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Mon Jun 10, 2013, 09:17 PM

America: the land of the abusive prison colony

As civil rights groups have noted, the U.S. has more prisoners per capita than China. We spend billions of dollars to maintain a prison population and have laws designed to imprison nonviolent offenders, such as those arrested for marijuana possession, that can lead to life imprisonment. For possession of pot. A Democrat in Louisiana tried to reform its marijuana sentencing laws recently. After two votes, the measure failed. Louisiana is one of those states in which you can be sentenced to life in prison for a third conviction for possession of marijuana.

So, what's going on in those prisons in which those arrested for simple possession of marijuana make up 12% of the prison population? What's going on with the billions spent to arrest, convict and imprison Americans arrested for possession (among other things, of course, but the reality is that this nation is a place where you can be forced to spend the rest of your life in prison for doing the equivalent of drinking a glass of wine. Reminds me of Saudi Arabia, in that regard.)

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/06/one-of-the-darkest-periods-in-the-history-of-american-prisons/276684/

It has been an extraordinary three weeks in the history of the American penal system, perhaps one of the darkest periods on record. In four states, from the Atlantic to the Mississippi, from the Gulf of Mexico to the Great Lakes, the systemic abuse and neglect of inmates, and especially mentally ill inmates, has been investigated, chronicled and disclosed in grim detail to the world by lawyers, government investigators and one federal judge. The conclusions are inescapable: In our zeal to dehumanize criminals we have allowed our prisons to become medieval places of unspeakable cruelty so far beyond constitutional norms that they are barely recognizable.


But hey, it's all good! Like our intelligence gathering, prisons are private enterprise! Everyone knows, because of Saint Ronnie Reagan, that the govt. is the problem and private corporate ownership of Americans via their taxpayer dollars is the answer.

First, on May 22, the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department released a report highlighting the unconstitutional conditions of a county prison in Florida. Then, on May 30th, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit alleging atrocious conditions at a state prison in Mississippi. One day later, the feds again sounded out on behalf of inmates, this time against profound abuse and neglect at a Pennsylvania prison. Finally, last week, a federal judge issued an order describing the unconstitutional "brutality" of the prison in Orleans Parish, Louisiana.

There were many common themes in the reports. In each instance, the mistreatment of mentally ill inmates was highlighted. Prison officials have failed to provide a constitutional level of care in virtually every respect, from providing medication and treatment to protecting the men from committing suicide. In the Louisiana court order, one prison expert is quoted by the judge as describing an "extraordinary and horrific" situation with the prison there. In the Florida investigation, federal investigators noted that local prison officials "have elected to ignore obvious and serious systemic deficiencies" in the jail's mental health services.

...while it's reasonable to applaud the focused federal effort to protect the constitutional rights of mentally ill state prisoners around the country, it's hard to fathom or accept why the Justice Department has been so tepid in its protection of mentally ill federal prisoners. Based upon the evidence already publicly available in the Colorado civil rights cases against the Bureau of Prisons, it is beyond doubt that federal prison practices and policies would similarly fail to meet basic constitutional standards if they were subject to the same review the Civil Rights Division has used to evaluate state and local facilities.


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Arrow 16 replies Author Time Post
Reply America: the land of the abusive prison colony (Original post)
RainDog Jun 2013 OP
Liberal_in_LA Jun 2013 #1
Ohio Joe Jun 2013 #2
RainDog Jun 2013 #4
Half-Century Man Jun 2013 #3
RainDog Jun 2013 #7
Lunacee_2013 Jun 2013 #11
RainDog Jun 2013 #14
upi402 Jun 2013 #5
RainDog Jun 2013 #6
RainDog Jun 2013 #8
RainDog Jun 2013 #9
RainDog Jun 2013 #10
davidn3600 Jun 2013 #12
RainDog Jun 2013 #13
Spider Jerusalem Jun 2013 #15
RainDog Jun 2013 #16

Response to RainDog (Original post)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 09:21 PM

1. kick

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Response to RainDog (Original post)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 09:31 PM

2. Good stuff RainDog

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Response to Ohio Joe (Reply #2)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 09:43 PM

4. thanks! n/t

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Response to RainDog (Original post)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 09:32 PM

3. I don't know how..

But we need to end this now.
We need an executive order to stop and desist applied at the same time raids of all facilities are carried out. We need to seize each facility, all staff members, and all company accounts. Make the sales of stock illegal at the times of the raids. Get full accounting of all stockholders. Do this in full view of network cameras. And follow through with public trails where and if they are needed.

I say this is a cancer on the soul of America.

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Response to Half-Century Man (Reply #3)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 09:51 PM

7. It is truly the most disgusting legacy of Ronald Reagan

And not only Reagan, but conservatives in Congress, and conservatives in state legislatures across the nation.

It's a pretty sad day in the "land of the free" when private prisons get agreements from Governors to maintain fill rates in prisons in return for them building facilities in their states.

but that's what goes on.

GEO, one of the largest for-profit prison groups in the U.S., just got such an assurance from Indiana Republicans. They altered their marijuana laws to make sentences harsher and to insure that those convicted served at least 75% of their sentences.

So that some people can make a buck.

This is a reinvention of slavery.

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Response to RainDog (Reply #7)

Tue Jun 11, 2013, 02:57 AM

11. It does remind me of slavery.

Especially when you consider the inmates that are "allowed" to work in the prison's factories. Last time I checked, most of them aren't even paid the minimum wage.

