Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Housing a prisoner in California costs more than a year at Harvard (latimes.com)
525 points by omegaworks on June 6, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 409 comments



The USA has ~5% of the world's population but 22% of the world's prisoners.

Financial profiting from prisoners: Prison Labor - paid $0.93-0.16/hr California Prisons didn't want to release prisoners because they would loose cheap labor..Courts said they had to: https://thinkprogress.org/california-tells-court-it-cant-rel...

30% of California forest firefighters are prisoners .. The state argued against parole credit for these prisoners as it would draw down the labor force and lead to depletion of the firefighter force.

Someone already mentioned the profit of commissaries. Some are actually run by private companies operating inside the prison


At the risk of being boorish about the subject...

I was recently released from Las Vegas County Jail (CCDC) where all sentenced inmates, myself included, are forced, by state law, to "work" in some manner in the jail.

In this case, work consisted of 11-hour shifts, 6 days a week, of ultra back-breaking kitchen work. We were not even allowed to have water cups anywhere outside the break room.

They actually yelled faster! faster! as we ran "the line"...I never could get over that one. All that was missing were the whips and the guards with shotguns spitting tobacco.

We processed approx. 10 thousand trays per day, and were constantly harassed and threatened big time by the corporate kitchen staff in charge. It wasn't enough that we were clocking 60-70 hours a week for the grand total of 1 extra tray per meal (not every meal grant you, just the ones we were working during), but you could actually get thrown in the box and lose gain time (more days in jail) for eating a cookie or some trivial such thing.

If you refused to work, you were put in the box and 5 days were added to your sentence.

I did the math...2 shifts of 28 workers 365 days a year...with overtime and all that, approx $50k per week($2.6mil/year) of free basically coerced slave labor for the Aero-mark Corporation that ran the kitchen.

[edits]


I'm guessing you mean Aramark (http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/prison-strike-protest-ar...) not Aero-Mark Corporation, an aerospace company. Though perhaps I'm cynical enough to believe that the latter's mission statement "The Aero-mark team bases its work ethic on unity, quality, and accountability. We are one company, one team, succeeding together." could be espoused by a company that abuses prison labor. These mission statements too often seem to be used as a sort of counterbalance for the actual behavior of the company: the more lofty the mission statement, the more deplorable the behavior.


Oh god, like I needed another reason to loathe Aramark. So much worse than I even realized.


Ha...yes my bad...quick Google search failed me.


It's not boorish. I only learned about this practice of new American slavery from a friend who had come out of prison recently. Not enough people are talking about it, so nobody knows this is what's going on. Please, keep talking about it!


Yes, it's slavery by another name. Assuming you committed a crime rather than being framed up, that was bad, but the you were treated was itself a crime and I am sorry that you were subjected to that. I've been advocating (not very effectively I'm afraid) for root and branch reform of our criminal justice system for years now, and I feel both angry and ashamed to be a participant in a society where incarceration is treated as an economic opportunity for exploitation rather than a tragic outcome to be remediated.


> If you refused to work, you were put in the box and 5 days were added to your sentence.

Don't you need a judge to determine that?


That depends on what 'added' means.

The sentence you receive from a judge is probably not anywhere close to what you will actually sit in jail for. Probation, parole, double time, triple time, good behavior, trustee status, all affect the outcome.

For example, you are sentenced to 3 years of jail for a non-violent drug offense. How long do you serve in jail? Very commonly 366 days, though it may be as much as a year and a half. That is if you don't get into any other trouble in jail. After that point you will be released on probation.

What the previous poster is likely stating is that if you willingly agree to be a slave for the state you get all the benefits of early release. The defectors that do not want to be slave labor are not given said benefits. An ironic application of the prisoners delma. If none of the prisoners would be willing to be a slave, the state could not hold them all, or 'extend' their sentences because of overcrowding.


> For example, you are sentenced to 3 years of jail for a non-violent drug offense. How long do you serve in jail?

