkitty

      You have my strongest sympathies. I hope you get to see your loved one before he dies. This is horrible.

      I am sorry to hear about all the trouble you've been going through.

      I can only imagine the horror and pain of going to jail for something you didn't do.

      •  Thanks (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        OrganizedCrime, kyril, blueness, princss6

        He is out of prison though, and has been since 2010 since habeus was granted. That's the thing, we don't want to get him ripped away from us again. And thats what the DA is trying to do- for no other reason, I'm convinced, than he cannot bring himself to admit that he was wrong, and that he really did lock up 2 innocent men for over a decade.

        I appreciate your kind words.

        Will work for food
        Will die for oil
        Will kill for power and to us the spoils
        The billionaires get to pay less tax
        The working poor get to fall through the cracks
        -James McMurty

        -9.75/-8.26

        by SwedishJewfish on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 10:58:26 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  No no innocent man should go to jail (0+ / 0-)

          Yes I am a "tough on crime" person, but I also have a ton of sympathy for those who go to jail for crimes they didn't commit.

          I hope to God your loved one gets to spend his remaining days with you. Even if it doesn't result in a total exoneration, I would hope that the prosecutor would consider the time your loved has already served. I would hope that, if you can't get an exoneration, the judge or the DA would be willing to let the sentence be at "time served" since you made it clear he was in jail for a very long time already.

          Whatever the case I hope your loved one can stay with you and that his remaining days are positive. I have nothing but sympathy for the wrongly accused.

          •  Tough on crime got us in this mess. It's crimes (4+ / 0-)

            that shouldn't end in incarceration in the first place, that resulted in the 700% increase since 1970 i am concerned about. Tough on crime slogan is used to get elected. When in fact, it change the laws, cast a wider net and see how many more are caught in it, then imprison them. I am saying this even though i worked as a correctional officer and saw all the young people coming in with outrageously long sentences for non-violent offenses.

          •  The thing is (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Denise Oliver Velez, sberel, princss6

            especially knowing he is dying, he will not be satisfied with that kind of ruling. He wants his name cleared. He has been hanging on for as long as he has, IMO, because he feels like he will not be at peace until he gets justice.

            There are some "tough on crime" people who are arguing that he should go back to jail anyways because he admitted to commiting a robbery on the night this happened. Even some who have said he deserves to have cancer, and they are glad he's dying, because once a thug always a thug and one less thug in the world is a good thing.  That is why I take issue with the "tough on crime" stance- I know you aren't saying those things, but that is the kind of dialogue it ultimately leads to.

            Will work for food
            Will die for oil
            Will kill for power and to us the spoils
            The billionaires get to pay less tax
            The working poor get to fall through the cracks
            -James McMurty

            -9.75/-8.26

            by SwedishJewfish on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 12:16:06 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  It will get worse as prisons are privatized (10+ / 0-)

    Here in Fla. our Fraudster/Teapartier Governor, Rick Scott is moving quickly to "privatize and save money" in our prison system.  One unfortunate result is that enforcement of civil rights laws and other Federal and State laws regarding the humane treatment of prisoners is complicated and many times thwarted by privatization.  Private Prisons claim that they are independent and do not have the required nexus to the state to have many laws apply to them (I think they're dead wrong in this assertion).

    •  Bingo. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sberel

      The incarceration rate, already out of whack will only get worse.
      We are developing a system of "justice" that in the end, the primary concern is to "incarcerate people for profit." Think about that for a moment if you will.

      We are already seeing the influence that private prison companies are having on law makers, governor's etc.

      Ripe for abuse barely begins to cover, what will become a cesspool.

      Take a look at what Justice Policy Institute has on this. Gaming the System

      "The greater the ignorance, the greater the dogmatism." Sir William Osler

      by wxorknot on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 02:36:12 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  tipped and rec'd. n/t (9+ / 0-)

    Conservatism is killing this country. Jayden

    by swampyankee on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 10:45:32 AM PDT

  •  From the poll: Other (10+ / 0-)

    While being generally aware of the criminal injustice system, just by being generally aware of most things going on over the decades, I have had my eyes pried wide open by working with two amazing organizations; The Inside-Out Center and Witness to Innocence, both based here in Philadelphia.

