Hmmm. This is unsatisfying. How many are there for crimes that were committed to feed drug habits? How many for crimes related to but not directly involving drugs (turf wars, drug-money related offences etc)?
Sure, these are crimes and we should definitely still bring people committing these to justice, but I wonder how many just would not have happened without the WoD?
Clearly it's not the whole picture, but it might be a little more complex than the article makes out.
It's unsatisfying not because it's wrong, but because it replaces a tidy narrative, (a narrative which suggests a public policy many of us would like to support) with "it's complicated". I think you have the picture reversed -- the article is saying the problem is nuanced and complex when we'd rather believe it was simply the war on drugs.
I disagree. I think it's unsatisfying because it naively minimises the wider effects of the WoD.
I'm not American so I don't really have a vested interest in your prison population and why it's there, I only really know that compared to your population size it's huge.
I am quite pedantic though, and it looked to me like firstly it wasn't complete in its reasoning and secondly like 300K people out of 1.7M is still a very significant amount.
It has trends which suggest it's of little relevance, sure, but nothing particularly concrete. For all we know the homicide rate in the mid 80s (for example) may have dropped to a historic low without the WoD.
If not, can you help me understand why?
Not right now, drunk.
When you have a truly complex problem, the way to solve it is to pick it apart into simpler parts. If we start with ending the war on drugs, and the prison pop only goes down 17%, we can move on to the next reform.
Unless you know why these people were in front of the cops to begin with, you can't speak to whether any given policy change will or won't affect arrest or imprisonment rates.
e.g. Stop-and-Frisk is a War on Terror policy, but regularly results in weapons and drug charges. Are the people ultimately sentenced for those offenses in prison because of weapon or drug laws, or anti-terror laws?
Rudy Giuliani got rid of all the annoying squeegee men that loved to shake down vehicular traffic. But now ... they're baaackkk "terrorizing city streets"!
Ie. Fake example, The crime in San Francisco shot up by 400% - woah! So much more crime. The population in San Francisco also shot up by 10,000%. Oh, so you're telling me that the ratio of criminals to non-criminals dropped by 95%?
But it might miss the point. Someone convicted of burglary may have been burgling to get money for their addiction. That may or may not be recorded. Although you might be right, maybe that sort of stuff is routinely recorded. I have no idea!
I too am confused why I was down-voted, but i guess you can't please everyone :\
This is either false or misleading because of how it is worded. The percentage of people serving time in state prison for drug offenses is ~53%
Legalizing drugs will not make them free, and they will still lead to addiction.
Indeed they will. But if addicts have easier access to medically supervised maintenance doses (for instance), without risking jail time, then there may be less crime committed to feed these habits. Stuff I've seen has suggested that (for instance) when heroin users know where their next hit is coming from (the clinic) they are better able to handle their addiction and able to make some progress in the rest of life (hold down a job, etc).
I'm not saying I definitely have all the answers, the picture is complex.
That's extremely wishful thinking.
We currently have abundant access to alcohol and alcoholism is still a problem.
It's something I've read about coming out of the Swiss model, which medicalises heroin addiction rather than criminalising it.
I'm not going to hunt for references right now so I guess we'll have to agree to disagree.
In other words, even if it was not paid for, but just made available on prescription, chances are substantial proportion of users would be able to afford to maintain their addiction without much, if any, crime.
Oh can you imagine the horror!
"Our tax dollars are going on keeping them no-good junkies in smack! Not on my watch!"
Even if it was the best thing for law and order, for society, for everyone.... yeah I know, it'll just never fly.
It will make them much cheaper and thus have about the same affect.
The modern controlled substances act was passed in 1970, and drug war spending started ramping up through the 1970's, and didn't really get going until the second half of the 1980's: http://blurbrain.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/drugs-vs-spe....
So what does the data tell us? Crime started spiking up about 10 years before the drug war even started. The big jump in drug war spending in the 1980's happened after two decades of rising crime, when crime rates were already near their peak. So if anything, the federal drug war (or peoples' appetite to wage it) seems to be a reaction to rising crime, rather than a cause.