You don't get 3 years in jail, you get 3 years in prison. The only jail time you do waiting to be sentenced to prison is the time you wait to go to court.

You get no gain time for time spent in jail for your prison sentence, so its often called dead time or day-for-day or something.

>An ironic application of the prisoners delma. If none of the prisoners would be willing to be a slave, the state could not hold them all, or 'extend' their sentences because of overcrowding.

This is an interesting observation, but here is how thats dealt with; anyone whom discusses a general purpose strike against working is charged with a serious felony "inciting to riot" and is given an "outside charge" and is probably spending years more in prison.

That's how they do that.


You don't get 3 years in jail, you get 3 years in prison. The only jail time you do waiting to be sentenced to prison is the time you wait to go to court.

Do you think it's appropriate to call out someone for using "jail" instead of "prison", when the meaning is clear, and you made the same mistake just 5 minutes prior?

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14497654

and in your original post: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14496609


No I most definitely did not make a mistake.

Yes CCDC aka Clark County Detention Center (aka Las Vegas County Jail) is a jail in downtown Las Vegas where I did my kitchen slave labor recently on a 90-day sentence for basically jaywalking.

If I were to be sentenced for more then a year, I would have been sent to a prison somewhere in the boonies of Nevada away from Vegas.

The OP discussed a "3-year jail sentence", and I simply explained that would not be possible as jail and prison are significantly different institutions with very different implications.

I don't think I am wrong to continually express the difference between the two.


>... on a 90-day sentence for basically jaywalking.

Can you elaborate?



That is a rough story. I hope things improve for you.

Those who support the war on drugs should think about his point:

>...Was this the outcome society wants me to have? To wreck what small success I struggled to get over what amounted to an illegal search and seizure (that's my PD talking, not me)? Who was the victim of my "crime"? ...

The war on drugs is just a war on people.


TLDR. There was meth involved apart from the jaywalking...


It wasn't clear for all of us. It would be nice of the OP to change "jail" to "prison" if that's what they meant.


The definition between a jail and a prison is very much depends on what state you are in.

For example in Texas, you've sat in jail for 6 month and receive a 1 year sentence, you will not be sent to prison, you will remain in the jail for the next 6 months. You can remain in 'jail' for years sometimes before being sent to a prison facility, even after sentencing.


In the USA, sentences of less than 1 year are misdemeanors and can be served in a jail. Sentences of longer than 1 year are felonies and are served in prison. Jails are operated under authority of the county in which they are located, prisons under the authority of state or federal government. This is obviously a summary rather than an exhaustive definition.


First of all, I've spent time in jails and in prisons, both state and federal. Calling it jail time or prison time is nitpicking from the inside.

Second, you do get credit for time served, whether you sat in a jail cell or a prison cell. If they don't credit you for time served, you can sue for illegal detention. It varies state-by-state as to whether you earn good-time (gain time) during your presentencing stay, but typically you get it if you didn't have any infractions.

Finally, prisons employ psychologists who actively gauge the population for "low morale" and suggest courses of action for the staff to take to keep the population under control with the least amount of effort/expense. Typically, they will improve the feed a little when the men become unruly. Also, the staff actively works with the gang structures to help keep the peace.


> You get no gain time for time spent in jail for your prison sentence, so its often called dead time or day-for-day or something.

Excuse me?!

So if I wait for 1 year in jail waiting to go to court and later I'm sentenced to 1 year in prison, I get to serve another year?!


No...you get sent home.

Let me give a concrete example here, direct from experience.

Florida DOC mandates you must do 85% of your prison (not jail...all jails have different gain time schemes just to make it really confusing) sentence, so that is roughly 5 days a month.

Lets say you score out to 22 months like I was many years ago...thats a total of 110 potential gain-time days off my sentence...great I think almost 4 months!

BUT...let's say I did 13 months in jail waiting for sentencing so I only have to do 9 more in prison.

In most prison systems, I would NOT be able to recover all my potential gain-time because the 13 months county-time did not count for my prison gain time, and perhaps I would only get 9*5 or 45 days gain-time against my sentence.

