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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

I promised Russell I would ask you something.

We met last week in a medium-security correctional facility. There, I spent a couple of hours talking with a group of men who are studying for their GED. I stressed to them the need for long-term goals, the critical importance of education in an era where good-paying, low-skill jobs are going away, and the importance of refusing to allow oneself to be defined by whatever box of race or class society has placed you in. It was toward the end that Russell asked a question whose exact wording I can’t recall, but whose gist was a simple challenge:

What are you going to do to help me when I get out?

He meant me, personally. And he meant you, personally.

Perhaps the question makes you indignant. This would not surprise me. A generation of conservative “reform” on issues of criminal justice has encouraged many of us to believe the only thing we “owe” those who break the law is punishment, followed by punishment, along with punishment and then punishment. It is a seductive line of reasoning. Who among us is not made furious by those men and women who break and enter and steal and damage and violate and maim and kill and thereby rob us of the right to feel secure in our own persons?

Small wonder, then, that harsh, endless punishment has come to seem such an absolute good that politicians of both the right and the left stumble all over themselves to prove they are “tough on crime.” And none of them dare speak a word about rehabilitation, for mortal fear of being declared that hated other thing: “soft” on crime.

  • 1olderbutwiser1

    I have an answer for him, and you as well. Tell the bum where you live….tell him the easiest entry without getting caught….tell him where your most valuable possessions are…..tell him your wife’s sexual preferences so he can make sure she enjoys the rape……give him the keys to your car….and your safe deposit box as well……pay for his lawyer so he can sue you for entrapment….make sure you are a total coward for not having shot the bum……so even your kids can see what a worthless spineless failed American you are…..and be sure to blow him kisses and wish him the best as he departs with any dignity you may ever have had. Hey stupid, crooks are in jail because they are crooks. You need your tongue cut out for espousing rights for prisoners. Maybe you’re just an armchair intellectual who would die of exhaustion after a hard day’s work. One of America’s faults is people too often give credence to the softies like you. Hey, buy a house fully furnished to give these losers a place to live after you sign for their responsibility to get them out, but pay for it yourself. And pay for his next jailstay when you see he ruined anything you provided, or sold it. If you were to arrest the bum, be sure you pay his next stay out of your own pocket. He instinctively knows he has a sucker in you.

    • awakenaustin

      Missed your meds this morning, huh?

      • 1olderbutwiser1

        You have a childish and irresponsible sense of humor. Nothing new on here, even some of the authors are the idiot bleeding hearts.

        • awakenaustin

          Thank you. Your second sentence needs some editing. I think your anger is way out in front of your ability to form coherent sentences.

    • handygandy74

      Lets see if I,m hearing this right you have so much hate for people you probably never knew,and then what about people in law enforcement?these comments are made by one small minded one track thinking person.As a former law enforcement professional I can tell you some people are not in there by choice some people were railroaded into the system because of mistaken identity ie being in the wrong place at the wrong time.Some people wound up in there because they were beaten up and the courts were slow to do anything about it the court issue orders of protection and that isn,t going to deter someone from finding and murdering that particular person of interest. So do us a big favor and think before you open your mouth if you were to do that you just might make sense when you do talk.Then again the only other way that you would have a different point of view is to be locked up and experience that way of life for yourself you would,nt be so quick to judge another person.

      • 1olderbutwiser1

        I see you a former law enforcement professional. What do you blame a high crime rate on?

        • handygandy74

          OK well now to answer your question there is no one demographic factor that contributes to crime in itself crime is made up of poverty and desperation not having the resources a bad upbringing you name it crime is like a soup it has alot of ingredients oh let,s not forget race plays a role in this madness as well.I teach a self defense course at the center in Jamaica queens every other week,and every now and then I hold sessions where people air their grievances just like you about the question you stated in your response.So I hope this will be acceptable to you when you do decide to gripe about criminals and their behavior in general terms.

          • 1olderbutwiser1

            You are a rational man. If you look at your bottom line, the action word is criminals. If jail is a miserable place, few will ever want to go back after a short stay.. Here in Pennsylvania, we have even paid active incarcerated criminals their tuition at college, and still some return to the criminal life, they are just more sofisticated in their manners. And think about it….why should any american citizen have to take self-defense classes? Violent aggressors do need to be removed from the general population, but where should we put them? FEMA camps? You are an interesting person, but I have to go to work. Best of luck in your endeavors!!!!

