PrisonWatchTM vs. Timesizing ®    
[Commentary] © 2003-2015, POB 117, Cambridge MA 02238 USA 617-623-8080 - HOMEPAGE

      Problem - We've made it harder to earn an honest living than a dishonest one. How? We're constantly swelling our crowd of anxious jobseekers. How? By responding to higher levels of worksaving technology by cutting jobs while keeping the workweek frozen at the pre-computer level of 1940 (40hrs/wk). And it's a short distance from anxiety to desperation. And desperate people turn to crime. Result?  At over 2,200,000 Americans incarcerated, we have the world's biggest prison population right here in the "Land of the Free" (see 3/01/2013 story below) up from 2,166,260 in 2003 (see 7/28/2003). Every day, our news media are reporting violent crimes involving guns, easy access to which is supported by the National Rifle Assoc. even though every police department in the land supports gun control. And even though we know that "nothing stops a bullet like a job" (Jesuit Father Greg Boyle, see "LA priest expands project for gangs" by Laura Wides AP via Boston Globe ca.12/05/2004). Now before jumping into the news clips, consider: Now, articles and letters about prisons and prisoners from the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), New York Times (NYT) and other media -

6/20/2015   1 prison story - more recent stories appear on our homepage archives as they make the front pages of (mostly) the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times; for example, scan down to our PRISONS section on Feb.23-24 - and then we copy a few striking stories here, such as this -

2/27/2015   1 prison story - more recent stories appear on our homepage archives as they make the front pages of (mostly) the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times; for example, scan down to our PRISONS section on Feb.23-24 - and then we copy a few striking stories here, such as this -

12/30/2003   1 prison story -

12/29/2003   1 prison story -

12/25/2003   1 prison story -

12/24/2003   1 prison story -

12/23/2003   2 prison stories -

  1. They won't be home for Christmas - But they will be soon, and a party in prison helps these mothers prepare, by Leslie Kaufman, NYT, A23.
    ...This holiday season, New York City estimates that it has in its foster care program more than 150 children of women being held at Rikers Island. And although most of the women who rotate through the medium- and low-security jail will be there months instead of years, city officials say they are acutely aware of the grief such separation causes the children, particularly at this time of year.
    To try to ease the pain and to make the expected reunification of mothers and children smoother, the city invited inmates' children to a Christmas party at the women's jail at Rikers last week. It was the fourth such Christmas party to be held.
    Despite the soft carols coming from the stereo and enough candy canes for all the elves at the North Pole, there was no disguising the jailhouse ambience. Sparse strands of gold tinsel decorated the concrete block walls. Appetizers of cheese doodles and barbecued potato chips were served on paper plates. The mothers were dressed in gray Dept. of Corrections jumpsuits.
    Still, many of the women said they were grateful to be having the party....
  2. Kenya: Thinning out prisons, Reuters via NYT, A13.
    Pres. Mwai Kibaki freed 11,546 prisoners to ease crowding in prisons notorious among Kenyans as centers of malnutrition and disease. Kenya's 97 prisons hold tens of thousands of inmates.... Most of those freed were petty or first-time offenders with a record of good conduct....

12/18/2003   1 prison story - 12/14/2003   1 prison story -

12/09/2003   1 prison story -

12/08/2003   2 prison stories -

  1. The story of a sentence, pointer summary (to A4), WSJ, front page.
    Shellie Lee Langmade's drug term has oscillated with the politics of sentencing, both before and after the arrival of John Ashcroft in the AG's office.

  2. In angry outbursts, New York's U.S. judges protest new sentencing procedures, by Ian Urbina, NYT, A25.
    Judge Sterling Johnson Jr...of Federal District Court in Brooklyn recently issued an order blocking part of a law sponsored by Rep. Tom Feeney of Florida...from being carried out in his court. [photos caption]
    ...In the last few months, federal judges in NY, who tend to steer judiciously clear of politics and public debate, have been surprisingly vocal in their criticism of a new sentencing law that they say represents a breach in the separation of powers and bullies them into handing down harsher sentences.... The provision, known as the Feeney amendment, was tacked onto the Amber Alert bill signed by pResident Bush on April 30....