Now, you could also say rising crime was the result of prohibition itself, not just the drug war per se. But narcotics began to be heavily regulated and effectively banned in 1915: http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/library/studies/cu/cu8.h....
Now, compare crime rate to incarceration rate and the timeline of the drug war: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/48/U.S._inc.... The incarceration rate is basically flat until 1975. By that time violent crime had increased by over 2.5x. The mind-blowing thing is that our incarceration rate doesn't catch up to our crime rate until after 1995! I.e. even though our incarceration rate quadruples from 1950 to 1995, in that time violent crime more than quadruples.
It's only after the big drop in crime in the late 1990's that our incarceration rate started to become disproportionate to our violent crime rate.
But according to John Pfaff, a professor at Fordham Law School, neither of those efforts will make a significant dent in the problem, because they are based on a false understanding of why the prison boom happened in the first place.
"The reason it’s important to get it right is that if we’re trying to reduce the prison population, we want to make sure we do it correctly—and if you focus on the wrong thing, you won’t solve the problem. So if you think it’s the war on drugs, you might think, ‘OK, if we just decriminalize drugs, that will solve the problem.’ And, you know, it’s true that if we shift away from punishment to treatment that could be a huge improvement. But just letting people out of prison—decarcerating drug offenders—will not reduce the prison population by as much as people think. If you released every person in prison on a drug charge today, our state prison population would drop from about 1.5 million to 1.2 million. So we’d still be the world’s largest incarcerating country; we’d still have an enormous prison population.
And if we focused on cutting back sentence lengths, maybe that would weaken DAs’ bargaining power at plea bargaining, but since people aren’t serving the massively long sentences anyway, it probably won’t have that big an effect on prison population either."
This is a weird argument, because reducing the prison population by 17% is a significant dent ..
I don't understand the logic. It does not follow from "ending the drug war won't solve our prison problem" that "we should maintain the drug war".
There is virtually no vocal user of HN that supports the drug war. In every thread about drugs on HN, you can safely assume the entire community agrees that the "War on Drugs" is toxic.
I would worry that trying to solve the whole issue at once, like the professor seems to suggest, would be a non-starter politically.
I ain't saying you're wrong because I don't have the figures to rebut that. I'm not even saying that the WoD is the major cause of violent crime, definitively, because I don't have those figures either.
Literally all I'm trying to say is that the analysis in the article seems short-sighted and incomplete because it only takes into account convictions directly for drug offences.
Is this an accurate view? Do these plea bargain happen regularly?
I also understand that the prison system was privatised in the US. The combination of aggressive DA's, plea bargains and financial incentives to incarcerate seem, from the outside at least, to have created a perfect storm that's sort of feeding itself.
I'd love to hear from anyone with thought on this!
The prison system was not privatized in the US. Some places do have private prison but it is by no means the norm. As of 2012 less than 8% of the 2.2 million incarcerated persons in the US are in private prisons . This is less than 1% of the population. Although 20% of federal prisoners are in private prisons as of last year .
The recidivism rate is even worse. In 2005 almost a half a million inmates were tracked after their release, more than 75% were rearrested within 5 years.
>financial incentives to incarcerate...
Do you have any sources for this?
We have an electorate and politicians who want to put a lot of people in prison but a) don't want to "waste" money on prisoners and b) want prison to be as punitive as possible. We do very little education, counseling, vocational training, etc. Someone who goes to a US prison comes out less able to function in society than they were when they went in. They have no new job skills and any they had haven't been exercised and are out of date, they have the black mark of a conviction, they've been ground down by the experience. Honestly 75% sounds about right.
We have to accept that the people we put in prison will come out one day, and it's better for everyone if they rejoin society with the skills they need to succeed. It's in nobody's interest for them to re-offend, but we do so little to prevent it.
Actually the second link you provided mentions how private prisons take steps to keep inmates 'in' longer. So that's on incentive.