Get it?


No, that doesn't make any sense at all. What is 'gain time'? What does 'score out to' mean?


The State of Florida in 1998, in order to fight disparity in sentencing, created a "scoring system"[0] where every crime in Florida is given a number that corresponds to the number of months in prison that crime could carry.

The scoring system is byzantine as all hell and I challenge anyone to figure it out.[1]

"Scoring out" is simply a term used by Florida convicts to explain how much time they got among themselves I guess. Maybe it was inappropriate to use it here.

Gain-time is a sentence reduction scheme where people get time off their total sentence for staying out of trouble.

[0] http://macklawpa.com/criminal-defense/felony-score-sheet/

[1] http://www.dc.state.fl.us/pub/sen_cpcm/cpc_manual.pdf

[edits]


I am guessing a bit but I am understanding 'gain time' to be accrued time.

I think 'score out to' was 'sentenced to'.

If I read it right they are saying (mostly) the time spent in jail does not accrue days off a sentence like the time spent in the prison would.


No, that poster doesn't know what they are talking about. That said, sentencing is very discretionary so a judge will commonly balance out your total sentence with how much time you've already spent in jail.


Man can we be a little nicer here. He said "no gain time for time spent in jail" I am not familiar with the term "gain time" but as he uses it above seems to me additional time taken off of your sentence for playing nice. Working dancing to entertain the warden etc.

I took that to mean that while you are in jail you burn down one to one days which is not as fast as the bonus or "gain time" you would get in actual prison.

He may or may not be correct and my guess is it depends on where you at since state and local laws will be applied but... As for knowing what he is talking about my guess is many prisoners are experts in the system of trying to reduce their stays in prison.


You're being extremely rude. It's hard to make absolutely definitive statements on an incredibly complex and often perverse system like custodial sentencing without resorting to the opaque technical language of legal journals. That is rarely appropriate for a casual discussion forum like HN.

As the other poster actually has first-hand experience of being incarcerated, your dismissive tone in response to some loose phrasing comes off as both nasty and ridiculous.


The poster is talking about post-sentencing "discounts" on prison time served. It's called Good Conduct Time or "good time" for short, in Texas. The way it works is that prison administrators offer inmates early release based upon their behavior. It's a very important and useful prison management tool, one of the only carrots that prison administrators have to offer inmates.

Source, was a CO in Texas, also: http://law.justia.com/codes/texas/2005/gv/004.00.000498.00.h...

If you follow the link, you'll see that participating in work or educational programs can improve one's good time earning class, allowing an inmate to earn an earlier release date. In contrast to the other poster, Texas requires good time for time served in county jails. Also notable, educational opportunities have been severely curtailed in TDCJ over the last decade.


>You get no gain time for time spent in jail for your prison sentence,

You have no idea what "time served" means at sentencing. You can get released on the day you are sentenced if you have already served more time.


Right of course..."time served" is a very common sentence for misdemeanor offenses where you could not bond out, and I certainly have an good "idea" what it means.

Also, if you are willing to take a ungodly amount of probation, it is quite possible you will get time-served on your felony charges as well.

I am talking about serious felony offenses where people get sent for multi-year prison sentences, and in those cases, time sitting in jail waiting to get to prison is not eligible for prison gain time.


CCDC gives approx 10 days a month gain time to all sentenced inmates regardless of if you work or not.

Actually working for the jail only provides you the opportunity to LOSE gain time, not get more.

If you refuse to work, you get up to 15 days in solitary confinement (the box, or I simply call it "jail" because its actually jail inside of jail) and lose 5 days of gain time, thus adding 5 days to your sentence.

However, it does not end there...one of the CO's that worked security in the kitchen often threatened to contact your sentencing judge and ask for extra time for screwing up in the kitchen.


It's called 'good time', which you earn as credits for early release. If you refuse to work you get written up and subtracted good time which means time added to expected release date. These disciplinary writeups affect parole potential as well.

