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Old 04-14-2005, 12:44 PM   #1 (permalink)
The Death Card
 
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Prisons, my view and yours

I was browsing through another forum and came upon a discussion concerning prisons.

Specifically, I'd like to discuss everyone's viewpoint about the prison system, what's working, what isn't and what your model system would look like.

Personally, I think the whole system is FUBAR. Currently, in Canada it costs $168.00 a DAY to house a criminal, that's $61,320 a year. My suggestion: These people can be more effectively punished and rehabilitated outside of closed correctional facilities.

There are exceptions, such as violent rapists, sex offenders, and murderers who certainly need to be kept apart from society due to their continuing threat to society, but statistically these offenders occupy an EXTREMELY small portion of the overall crime rate.

Currently, I would implement sweeping reform to the tune of mandatory specific community service and rehabilitation IN the community as opposed to in a prison. This would free up millions of dollars from the current ineffective prison system and allow it to be better spent in other ways.

Most of the people in prisons are in there on property violations, minor assault, or robbery. These people are not being rehabilitated, and the recidivism rate (rate of reoffense) is notoriously high for offenders who spend extended periods of time in custody.

I propose that these people can provide society a service in repayment of their debt, rather than locking them away from society. If you torch a house, you're put to work building them for the current length of the prison term for arson. If you rob someone, you're going to be working community service in homeless shelters and submit to anger management therapy.

The money freed up from confining prisoners can be put back into the community in the form of shelters, clinics, and education. By providing high school dropout offenders with a diploma, their skillset is increased, their job options dramatically increase, and they are more likely to be productive members of society.

Further, I would implement more victim rights. Currently the crown prosecutor's job is to ensure the defendant receives a fair trial, and to prosecute the defendant in the name of the Crown (the defendant's crime is seen as a violation against the state, as opposed to the person). They have many other duties, but they aren't pertinent to my discussion.

I would change this by making the offender directly accountable to the victim. Allow the victim (if they so choose) to talk with the offender about how the crime has affected them, ask why they did it, etc. This would be entirely voluntary for the victim, but mandatory for the offender. The goal is to achieve ACCOUNTABILITY in the offender for his/her actions. Recent studies have shown a 95% satisfaction rate for the victim, and 98% satisfaction for the offender in this method of mediation, it allows the victim to obtain closure, and to impart the impact of the crime on the offender.

Wow, I didn't expect this to be that long, but I have a lot to get off my chest.

I'd also like to reiterate that this model is not for serious offenders such as murderers and rapists, but for the vast majority of crimes which are not of that nature.

Now it's your turn, what are your gripes with the system? Do you think it's working? What would you change?
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Old 04-14-2005, 12:45 PM   #2 (permalink)
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get rid of libraries, cable tv, free medical/dental(except for lifesaving), and internet access and we'd bring the cost down alot.
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Old 04-14-2005, 12:52 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Quote:
Now it's your turn, what are your gripes with the system? Do you think it's working? What would you change?
I would definitely change the way recreational drug offenders are sentenced. Right now our jail system is filled to the brim with 18 and 19 year olds doing time for their second or third charge of possession of weed. Mandatory minimum sentencing for these sort of inane crimes needs to be done away with. Mandatory sentencing eliminates the need for judicial discretion and completely ignores the defendents background and actual threat to society. Stop wasting money on stoned teenagers! If anything give them probation or send them to rehabilitation.
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Old 04-14-2005, 12:58 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by dksuddeth
get rid of libraries, cable tv, free medical/dental(except for lifesaving), and internet access and we'd bring the cost down alot.
The figure I cited is from the average Provincial penitentary in Canada, where few of these amenities exist.

And I agree whole heartedly Fourtyrulz... The drug laws in contemporary law are so backwards it's not even funny...
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Old 04-14-2005, 01:03 PM   #5 (permalink)
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The great white north could use some manpower doing odds and ends here and there. Set up work camps based on the ww2 POW model. The plus to situating criminals in God's country is that if some lame-o took off he'd be shivering in the muskeg eating blackflies to survive. An implanted satelite transponder would make picking him up at the convenience of the authorities a snap, too. I have no issue with implanting transponders in criminals. If they take issue with it let them stay straight and signal free. The weed thing - let it go. If some kids want to spend their after-tax dollars on weed so what? We have real issues to deal with, not that stuff.
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Old 04-14-2005, 01:12 PM   #6 (permalink)
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I think the prison systems would be fundamentally different given two major changes.

First, changing the focus from incarceration to rehabilitation. First time offenders for non-violent and qualifying violent crimes are sentenced to a treatment facility, counselors, drug rehab, and the like, if they can't successfully complete the rehab program then they would be transferred to work crews, where most of the fees would be subsidized by the jobs that they preform. The work crews would be a three strike system, leading to my second reform.

Increase the breadth of crimes punishable by death, and expidite the process. I know I'm going to get ripped for this one, but so be it. Add the rehab into the equation, if they fail rehab they go to a work crew, once approved by committee after a term on the crew they go back to rehab, fail again they go back to the work crew, there is no limit on this as long as they are approved for rehab by the work crew, or perhaps a three strikes rule per conviction or family of crime to inspire the criminal to reform. Failing the work crew for 3 terms, a second violent or felony sexual offense, and just get rid of them. Repeat offenders that had previously been through rehab go straight to the crews for their first term. And screw life imprisonment, if their crime warranted that, kill them and save the rest of us the hassle.

