2006/12/11

Incarceration Nation Part II

In my last post I argued that Constitution-busting privacy invasions are the product of a government that doesn't trust it's citizens, assuming that they are either 'terrorists in waiting' or in sympathy with the so-called enemies of the state. But really, government paranoia and fear of one's fellow citizen are amply demonstrated by this country's unhinged penchant for locking up it's own people.

No contemporary nation--not Russia, or China, North Korea or Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, or South Africa--incarcerates it's citizens with the zeal that we do. We don't just have higher per capita incarceration (at 737 prisoners per 100,000), we have a higher absolute incarceration rate! 2.2 million people are behind bars here. The country with the next highest number of prisoners, China with 4 times our population, locks up 1.5 million.

And if those stats don't make you queasy, try these on for size: One in four prisoners, world-wide, are locked up in the US. Where other Western industrialized democracies incarcerate 1 person per 100,000, we incarcerate 7. We put people away for longer and for more offenses than any other nation. Indeed, with our mandatory minimums, our three-strikes laws, jail time for practically every offense under the sun, we don't look peaceful and prosperous. We look puritanical and paranoid.

The war on terror is nothing new. That war is just an extension, an outward facing expression, of the deep distrust that fuels our government's war on us.

Part 1 <<  Incarceration Nation  >> Part 3

16 Comments:

Sometimes I fear the US will export that penchant for punishment. If it really worked prisons would work themselves out of a job. Same with capital punishment, but the figures just keep rising.
Seems to me the whole concept just feeds the lowest common denominator, then snaps them up in the process.
So much for the advance of civilization...
OT/

I hear Teddy Kennedy has caught on to some of those old timey San Fran Values?

As for the prisons, the attendance record's volume is most directly tied to our idiotic drug laws. Wanna talk about, "puritanical and paranoid."
Cartledge, it's also a horrible waste of resources. Fred very rightly points out that a lot of it is due to our draconian drug laws, but there are also new federal crimes, being added by the dozens, every year.

Our prison system not only doesn't work itself out of a job. It is the job, and tries to expand through lobbying for tougher sentencing.

Fred, I read about that. Guess we'll hear the GOP whining about those West Coast commies trying to undermine American small businesses any day now, huh?
Drug laws, prison lobbies, Federal statutues. It is all part of a business now, and business is good for America.

Maybe that is what Iraq needs: more prisons! If they want to have American style democracy, they are going to need a lot more of them. Just another thing the ISG report left out.
We're number one! Suck on that France!

USA! USA! USA!
Add in the number of people on probation or parole (making them , for all intents and purposes, unemployable) and you'll REALLY get queasy.
Praguetwin...you know it--the 'Incarceration Industrial Complex'. It rivals the military industrial complex.

Comandante... The French? Can't touch us! Even the UK, arguably the most surveilled society on the planet, can't touch us.

probation or parole (making them , for all intents and purposes, unemployable)

LC, that's almost a whole 'nuther debate on it's own, isn't it? I've written often about how our government is striving to create a class of 'American Untouchables'. I think that the article that when you you include probation and parole, the figures jumpt to 1 in 32 Americans...truly astounding.
I have to wonder sometimes about how bad things have gotten. Some of the practical jokes I pulled as a teenager would probably be considered bad enough today to warrant jail time, i.e. throwing eggs at people, covering someone's car with shaving cream, throwing water balloons, etc. That doesn't cover drug matters, for which the punishments come nowhere near fitting the "crime", and in the case of users, what's the crime?

Maybe this isn't right, but it seems like about the time Reagan got into office, things began to take a downward turn toward ratcheting up punishments. I find it unbelievable that one of the most "civilized" nations in the world, our United States, would be so quick to put as many people away as possible, and that people would be so unconcerned as they seem to be about letting the trend continue.
Incredible post!! Our intolerance for small drug possesion offenses is particularly "puritanical and paranoid."

Great post!
I've always wondered why we spend more on prisons than we do on schools - if we spent more on schools instead, might we reduce the need for prisons?
I think a lot of it is from the drug laws. There was a guy who had 2 possession charges in Iowa and got a third for possession because a friend of his got busted and worked out a deal to catch someone distributing. He is now doing life for marijuana.

I think there is also the political benefit of having a prison in your district. The inmates count as individuals for census purposes, but mostly can't vote.
Windspike...that almost sounds like a worthy reallying cry. "Schools instead of prisons!"

Snave, probably would have caught you and tried you as an adult--all the rage you know.

Pam, many thanks!

Me4Prez, handn't thought of that, but you're right scews the representation issue slightly.
There you go again. That's not a photo of a prison, silly, that's a new complex of studio apartments in Seattle's fashionable Pike-Pine neighborhood. As you can see, this particular building will always have a helpful but vigilant concierge on duty in the full security lobby. Nothing's too good for Seattle's community of hard-working software programmers and gene splicers!
Seattle's fashionable Pike-Pine neighborhood

We have these as well here in Babylon by the Bay. Sprouting like weeds South of Market. The Frogette and I refer to them as 'insta-slums'.
This is an excellent pair of posts!

The mass incarceration of our citizens has always been a troublesome topic for me. With the way the laws are set up, many people convicted of petty offenses lose the right to vote, forever. When you take that fact, coupled with the discriminatory sentencing laws, you get de facto disenfranchisement.
This is an excellent pair of posts!

Ms Liberty, I assume that you're not talking about this one the and the "People's Republic" post? ;-)

Anyway...many thanks. The first one ('Constitution-busters'), I'd been meaning to post for some time. This one was just fortuitous in that the referenced news story came up on Saturday.

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