The kitchen is also considered one of the better jobs, a bad job would be Hoe Squad, which means a chain gang led out into 35C heat to work the fields while guys on horseback yell at you to work faster.

The best skill you can have in most prisons is plumbing/home renovation knowledge, as it's common for one of the guards or warden to have you fix their houses in exchange for a restaurant meal on the way back to the prison. If you work well you will be contracted out F/T to the local town and the guards/warden pocket 90% of your salary.


>The best skill you can have in most prisons is plumbing/home renovation knowledge, as it's common for one of the guards or warden to have you fix their houses in exchange for a restaurant meal on the way back to the prison. If you work well you will be contracted out F/T to the local town and the guards/warden pocket 90% of your salary.

Is there any documented evidence of this happening?

EDIT:

https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/09/prison-...

http://www.motherjones.com/crime-justice/2015/06/private-pri...

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/06/cca-private-pris...


I worked for TDCJ for a couple years, there were plenty of strange and sometimes salacious scandals. They often failed to make the news. That being said, no CO that I knew wanted inmates to know where they live. I only know of one case of a prison officer taking an inmate to their own home, and that was rumored to have been for sex. That doesn't mean a thing didn't happen though. CO's and other prison folks are very insular, and don't usually discuss things outside their tribe (well, not current affairs anyway).

There is limited on-unit housing for officers, and inmates are responsible for maintenance of those.

It is not unheard of for inmate work-crew supervisors (officers) to buy their workers a hamburger or take-out meal; this is usually during or after a shift of unusual duration or a situation that deserves a little recognition.

There are special cases. My grandfather, a county sheriff, was granted custody of a TDCJ inmate by the director. The inmate worked as a porter in the county jail, and occasionally was my babysitter for short periods of time. This was in the '70's.


They aren't actually adding anything to your sentence, but are just taking away 'gain time' that has been earned for good behavior. You can accrue gain time and eventually earn early release. However, they can also take this away for bad behavior.

Obviously some sentences are not eligible to earn gain time.


It might be that your actual sentence is 10 years, but the state may expect to send you to prison for the first 5 and have you live on probation or parole restrictions for the last 5. So the judge might tell you to serve 8 years in prison. That gives the state some years of leeway to both add time to your prison sentence for being difficult and to knock some off for being cooperative.

No matter which way you slice it, the sentence is still 10 years, and the state can decide how much of that is spent in prison, and how much outside as a less-than-entirely-free person.

If you can manage to serve your entire sentence in prison without actually committing additional crimes, you might be able to walk out the front gates and never have a single day of probation, but I put the likelihood of that ever happening at just above infinitesimal. People in prison would mostly rather be outside and on parole/probation.

You only need a judge's help to keep someone in prison past the actual length of their sentence.

IANAL and IHNBAP, so I may be up to 100% wrong about this.


Prisons have a certain amount of gaintime (small reductions in sentencing) that's there to be withheld at the prison's discretion, specifically in order to motivate work and good behavior.


That is indeed totally crazy.

I wish I had some way to verify your story, as I as a reader can't know who sits behind the keyboard on the other side.



> I wish I had some way to verify your story, as I as a reader can't know who sits behind the keyboard on the other side.

I could never in a 1000 years make up the narrative of my life. I often cannot believe I've lived it.

Every word I write here on HN is true, although you simply have no idea how I wish it wasn't so.


I believe you.

I'm also a LV resident. The city is generally hostile.


There are several similar stories in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/13th_(film)


You can easily verify the existence of such conditions in the penal system without needing to know the specific facts of an individual person's situation.


USA has the highest rate of incarceration in the world, you can find many similar stories on Google.


I am curious as to why he was incarcerated.


"If it seems strange then assume it's a lie".

When did that become a thing? And who does it benefit?


Hard to believe it costs so much if they're getting that much free labor. I would think they'd at least break even.


Private prison contracts are structured to basically provide taxpayer-subsidized slave labor.[1][2] It is just another Reagan-Thatcher era privatization scam.

[1] http://www.motherjones.com/crime-justice/2013/09/private-pri...