The implementation of changes like this would be drastic and would take a huge amount of planning. Having spent a year in a county jail only made a system like this make more sense. The money wasted on repeat offenders is a joke, while like you said petty things like possesion of weed would have the offenders giving something back to society on the work crews if it came to that.
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Old 04-14-2005, 01:38 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fourtyrulz
I would definitely change the way recreational drug offenders are sentenced. Right now our jail system is filled to the brim with 18 and 19 year olds doing time for their second or third charge of possession of weed. Mandatory minimum sentencing for these sort of inane crimes needs to be done away with. Mandatory sentencing eliminates the need for judicial discretion and completely ignores the defendents background and actual threat to society. Stop wasting money on stoned teenagers! If anything give them probation or send them to rehabilitation.
Agreed. This is easily, and without doubt, the most serious problem with the American penal system. I forget the exact numbers, but literally thousands upon thousands of people prosecuted for minor drug charges waste space and resources in the prison system. Changing the focus from incarceration to rehabilitation, or even better, some form of marijuana legalization, would improve things drastically.

liquidlight, I just...the last thing we need to do is put more people to death. Expediting the process is about the worst idea I could possibly think of. If the state is going to engage in murder, the last thing it should be doing is removing any safeguards. Lastly, murdering more people will have a negligable overall effect on the money/space problems facing our penal system.
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Old 04-14-2005, 01:46 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by guy44
If the state is going to engage in murder, the last thing it should be doing is removing any safeguards. Lastly, murdering more people will have a negligable overall effect on the money/space problems facing our penal system.
Just for debates sake, what happens if the hospitals/universities helped out here by harvesting criminals and studying the process as an education tool? Let the creators of misfortune become the new and healthy organs of the unfortunate. I bet if you let accountants loose on this idea the dollars and cents would work out. The Chinese are pretty good at this quick judgement/use of the executed I hear, even if the accountants don't have a hand due to the fact that things do move rather quickly, and after all, the communist rationalle is from each according to their ability to each according to their need. A little of this Eastern communist viewpoint directed at the criminal dregs of our own society could be a little ray of sunshine for some people who otherwise have no choices, and no chances.
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Old 04-14-2005, 01:50 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Prisons should be self-sustaining environments which empasize rehabilitation. Void of the death penalty, with the addition of voluntary euthanasia (post-psyche sessions).

Self-sustaining would mean manual labor, which, as long as it meets acceptable safety standards, is perfectly appropriate. The ultimate goal would be a prison system that pays for itself.

The purpose of prison should be to rehabilitate - not purely infantile punishment. The goal is to address psychological issues that result in criminal activity to provide a mechanism for self-realization of acceptable behavior within society.

The death penalty is ineffective at prevention and prone to the inherent possibility of murder of the inappropriately convicted. And there is no reparation for the murder of an innocent by the gov't.

Euthanasia should be a viable alternative to those who may have life sentences with no parole but do not wish to work the rest of their lives to support their lives while in prison.

There would probably be a number of other things I would suggest, such as the constant rotation of guards to inhibit guard-convict relationships (which results in the corruption of guards). Etc.


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Old 04-14-2005, 01:51 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by guy44
liquidlight, I just...the last thing we need to do is put more people to death. Expediting the process is about the worst idea I could possibly think of. If the state is going to engage in murder, the last thing it should be doing is removing any safeguards. Lastly, murdering more people will have a negligable overall effect on the money/space problems facing our penal system.

I'm not advocating removing the safeguards, I'm saying change what qualifies most people for capital punishment. The punishment is intended to be a deterrent to violent crimes, yet over and over we've demonstrated that it has no effect because the possibility of using it is almost non-existant.

My unfortunate experience with incarceration demonstrated to me that many of these people are actually benefitting from having us waste our tax dollars on them, that being wards of the state is much more desirable than actually leading beneficial lives, so why not add that incentive back?
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Old 04-14-2005, 01:58 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Manx
And this is all a dream.
This issue has been the deciding factor in my feelings about going into politics later in life.

Hell, I may never get elected, but I can sure put some issues out there and get them discussed.

Is it possible to jack my own thread? If so... /threadjack
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Old 04-14-2005, 01:59 PM   #12 (permalink)
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It always brought a smile to my face to see the way they did it in the old days:

Give the convict a shovel.
Have the convict dig a hole.
put the convict in the hole.
Put a steel grate over the hole.
When the sentence is done, take the grate off.

Seriously though, what the world needs is

More Bars
More Walls
More Guards

Who ever said that criminals were stupid? You are underestimating your enemy, and will learn to regret it. Criminals find loopholes in counselling, management, and community programs and inititatives.

Hey, you get easy treatment if you say you are addicted to drugs? Suddenly, every fucking guy is a drug addict.
Hey, you had a tough childhood and your environment tuned you to crime, so here is a special program to release you early? Suddenly everyone is a victiim of incest.

I would like to see people do their full sentence, and have judges increase the sentences. Then, when people see that their actions have very serious consequences, they will reconsider.

The current system is simply not a deterent for crime. Is punishment supposed to be a deterent? I think so.

And no, I am not advocating we put convicts in holes. It just makes me smile, and I thought I would share so that the dear reader could understand my ethical views.

Maybe if the treatment was inhumane, it would be a great deterent, but I agree with the philosophy that a society is measured by how it treats its convicts.

Long, humane sentences. IMHO
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Old 04-14-2005, 02:05 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Unfortunately BigBen, the statistics have shown that convicts given community sentences recidivate less than convicts given the same sentence in prison. I'm at school right now but I can dig up the source when I get home...

When the system isn't working, when it only breeds more crime, and prisons turn into criminal universities, something needs to be done.

Contrary to what you may think, I don't underestimate criminals... I think YOU do, by not giving them enough credit as human beings who still have to get on in this society after they get out of prison. Most crime isn't committed by people with ASD (antisocial personality disorder) who is possibly the only personality type which is statistically unable to be rehabilitated.

The system that has been in place for centuries hasn't deterred crime. How about we try something else?
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Old 04-14-2005, 02:07 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Manx
Prisons should be self-sustaining environments which empasize rehabilitation. Void of the death penalty, with the addition of voluntary euthanasia (post-psyche sessions).

Self-sustaining would mean manual labor, which, as long as it meets acceptable safety standards, is perfectly appropriate. The ultimate goal would be a prison system that pays for itself.

The purpose of prison should be to rehabilitate - not purely infantile punishment. The goal is to address psychological issues that result in criminal activity to provide a mechanism for self-realization of acceptable behavior within society.