    Yes, I'm just the freelance graphic designer, but I do need to read through and then visually present the materials with the seriousness and dignity they deserve. I have learned so much just by being associated with these fine organizations.

    America needs it's eyes pried wide open.

    curious portal - to a world of paintings, lyric-poems, art writing, and graphic and web design

    by asterkitty on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 10:49:59 AM PDT

  •  Prisons are a big reservation. (6+ / 0-)

    what it means is that society has failed.

    May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be always at your back.

    by GlowNZ on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 10:56:31 AM PDT

    •  I guess you mean Indian reservations? (4+ / 0-)

      Once our reservations were like prisons but now they're what's left of our homelands and we have tribal governments.

      But your point is well taken, society has failed its people when prisons are the only answer they have.

      America could have chosen to be the worlds doctor, or grocer. We choose instead to be her policeman. pity

      by cacamp on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 02:51:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  One of the most damning (11+ / 0-)

    indictments of our so-called justice system is one particular statistic about life expectancy of black men. In America black men have a longer life expectancy in prison than outside it. I'm sure this comes as know surprise to black people, but to me it's shocking and horrifying. The amount of resources that that this country puts into maintaining prisons — at the expense of other, far more vital areas such as public health in communities of color — is criminal.

    If the people one day wish to live / destiny cannot but respond / And the night cannot but disappear / and the bonds cannot but break. -- Abu'l-Qasim al-Shabbi

    by unspeakable on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 10:59:17 AM PDT

  •  opposed to death penalty (6+ / 0-)

    My only contribution to this effort has been to participate in opposition to the death penalty going on at the state level (Nebraskans Against the Death Penalty). I make donations to support their work and make phone calls and write letters when legislation is pending. I also spoke personally with my rep in the Unicameral, who is a Democrat and is strongly opposed to the death penalty. (He's opposed to abortion rights, too, but never mind, I didn't discuss that with him. One thing at a time...)

    The death penalty as an institution is losing ground, and some here are optimistic about defeating it. Even though we lost our greatest champion, Ernie Chambers, to term limits.

    ~On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin! Raise her glowing flame!~

    by sillia on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 11:12:16 AM PDT

  •  Thanks for the Diary, Denise (14+ / 0-)

    I always learn new things from your writing.

    What I find notable is tying the present circumstances of Black men being disproportionately incarcerated to the history of Black people post-Reconstruction.  To me, it's just one continuing legacy, with the reasons being the same even as the methods have changed over the decades.  It seems self-evident when one looks at the rise in Southern states disproportionately both increasing the number of laws that imposed felony status on crimes arising from poverty while also implementing convict leasing (which effectively re-enslaved disproportionately Black men, by creating financial incentives to lock them up for as long as possible since the state could only make money off their labor while they were locked up.  

    I did want to add one other possible link for you to consider:  one to a group that is also fighting unjust incarceration, but has focused its efforts on the barbaric, cruel and unusual punishment that is life without parole for children: The Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth.   This particular effort, to permanently eliminate the idea of LWOP (life without parole) for juveniles who commit a crime, is also in need of support, for all the same reasons as other organizations fighting the injustice of the justice system.

    If you don't stand for something, you will go for anything. Visit Maat's Feather

    by shanikka on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 11:13:20 AM PDT

  •  A jail is being built a mile from my home. (7+ / 0-)

    Here is our website
    about these jail issues....
    Nisqually Tribal Regional For Profit Jail

    If cats could blog, they wouldn't

    by crystal eyes on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 11:17:35 AM PDT

  •  And it's all intentional, planned and is being (6+ / 0-)

    carried out. It is interesting that the percentage of incarceration has increased 700% since 1970. Is it a coincident that increase was more profound following directly behind the passing of civil right legislation, public integration and the taking of jobs out of minority, mostly black, bringing in drugs and placing liquor stores on average every 4 or 5 blocks?