I haven't taken the time to look into it in detail (so shouldn't make sweeping statement of course), but I do remember hearing in other submissions on this site that prisons lobby and fund elected representatives who are 'tough on crime' and who might send convictions their way, so a truer 'incentive' to incarcerate initially not just keep them there.
I'll see if I can dig those up.
There are a lot more out there across the years. The general impression is one of an 'industry' seeking to expand its operations and that just doesn't sit right to me as an outsider.
>> financial incentives to incarcerate...
> Do you have any sources for this?
For private prisons, the Corrections Corporation of America reportedly spends over $1 million each year on lobbying. 
Beyond private prisons, there's lobbying from prison guards' unions. For example, the California union appears to have substantial political influence, and in 2008 successfully spent $1.8 million to defeat a ballot initiative that would have reduced the prison population.
Further, in some municipalities, cities use fines as revenue-raising tools, and arrest and jail people who fail to pay. See e.g. the Ferguson DOJ report.
 http://criminology.fsu.edu/wp-content/uploads/volume-10-issu... p. 750 (PDF page 274)
I will also point out that lobbying is something every industry and interest group does in the United States, including many groups who support drug and sentencing reform. $1 million isn't even really that much.
$1 million isn't even really that much.
Why lobbying -- buying influence with money -- is legal in the US, I will never understand...
Yes lobbying is usually associated with evil corporations, but the fact of the matter is that in order to fix it you would need to remove the power for citizens to speak to their representatives.
I think you are confusing this with campaign contributions, which is a different but related activity.
"A new report by In the Public Interest finds that private prison contracts that include “occupancy requirements” — effectively inmate quotas — are alarmingly common. Among the 62 contracts that they were able to obtain, 65 percent contained occupancy provisions that required prisons to remain between 80 and 100 percent full, and can last for as long as 20 years. If beds sit empty, states still have to pay, which the report dubbed a “no-crime tax.” And even when the abuses and violations for which these private firms are notorious cause the state to remove prisoners, contractual deals compel the state to keep paying."
It doesn't have to be the norm, one is too many; private prisons should not be allowed at all and the introduction of business to the prison system is privatization of the prison system.
I say some form, because confessions forced with threats of far worse punishment are a long unbroken tradition. It used to be more common for them to happen after sentencing, say during your punishment.
The modern form usually revolves around an enormous range of potential punishments. 6 months probation if you confess/bargain, 6 ears in jail otherwise. It's especially malicious because it's all happening between lawyers, without judicial involvement. Well paid lawyers are important in courts too, but at least there is a neutral judge in the room.
It's not unique to the US.
>> And if we focused on cutting back sentence lengths, maybe that would weaken DAs’ bargaining power at plea bargaining, but since people aren’t serving the massively long sentences anyway, it probably won’t have that big an effect on prison population either.
They're getting lots of easy short sentences because they accept those in exchange for not going to trial against 25 years. So it sure seems like reducing the long sentences and overdone charges would reduce the likelihood of getting plea bargains. Of course that would make more work for the prosecutors. Before taking that route, one has to ask if we really should have fewer people in prison. Efficiency in dolling out appropriate punishment is not a bad thing. Efficiency with injustice is a bad thing. I have no data on that, so I'll stop now. I guess I'm asking, are the people in prison for the right reasons, and is their actual sentence appropriate for what they did? We should start there, not at the population numbers.
Yes. Either that or people just confess to everything they can out of ignorance or because showing reticence can supposedly get you leniency from a judge.
>I also understand that the prison system was privatised in the US.
Not the whole system(s), but there are private prison operators. The majority of prisons are still state owned and run.
As you predicted, this guy Mark Ciavarella is probably the most shameful example of systematic injustice in recent history; he was caught and eventually sent to prison himself (though it is rare for a judge to go to prison for something they did on the bench). There is no reason that this sort of thing couldn't be happening on a wide scale. http://boingboing.net/2013/08/06/judge-who-accepted-private-...