The death penalty is ineffective at prevention and prone to the inherent possibility of murder of the inappropriately convicted. And there is no reparation for the murder of an innocent by the gov't.

Euthanasia should be a viable alternative to those who may have life sentences with no parole but do not wish to work the rest of their lives to support their lives while in prison.

There would probably be a number of other things I would suggest, such as the constant rotation of guards to inhibit guard-convict relationships (which results in the corruption of guards). Etc.


And this is all a dream.
I don't know how prevelant it was nationwide or even statewide, but growing up in Mansfield Ohio where we had the Ohio State Reformatory (the prison used for Shawshank Redemption among other films), we learned as kids that it was up until the '60's I believe a selfsustaining prison.

They had a farm, complete with apple orchards and would either use the food or sell the leftovers to the poorer neighborhoods. They also had these men develop skills (granted not used today) such as leatherworking, tailoring, and so on and would make wallets and clothing again sold to poorer neighborhoods in the Mansfield area.

Basically, for a long time the Mansfield, Ohio area and the Ohio State Reformatory were somewhat helpful to each other, in fact there were some Mansfield entreprenuers that actually had gotten their start in OSR. I think this could and should happen again.
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Old 04-14-2005, 02:51 PM   #15 (permalink)
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My biggest problems with the prison system are so systemic that I wonder if it could every be reformed. 1) The prison system takes a bunch of people we deem unfit for society and puts them together - and then they socialize each other in a way that almost ensures that they will be unable to integrate with larger society when they get out. It is a problem when prison becomes a way of culturizing criminals to be criminals. 2) There isn't enough emphasis on helping those who have served their time transition into the larger community. If an inmate hasn't been culturized as I mentioned above, likely they have become dependent on a rigid system that doesn't encourage the flexibility that coping with real life requires.

Now, I'm no expert, but it doesn't seem realistic to expect much rehabilitation under our current system. It also doesn't seem fair to take someone who, for whatever reason, has gotten themselves into trouble with the law and then stacking the deck against them even more. I also don't claim that there aren't extraordinary individuals who can overcome their pasts and lead very productive lives, but I don't think we as a culture are enabling that. Those few individuals are doing it not because of the system, but in spite of it. Whether you want to get tough on crime or not, there must be a more productive way for society to get what it wants out of the criminal justice system - a safer country and better lives for our citizens.
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Old 04-14-2005, 04:18 PM   #16 (permalink)
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The U.S. federal prison system essentially destroys people, then sets them free. I have seen this first hand many times. It is desperately, desperately in need of fundamental reform. I think it's great that you Ace are on top of this and concerned.

I don't know what the answers are, but at the very least it needs to be radically changed to focus on positive rehabilitation, and basic human dignity. Most of the people in there have identifiable psychological issues, usually expressed as addictions, that can be treated. The prison experience only exacerbates these problems, and creates new ones on top.

If you want a good read on prison life and prisoner psychology, get a hold of any of Danny Martin's books. Committing Journalism was his first. He's written several more (I just finished "In the Hat", a great read) that give you a good picture and feeling for prison society. It's very accurate (I know Danny a.k.a. the Red Hog, he's a great human being, though back in now because he had dirty urine about a year ago).

This September will begin my brother-in-law's 30th year in Leavenworth. He was rehabilitated probably 25 years ago, is no threat to anybody anymore, and is kept in purely for punishment. It's cruel and pointless. I can't fathom how any human being can survive psychologically in a max security prison for 30 years, trying to maintain one's basic dignity and self-respect.
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Old 04-14-2005, 06:22 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Manx
Euthanasia should be a viable alternative to those who may have life sentences with no parole but do not wish to work the rest of their lives to support their lives while in prison.
But doesn't that reduce their punishment?
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Old 04-14-2005, 06:36 PM   #18 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Ace_O_Spades
Unfortunately BigBen, the statistics have shown that convicts given community sentences recidivate less than convicts given the same sentence in prison. I'm at school right now but I can dig up the source when I get home...
Couldn't that just mean that those criminals that get prison sentences are generally worse than those that don't? Currently, the more severe the crime the higher likelyhood of incarceration. It would be similar to saying that because more people die during surgery in hospitals than in doctors offices, surgery shouldn't be done in hospitals.

I personally think that prisons should be more like prisons, and less like daycamps. There should be no amenities, no entertainment. It might be inhumane, but so are the crimes these people are convicted of.

Quote:
Originally Posted by raveneye
The U.S. federal prison system essentially destroys people, then sets them free. I have seen this first hand many times. It is desperately, desperately in need of fundamental reform. I think it's great that you Ace are on top of this and concerned.

I don't know what the answers are, but at the very least it needs to be radically changed to focus on positive rehabilitation, and basic human dignity. Most of the people in there have identifiable psychological issues, usually expressed as addictions, that can be treated. The prison experience only exacerbates these problems, and creates new ones on top.
These people aren't troubled children in need of hugs, they are dangerous and/or socially maladjusted adults who need to be taught to live with rules. They gave up their right to dignity when they committed a crime severe enough to warrant a stay in prison. There are some criminals who could use rehabilitation, but they do not generally commit the types of crimes that land you in a prison as opposed to a jail.

Quote:
This September will begin my brother-in-law's 30th year in Leavenworth. He was rehabilitated probably 25 years ago, is no threat to anybody anymore, and is kept in purely for punishment. It's cruel and pointless. I can't fathom how any human being can survive psychologically in a max security prison for 30 years, trying to maintain one's basic dignity and self-respect.
How can you prove he has been rehabilitated? Honestly, I personally feel safer keeping someone who could warrant that kind of heavy sentence locked up. These people don't deserve dignity and self-respect, they are criminals who have committed heinous crimes.