    There is a direct link between inserting drugs into our communities and the disproportionate increased in the number of the incarceration of blacks and now Latinos, due to the war on drugs. First they bring the drugs in, then they declare a war on drugs and see how many get caught up in that wide net they cast. And they cast  a wide enough net to trap users and those who have drugs in their procession. They even changed the law to what amount could be considered intent to sale (even wider net).

    Then give uneven sentences for one group, as opposed to another, when both are the same drugs. It's obvious who are the targets. But now it's so profitable, there has been an increase in whites (mostly poor) going to prison. I think it started out to crush the black community by causing so much hopelessness, spread to the Latino communities and now to the mostly poor white communities. Meth (used by mostly whites) arrest and incarceration for it, is on the rise. Greed knows no bounds.

  •  Mass incarceration as crime control (7+ / 0-)

    is a policy of failure.  It says let's wait until the thing we want to stop has happened, and only then will we try to address the problem - and we'll do so without addressing any of the fundamental causes.  Why should we accept victimization in order to satisfy those who feel punitiveness is the central value in crime policy?  Why not try to prevent the victimization in the first place?  

    Once is prison, we terrorize prisoners, we dehumanize them, and then many are released into the world damaged and with drastically reduced job prospects, with parole rules that are impossible to follow, setting them up for failure instead of creating incentives to change.

    Other countries achieve lower crime with less punitive policies.  States that are the most punitive, that lock up the most people, do not enjoy the least crime.  Our policies are expensive and counterproductive.

    All that money being spent on locking people up and surveilling them (many of whom have done nothing to threaten the rest of us) is money that cannot be spent on infrastructure or schools or the other things government is neglecting that support a robust and growing middle class.  What a stronger society we would be in more of those people now in prison (along with the unemployed) could be contributing to society.

    Mass incarceration is a policy of failure.

  •  Prisons are free! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    2020adam, soothsayer99

    Remarkably, a Google search shows that Jim Webb has re-introduced his sentencing reform bill and is still pushing it.  Apparently, however, incarcerating a greater percentage of our population than any country on earth is absolutely free, because the idea of saving money by reducing our prison population has never even come up.  And of course the greatest progressive President ever has done virtually nothing to support Webb.

    I do give Obama credit for crack cocaine sentencing reform, under which black people will now serve much more time than white people for comparable offenses, compared to before when they served much, much more time.  Yes we sort of can a little bit!

  •  There's a remarkable similarity in the rates... (8+ / 0-)

    ...of US incarceration - 3.1% - and the percentage of US children in foster care due to neglect or abuse - 2%-4% based on state. Most of those (up to 75%) in the latter group will become incarcerated in their lifetimes.

    People of color suffer higher rates of neighborhood crime and were on the front lines in the '80s demanding safer communities. People of color also suffer higher rates of incarceration, and higher rates of foster placement than their demographic numbers.

    Cruelty. Inequality. Incarceration for nonviolent crimes. The War of Drugs. Privatization. These discrete problems have moral and social arguments that can be made to Americans who demanded safe neighborhoods during the crime waves in the '80s but who are not essentially cruel. IMO actions are easier to determine for these issues once they're carved off into achievable goals from the root problems of racism and poverty.  

    But there are also opportunities to get at some of the problem earlier and far more aggressively through maternity, infant and pediatric development advances.

    Example. I had a black 3 yo foster son who was bouncing off the walls 20 hours a day and expelled from every preschool for getting violent. In the short time I had him he only fell asleep exhausted, on the floor, in my arms gently holding him down. I was paid a monthly stipend I did not need to care for him on a temporary placement, and in home professional treatment. The goal was to furiously try to calm his brain before he'd get old enough for the system to drug into passivity.

    His angelic grandmother surfaced. She knew nothing about him and once she met this adorable child she immediately took him & got him out of the system. Because she's his grandmother she gets no stipend. She was alone,  had no income. The boy needs a tremendous investment of time, nutrition, patience, and love, and also medical, social, occupational and psychiatric treatment. WTF is wrong with us?