In my state, IIRC the private prisons have contracts with the state which stipulate that they will be paid as if they were nearly full without regard to if their population falls below some threshold. I think that's probably the reason why we don't have prison operators bribing judges. We have other problems though, mostly related to underfunding health care, food, anything else that can be underfunded. About ten years ago there was a huge sex-abuse scandal in the youth-prisons. http://www.texastribune.org/2010/01/07/15-of-tx-youth-offend...
Do you also have privatisation happening by the back-door?
i.e. how many private services do the public prisons use? You get some weird situations where public institutions use staff from contractors, rent buildings and buy in all their services.
>You get some weird situations where public institutions use staff from contractors, rent buildings and buy in all their services.
Yeah, IIRC TYC had all of that, and while it was talked about, nothing was really done until the sex-scandal broke.
Politicians like to be seen doing something. Punishing bad people is easy. Building prisons is the cost but politicians don't pay this cost and people don't understand the financial cost of the prisons nor the cost it inflicts on those imprisoned and their families.
Politicians also like to control people. You do this through laws and regulations. Combined with punitive measures you coerce people into thinking and behaving as you need them. Those who don't or are less desirable; poor who don't fund campaigns and such; are easy targets.
Politicians also want to put groups against each other, distracting both sides from all the other activities that the politician may be engaged in.
TL;DR Politicians crave power and money, it is simple to "protect" the people by making it easier to put people in jail claiming a problem solved.
True, they often run unopposed, but that doesn't free then from political pressure; if they make an unpopular decision, any lawyer could opt to run against them by simply campaigning as not the other judge. They would usually win and get a fantastic résumé boost.
In many localities there is no requirement that a judge have any prior legal training or experience.
So anyone, not just any lawyer.
When they are elected, even if they run unopposed they still tend to act tough on crime. If a judge or prosecutor started acting weak, the could very quickly find themselves opposed in the next election.
You have to think about this in the context of history. The US has largely been diverse throughout most of its history. Most developed countries are largely dominated by one race.
Edit: LesZedCB just deleted his comment where he adds two different percentage groups from the ACLU site.
Where I have read that private prisons are on the rise, however, is in the UK itself, and in New Zealand and (to a lesser extent) Australia, run by companies like Serco and G4S.
Isn't that our smoking gun? People are being sent to prison because someone is making a pretty penny?
I'm also concerned that prisoners are used for labor at rates lower than the third-world, such as fighting fires for $2/day. It seems that investors have not just found another income source off of the backs of the very poor -- but we have found a whole new way to establish essentially slave labor.
This was a widespread practice until the 1960s.
Wouldn't any business try to maximise it's profits and push for conditions where making those profits becomes easier? That's the nature of a business isn't it, one run solely for profit anyway?
If the article talked about China or Russia, it wouldn't talk about regulating lawyers. It'd talk about the systematic incentives that make everyone (not just lawyers) act so zealously to imprison their populace.
But what if it was?
As Harvey Silverglate details in his book, "3 Felonies a Day," it is absurdly easy to accidentally commit a federal crime and serve prison time. The idea behind vindictive punishment is to make it so bad that you won't commit a crime, but if people aren't aware of the liabilities, how can people truly know their risk? Often intent has to be proven, but if it's in the interest of the prosecutor and their career to get a conviction, they'll get a conviction.
I think to reduce the "arrest/convict, ask questions later" approach is to give every officer and prosecutor a publicly available scorecard that shows their record of rightful arrests and convictions versus wrongful ones, as well as excessive punishment sought and applied in wrongful cases.
There is a scene at the end of the hilarious murder trial film, My Cousin Vinny, when the defense's expert witness completely shatters the prosecution's case, and the prosecutor immediately moves to dismiss all charges. I wonder if that would happen today?
It is for police and judges. See what happens if a policeman gives you a bogus ticket. Or a judge makes a decision counter to the law. The onus is on you to prove they're wrong. And there is no punishment or negative feedback on them for breaking the law.
If the police and judges aren't required to know the law, I don't see why anyone else needs to know it, either.
