PrisonWatchTM vs. Timesizing®

Prison stories - Oct-Dec/1999
[Commentary] ©1998-99 Philip Hyde, The Timesizing Wire, Box 622, Cambridge MA 02140 USA (617) 623-8080

12/29/1999  Inmate total nears 2 million, by Gaylord Shaw, Newsday via Boston Globe, A16.
On Jan. 1, 1900, there were 57,070 people locked up in local, state, and federal jails and prisons in the United States. That was 122 inmates for every 100,000 Americans.
[On Jan. 1, 2000] there will be 1,982,084 adults in US jails and prisons. That is 725 inmates for every 100,000 Americans.
...America's prison population will reach 2 million - probably...on Feb. 15...predicts...the study published this month by the Washington-based Justice Policy Institute...titled "The Punishing Decade: Prison and Jail Estimates at the Millennium"..\.. "Our incarceration binge is America's real Y2K problem," said Jason Ziedenberg, coauthor of the study....
"...We have to find alternatives to solve America's social problems." The cost of housing inmates will soon exceed $40 billion a year [$20,000/inmate/yr]...and state governments are spending more on prisons and jails than on colleges and universities.
"As we enter the new millennium, the ascendance of prisons [is] our decade's major public works project and social program...," said Vincent Schiraldi, director of the Institute....
[But who cares about that - we've got a GREAT economy, right? RIGHT? RIGHT?!!
[Except that we have made it easier for the unskilled to earn a dishonest living than an honest one. Clearly this will be the millennium when us humanoids teach ourselves how to share on a systemic, flexible, minimally stifling, maximally sustaining, repeatedly uppgraded, enforced way, starting with sharing the skills and the work, and we don't mean government makework. Our Timesizing program is state-of-the-art in this vital area at the turn of the millennium.]

12/09 Crowding worsens at jail - Maine lockup built to hold 58 inmates will house 98, AP via Boston Globe, B18.
ALFRED, Maine - The York County Jail has won permission to keep an additional 10 prisoners a night, making the crowded facility even more cramped....  Tuesday...the Maine Dept. of Corrections...approved [an] application to house 98 prisoners at the jail [which already has] a temporary permit to house 88, though...built to hold only 58.
...The primary reason the new permit was granted \was\ a vote for a $20m bond referendum to build a new, 250-bed jail [and] in exchange for the 10 extra beds, jail officials have agreed to increase the one hour of state mandated inmate recreation time by 30 minutes a day....
This year the County has been responsible for about 130 inmates a night.... Prisoners who cannot be held in Alfred are boarded at other jails, which costs more than $1m a year..\.. The new permit...will save about $750,000 during the next three years, about the time it will take to build the new jail....
[But maybe it will be obsolete by the time it is built??]
"The numbers are really increasing tremendously. We can't get that new jail too soon," [Sheriff Philip] Cote said. Jail officials will continue to add bunks to open living areas to accommodate the extra prisoners.
[But what about the "booming economy"? What about the "shortage of labor" everywhere throughout the country?? This phenomenon clearly has absolutely nothing to do with the economy, according to this report.]
...Law enforcement officials said..\..[that contributing] to jail overcrowding in Alfred in the last three years \is\ limited time off for good behavior, increased minimum sentences, a backlog of court cases [ah, wouldn't that operate in the other direction?], and increases in the number of drunken-driving and domestic violence offenders....
[The Third World comes to America. Uncle Sam, behold your future. Nothin' we can do. "Act of God." Just keep the maximum workweek at 40 and unenforced, keep introducing labor-saving technology, raising job qualifications and "exempt" overtime, widening the income gap, concentrating wealth at the top, vanishing the middle class, feeling important cuz we're busybusybusy, paying strangers to rear our kids.... Nothin' we can do. "Act of God."  Or Timesizing.]

