February 10, 2009
Will the Poor Economy Lead to Prison Reform?
That seems to be what the Denver Post is hoping.
One of my pet gripes about our legal system is that the lock-'em-away set is costing the states and the country a fortune through the costs of operating the prisons and taking millions of people out of the economy. Maybe a positive side effect of the current crisis will be some changes in this area.
Posted by armand at February 10, 2009 01:58 PM
| Posted to Law and the Courts
I get clients in my court referred groups who say they were sent to prison, but nobody ever gave them counseling to change their lives, so they committed another crime and were returned to prison. I get clients in my court referred groups who say they were sent to counseling, but nobody ever gave them prison to change their lives, so they committed another crime and were sent to prison.
We need both counseling programs and prison, and we need to do a more effective job of making our prisons a deprivation. When people get to pal around and play cards with their buddies, they don't mind prison. When they get to eat as well as they eat on the outside, they don't mind prison. If we gave every criminal for their first charge a month in solitary in which they were only visisted once daily by their counselor, we wouldn't see so many people coming back for years.
The idea held by some that people who use drugs shouldn't be in prison defies the inhumanity addicted people wreak on people around them. They become as selfish in addiction as people who commit crimes via narcissistic personality disorder, and they have no right to enjoy the benefits of liberty in their community as they continue to deprive others of their liberties.
So as long as we can make prisons more of a deprivation, we can let people out earlier so that they appreciate a difference in their reward for being a good citizen and their punishment for committing a crime. But when they have charges that get reduced, or that they can get out of by going to classes, they come to believe they have beaten the system, and that they can do it again; it teaches an awful lesson, and they often lose years of their lives behind it.
Morris you are missing the point I think. One, we don't lock up addicts as a general matter (thank god - though sure you want to play god and do that, presumably all of them which would of course require building and staffing masses of new prisons). And do you have any idea how much putting every prisoner in solitary for a month would cost? It boggles the mind to try to process that.
The point is that the current system is astoundingly expensive and detrimental to the economy. We need to open ourselves up to other programs (as you correctly note) and basically redo the system, unless we'd rather spend vast sums on the current one (which as you both note has many problems) and take millions of people out of the economy in the process.
And it'll be interesting to see if that CA decision stands.
"When people get to pal around and play cards with their buddies, they don't mind prison. When they get to eat as well as they eat on the outside, they don't mind prison." One would think that based on your experience -- and I worked for a Department of Corrections, before you go and claim I'm talking out of my ass -- you would be able to do better than come up with a standard nightly news cliche about prison life.
But leave it to someone who has always had his freedom to walk outside and sit indian style on a sidewalk and just stare at the sky to undervalue how painful the deprivation of that is to a person, card playing aside.
As for addiction and the damage it does, how about debtor's prison, Morris? We're witnessing first-hand the damage irresponsible fiscal decision-making can do, and I'd say it's a hell of a lot worse than pot-smoking has ever done or ever will.
Anyway, if you want to stand pat on the strong position on addiction, that's fine, as long as you adopt the only intellectually coherent position: that alcohol, which does far more damage than a number of the arbitrarily proscribed drugs, goes in for precisely the same treatment as any other drug you have in mind.
"I worked for a Department of Corrections"
Good for you.
"you would be able to do better than come up with a standard nightly news cliche about prison life."
I get it from the source, former inmates, with whom I have about a dozen groups a month.
"But leave it to someone who has always had his freedom to walk outside and sit indian style on a sidewalk and just stare at the sky to undervalue how painful the deprivation of that is to a person, card playing aside."
So you're saying that I have less wisdom because I haven't gotten thrown in prison for a felony? Typcial Lefty reversal of value, that only victims can have opinions. Of course some prisons have more deprivation than others, but the amount of deprivation should not vary depending on which parish you commit a crime if we seek to make punishment predictable enough that it's expected. This is in fact the point. If they come to believe they can game their consequences, they get into way more trouble than they're expecting. I want inmates to know what to expect, exactly.
"As for addiction and the damage it does, how about debtor's prison, Morris? We're witnessing first-hand the damage irresponsible fiscal decision-making can do, and I'd say it's a hell of a lot worse than pot-smoking has ever done or ever will."
Yet you jumped all over me for wanting to throw Barney Frank in jail. Glad to know you've come to your senses. He should be in jail for defrauding this nation's people.
According to Dr. Elbogen regarding the National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions, "Only when a person has both mental illness and substance abuse at the same time does that person's risk of future violence outweigh anyone else's." So put a pin in your nightly news cliche about addiction being harmless. Addiction isn't the bomb, but it lights the fuse. And I'd be happy to take your intellectually coherent position on alcohol. I'd even raise with cigarettes.
The worst part of detox is the first couple of weeks, so locking up someone for a month gives them a head start on their addiction as long as they have no access to drugs and alcohol while intoxicated; what they do with that head start is up to them. It actually wouldn't cost that much more to put prisoners in solitary, essentially design wise just adding one more wall to halve their current space, one wall across the front of their cell, one more bathroom, and one more bed.
That's significant, because as it works, it would pay for itself when we'd need fewer prisons and it would keep antisocials from organizing within the prisons. Our Obama, should I say our K-Fed to Bush's Britney, wants to pay for construction jobs, says it's vital in fact to the economy, and he's giving the states about $50 billion, so why not tell them how to spend it? With less people in prison in the longterm, our economy would have more available workforce to strengthen it.
"With less people in prison in the long term . . . "
I've got an idea. Let's look at countries that have less people in prison in the long term, shall we, and we don't want for those, since it's about 95% of the countries in the world, including those we deem so oppressive that we think bombing them is the best answer.