Now, as it happens it is not illegal under North Carolina state law to have a broken brake light, so the police officer had no basis to pull the man over in the first place. But the Supreme Court ruled that there are so many laws out there that a police officer cannot possibly know them all and because the police officer believed that the defendant was breaking the law in good faith, that was good enough for a traffic stop.
(Makes sense that it should be insufficient for a car search though.)
Of course, it is also desirable for a lay person to be able to know the full extent of the law. Maybe we should make a rule about the maximum amount of information that can be encoded in our legal system. Such as, you can only get n bits of information, for some reasonable n. Say the same amounts of bits that takes to encode Romeo and Juliet.
Once they are all used up, it would not be possible to mandate more things unless some previous mandates are removed.
We would still need codes and regulations, though, and we could assign m new bits to each of them. With the rule that no role should require one to be aware of more than k codes and regulations. For the smallest possible k.
So the cost of knowing (albeit not necessarily understanding) the law would be n + mk. Which seems sensible enough.
Have it depend on some community average. Common laws, ignorance is no excuse. Esoteric laws? Not knowing is an excuse.
This way, society will make sure to know the laws they value (such as knowing theft is wrong because more people would rather not be stolen from than be able to get away with stealing), but society is still protected against insane esoteric laws that just serve to make everyone into a criminal.
It seems we have a blanket policy to address ignorance of the law, which makes no sense because the whole point of trials is to make decisions case-by-case.
I don't think this process would be used often though.
Things I heard throughout this ordeal:
1. If you were white, this never would have happened.
2. I cannot believe how much $witness is lying, yet you can't prove it.
I gotta tell you, it's frustrating as anything I have ever experienced in my life. But living well is the best revenge and I've got a great life.
Oh, I posted bail? I'm out this motherfucker?
I could go? Oh, fuck y'all, aye, fuck the judge
Fuck the motherfuckin' District Attorney, the prosecutor
And fuck you motherfuckers in the jury box
Fuck all y'all 'cause I'm out on motherfuckin' bail
Y'all ain't never gonna see me in this motherfucker again
Drop that shit 'em
Let these old punk ass bitches know how we runnin' this shit
Niggaz ain't going back to court you stank ass bitches
If a DA's office can drop charges with little consequences then it's obvious they can press on with the silliest of notions of meting out justice for all of them (which they do). I think there needs to be a complete overhaul of how criminal prosecution is done in this country.
Are prisoners still forced to provide cheap "American" goods that would otherwise come from China?
Do "Christian" groups still push for the highest technically possible sentence against the public interest?
An odd thing to say about a slate article, but I think they're overthinking it.
I've never heard that. On the contrary, many churches have jail and prison outreach ministries (here's one I just found on google: http://www.theriversidechurchny.org/socialjustice/?prison). One of them, Prison Fellowship (and its founder Chuck Colson) is quite large and widely respected and supported in the Christian community (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prison_Fellowship).
Justice Fellowship spun off of Prison Fellowship, which specifically fights to reform the American justice system (http://www.justicefellowship.org/issues).
Christ always had a special place for the people in the worst circumstances, even if they deserve their problems.
It's worse than that. One prison rents their inmates to a company which has them cold calls people and pretend to be a charity in order to sell them overpriced crap "American Helping Hands" http://www.americanhelpinghands.org/Products.aspx
>An odd thing to say about a slate article, but I think they're overthinking it.
I've seen this same trope going around recently that drug law reform won't help us control the prison population, usually as an excuse not to reform drug laws. If you get caught with drugs, you may well be breaking other laws that allow police or D.A.'s to charge you as a violent or higher level offender. Caught with drugs and a gun? Your gun possession may have been legal in absence of the drugs but now you may be on the hook for a/another felony. Did you "resist arrest"? They love this stuff because they think it makes them look more effective.
It also includes Catholicism and mainline protestants who are appalled at the US' prison system and have been very vocal working to change it.
Work credits could be seen as getting a shorter sentence by showing that you can behave like members of society (i.e. displaying evidence of your rehabilitation). They normally give credits like this for general good behavior, too (again, evidence for behaving in society, at large).
Which isn't to say I think they are a good idea, but they don't really target minor crimes.