[2] http://www.motherjones.com/crime-justice/2015/06/private-pri...


At some point blaming administrations 30 years ago for practices continued by subsequent administrations becomes deeply dishonest.

California for instance (referenced multiple times here) has had many governors since the Reagan days and could have ended the practice on a state level, and at a federal level the pendulum has swung to both sides on multiple occasions. Any of these administrations could have made it a priority, but did not.


> At some point blaming administrations 30 years ago for practices continued by subsequent administrations becomes deeply dishonest.

That statement is nonsensical. Who else is to blame for originating these policies?


Choosing to maintain the status quo is still a choice. The blame lies most importantly with those who, today, could change this policy.

otherwise.. why not blame the romans?


I think I need to one up your boorishness. I don't think you are likely to break the law again right? That sounds like an effective correctional system. Sure it sucked. But jail/prison should suck.


Wow. Someone, whom you've never spoken to before, shares a personal story about their treatment in prison, and your reaction is "well you deserved it, treats you right". That's a fairly uncouth attitude to have towards one of your hacker peers.


Well no that's not my reaction. You shouldn't jump to conclusions that you want to exist. He had a bad time in jail. He is now unlikely to break the law again, right?

But maybe I'm wrong. Given his other comments it sounds like he's been in jail/prison more than once.


People are also unlikely to break the law again if they have an ok time in jail (it's never going to be good) while learning productive skills and being reintegrated into society without prejudice.

I wouldn't be glad someone had a bad time in their life.


Following that example, people would then break the law in a serious way every time they want to make a career change. Heck you get free training, room, and board! And a brand new set of skills and a job when you get out.

Some people need to have a bad time in order to get them to behave. If you know without a doubt, that breaking the law will lead to having a very bad time, you are going to avoid breaking the law. If you see it as a viable career move, wouldn't you be more likely than ever to break the law?


That sounds like a bit of straw man arg here. Jails shouldn't be a pleasant experiences doesn't meant implies that every experience in jail is okay or productive.It certainly doesn't justify us the tax payers subsiding slave wages...

> Some people need to have a bad time in order to get them to behave. If you know without a doubt, that breaking the law will lead to having a very bad time, you are going to avoid breaking the law. If you see it as a viable career move, wouldn't you be more likely than ever to break the law?

People probably need both, "proportionate" consequences to their action and mean and method to avoid the following the same path...


Prison should be run by the state to accomplish its aims (whether rehabilitative or retributive). Outsourcing it and attaching financial gain to it just encourages abuse.

Certainly they could have whipped him daily and that too would have discouraged future lawbreaking but at some point we have to ask "is this justice or abusive?"


That is arguably a violation of the 13th admentment:

>Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Unless the work was part of the sentence (which I think is totally fair, as a term of restitution) I don't see how what they did was legal. You might want to talk to the ACLU.


Note the clause:

> except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted,

SCOTUS has ruled that prison labor does not violate the 13th amendment.


True, here's a good writeup on the subject: https://prisonlaw.wordpress.com/2010/12/16/prison-labor-and-.... Mind boggling!

Also, "The Thirteenth Amendment has also been interpreted to permit the government to require certain forms of public service, presumably extending to military service and jury duty." (https://constitutioncenter.org/blog/a-common-interpretation-...)


>...Also, "The Thirteenth Amendment has also been interpreted to permit the government to require certain forms of public service, presumably extending to military service and jury duty.”

That’s a handy excuse to use to justify involuntary servitude. I guess they feel the part about "except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted,“ wasn’t meant to be taken seriously.


"Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."

Legally speaking seems like in the US that prisoners are slaves.

SOURCE: https://www.loc.gov/rr/program/bib/ourdocs/13thamendment.htm...


13th is a Netflix documentary about this. Warning: It may be quite difficult to watch.

https://www.netflix.com/title/80091741


Arguably also very liberal biased (speaking as a liberal-leaning individual).