Last edited by alansmithee; 04-14-2005 at 06:44 PM..
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Old 04-14-2005, 06:43 PM   #19 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by raveneye

This September will begin my brother-in-law's 30th year in Leavenworth. He was rehabilitated probably 25 years ago, is no threat to anybody anymore, and is kept in purely for punishment. It's cruel and pointless. I can't fathom how any human being can survive psychologically in a max security prison for 30 years, trying to maintain one's basic dignity and self-respect.
I'm probably not the only one wondering what he did that resulted in a sentence of 30 years at Leavenworth.
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Old 04-14-2005, 09:40 PM   #20 (permalink)
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without knowing what this guy did and speaking generally, the point of the criminal justice system, IMO, is both to rehabilitate AND punish. simply "making him better" isn't really comforting to others that have been wronged more, and whether you believe that should matter, i think it's safe to say that it does.

as for my take on the american system, i'd like to see single-offense non-violent marijuana users let out of prison, and the 100:1 sentencing guidelines changed for crack cocaine. other nonviolent drug offenders should be transferred to treatment instead of incarcerated, depending on their situation, and sentences for violent offenders should go up (and parole down).

i'd also like white collar crime to be treated like crime. i can pretend to have a knife and take ten bucks outta your pocket, and i could wind up doing as much time as i would if i stole thousands more from a company or others.
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Old 04-14-2005, 10:35 PM   #21 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by alansmithee
Couldn't that just mean that those criminals that get prison sentences are generally worse than those that don't? Currently, the more severe the crime the higher likelyhood of incarceration. It would be similar to saying that because more people die during surgery in hospitals than in doctors offices, surgery shouldn't be done in hospitals.
Wrong... That fact is comparing equal sentences for equal offenses.

Murderers compose .1% of prison populations. Almost all of the offenders in prisons are in on stints less than 2 years, mostly for property offenses. And those who are in federal prisons are mostly repeat property offenders, assault, and theft over 5,000.

And as for your doctor's office/hospital correlation, I can't make heads nor tails of it... Perhaps you can clarify it so I can respond.

Quote:
Originally Posted by alansmithlee
I personally think that prisons should be more like prisons, and less like daycamps. There should be no amenities, no entertainment. It might be inhumane, but so are the crimes these people are convicted of.

These people aren't troubled children in need of hugs, they are dangerous and/or socially maladjusted adults who need to be taught to live with rules. They gave up their right to dignity when they committed a crime severe enough to warrant a stay in prison. There are some criminals who could use rehabilitation, but they do not generally commit the types of crimes that land you in a prison as opposed to a jail.
I say it again and again, murder is the statistically least likely offense which occurs every year. It totals .01% of all crime in Canada... hell, it is only 1% of the VIOLENT crime in Canada.

The vast, vast, vast majority of crime is people who are from poor socioeconomic backgrounds, with poor education, and are unemployed. We can help these people! I have much more faith in the human species than to relegate all of them to slow torture behind cold walls when we can actually prevent them from reoffending and heal the hurt done to the community instead of creating more criminals.

Quote:
Originally Posted by alansmithlee
How can you prove he has been rehabilitated? Honestly, I personally feel safer keeping someone who could warrant that kind of heavy sentence locked up. These people don't deserve dignity and self-respect, they are criminals who have committed heinous crimes.
These people are HUMAN BEINGS... they have made serious mistakes, yes... BUT, they also will run the course of their prison sentences eventually, and then... *GASP* they are released back into the community, often with no rehabilitation, and are expected to be contributive members of society. The law states we can't keep them locked up forever, so why not try to heal the hurt, and create a better society?
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Old 04-14-2005, 10:48 PM   #22 (permalink)
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i have reservations about making our prisons centers for "rehabilitation." one, there is nothing childish about punitive punishment. two, i'm not quite certain that has been shown as an effective course of action.

i once read an essay by C.S. Lewis dealing with the nature of punishment... the differences in mindset between punishing someone because they deserve it, and eschewing traditional punishment in favor of rehabilitation. it was very interesting, i'll see if i can dig it up again for you all.

the short-term solution imho is to radically reduce the quality of care and prison facilities. prison should be HARD TIME. no amenities of any sort... no tv, no non-essential healthcare, spartan cells, heating and cooling kept only within the parameters of not endangering the inmate's health, etc. hard labor all day everyday.
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Old 04-14-2005, 11:57 PM   #23 (permalink)
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"punitive punishment"? Is there any other kind?

It's quite a blanket statement to claim that there is nothing childish about punishment. That such a blanket statement is clearly wrong is another matter. The present penal system is certainly ineffective while focusing nearly exclusively on punishment. That is infantile. Punishment without resolution is punishment for the sake of punishment with no benefit to anyone. If you don't like the word infantile, maybe sadistic and simultaneously masochistic are more appropriate.

I wish that someday those who believe that greater and greater punishment will eventually result in resolution would recognize that their own fortune in not having to face harsh environments was a key factor in their ability to avoid criminal activity (getting caught for criminal activity, anyway). Then maybe they would rethink the concept of punishing the unlucky.
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Old 04-15-2005, 12:07 AM   #24 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Manx
I wish that someday those who believe that greater and greater punishment will eventually result in resolution would recognize that their own fortune in not having to face harsh environments was a key factor in their ability to avoid criminal activity (getting caught for criminal activity, anyway). Then maybe they would rethink the concept of punishing the unlucky.
Very eloquent... I whole heartedly agree!

The fact that we are all upstanding individuals (I think... I'm not so sure about some of you goons) relies heavily on the fact that our childhoods were relatively free of much of the aversive events which lead many of the people in lower socioeconomic categories to deviant and criminal behavior.
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Old 04-15-2005, 09:53 AM   #25 (permalink)
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I think that if some of you are interested in reforming the criminal justice system, you might learn some good information from those of us who were actually incarcerated and went on to become doctors in criminology.

Quote:
The Convict School of Criminology was formalized in 2001 with the appearance of a journal article and in 2003 with the publication of the book, Convict Criminology (Ian and Richards, 2003). This new “school of thought” within the discipline of criminology came about when a handful of criminologists with criminal records met over time in their graduate school programs, at academic conferences, and through correspondence via email and telephone.