As you might expect with such a draconian law, approximately 1 in 5 prisoners in Nevada are serving a life sentence.
"What appears to happen during this time—the years I look at are 1994 to 2008, just based on the data that’s available—is that the probability that a district attorney files a felony charge against an arrestee goes from about 1 in 3, to 2 in 3. So over the course of the ’90s and 2000s, district attorneys just got much more aggressive in how they filed charges. Defendants who they would not have filed felony charges against before, they now are charging with felonies. I can’t tell you why they’re doing that. No one’s really got an answer to that yet. But it does seem that the number of felony cases filed shoots up very strongly, even as the number of arrests goes down."
'Failing to comply with a police order' on its own should probably carry a small fine.
I wonder if the simple explanation is that over decades the size of the prosecutorial bureaucracy increased to deal with an actual increased work load, but after that work load started to go down naturally, that bureaucracy had to find a way to keep itself in business, and that was by charging arrestees who would have been previously released.
A DA's office where people are sitting on their hands is an office that will see budget cuts and staff reductions. We know from both government and the private industry that almost no department will voluntarily take a budget or staff cut, even if it is warranted.
Maybe we should try reducing the DA's budgets in some states/counties and see what happens to crime and incarceration rates.
>Well, the real growth in the prison population comes from county-level district attorneys sending violent people to prison.
If the article's conclusion was the title it would not even be on HN.
So Mr. Pfaff believes that overzealous DAs have caused the prison population to skyrocket, but quickly dismisses the one proposal that could actually help solve the problem.
This seems like a classic case of "My answer, and only my answer, is correct. All other answers are wrong, even if they are compatible with my answer."
> You can’t necessarily go to Washington and say, ‘Here’s the law that’s going to control what the DAs do,’ because they don’t have to listen to the federal government at all."
Yes, you can. Getting rid of ridiculously long mandatory sentences will make a DA sound a lot less convincing when he threatens the defendant to accept a plea bargain or else. If fewer defendants accept plea bargains, the DA will have to go to trial more often, which costs a lot of time and money. This gives DAs a strong incentive not to charge too many people.
There is no justice in a legal system where one side is free to threaten the other side to waive their Constitutional right to a day in court. I don't think we will ever achieve perfect equality of bargaining power between the state and an individual citizen, but tweaking the incentive structure in this way would be a promising first step toward reducing that gap.
The fact that the US elects prosecutors, and judges, is incredibly strange. Surely it could only possibly be a terrible, catastrophic idea? You want prosecutors and judges to be professional, impartial, and independent, which is exactly what elected politicians aren't.
Are there any other countries which elect their judges or prosecutors? How did the US get like this? Are Americans aware of how odd this is?
The Economist has some funny stories about it:
Total US Prison Population: 2,400,000
Private US Prison Population: 200,000
 As of 2008, if someone has more recent numbers please comment.
"What makes it very hard is that the person we really need to target now—whose behavior we need to regulate—is the district attorney, and the district attorney is a very politically independent figure. He’s directly elected, and he’s directly elected at the county level. So there’s no big centralized fix. You can’t necessarily go to Washington and say, ‘Here’s the law that’s going to control what the DAs do,’ because they don’t have to listen to the federal government at all."
However, this is not only anti-democratic but anti to the entire American system of decentralized government.
- US prison population is declining in both absolute and relative numbers, even as the population is growing. 
- The prison population skews strongly toward violence. I totaled up the numbers from my own state's prisons:
51% - HOMICIDE, SEXUAL ASSAULT, ROBBERY, ASSAULT, KIDNAPPING
21% - BURGLARY, LARCENY, STOLEN VEHICLE, FRAUDULENT ACTIVITY, FORGERY/COUNTERFEITING
17% - DRUGS
11% - Other
- Federal prisons make up less than 10% of the US prison population, and have a very different composition, and legal pathway for getting there. Any statistic you see that is about only "Federal" prisons or prisoners is next to meaningless in the context of the US prison population.