        • jebediah123

          I’ll give you an example of what I blame for some of the high crime rate. Back in 1960 there was a recession on when I got out of high school. THERE WERE NO DECENT PAYING JOBS WITH ANY FUTURE. Only minimum wage jobs at $1.25 an hour at which you could hardly be independent (if you were lucky to get one).

          Myself and a couple of buddies scraped enough gas money to make it to California where we were told the job market was better. NOT! We ended up picking beans with the Mexican laborers. After two months of fruitless job searches and living in our car the thought of robbery came to mind.

          Only by the grace of God did we not go there.

          The point I’m trying to make is in today’s world THERE ARE VERY FEW DECENT PAYING JOBS FOR PEOPLE WHO DO NOT HAVE A HIGHER EDUCATION.




        • Grandpa_In_The_East

          Lack of skydiving?

    • Happy Mother’s Day, mom.

    • Grandpa_In_The_East

      You are a Republican, then?


    • You sir are an idiot.
      I am 60 years old, worked in the prisons until my car crash. I am not soft, I am not weak, and I met any number of inmates that I would gladly give the keys to my life to.
      But not you boy!

  • montels2

    And many of these people are in jail for crimes without victims like possession of marijuana. Victims of the ridiculous War on Drugs which has eroded our rights as citizens and destroyed our neighboring nations to the south.
    Of course we have the private prison corporations taking over for the states as long as the state can guarantee a 90% occupancy rate.
    All part of the bribery scheme we call government!

  • howa4x

    The problem with our justice system is that it is knee jerk response instead of thought out reason. 90% of criminal are there because of drug related issues, either needing money for more or killing/wounding someone over turf isues. The response has been three strikes and your out or lock them up for ever. The problem we face now is that it costs more to incarserate someone than to educate them, so in a cost benefit analysis the Republicans who are yelling the loudest about punishing crime are also the ones wanting to cut taxes which fund prisons. Its a circular argument. Here are some things to do now. Require every prisoner to get a GED so you can’t be paroled unless you have one. Teach skills like carpentry, electrical so that when people get out they will not be a future burden. Detox them from drugs. Break up gangs. Send them to other states or make deals with other countries. Sentence kids to finish high school under a court order. Require health departments to set up NA groups and outreach programs to get people into treatment and provide a group support when they get out. Expand detox beds in each state on a ration of 1/20. Legalize drugs and end this stupid war that is an abject failure and treat this problem as a public health and medical issue

  • damfst23

    The bottom line:America is a mean nation,a cruel place,with a cruel history and is becoming more cruel by the nanosecond.The prison industrial complex and military industrial complex are both built of off the idea of class hatred for the poor and America,s long destructive history of racism.You cannot have a class straited society without a bottom rung to maintain the economic comforts of the ruling oligarchy.The prison system is the post modern equivalent of chattal slavery and just as or more financially lucrative than the trans atlantic slave trade.Jeremiah Wright said it best: Dont say God bless America say God d@&m America for maintaining essentially a prison planet and chattal slavery.

  • grannyk8

    If we can’t get the nation interested in helping those who, for one reason or another, see resorting to crime as a solution to the problems in their desperate lives, there is small hope for a drive to lift them up after the crime has been committed. Perhaps it is rooted in the need to always have a layer of society which is lower than our own, a group which will make us look better, by comparison, than we are. How can you imagine that you are “Top Dog”, without the Underdog? As a nation, our concern with status has made us greedy and reckless, often to a criminal degree, but without the same stigma that haunts the common man. Schemes and scams are awarded with backslaps, not bars; what punishment for bilking millions, compared to stealing a ham sandwich by a hungry, unemployed man? Our priorities are skewed, our ethics are crooked, our future is dim.

  • We have the most prisoners because of our drug laws, and we are building more to house marijauna violators, so the owners can keep getting richer. Drug additcs need help, not prison. These people not only steal for their drug, but just for normal living, ie food, clothing, housing. The republicans want to cut taxes and then build private prisons just to make their friends richer. They care nothing about the person who got caught with a little pot and ended up in jail. Let’s not educate these people while in prison or rehabilitate them so they can be a member of our society, we want them in jail forever. And remember the republicans make themselves out to be the Bible watchers of our society, GOD is looking down on them so proudly, NOT!!!!! Our society does not let these people back in after they pay for their crime, they make them a criminal forever with the way they treat these people. If you want to live the Bible, GOD says turn the other cheek. We do that by rehabilitating these people and returning them as productive members of society. Give them back their right to vote, jobs, housing. loans, all that make them a member of society, otherwsie you are not living by the GOOD BOOK!!!!!!