As criminologist John Irwin (2003: xvii) notes: “It seemed to me that convicts were springing up like toadstools in the clear and pure fields of academe; one of the unintended consequences of laws recently casting a larger and larger net and catching, in addition to the usual suspects, a whole bunch of more educated and educable felons.” As explained by Ross and Richards, Convict Criminology:

consists primarily of essays and empirical research conducted and written by convicts or exconvicts, on their way to completing or already in possession of a Ph.D., or by enlightened academics who critique existing literature, policies, and practices, thus contributing to a new perspective on criminology, criminal justice, corrections, and community corrections. This is a ‘new criminology’ … led by exconvicts who are now academic faculty. These men and women, who have worn both prison uniforms and academic regalia, served years behind prison walls, and now, as academics, are the primary architects of the movement.


John Irwin’s case is particularly interesting, one that he describes quite well:

I served five years for armed robbery in the mid-1950s at Soledad Prison in California. Soledad was planned to be the model rehabilitative prison in the California system. We prisoners were forced to participate in educational and vocational training programs. I repeated many high school courses … and earned 24 college units from the University of California Extension Division. Though after release I was discouraged by parole authorities, I immediately entered San Francisco State College, then transferred to UCLA and earned a B.A. in sociology (p. xx).


Upon graduating with his Bachelor’s degree, Irwin was encouraged to go to graduate school by another notable criminologist, with whom Irwin would ultimately go on to publish. He then received financial assistance and a position with the help of yet another notable criminologist, and ultimately earned his Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley, and was hired to be a sociologist who would study crime by yet another criminologist at San Francisco State University.

Irwin explains the significance of all this: “The point is, I made my transition from the life of a thief, drug addict, and convict to one of a ‘respectable’ professional during a period when there was growing tolerance toward us condemned wrongdoers. The doors were opening. Then, in the mid-1970s, they slammed shut again” (p. xx). Yes, as I claimed in Chapter 9 of this book, prisons are a horrible place with few opportunities for rehabilitation.

Among the explicit claims of convict criminologists are:


* Prisons are being used as a solution to a social problem that does not respond to prison;
* America’s prisons and correctional agencies are clearly flawed;
* Efforts to reform America’s prisons have failed;
* The level of incarceration in the United States is at its highest level ever;
* The major justifications for America’s unprecedented prison expansion are unwarranted;
* Every cell built in a new prison costs approximately $100,000 and is money that is not spent on other vital social services such as education;
* Prisons do not reduce crime;
* Prison expansion has disproportionately affected people of color;
* One dramatic result of mass imprisonment is that as many as 2 million people of color currently are denied the right to vote;
* Prison expansion has disproportionately affected the nation’s poor, especially poor men of color, who are seen as marginal to America’s political economy;
* Most people have not noticed how rapidly the prison population has grown, in part because the people who have the greatest voice in today’s culture are not largely affected by the expansion of prisons;
* Prisoners are extremely demonized and marginalized despite being human beings;
* Vocational programs have been reduced in prisons as privileges simultaneously were reduced so that there is virtually no rehabilitation in American prisons;
* The treatment of prisoners inside is permitted mostly because people (including the academic criminologists who study crime for a living) do not understand what it is like to be inside and the culture that is unique to prisoners;
* Most inmates are normal, relatively harmless people who made bad decisions and committed relatively harmless but bothersome crimes;
* Not only are too many people incarcerated but they are also generally held for too long;
* Even the motivations of serious offenders in prison can typically be understood without invoking negative personality traits or character flaws (this is not to justify their behavior, however, but rather to explain it); and
* When released, prisoners re-enter a society that fears and loathes them, and do so with meager resources and virtually no preparation.


In essence, most of the claims of convict criminologists match what I have written about in Chapter 9 about America’s prisons and its imprisonment boom. What is most unique about Convict Criminologists is their unique insight into prison life and their way of telling their stories in ways that so clearly cast grave doubts on our entire method of punishment in the United States.

Although Convict Criminologists appear to be taken seriously within the academic discipline of criminology, it is hard to say how a group of current and former prison inmates (even with doctoral degrees) would be viewed by legislators and general members of society. Given the politicization and intense media coverage of crime, and America’s overall fear of both criminals and the unknown, it is unlikely that any reforms suggested by convicts and exconvicts would be taken seriously. Thus, other conditions in society must be changed prior to implementing the reforms suggested by convict criminologists. For more on such recommendations, see Chapter 13.

Convict criminologists advocate at least the following reforms:

* Reduce the number of people in prison through diversion to probation and other community sanctions;
* Close large prisons where thousands of inmates are warehoused and forced to live in conditions like animals at the slaughterhouse, and replace them with smaller and safer prisons with individual cells;
* Increase the quality of food and clothing of prisoners to reduce resentment and violence within prisons;
* Better fund prison programs, including for employment, vocational training, higher education, and family skills training;
* Restore voting rights for all exconvicts;
* Provide voluntary drug education therapy;
* Provide inmates with three months of pay for food and rent upon release to give them a fair chance at reform;
* Use victim-offender reconciliation programs and other forms of restorative justice in order to relieve some of the burden on criminal justice; and
* End the drug war.

I advocate many of these same reforms given the research presented in Chapter 9. The drug war is discussed in Chapter 11.
-- http://www.justiceblind.com/new/convict.htm

Quote:
Introducing the New School of Convict Criminology.