    Eliminate the Bush tax cuts Eliminate Afghan and Iraq wars Do these things first before considering any cuts

    by kck on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 12:17:45 PM PDT

  •  now I'm confused (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sberel

    I read in another diary -- just now as I was looking again for this article that the Pelican Bay hunger strike had ended although the issues continue to need to be addressed?

    And, the link is still not working on change.org -- ?  as mentioned I get "bad gateway" -- was it taken down because the protest has ended at least for now?

    Thanks for any clarification/best/s

  •  Native Americans in prisons (6+ / 0-)

    I really appreciate this diary since so damn many of my people are going to prison. It's like and epidemic on our homelands and every family is affected. Once many of our youth used to go in the service to get off the rez and see the world. Nowadays many more go to prison, both boys and girls.

    One thing that makes our situation worse is that federal laws are enforced on reservations. So that means longer and mandatory sentences, no parole or good time and very few services upon release. Our kids go to large overcrowded maximum federal prisons when other kids would go to smaller minimum state prisons or rehab centers. Now we have a big gang problem from returning prisoners with names like "crips" and "bloods" way out in the boonies of South Dakota.

    America could have chosen to be the worlds doctor, or grocer. We choose instead to be her policeman. pity

    by cacamp on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 03:24:56 PM PDT

    •  Native Americans and the Criminal InJustice System (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sberel, cacamp, princss6, Odysseus

      is a topic that needs more discussion.

      The American native crime victimization rate is twice that of non-Indians. National crime victimization surveys reveal that whites perpetrate 57% of the violent crimes committed against American Indians. 80% of sexual assaults against Native Americans are perpetrated by whites.

      The incarceration rate of Native Americans is 38% higher than the national rate. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights attributes this higher rate to differential treatment by the criminal justice system, lack of access to adequate counsel and racial profiling. Law enforcement agents arrest American Indians and Alaskan Natives at twice the rate of the greater U.S. population for violent and property crimes. On average, American Indians receive longer sentences than non-Indians for crimes. They also tend to serve longer time in prison for their sentences than non-Native Americans. The suicide rate is higher among American native inmates incarcerated in jails than non-Indians. Within the prison system, Native Americans are often subject to abuse when attempting to identify with native cultures through the wearing of head-bands, using native languages, maintaining long-braided hair, listening to native music, and securing culturely-related educational material.


      http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/...

      "If you're in a coalition and you're comfortable, you know it's not a broad enough coalition" Bernice Johnson Reagon

      by Denise Oliver Velez on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 05:04:40 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I'm a volunteer chaplain (5+ / 0-)

    at the county level.

    Yes, I know. There are many pastors who would see this as an outstanding time to evangelize their particular understanding to a captive audience.

    The volunteers are specifically forbidden from bringing up religion/faith/ belief unless the person we're talking to initiates the conversation. This prohibition is not universally honored, to say the least.

    To be honest, half the time I'm there, I just listen to women and men tell their stories and don't even mention God. I lead a Bible study that is discussion oriented and these guys (mostly) have a lot to say about it. They love to challenge me, and I love them for it.

    I never ask them about why they are there. If they want to talk about it, I'll listen. I always come away wanting to do more.

    I really hate the clerical collar, though. Clericals of some sort are required.

    Everybody's story is different and unique, but there are many sad similarities to all of them. We have failed so many people.

    Nobody is normal because everyone is different- my eight year old daughter

    by left rev on Sun Jul 24, 2011 at 04:56:24 PM PDT

  •  I read Michelle Alexander's book last year (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sberel, Denise Oliver Velez

    and it's an amazing read.  It really put a face on the problem of Americans (mostly low-income and racial minority) not only being incarcerated and locked away for even the pettiest of crimes, but then continuing to face cruel punishment by society even after they return, like being denied housing, employment opportunities, benefits, etc.

    This comment is probably coming in way too late -- was busy for pretty much all of today -- but glad you wrote about it.

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