[More evidence that all is not as cheering as it might seem -]
12/06/99 'Deep trouble' seen amid plenty - Update on landmark crime study says rosy economy masks persistent violence - 'By some measure, I'd have to say we've gone backwards....' Elliott Currie, criminologist, by Eric Lichtblau, Boston Globe, A3.
WASHINGTON - Three decades after a landmark study described crime and poverty as tearing away at the nation's fabric [& that was before the much vaster labor glut of the last generation!], a sobering update released yesterday concludes that the United States has moved backward in fighting these ills and remains "a society in deep trouble" because of misguided policies.
[Misguided policies were predicted by Arthur Dahlberg 67 years ago but for not until 2010-2030 -]
Jobs, Machines and Capitalism, Macmillan, 1932, 168-169.
...Thus the doubling of the labor supply by doubling the hours of labor [lots of people in high tech already in the 1990s routinely work 80-hour weeks] did not result in 50% unemployment as one would naturally have expected, although...the share flowing to labor had dropped to about 55% fo the national income. [Instead,] reabsorption took place:
(A) By manufacturing new wants for the rich [this very day (12/06/99), the NY Times C8 mentions patents for "luminous champagne" and "scented photos" and on 12/10/99 C5 a modem-equipped washing machine, called Margherita2000 using wireless telephony to communicate with its mfr & owner & potentially other appliances].
(B) By constructing excess plants [and prisons?!] on a tremendous scale.
(C) By intense activity in competitive advertising [eg: junkmail, spam?!] and distribution.
(D) By constantly working on new models and elaborations [eg: our whole recent emphasis on "niche markets" in automobiles and other consumer goods and services?!].
(E) By adding vastly to the machinery [including technology?!] utilized per worker.
(F) By transferring large numbers of potential workers to the schools [and prisons?!].
(G] By producing for Europe [and Asia?!] while its funds and credit held out.
[Now back to the crime study article -]
The widely publicized decline in crime rates during the 1990s has stemmed primarily from unusual levels of [disparity] and masks society's failure to come to grips with underlying causes of violence and crime.
The report was issued by the Milton S. Eisenhower Foundation, a nonprofit research group that grew out of a commission created by [LBJ] in 1968. The group said violence is much more prevalent today than 30 years ago, and the odds of dying in a violent crime remain much higher in the United States than in almost any other industrialized nation.... [Case in point -]
Columnist is killed in stabbing attack, AP via Bos Globe, A7.
A Philadelphia Daily News columnist known for his hard-hitting commentaries on urban issues was stabbed to death Saturday.... W. Russell G. Byers...and his wife...had just bought ice cream at a market near their home in the city's Chestnut Hill section when the suspect yelled "Give it up," referring to their wallets.... Byers was stabbed once in the chest after he pushed the robber away from his wife.... The suspect fled empty-handed.
[Now back again to the crime study article -]
In part, the report suggested, [the much more prevalent violence] is because the number of firearms has doubled to nearly 200 million [& our population is what, 260m?], many of them high-powered, easily concealed models "with no other logical function than to kill humans."
Worse yet, crime has been aggravated by a "vast and shameful inequality in income, wealth and opportunity," the report said, noting that more than one-quarter of US children live in poverty....
Several Clinton administration officials and law enforcement specialists questioned...the Eisenhower Foundation's contention that the war on drugs has not worked...in the face of data showing a recent decline in consumption among young people and other users....
[Maybe that's because we've put them all in prison for 25 years, at a cost of $30-35,000 per prisoner per year, to us taxpayers, for the second biggest prison population in the world - and we'll probably beat Russia for that "title" next year.]
When [LBJ] originally created the commission, he tapped Milton Eisenhower, a diplomat and brother of former [Republican] Pres. Dwight Eisenhower, to head it, and charged the panel with investigating the...violence that culminated in Robert F. Kennedy's assassination in 1968. The commission's 1969 report offered chilling predictions about urban residents trapped in "places of terror" and heavily armed suburbanites living in "fortified cells".... Elliott Currie, now a criminologist at [UC Berkeley's] legal studies program...was one of..\..the orginal staff members.... "I would not really have dreamed in 1969 that violent crime would get so much worse in the '80s and early 90's...", Currie said. "...I think we made a lot of wrong choices." Those wrong choices...have included a national preoccupation with hard-line policies - building prisons, waging the war on drugs, and creating "zero tolerance" policies on crime. The get-tough approach has come at the expense of longer-term solutions such as early intervention with troubled youth, job training, and drug rehabilitation, the report said.
"Prisons have become our nation's substitute for effective policies on crime, drugs, mental illness, housing, poverty and employment of the hardest to employ," the report said.
Numbers on serious crimes compiled by the FBI from around the country have actually gone down for an unprecedented seven straight years, declining to the lowest levels since the 1970s.
[But again, look at the cost. Over 1,800,000 Americans incarcerated. Of this we're supposed to be proud? "The odds of dying in a violent crime remain much higher in the United States than in almost any other industrialized nation." Of this we're supposed to be proud? A valued columnist gets stabbed to death in the middle of a respectable part of Philadelphia trying to protect his wife from a mugger. Of this we're supposed to be proud?]