12/05/2003   1 prison story - 11/28/2003   1 prison story - 11/25/2003   1 prison story - 11/21/2003   2 prison stories -
  1. [there's the good news -]
    New Mexico: In a different sort of hot water, by Mindy Sink, NYT, A24.
    Some criminals with substance abuse problems may do time in a sauna if the Correction Dept. can finance a pilot program, Second Chance.... The theory behind the sauna is that some drugs, including cocaine and heroin, stay in fatty tissues and have to be cleansed out.
    [And we haven't even talked about vortexes and crystals yet.]
    ..\..It originated in Mexico, where drug problems are rampant in prisons....
    [How sweet - from olde Mexico to New Mexico.]
    Officials plan to seek an $800,000 federal grant to pay for group and family therapy, educational workshops, vitamin supplements and detoxifying time in saunas....
    [Hey, maybe we better copy this to Makework - 11/21/2003 #2.]
  2. [and there's the bad news -]
    Indiana: More inmates than beds, by Jo Napolitano, NYT, A24.
    Crowding in state prisons is at its worst in 40 years, leading officials to begin double-bunking inmates in cells. If the prison population continues to increase, the state says it will house inmates in prison classrooms and recreation areas. The system, meant to house 16,000 prisoners, is holding 22,000....

11/17/2003   1 prison headline - 11/14/2003   1 prison headline - 11/10/2003   1 prison story - 11/07/2003   1 prison story - 11/01/2003   1 prison story - 10/29/2003   1 prison story - 10/24/2003   1 prison story - 10/23/2003   1 prison story - 10/22/2003   1 prison story -
  1. Study finds hundreds of thousands of inmates mentally ill, NYT, A16.
    As many as one in five of the 2.1m [actually 2.2m] Americans in jail and prison are seriously mentally ill, a comprehensive study [by Human Rights Watch] shows. [blurb, A25]
  2. Report says many inmates in isolation are mentally ill, NYT, A25.
    Nearly one of every four [of the roughly 5,000] NY State prisoners kept in punitive segregation is mentally ill, a new report [by the Correctional Assoc. of NY] shows. [blurb, A16]
  3. [but they're still better off than North Koreans -]
    Rights group exposes conditions in North Korean prison camps - Hard labor with starvation food rations is the charge [of the private U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea], NYT, A7.
    [Though maybe this U.S. group should clean up their own prisons before re-e-eaching across the Pacific.]

10/19/2003   1 prison story - 10/12/2003   1 UNprison story - 10/07/2003   1 prison story - 10/04/2003   1 prison story - 10/03/2003   1 prison story -
  1. A U.S. appeals panel struck down, news blurb, WSJ, front page.
    ...a 2000 law requiring federal prisoners and parolees to give blood samples for the FBI's DNA database.
  2. Arizona: Plan to fight prison crowding, by Steve Barnes, NYT, A23.
    Gov. Janet Napolitano announced a $700m plan to reduce prison crowding. The state has 31,000 inmates, 4,000 beyond its capacity.... In a legislative session to begin on Oct.20 the governor plans to ask for $26m immediately, to rent space from city and county jails, and would seek to build facilities, financed by bonds, for 9,100 more prisoners.

10/02/2003   1 prison story - 9/30/2003   1 prison story - 9/23/2003   some rare good news - 9/19/2003   1 prison story - 9/16/2003   2 prison stories -
  1. Florida: Inmates' suit claims abuse, AP via NYT, A15.
    22 inmates have sued the state, saying [that] it allowed prison guards to torture them in their cells by spraying them with pepper spray and tear gas [and that] the use of chemical agents by prison guards had greatly increased.... Legal Services, which is representing the inmates, said that because the inmates sprayed were in their cells they generally did not pose a danger and that the spraying was done as retaliation, punishment or intimidation.
  2. A Saudi prison fire, WSJ, front page.
    ...left 67 inmates dead [in] Riyadh....