Social Justice; March 22, 2001; Richards, Stephen C. Ross, Jeffrey Ian

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Richards, Stephen C. Ross, Jeffrey Ian

Social Justice

March 22, 2001


That's the reality, and to hell with what the class-room bred, degree toting, grant-hustling "experts" say from their well-funded, air-conditioned offices far removed from the grubby realities of the prisoner's lives (Rideau and Wikberg, 1992: 59).
Introduction
THE UNITED STATES IMPRISONS MORE PEOPLE THAN ANY OTHER COUNTRY IN THE Western world. Meanwhile, prison research is dominated by government funding and conducted by academics or consultants, many of them former employees of the law enforcement establishment (ex-police, correctional, probation, or parole officers), who subscribe to conservative ideologies and have little empathy for prisoners. Much of this "managerial research" routinely disregards the harm perpetrated by criminal justice processing of individuals arrested, charged, and convicted of crimes (Clear, 1994; Cullen, 1995).
If legislators, practitioners, researchers, and scholars are serious about addressing the corrections
...
-- http://static.highbeam.com/s/socialj...ctcriminology/

Sorry, but I don't feel like getting into this discussion. I think I've laid out some things in past threads if people are interested what an expert has to say (both from the standpoint of being trained as an academic, and as the kind most usually valued by the conservatives--someone with actual experience).

Good luck Ace O Spades. California could be on the verge of reform. I'm actually participating in task force to reform the juvenile system. Our findings will definately be placed in front of people who can actually implement them, but no guarantee they will. But economics, crime rates, public pressure and scandal are forcing the hand of our penal system to re-evaluate itself. Could usher in a new era of punishment.

Anyway, if you want something insightful to read, pick up any of John Irwin's books (the original convict turned criminologist), Chuck Terry, Alan Mobely, or, a non-convict, Elliot Currie. Particularly, Crime and Punishment in America wherein he explicitly counters some of the myths repeated in this thread, and offers solutions. All of these people are great personalities. Many of you would like them if you met them. I can't say enough good about Elliot. There you go.

If you're more numbers inclined, I haven't heard of anyone more respected than Joan Petersilia--preeminent in the field, highly respected in corrections reform, influenced by those of us with a "history" as we sat through her classes, and certainly someone who knows her shit. Top scholar at RAND for decades.
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Old 04-15-2005, 10:16 AM   #26 (permalink)
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here's my two cents, for what it's worth.

1. for the love of god or whatever holiness you feel, STOP BUILDING PRISONS.
2. fix controlled substance laws, classifications, and punishment (screw mandatory minimum anything)
3. end the corporatized penal system once and for all.

okay, now for the backing.....

1. more prisons does not equal less crime. the fact that there has been NO CHANGE in rates of crimes (violent/nonviolent street, or corporate) despite an ever increasing prison population should be a pretty damned good indication that prison is not a successful deterrent.

3. so long as prisons are run by corporations and not the government, there will be more and more prisons built. when a gov't-paid corp. builds a prison on contract, you better believe that the gov't will find people to fill them.

2. lets see if we can find the logic in this...... the penalty for posession of crack cocaine is FIVE TIMES higher than that of posession of powdered cocaine (i can find u a more reputable source than my word of mouth, but im at work right now, so it'll have to be a bit later). now, lets work this through. powdered cocaine is higher purity and higher cost, lending itself well to higher socioeconomic users. crack is less pure, less expensive, and found in lower SES neighborhoods. doesnt make sense to me.
now, the next part will draw fire, im sure, but such is life. i dont want to sound like an aging hippie liberal deushbag, but lets reclassify the controlled substances. if our government legalized marijuana, grew its own, and taxed the sale of it in stores, how many billions of dollars annually do u think we could make? and, none of that "weed is more dangerous than cigarettes" crap. they are all bad for you; it is just our societally defined morality that keeps us believing that cigarettes and alcohol are better than controlled substances.

EDIT: lol, i was beaten to the punch, but there is some proof to what im saying
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Last edited by pennywise121; 04-15-2005 at 10:21 AM.. Reason: lol, beaten to the punch on the numbers issue
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Old 04-15-2005, 10:39 AM   #27 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pennywise121
1. more prisons does not equal less crime. the fact that there has been NO CHANGE in rates of crimes (violent/nonviolent street, or corporate) despite an ever increasing prison population should be a pretty damned good indication that prison is not a successful deterrent.
I'm all for your suggestions... but this statement is wrong... The crime rate in the USA and Canada has dropped slowly but surely every year since 1994. The system is slowly changing, and that's what I attribute the drop to... pre 1994, restorative justice initiatives were unknown, during the late 90's and into the 21st century they are becoming more and more a part of our penal systems and judiciary.

Hopefully they will be further implemented and that will allow the crime rate to be slashed
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Old 04-15-2005, 10:55 AM   #28 (permalink)
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I agree with everyone who has said end mandatory minimums. They are pointless and often rook others into the crime even though they were not party to the drug use or trafficking. There was an example of a wife in California some years ago who had no clue her husband was selling drugs--because of the ways our laws are structured regarding drug-related crimes, she too ended up in prison, and because of mandatory minimums, she will be there for a long time to come.

I agree that there should be two groups of criminals: those who have committed offenses that they might be rehabilitated for (non-violent offenders) and those who are past reform (including violent offenders). I believe the first group should have access to those things that will help them better their lives and contribute upon their return to society--counseling, libraries, etc. But I think they should have to contribute at least half of their day to labor to earn those things. The second group should be doing hard time--labor, few comforts, etc. If a prisoner can prove themselves worthy of rehabilitation during this stage, and they are judged not to be a danger to society, they should be moved down a tier and into rehabilitation. As for repeat offenders, they should be placed in hard time AFTER having been through rehabilitation once. No three strikes--I had a friend in high school whose father (who she rarely spoke to) would actually COMMIT crimes to get into jail/get sent to prison so he would be warm and have a hot meal. For those kinds of repeat offenders, prison should not be a friendly place.

One issue I haven't seen in this thread is the issue of the mentally ill. So many states in the US have done away with state-run mental hospitals and rely entirely on a privatized system to keep the mentally ill safe and secure. However, in some cases, that system fails, and the the mentally ill end up on the street where they do commit crimes. Prison is not where the mentally ill belong. They belong in a secure facility where they can receive appropriate medical care. Regardless of economic background, all mentally ill deserve that chance--otherwise we're just as badly off in our treatment of them as we were 100 years ago.