[Something completely different.]
11/21  In Denmark, there's little crime, less punishment, by Kurt Pitzer, Boston Globe, A24.
...violent crime represents only 3% of all offenses (compared to more than 12% in the U.S., according to the National Criminal Justice Reference Service).... Less than 0.07% of the Danish population [of 5 million people] is incarcerated (roughly 1/10 of the US percentage), and more than 3/4 of inmates are in "open prisons," where they can attend work or school in public during the day, as long as they report for lockdown in the prison dormitories at night..\..
Punishment...is not among the judicial goals in a country that prides itself on its humanitarian ideals and a prevailing sense that no one - not even the toughest repeat offender - should fall through the social safety net.
[We agree with Buckminster Fuller that the goal should be, not to punish but to design out the possibility of recurrence.]
"The point is not for inmates to suffer," said Hendrik Pedersen, warden of the Vridsloselille prison, echoing the sentiments of the Danish government, led by the Social Democrats and Liberal parties. "The aim is for them to be able to integrate back into society, if they can, and to leave here without an anti-social attitude. Their punishment, if that is what you want to call it, is that they are not free." "We can lead a pretty normal and independent life here," ...said \Soren\ a Hells Angels associate convicted of murder four years ago.... "It's not like you see in America, where if you're in prison you're lucky if you survive."
[How much longer can America hold onto its title as "God's Gift"? Has it already lost it?]
Softer conditions haven't...led to a better system of rehabilitation.... Though violent crime is [far] lower, recidivism - the likelihood that inmates will commit a new crime within two years [how about "ever"?] - remains at near 45% in Denmark, slightly higher than in the U.S.
[How "slightly"? If we're going to get essentially the same recidivism whether we're soft or tough, and if "soft" results in 1/10 of the prison population of "tough" and in 1/4 of the violent crime, the cost savings would be so huge in the US that it's a clear win for "soft."]
Like their US counterparts, Danish prisoners have certain responsibilities - to attend school and vocational training, and to work, mostly in wood and metal shops, within the prison. They are also expected to keep their cells and communal areas clean, to empty ashtrays, and take out the garbage. In return, they receive privileges. Even some violent offenders are eligible for day and weekend passes for good behavior, and inmates have the right to near-daily visits of 1½ hours. Vridsloselille prison provides 12 visiting rooms, each of which can be locked from the inside, with chairs, a coffee table, a stereo, and, most importantly, a bed. Nearby, a supervisor can look after visiting children in a playroom full of toys. Outside in the hallway, next to a coffee machine, is a bowl full of condoms. "We avoid a lot of trouble by letting them...remain intimate with their loved ones as often as possible," guard Michael Grego said. "It helps keep them calm."
[Ah, "biodrugs."]
The amount of crime committed without prison walls is practically nil, according to prison officials, despite greater opportunities to do so than in other countries. The kitchen drawers containing cooking utensils, including knives, for example, are unlocked and accessible to inmates at all times. "In a way, we're like a family in here," says Aksel Larsen, who is serving a 9½-year sentence for drug smuggling. "There are no fights, no real hassles. We kind of police ourselves, because nobody wants a problem. It's actually safer in here than out on the streets."...

11/17 A life force - Death penalty fight pulls historian into the present - "It's a violent culture, and I have a theory that the death penalty is the capstone of this whole sense of violence...its ultimate expression" (Wm. McFeely, author of "Proximity to Death"), by Mark Feeney, Boston Globe, D1.
[We, on the other hand, have a feeling that its ultimate expression is our blind preservation of human life regardless of quality - which we don't even do to our animals, - in other words, our inability to accept euthanasia and grant Dr. Kevorkian his place as a benefactor of humankind. Be that as it may - ]
...The US justice system is at its most black and white - in both senses of the [phrase] - where the death penalty is concerned. As of April 1 [1999], 43% of death row inmates were black (a number more than 3 times the percentage of blacks in the United States)....
[We can and should be making it much MUCH easier to earn an honest living than a dishonest one in this highly technologized country. Step one is to enforce the workweek maximum that we froze at 40 hours in 1940. (The least stifling way to do this is allowing overtime if and only if its profits and earnings are reinvested in on-the-job training and hiring, and targetting large corporations first, first wage workers and then, including salaried employees.) Step two is to unfreeze the workweek and adjust it downward, however slowly, until unemployment responds. And of course, that requires "step zero" - getting a real unemployment rate that includes welfare, disability, homelessness and prisons. Our current unemployment rate excludes more of the problem of non-self-support than any other country's, except maybe for South Korea's.]

11/10 Inmates allege 'reign of terror' - File suit against Suffolk [Mass.] sheriff, by John Ellement, Boston Globe, B1.
When Anthony Bova showed up in court in September, the judge was so horrified by the bruises he saw that he told a court officer to photograph Bova and ordered that he not be sent back to the Suffolk County House of Correction, where he had allegedly been beaten by correction officers. Yesterday, Bova and 27 other inmates at the county prison filed a civil rights class-action lawsuit against Sheriff Richard J. Rouse, alleging they were victims of a "reign of terror" in which they were routinely subjected to racial epithets, beaten, denied medical care, and kept from their families.
[Sounds like Massachusetts is unclear on the concept of zero tolerance inside jails described in the story below.]
The lawsuit follows allegations made in August that correction officers engaged in sexual misconduct with female prisoners....