Much of this theory is based on The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander which first popularized the idea of how we utilized the prison system to intentionally discriminate and keep locked up (for free labor) the african-american populations.

There recently was a book discussing a different explanation. In this book, Locked In: The True Causes of Mass Incarceration and How to Achieve Real Reform by John Pfaff, Pfaff argues it's the perverse incentives of prosecutors and judges that are pushing up the prison population.

I don't know enough to say which is true, just wanted to get awareness of the competing ideas on the topic.

But definitely there's some really perverse incentives to lock people up for free labor. And, as the documentary accurately points out, it's all built in to the Constitution.


Just because they're different doesn't mean they're incompatible. How do you think those perverse incentives came to exist in the first place? I'm amazed at the mental gymnastics some people will go through to avoid engaging with the fact that some other people are bigoted, selfish, and outright evil.

Nor does the existence of perverse incentives mean that those presented with them are helpless to do otherwise than go along with them. That is an abdication of moral responsibility. If you are presented with a perverse incentive that you feel is incompatible with your personal moral calculus, then it is your duty to reject it. To go along with it and then say you had no other choice is no different from the behavior of the 'good Germans' described by Hannah Arendt in The Banality of Evil. It's literally the exercise of privilege.

Liberalism only works so long as people are invested in the integrity of the institutions which underpin it. When those institutions are corrupted, liberalism becomes complicit in oppression. This is how democracies devolve into autocracies.


Is there a DRM-free way to watch this?



Thank you. Great tip.


From my strict reading of the amendment, persons convicted of crimes are not automatically slaves, but could become such if the judge saw fit to include that in sentencing.

That's why the Hollywood version sometimes has the judge say, "I sentence you to ten years hard labor at Camp Rockcrusher." If they just said "ten years confinement in Oubliette Prison," then the prisoner would not be compelled to do anything against their will.

Instead, we oversentence criminals, and use the low-wage prison jobs as a carrot to reduce their prison time. You can work for peanuts and get out early, or you can serve your entire sentence.

The net effect is the same. The rent-seeking profit motive makes the criminal justice system more cruel and exploitative.


Yup, it's literally and constitutionally slavery.


Well, it's not like the justice system in the US cares for the constitution. Or even the laws.


If hard labor is the punishment, and the punishment is commensurate with the crime, then no, it's not slavery. Slavery obtains under different conditions.


It's certainly involuntary servitude, and I'm not sure there's a meaningful difference between that and slavery.

Also, the word "except" is our key hint here.


It is involuntary (all punishment is!), but it's not servitude in the same sense that slavery is. If you want to call that "slavery" nonetheless, that's up to you, but you'd be equivocating. There is a difference between slavery as an institution of unjust forced submission and "slavery" as just punishment for crimes committed.


The fundamental issue is that the majority (or the oligarchy) decide what is "wrong".

I seriously doubt (and see no evidence for the idea) that the US is so lawless that we can have almost a quarter of all prisoners in the entire world while only having a fraction of its population.

This speaks strongly to the idea that huge amounts of wrongful imprisonment occurs and (as a logical consequence) these people are slaves against their will without their having done anything worthy of punishment.


> There is a difference between slavery as an institution of unjust forced submission and "slavery" as just punishment for crimes committed.

The difference is solely the standing law. During the nazi regimen (godwin's law, but really) many of the appalling things they did were legal. It was legal to execute, and it was legal to do forced labor.

Slavery was always legal, that was the problem all along! A slave could not physically escape without the fear of unpunished retribution.


Slavery doesn't mean "unjust forced submission", it means "forced submission". There was slavery before 16th C Atlantic triangular slave trading, there's legal and illegal slavery, and maybe there's ethical slavery too (or maybe not).

Redefining the word so that prison slavery doesn't qualify seems obtuse, counterproductive, and doesn't even have the defense of being historical.


Profiting from uncompensated coerced labor walks and talks like the slavery duck. The 13th amendment talked about it because it was and still is slavery.


If the boots taste like candy, you're really licking a lollipop!