I don't agree with the death penalty--there are too many cases of it being overturned recently for it to sit easily with me. However, euthanasia should be an option for those prisoners who know they're going to spend the rest of their lives in prison.
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Old 04-15-2005, 12:07 PM   #29 (permalink)
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For those of you opposed to "rehabilitation:" eventually most of these people will be back out on the streets. When that happens, don't you think they should be as functional as possible?

On my brother in law: his original sentence was 20 years to life, with possibility for parole after 10. He's had 10 parole hearings, all of which denied release. I hesitate saying what he did because it would kill my anonymity here (it was all over the media at the time) but the parole board has acknowledged its belief that he has been rehabilitated (partly because while in prison he raised about half a million dollars for his victim's family). It's all about punishment at this point.

In his case, he'll probably be out very soon (allthough we've been saying that for 10 years now . . . ). He's lucky because he'll have an immediate support system in place when he does get out. He's typical though in that the experience has (in my opinion) damaged him seriously psychologically. Most people in his shoes have virtually nothing to go to, and are deeply dysfunctional when they finally hit the streets.
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Old 04-15-2005, 01:30 PM   #30 (permalink)
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ace
Quote:
I'm all for your suggestions... but this statement is wrong... The crime rate in the USA and Canada has dropped slowly but surely every year since 1994.
crime rates are tricky things. what state wants to publicise the fact they arent doing as well as they should be? part of the problem has to do with classification of crimes. there is a disturbing trend of late to officially write rapes as "sexual assault" when this happens, rape statistics get thrown off, as do class 1 felony stats. secondly, it is a very interesting twist of the numbers that gets reported. although the proportion of crimes has gone down (say, only 3.5% of people commiting crimes instead of 4%), the simple numbers tell a different story. 3.5% of 3,000,000 people is still more than 4% of 2,500,000 people (10,500 as opposed to 10,000, respectively).

with that in mind, i was not clear in my statement. you are correct; crime RATES have fallen, but number of crimes are still rising. our population growth is the confounding variable
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Old 04-15-2005, 02:05 PM   #31 (permalink)
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But doesn't the crime rate of per capita cancel out that factor? It's a ratio, not a plain percentage.
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Old 04-15-2005, 02:30 PM   #32 (permalink)
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the ratio of a crime rate is a ratio, but we can mathematically represent that ratio as a percentage. if there are 3 crimes per 1,000 people, it can be represented as .3%. in my example (and, all these numbers are being made up, although i can look up the actual ones when i get home), a crime rate of 3.5% is equal to 3.5 crimes per 100 people. with 3,000,000 people, the number of crimes would equal 10,500. alternatively, 4% is 4 per 100, and with 2,500,000 people, number of crimes would equal 10,000.
in this way, even though the crime rate (represented here as a percentage) has decreased from 4% to 3.5%, the population size has grown by 500,000, leading to an overall increase in numbers of crimes from 10,000 to 10,500.
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Old 04-15-2005, 03:11 PM   #33 (permalink)
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well, I wasn't going to get into this, but I'll stick to stats dicussions and leave opinion out of it:

Ace O Spades: crime rates skyrocketed in the late 60's. Before that, criminologist referred to the golden age, as in, a flat line of crime--and the line was extremely low. No one has the definative answer on what changed between the 50's and 60's but you can well imagine that there are lots of studies and opinions on it.

Then they became a bit jagged during the 80's. Some people attribute this to crack cocaine. It began to go down during the 90's. Some people attribute that to economic shifts, but the important to note in regard to the last couple of posts is that crime rates have not been falling for the past few years. That ended ~2000. Since that time, violent crime has been on the upswing again.

Analyze this all in the context with what pennywise wrote about reclassification of crime, because he's right on the money regarding shifting crimes around, non-reporting crimes, etc. in order to obtain funding and accolades. I haven't looked at Canada's crime stats for a while, but US crime is currently on the upswing--just not as steep as it was during the 70's.

See what it's doing here as of 2002?
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Last edited by smooth; 04-15-2005 at 03:14 PM..
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Old 04-15-2005, 04:10 PM   #34 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ace_O_Spades
Wrong... That fact is comparing equal sentences for equal offenses.
I think there was some misunderstanding. I was replying to your comment that prisoners who recieve community sentences have a lower recidivism rate than those who recieve the same sentence in prison. I personally don't consider that to be equal, since one (prison) I assume is much more harsh than the other. To me, the sentence is more than the duration, but also the location. I would be interested in seeing why certain criminals were given community sentences and others prison for supposedly the same offense.

Quote:
And as for your doctor's office/hospital correlation, I can't make heads nor tails of it... Perhaps you can clarify it so I can respond.
The point I was trying to make with the medical comparison is this: you must make sure that your variable is truly the cause of the observed concequence, and there isn't another factor you are overlooking. It seems recidivism is less for those who get community sentences as opposed to prison-you assume it is because of the enviroment. I would assume it's because those who get the community sentence in the first place are less criminal (for lack of a better word) than those who get prison terms. Just like you could assume that it is the environment (hospital) causing more deaths, ignoring the fact that surgery done in a hospital is usually for more severe medical cases than that done in a doctor's office. I hope that cleared it up some.



Quote:
I say it again and again, murder is the statistically least likely offense which occurs every year. It totals .01% of all crime in Canada... hell, it is only 1% of the VIOLENT crime in Canada.

The vast, vast, vast majority of crime is people who are from poor socioeconomic backgrounds, with poor education, and are unemployed. We can help these people! I have much more faith in the human species than to relegate all of them to slow torture behind cold walls when we can actually prevent them from reoffending and heal the hurt done to the community instead of creating more criminals.
You assume that murder is the only heinous crime. There are many other crimes that can show as much lack of respect for others as murder. I agree that there is socioeconomic reasons for many crimes, but I would rather deal with the problem before a person becomes a criminal, than waste money on salvaging damaged goods. There are some cases where rehabilitation might be useful, and those should be identified. But I think these cases are vastly fewer than you would like to believe. Simply because many of the factors that contribute to making someone commit a crime in the first place are hard, if not impossible to change. Criminals who commit crimes severe enough to deserve prison would rarely see leniency as a time to change, they see it as a break and will go back to their own habits. It is unfortunate, but the kind of mindset that leads many people into crime is ingrained over years, and is hard to break.