- The percentage of US incarcerated that are in privately owned prisons is actual lower than the quoted 8%, and is actually somewhere around 5-6%. (Both TFA and Wikipedia make the mistake of thinking that Federal Prisons + State prisons equals all US prisoners. The are forgetting about local jails, which account for roughly 25% of US prisoners.)
- Prisons contain far more convicted murderers than you could think possible. People with lesser charges leave soon, and people with murder convictions stay for a long time. 15% of my state's prison population is in with either life or more than 30 years. 50% of my state's prisoners are serving more than a ten year term. But at the same time the intake numbers look entirely different - most people arriving have less than a 2 year term and only 1.3% of arrivals last year had a 30 year or more sentence. 
Numbers on "murderers" who didn't kill anyone would be interresting.
In case you missed it, the HTML file linked to is "A provocative new theory for why so many americans are single"
It may be early morning, but I find that amusing :)
He argues that one of the biggest factors of the prison boom is with the DA having to be 'tough on crime' to further future political ambitions. I don't think anyone can argue with this, as historically being 'tough on crime' has been a vote getter.
A few other factors I think are worthy of considering:
1) The financial incentives of the for profit prison system (which includes for profit prisons, prison guard unions, bail bond industry) which advocates for harsher sentences.
2) The political incentives of having a larger prison population. Many congressmen fight to have a prison in their district for two main reasons. First, it brings jobs to their community. Second, and more importantly, it increases the count of people who they 'represent' even though the felons are not allowed to vote!
3) The criminalization of mental illness- We used to heavily fund mental hospitals. This has been chipped away dramatically starting in the 1980s.
4) Average lifespan of prisoners increasing- I would assume that the average prisoner's lifespan is increasing, hence a bigger prison population. No real evidence to back this up.
5) Drug criminalization leads to more criminals- The professor argues that the population who are in prison for drugs alone is only a small percentage, and that the rest are due violent crimes and property crimes. This is misleading as drug criminalization naturally leads to more criminal activities in other fields. By pushing drugs underground, a group of people will be inevitably become comfortable with the underground. Secondly, drug criminalization leads to higher drug prices, which leads to more property crimes to fuel addiction. Lastly, drug criminalization means people are less likely to get help for their drug problems, increasing the chances they will become socially maladaptive and more likely to develop violent behaviors.
6) The gutting of public defenders- Tied to what the professor argued but surprisingly not really mentioned. Public defenders are extremely underfunded, hence a high likelihood of losing your court case. This in turn leads to a higher prison population.
7) Discrimination against prisoners- As our economy gets more and more competitive, and as background information becomes easier to obtain, it is getting harder and harder for prisoners to get a job. Tied to point #5, a person who would be arrested for drugs could have his future economic career ruined. He has a higher likelihood of reverting back to crime, hence a higher prison population.
8) The removal and policing of public space- One thing I noticed is that public spaces (i.e. parks, stoops, etc) have been routinely removed to make space for private retail. It's way easier to call the cops when you are angering the property owner than if you are on public property. And in those public spaces, you are subject to way more laws (i.e. public intoxication). So it should be no surprise that we have a higher prison population if we're systematically policing more and more areas.
Many of these problems stem back to Reagan in the 1980s with America took a decidedly right-wing turn. Glad to see society is finally changing what it thinks about the over-criminalization of society.
Nobody wants a prison in their community. And nobody wants to work in a prison.
My girlfriend has worked corrections at the state and county level. She hated county but enjoyed the state work.
> Maybe it’s that next election they’re looking at, that they remain tough on crime because they want to become attorney general or governor. There’s no clear data on this.
which is a super weak answer. As jordigh said above, it's because prisons are now largely run for profit. Most people who were already aware of the large prison population already knew that for-profit prisons was the reason this phenomenon occurred. Honestly, this article sounds like a propaganda piece to serve as a red herring for the for-profit prison industry to keep chugging along.
Edit: LesZedCB just deleted his comment where he indignantly told me that 6% of state prisoners plus 16% of federal prisoners equals 22% of all prisoners.