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Response to Lunacee_2013 (Reply #11)

Tue Jun 11, 2013, 02:39 PM

14. Yes. It also deprives people of their voting rights

many states don't allow convicted felons to vote.

Since law enforcement in this nation has demonstrated a racial bias for a looong time - this means kicking African-Americans off voter rolls for things like possession, in some states. If you look at the distribution of the law regarding felony charges for marijuana, it's just one more way to suppress votes.



here's a link to felon voting laws in various states - http://felonvoting.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=286

to permanently deny someone the right to vote after they have served time indicates a pov that there is no limit to how long someone may be punished for a crime...i.e. rehabilitation isn't part of the mindset.

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Response to RainDog (Original post)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 09:45 PM

5. We need to go somewhere when they decide we are tarrisss

"I'm in heaven" sounds just like "911" you honor.

(assuming your day in court)
:roflmao:

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Response to RainDog (Original post)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 09:46 PM

6. ACLU: Racism of the Drug War Verified

ACLU: Racism of the Drug War Verified

http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2013/06/marijuana_and_race_aclu_finds.html

Blacks are nearly four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites – even though usage rates are comparable, according to a report issued today by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Marijuana enforcement has unfairly targeted black people, said the report, entitled “The War on Marijuana in Black and White.”

The racial disparity in marijuana arrests has markedly increased in the last 10 years, the ACLU found. Although black people are 3.7 times more likely to be arrested for possession than white people, blacks are now 30 times more likely to to be arrested for the drug in the counties with the widest disparities, they found.

The ACLU also analyzed the wider law enforcement handling of current marijuana laws. States spent an estimated $3.61 billion enforcing marijuana possession laws – in 2010 alone.


http://www.aclu.org/prisoners-rights/private-prisons

The current incarceration rate deprives record numbers of individuals of their liberty, disproportionately affects people of color, and has at best a minimal effect on public safety. Meanwhile, the crippling cost of imprisoning increasing numbers of Americans saddles government budgets with rising debt and exacerbates the current fiscal crisis confronting states across the nation.

Private prison companies, however, essentially admit that their business model depends on locking up more and more people. For example, in a 2010 Annual Report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) stated: “The demand for our facilities and services could be adversely affected by . . . leniency in conviction or parole standards and sentencing practices . . . .” As incarceration rates skyrocket, the private prison industry expands at exponential rates, holding ever more people in its prisons and jails, and generating massive profits.

Here's a link to the aclu report from the drug policy forum: http://www.democraticunderground.com/11701144

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Response to RainDog (Original post)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 10:03 PM

8. I'm always encouraged, on this issue

when I see the compassion and support of those on DU who are so quick to defend their religious faith. Oh wait. That doesn't happen.

‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

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Response to RainDog (Original post)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 10:12 PM

9. cross-posting to link to marmar's thread from digby

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Response to RainDog (Original post)

Tue Jun 11, 2013, 12:56 AM

10. kick n/t

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Response to RainDog (Original post)

Tue Jun 11, 2013, 04:30 AM

12. Our prison system is a complete disaster, but the people don't care

Most people in this country are part of the "let them rot" crowd. For many, they think if the conditions are bad and the treatment is bad that prison will serve as a "proper deterrent." America does not want the focus of prison to be rehabilitation. They want it to be about punishment and nothing else. Of course this doesn't work. 2/3rds of people released from prison will end up right back in. Police have even told me that it's frustrating to see. And they see it every single day. They have told me the system is failing.

There are some prisons that are double their designed capacity. Overcrowding has become a massive problem for several states. California for example has been forced to violate the sentencing laws and trigger early release because they just can't take anymore. The overcrowding has led to poor conditions in many state prisons.

The other problem of course is the increasing privatization. Prison and rehabilitation should NEVER be for profit. It should be a job of the state with constant oversight. Privatizing these prisons have lead to more laws and longer terms, more abuses, and sometimes horrible conditions. And that's increasing our incarceration rate. We are right now the world's leading jailer. Pretty soon, 1% of our population will be incarcerated. No country on the planet comes close to us on this. We spend nearly $90 billion on our jails and prisons. That more then the GDP of many small countries.

Mental health is a big problem. Especially since over the past few decades the states have pretty much shut down mental hospitals. And they basically just put these people out on the streets. Of course they eventually end up in the prison system where they don't have adequate help.

Of course you can't talk about this with anyone without being insulted and called a "bleeding heart liberal who cares more about criminals than victims."
Look, I understand prison isn't supposed to be a Ritz Carlton. It's not supposed to be easy. I get that and agree. But we are supposed to be an advanced civilization. And although these people have made mistakes and have broken laws, they are still human beings. Treating them like animals does absolutely nothing to help society nor does it make us look very good in the eyes of the world (or history). Some of these prisons have very poor conditions. Contaminated water. Rape, violence, gangs running amok. Correctional officers smuggling in drugs and even weapons and mistreating inmates. Poor medical care. Sick inmates being left to die in cells. There is the report of the one prison in Alabama overrun by rats and disease. This is supposed to be America, not North Korea.

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Response to davidn3600 (Reply #12)

Tue Jun 11, 2013, 12:25 PM

13. great post - thanks n/t

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Response to RainDog (Original post)

Tue Jun 11, 2013, 02:43 PM

15. About FIVE TIMES as many, per capita, as China

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Response to Spider Jerusalem (Reply #15)

Tue Jun 11, 2013, 04:18 PM

16. thanks for that one

of course, China kills more people - but we're number 4 on that one!

overachievers, that's what the U.S. is all about!

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