Quote:
These people are HUMAN BEINGS... they have made serious mistakes, yes... BUT, they also will run the course of their prison sentences eventually, and then... *GASP* they are released back into the community, often with no rehabilitation, and are expected to be contributive members of society. The law states we can't keep them locked up forever, so why not try to heal the hurt, and create a better society?
I don't expect them to necessarily contribute, I just expect them to follow the laws. I don't see criminals as victims of a heartless society, I see them as people who were unable to follow society's rules and need to be punished for it, hopefully to force them to stay in line. That's one of the reasons I greatly support 3 strikes laws, and similar laws: it gives society a way to elimitate individuals who cannot adapt to civilized society. I am not worried about rehabilitation, I would rather direct that energy in the direction of helping people who came from bad circumstances and didn't become criminals. You shouldn't reward bad behavior, it only makes it mroe likely to happen in the future.
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Old 04-15-2005, 04:14 PM   #35 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Manx
I wish that someday those who believe that greater and greater punishment will eventually result in resolution would recognize that their own fortune in not having to face harsh environments was a key factor in their ability to avoid criminal activity (getting caught for criminal activity, anyway). Then maybe they would rethink the concept of punishing the unlucky.
What about the people who grew up in the same environments and DIDN'T become criminals? As much as many people would like to deny it, criminals aren't all victims of their environment. They make a choice to commit a crime. They are people who think they are above the laws put in place by society. And they should be taught that they are NOT above those laws, with increasinly harsher penalties if necessary.
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Old 04-15-2005, 06:56 PM   #36 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pennywise121
the ratio of a crime rate is a ratio, but we can mathematically represent that ratio as a percentage. if there are 3 crimes per 1,000 people, it can be represented as .3%. in my example (and, all these numbers are being made up, although i can look up the actual ones when i get home), a crime rate of 3.5% is equal to 3.5 crimes per 100 people. with 3,000,000 people, the number of crimes would equal 10,500. alternatively, 4% is 4 per 100, and with 2,500,000 people, number of crimes would equal 10,000.
in this way, even though the crime rate (represented here as a percentage) has decreased from 4% to 3.5%, the population size has grown by 500,000, leading to an overall increase in numbers of crimes from 10,000 to 10,500.
Alright, that makes sense now, thanks for clearing it up!

And alansmithlee, there are many factors which go into crafting criminals. You cannot simply examine one without examining the other. Ignoring environmental variables is folly, because statistically people from low socioeconomic groups are overrepresented in prisons. They may be genetically predisposed to crime, but that's not all prisoners. They may have had a rough upbringing, but that's not all prisoners either.

Many times these people are given little to no recourse in behavior besides criminality. They have no highschool diploma, they had to drop out of highschool to support themselves or their family. They live in a very poor neighbourhood because they can't afford to live anywhere else. They may not be able to hold down a job due to emotional problems caused by these factors, or their lack of schooling.

They turn to crime because they are immensely strained by contemporary society's emphasis on wealth and status. They can't support themselves to the standards which would pull them even out of horrible poverty, so they are forced to turn to crime.

They are inevitably caught for crime, and thrown into jail. They serve their time in a community of prisoners who can offer them training as to what went wrong in their crime, and how to better beat the system once they are released.

They are released from prison to a society that has further stigmatized them, closing what few job opportunities they may have had in the first place (who wants to hire a convict). They are offered no help, no rehabilitation, they are simply expected to "not break the law" and operate within normal boundaries that didn't help them stay out of prison in the first place.

So they return to crime, get caught, go to prison, get released... ad nauseum.
It's a vicious cycle

I've just painted a very common picture of the general offender for you alansmithlee, many of these people need our help to get back on track as citizens of their country, and as human beings in a society that will continue on without them or not, but I'd rather they come along for the ride.

Leave no prisoner behind.

[edit]

I missed this comment originally:

"than waste money on salvaging damaged goods"

That's a horrible thing to say... I just don't even know what to say in responds to that. These people are humans.
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Last edited by Ace_O_Spades; 04-15-2005 at 07:04 PM..
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Old 04-16-2005, 07:47 AM   #37 (permalink)
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Quote:
They are inevitably caught for crime, and thrown into jail. They serve their time in a community of prisoners who can offer them training as to what went wrong in their crime, and how to better beat the system once they are released.
Absolutely. Most go in fairly naive and addicted to maybe one thing, and go out sophisticated and hardened and addicted to maybe 5 things.

Imagine yourself in that situation. You are treated basically like an animal every day of your life, for maybe 5, 10 years. Authorities look the other way as you're brutalized by other inmates, maybe also by guards themselves. Nobody gives a shit whether you live or die. Escape? Pretty easy with drugs.

Then, suddenly, magically, one day, you're released. What are you going to do?

What are you going to FEEL like doing?


To experience an example of one prisoner's psychological pain in detail, read Oscar Wilde's De Profundis. He was imprisoned I think for 2 years, for being homosexual.


Quote:
The poor are wise, more charitable, more kind, more sensitive than we are. In their eyes prison is a tragedy in a man's life, a misfortune, a casuality, something that calls for sympathy in others. They speak of one who is in prison as of one who is 'in trouble' simply. It is the phrase they always use, and the expression has the perfect wisdom of love in it. With people of our own rank it is different.

With us, prison makes a man a pariah. I, and such as I am, have hardly any right to air and sun. Our presence taints the pleasures of others. We are unwelcome when we reappear. To revisit the glimpses of the moon is not for us. Our very children are taken away. Those lovely links with humanity are broken. We are doomed to be solitary, while our sons still live. We are denied the one thing that might heal us and keep us, that might bring balm to the bruised heart, and peace to the soul in pain. . . .

http://www.upword.com/wilde/de_profundis.html
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