11/08 Behind bars, an iron hand drastically lowers violence, by Christopher Drew, NYT, front page.
Just 5 years after city officials braced for riots on Rikers Is. [NYC jail], where inmates routinely slit each other with razors, gangs were a menace and guards brawled with inmates in a perpetual fight for control, slashings and stabbings [today have been reduced] by more than 90%. Stabbing assaults by inmaters have plummetted to 78 so far this year from nearly 1,100 in 1994..\..using an array of tools and tactics - from a huge SWAT team to electric stun shields to a program that aggressively prosecutes inmates for crimes committed inside the jails.... Some inmates and their legal advocates view the new tactics, particularly the use of pepper gas and stun devices...with alarm. \However\ "if somebody had told my officers 5 years ago we'd ever get the level of violence down this low, they would have laughed in your face" \said\ Bernard Kerik, the city's Commissioner of Correction....

10/25 Unconsenting sex in prison, editorial, Boston Globe, A18.
Massachusetts is one of only 13 states that does not criminalize sexual conduct [of prison staff with inmates.] Although such behavior is prohibited by prison policy, it is unlikely to stop until it becomes a crime.
Sexual coercion in prisons and jails, sexual favors traded for drugs or privileges, and even prison "romances" between [guards and inmates] taint the entire Massachusetts prison system. In August three guards at the Suffolk County House of Correction in South Bay were fired on charges they engaged in sex with a 25-year-old inmate, who became pregnant. One other was dismissed and one placed on leave after separate incidents.
There can be no "consensual" sex when an inmate's every move is controlled by prison officers.... "If you are in custody, you are incapable of consenting,"...said \Mass.\ House Republican leader..\..Francis Marini of Hanson...who has filed legislation making sexual conduct between [prison employees and inmates] a felony.... Marini is no bleeding heart when it comes to crime. But he joins the Mass. chapter of Amnesty International in believing that the state must ensure the physical safety of inmates. "I'm not for coddling prisoners, but I'm not for terrorizing them or raping them, either," he said. Such degradations are not part of an inmate's sentence.

10/11/99  2 prison stories on 1 day! -

  1. Forum to discuss protecting prison inmates as drug test subjects, by Robert Whitaker, Boston Globe, A3.
    More than 20 years after being banned from using prisoners in medical experiments because of widespread reports of abuse, researchers have returned to correctional facilities. ["Oh no-o-o-o, Mr. Bill."] This time, vowig not to repeat the mistakes of the past, researchers have turned their attention to a particular type of experiment - late-stage trials for AIDS drugs.
    As a first step toward fulfilling the promise that abuses won't occur...
    [...form a committee? no, but close! - right answer = hold a conference!...]
    ...AIDS doctors, ethicists, lawyers, prisoner advocates, prison administrators, and drug company doctors plan to meet at Brown University [in Providence, R.I.] this week to draft detailed recommendations for conducting clinical trials in correctional institutions. The group hopes to produce a consensus document that will take its place beside documents - the Nuremburg Code (1947), the Helsinki Declaration (1964), and the Belmont Report (1976) - that have sought to create a moral framework for ethics in medical research....

  2. Unabomber says he'd prefer death to the humiliation of prison, Reuters via Bos Globe, A8.
    Confessed Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, who sent package bombs that killed three people and injured 23 others across the United States, told Time magazine he hopes he will die soon because imprisonment is too unbearably humiliating. Kaczynski is now serving a life sentence in a high security federal prison in Colorado.... He is kept in a bloc of eight cells known as "Celebrity Row".... His neighbors...include Timothy McVeigh, convicted of the 1995 Oklahoma Citiy bombing in which 168 people died..\..
    Kaczynski writes..."Imprisonment to me is an unspeakable humiliation and...I would unhesitatingly choose death over incarceration." In the interview, Kaczynski adds, "I don't want to live long. I would rather get the death penalty than spend the rest of my life in prison."...
    [The future will probably find a better balance by going further in two opposite directions at once - it will totally abolish the death penalty, even for killing police officers, but there will be a niche in the wall of every prison cell, at least every cell on "lifers' row", and that niche will contain a gentle, convenient, easy-to-use Kevorkian Kit. Why in the world are we fighting Ted Kaczynski's expressed preference? So we can continue to spend $30-35K keeping him alive in vindictive "punishment" for an indefinite lifetime? Like we can't think of better uses for $30-40 grand in terms of intervening earlier, e.g., to boost kids in poverty out of the cycle of crime and violence?]


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