So, does anyone in Western Europe lock up people for a duration anywhere near what we do for simple possession? Do they lock up girlfriends because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time and don't have any information about their boyfriends to trade, making their kids wards of the state? Do they stick non-violent criminals in solitary for the first month? Hell, do they even have American-style solitary?
They focus on treatment and prevention, Morris, and they don't lock people up like animals until they've literally tried everything else. Their systems are cheaper, more effective, and their societies are less violent. If you're serious about prison reform, and however misguided it sounds like you are, the answer is not more of the same.
So debtor's prison? Really? Just for Barney Frank? How many people do you know with underwater mortgages, Morris? How many who went bankrupt and in one way or another have burdened the state? You're so full of shit.
"Do they stick non-violent criminals in solitary for the first month?"
This is the most obscene common delusion pervading our criminal justice system (and the foreign policy of some). Violence has never been the problem, evil has always been the problem. Some of the most evil SOBs in this world never lay a hand on another person. But when they organize their lives around, say, addiction, it draws their attention away from say, their kids, their wives/husbands, and everything else.
There's no reason that we shouldn't be able to prosecute a person for neglect if they're an alcoholic who refuses to do anything about it, because that person's awareness and energy is not going towards their kids. And someone who neglects their kids when they become absorbed with drinking, gambling, or drugging hurts the world a lot more than a mugger who pushes someone down, because that person can dust themselves off and get back up.
A child raised by an alcoholic, if they got pushed down, would ask themselves whether they deserved being pushed down, and whether they deserve to get back up, because they don't feel worthy. Being pushed down isn't the problem, for we are limited beings who fall down, even on our own; it's not knowing what's valuable that's the problem. When violence is exercised against a threat to what's important, it isn't a problem, it's a solution.
And I love your post; in the first paragraph, you admit how violent societies manage to avoid imprisoning a bunch of people, then you jump to the conclusion that we must be as the Europeans who don't lock people up like animals. I don't suppose you know that the part of a person's brain that's active in their drug addiction is the limbic system. Some refer to the limbic system as the "animal brain" because animals have a limbic system. So if we are going to lock up people who act like animals, alcoholics and addicts are the very people we should lock up.
Treatment only works with people who act like animals when you capture their attention, and if you've ever trained animals you'd know reasoning with a dog doesn't get you very far. But they often do give you their attention rather than giving it to their addiction when they've been reminded through consequences of what they have to lose; treatment alone does a lot for people motivated by their values, but not so much for people who've lost touch with their values the more they've become fascinated with drugs and alcohol. This is your brain on drugs.
Speaking of prevention, more evidence that it just doesn't work from ScienceDaily 12/11/08:
"The Montana Meth Project (MMP) was created in 2005 to reduce methamphetamine use in Montana via graphic advertising showing extreme consequences of using meth "just once." Initially the ad campaign was privately funded, but it has since received millions of dollars in state and federal support as the MMP has promoted the ad campaign as a resounding success to policy makers and the media.
"following six months exposure to the MMP's graphic ads, there was a threefold increase in the percentage of teenagers who reported that using meth is not a risky behaviour; teenagers were four times more likely to strongly approve of regular meth use; teenagers were more likely to report that taking heroin and cocaine is not risky; and up to 50% of teenagers reported that the graphic ads exaggerate the risks of using meth.
"The theory underlying the MMP's ad campaign was also criticized by Erceg-Hurn. 'The idea behind the ad campaign is that teenagers take meth because they believe it is socially acceptable, and not risky - and the ads are meant to alter these perceptions. However, this theory is flawed because the Meth Project's own data shows that 98% of teenagers strongly disapproved of meth use and 97% thought using meth was risky before the campaign started.'
"The review also points out that considerable prior research has found that large anti-drug advertising campaigns can be ineffective and sometimes harmful. For example, the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign has cost taxpayers over $1.5 billion since 1998. A Government Accountability Office report found that the ad campaign has not reduced drug use. The only significant results were in an unfavorable direction - some youths reported an increase in marijuana use upon increased exposure to the campaign."
I talk treatment and you give me a TV ad campaign!? Prevention = treating people for their addictions outside the prison setting, where they have the dignity of other people trying to work through their problems. And I don't know where you're coming from calling European countries "violent:" they make us look like the wild west.
Oh and as for empirical data and propaganda, fine, anti-meth ads don't work. But farbeit from a conservative to drop abstinence-only education when undisputed data shows that it leads to increased rates of teen pregnancy, abortion, and STDs.
If your point is that we do it better than European societies, you're going to have to do better than citing a random failed ad campaign.
Must we always bicker back and forth? Some of this is just semantic differences, like when you say prevention, I assume advertising like the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign. Treating people outside the prison system is still treating them for a disorder they have, not preventing them from ever developing a disorder. It admittedly is muddled ground considering the model we use for compulsive gambling prevention doesn't tell people not to gamble, it makes them aware of what happens when it gets out of control so that they'll seek treatment sooner rather than later.
I'm not saying European countries are violent, I'm saying that by your own point, violent countries incarcerate less than we do. So we have to throw violence as a measure out, because it obviously doesn't correlate with incarceration, and trying to be like the Europeans in their avoidance of violence isn't necessarily the panacea you suggest.
There's nothing automatic about Europe's system. They have a very different culture. But there are literally dozens of countries that rehab their criminals better than we do, and few, if any, lock up nearly so many for non-violent crimes, and few, if any, lock up minor offenders under the sorts of conditions, and for the durations, that we do.
We can continue to take the bullshit exceptionalist line that since we're the best at everything, it necessarily means that we lock up more, and more harshly, because our criminals and our society is different, but I'm not buying it. Bottom line, other countries, many other countries, have proved that you can spot criminals, take them at least partially out of circulation, and prepare them to choose another path far more effectively than we do.
And frankly, given the time and energy we poor into the issue, that ought to be embarrassing.