    • David Markham

      Thank you ! It is refreshing to see someone that read the whole book, not just the parts they wanted.

  • David Markham

    As I see it,The 1% have created this prison environment with unequality in pay resulting in desperate times create desperate measures. I truly believe that the elite minority manipulate the judicial system just as they do everything else to control the majority and have no desire for rehab programs because once they get you into the system stripped of all your rights they can keep you under their control.
    It is just another way of exerting total control and keep it all to themselves!

  • WOW! What an article. Maybe some of the “support and benefits” we offer to our ILLEGAL immigrants could be used to assist these who have paid their debt to society. I think that the victimless criminals certainly should be offered some assistance other than drug infested halfway house.

  • Jean Huggins

    Many times the justice system in some areas of our country have shown the lack of common sense and plain compassion that is typical of most human beings. Maybe this treatment is expected for hard core criminals (ex. serial killers, … ) but that population is probably incurable anyway. T he remaining largest part of our prison system is in great need for long term rehabilitation in a professional medical setting not incarceration where hate crimes are practiced daily.

  • 1olderbutwiser1 … You ask handygandy74 What do you blame a high crime rate on?
    Here is your answer … Changes in sentencing law and policy, not increases in crime rates, explain most of the six-fold increase in the national prison population. And “one size fits all” mandatory minimum sentences that allow little or no consideration for individual characteristics as in case above. How many prisoners have been victimized with maximum or near maximum sentencing just for a prosecutor’s career ambition to be furthered, mostly to become judges? They rack up convictions like scalps on an Indian’s belt just to secure their career goals.

    It is disgrace, that an 8-year-old boy from Arizona going to be charged with the premeditated murder of his father and his friend. Police are pushing to have the boy tried as an adult even as they investigate possible abuse. Since when an 8 year old can premeditate murder? And then be tried as an adult, but 15 year old can’t consent to have sex? What is wrong with you people?

    It is a fact that 70-80% of US prisoners within one year are back in prison. In Europe for example the number is reversed, 80% of them get job and become normal law abiding citizens. Why is that? And why is crime rate in Europe 10 times les per capita. Crime within the prisons is almost non existing. They give prisoners some dignity, something to look forward when they get out. Prisoners in Europe work in every prison, making furniture, sheet metal work, farming, teaching etc. They feel productive, they are productive. They learn new skills, develop working habit.
    What comes out of US prisons? Vast majority come out as poorly educated criminals, street fighters, drug traffickers and even murderers and they are back in prison within 6 to 8 months.
    Spending many years in prison is one very big failure of the system. It serves no purpose.The United States is a nation of laws badly written and randomly enforced.

  • JohnnyE1000

    One time when we celebrated an elderly person’s birthday we looked up old newspaper archives to see what was happening on the date of her birth in 1921. There was an article about prison population in the state of New York. If I remember right there were only about 3000 people in state prisons.

  • joyscarbo

    We have an extrordinarily racist criminal justice system as well. Do you think black and hispanic people- only approximately 20% of the population of the US- have comitted the majority of crime in the US???

    Why is nearly 62% of the U.S. prison population black and hispanic?

    Here are some very real prison statistics:
    For every 100,000 caucasion males, nearly 500 of them are in prison.
    For every 100,000 hispanics males, nearly 1300 are in prison.
    And for every 100,000 black males, nearly 3500 are in prison.

    Why are there such disproportionate numbers of hispanics and blacks imprisoned, when white males comitt 54% of all crimes?
    We have a very injust criminal justice system. Black or hispanic offender will spend 20% MORE time in prison than a white offender. Minorities are less likely to be parolled than whites. Minorities also have longer probations and have greater difficulty getting jobs after prison sentences.

    Serial killers…mostly a white crime.

  • mike112769

    A large majority of prisoners are in for simple drug possession charges, or some stupid 3rd-strike law. I’m guessing that 85% of them don’t deserve to be in prison.