9/02/2003   3 prison items -
  1. Why can't we connect the dots on crime?, op ed by William Raspberry, Boston Globe, A13.
    [You see a great headline like that and you say, Yeah! we're finally going to cut the obfuscation about the link between unemployment and crime!   But alas, blow this Willy a razzberry - he's only talking about linking lack-of-education and crime, and as we know, education does not a job guarantee (latest along these lines: "More women in J-school doesn't translate to jobs," 8/27/2003 Boston Globe, C1). But he has a nice run-up and some good stats, so...]
    ...The Columbia [Spacecraft] Accident Investigation Board, after months of painstaking investigation of the Feb.1 space calamity, has issued a scathing report of those in charge. ...The NASA investigators found, not so much a lack of information [as] an almost willful failure to connect the dots.
    ..\..A similarly independent body ought to...look at our criminal justice system....
    • For example, the Dept. of Justice['s] recently issued...annual report..."Criminal Victimization 2002"..\..contained this wonderful news: Violent crimes and crimes against property declined last year to the lowest levels since the Dept. started compiling such records in in 1973. That's from the Dept's...August report. [But in their] July report titled "Prisoners in 2002" [we read]: America's prison and jail population increased by 3.7% from 2001 to 2002 - three times the rate of increase recorded a year earlier. An independent board...might wonder at the logic of increasing levels of incarceration at a time of signficant decreases in crime. [And] perhaps someone would raise the possibility that the increased incarceration rates produced the decreases in crime.
      [Indeed, they have, because so many of the most "at risks" cohorts of the population are locked up and unavailable for mayhem on the streets.] ...The Justice Policy Institute [however] looked at the FBI Uniform Crime Report's homicide data and found [that] the regions of the country with the slower growth in prison population from 2001 to 2002 had declines in homicides, while those with the greater increases in incarceration had increases in homicides. [This proves] that there is no credible link between crime rates and incarceration rates.[No it doesn't. There are a host of other explanations here, such as, maybe there were a lot of releases during that period and the newly released prisoners, disoriented, unemployed and frustrated, killed people and were re-incarcerated. Or maybe the regions have an "social age threshold" between them - maybe the regions with lower inmate increase and murder (Northeast and Midwest) were more industrialized and advanced while those with higher levels of both (South and West) were more agricultural and backward. After all, the South and West were the regions that wanted slavery late in the 19th century when the British Empire (including Canada nee British North America) got rid of it in 1824 and the US North and Midwest fought it non-violently for decades before the Civil War.]
    • ...According to another bureau report released last month - "Prevalence of Imprisonment in the US Populations, 1974-2001" - [2.7% of] adults living in the U.S. at the end of 2001 had been to prison at some time during his or her life. That's about...2.6% for white males..\..7.7% for Hispanic males \and\ 16.6%..\..for adult black males.... The Justice Dept. project[s] 32% of black males born in 2001 will spend some time in prison [nearly a third], unless something is done to change the trend.
    What might change it? ...Education..\.. Vincent Schiraldi, president of the DC-based Justice Policy Institute...notes there is a very strong correlation between educational failure and incarceration - especially among [black] males.... So why are we cutting funds for education - both K-12 and higher ed? It is, says Schiraldi, our failure to connect the dots. ..."If a third of my (white) nephews were looking at prison, we wouldn't have this policy. The president would declare a state of emergency, bring the best minds together to talk about education and treatment. Mandatory sentencing wouldn't even be on the table." In other words...we'd connect the dots.
    [Well, it's more efficient to bypass the costly swamp of education, at least higher ed, which has become a big makework program designed to keep as many people as possible out of the job market for as long as possible, and just lunge directly for self-supporting jobs. It's apparently easier to attach training to jobs (on-the-job training) than to attach jobs to education (Northeastern is one of the few universities that has a work-study program), and independent, self-supporting job-holding is the ostensible goal of any education and treatment anyway. But to do that, we need something we don't have in this jobless recovery, and that it, jobs. To get them, we need to quit straining for rigid (minimum) 40-hour jobs, however artificial and taxpayer-bruising, and switch to just sharing the vanishing work. And in response to technology, we need to quit downsizing and start timesizing.]

  2. Prison life and inmate safety, 2 letters to ed, NYT, A22.

    1. James McManus III of Phoenix.
      Re "Prisoners of hate" (op-ed, Aug. 28)...about the prison murder of John Geoghan [made me think of] Albert DeSalvo, the..."Boston Strangler"...who was murdered in prison, \not\ the play..\.."Short Eyes."... The serial nature of [Massachusetts'] tolerance for prison mayhem and abuse isn't fiction.
    2. ..\ Exec. Dir. Vincent Schiraldi of Justice Policy Institute of DC.
      ...Lowering staff-to-inmate ratios to improve inmate safety can be achieved in 2 ways: by adding guards or subtracting inmates. Subtracting inmates makes more policy and fiscal sense.... With 1.2m of our country's 2m [actually 2.2m] prisoners locked up for nonviolent offenses, diverting prisoners into treatment instead of incarceration is a much better way to address prison conditions than staffing up to ameliorate the effect of inflated incarceration rates.
      [Amen, but let's catch it at its root, high under- and un-employment. We have made it easier for millions of Americans to make a dishonest living than an honest one with the 1-2-3 punch of (1) freezing the workweek at its 1940 level, (2) introducing wave after wave of work-assuming technology, and (3) reacting to that technology by downsizing the workforce instead of the workweek. Until we switch from downsizing to timesizing, we will continue to create criminals out of honest people made desperate.]

    For earlier prison stories, click on the desired date -
  3. May-Aug/2003.
  4. Jan-Apr/2003.
  5. Oct-Dec/2002.
  6. Jun-Sep/2002.
  7. Jan-May/2002.
  8. July-Dec/2001.
  9. May-June/2001.
  10. Jan-Apr/2001.
  11. Jan-Dec/2000.
  12. Oct-Dec/1999.
  13. Sept/99 and before.

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