If locking people up and forcing them to work is making people billions, it's slavery. Period.


I think the fact that said labor is profited from by private companies changes the dynamic, though...


That really is simply disgusting. Keeping people imprisoned mainly so that they can be used as a source of cheap (borderline free) labour is pure exploitation. It really doesn't seem very many steps above slavery. I know that at least in theory people are in prison because they have done something wrong so that them working to in part pay for the cost of their incarceration seems justified but if they should be released but are only being kept as cheap labour then I think that that argument goes completely out the window.


I don't think it is any steps above slavery. In Norway, partly for this reason, prisoners have the legal right to choose education instead of work.

If part of their punishment is meant to be financial restitution, then I believe that should be spelled out in the judgement, and they should be paid market wages for whatever work they do, and that should be garnished accordingly and kept out of the prison system entirely so there is no profit motive to keep people in, and so that the amounts are transparent.


Hell, the European system (rehabilitative instead of punitive) works so well our prisons in The Netherlands are so empty Norway sends us some of their prisoners, presumably because you guys don't want to 'anticipate' by building more jails. We even used some jails as temporary refugee shelter (for those horrified: prisons in The Netherlands are a lot less stark than America).


It was somewhat amusing that one of the rented prisons is called Norgerhaven. Norge is the Norwegian name for Norway, and in old/conservative Norwegian, "have" is garden (in modern Norwegian it'd be "hage". In Norwegian it halfway sounds like someone who doesn't know Norwegian is trying to say "garden for Norwegians".

On a more serious note: The Norwegian prisoners in question actually have to volunteer, and the department of justice have made a "marketing" video to entice prisoners, which led to complaints from prisoners when it turned out they'd exaggerated a bit (some stuff was not ready when the first prisoners arrived).

Overall the attitude is very different to the US one.

> We even used some jails as temporary refugee shelter (for those horrified: prisons in The Netherlands are a lot less stark than America).

Same in Norway. Low security Norwegian prisons have fences no more than normal garden fences for example - they're there to show the prisoners how far they are allowed to go, not to physically stop them, as the type of prisoners sent to those places are more concerned about getting it over and done with than escaping. I think that is an essential element: To give people a chance wherever possible to show they can take responsibility.

More serious prisoners too can demonstrate they can be trusted and are serious about rehabilitation and get moved to prisoners without barriers that will actually hold them.

After all, if we can't trust them the day before their release, there's no reason why we should suddenly trust them the day after... I'm happy we let these prisoners gradually prove that they are likely to have reformed.

And the rehabilitation rates thankfully reflect that people respond to being treated humanely.

Maybe one day America gets over its mentality of vengeance.


>It really doesn't seem very many steps above slavery

Zero. It's literally slavery. The thought of it is barbaric and horrible.


Let's not get carried away, they are criminals who committed crimes.


So what?

Ever had a traffic ticket? Stolen something when you were young? Yes? Technically, you are a criminal then. You just didn't get caught or were a minor criminal, according to law.

Besides. Anyone in prison/jail is still human and I truly believe this gives you some rights, including the right not to be used as slave labor. After all, we've already taken away their freedom.


Traffic tickets are not crimes, they're not even misdemeanors. For example, the Virginia code says:

> "Traffic infraction" means a violation of law punishable as provided in § 46.2-113, which is neither a felony nor a misdemeanor.

§ 46.2-113:

> [ ... ] Unless otherwise stated, these violations shall constitute traffic infractions punishable by a fine of not more than that provided for a Class 4 misdemeanor under § 18.2-11.

Ran a red light? Not a criminal. DUI? Criminal.


Traffic tickets are crimes in some places. OCGA 40-6-1(a):

> unless otherwise declared in this chapter with respect to particular offenses, it is a misdemeanor for any person to do any act forbidden or fail to perform any act required in this chapter.

Upside, we're entitled to real jury trials.


Being convicted to slavery is justice now?


I don't like the over-use of the word "slavery".

Slavery was the capturing of innocent human beings and then forcing them and their progeny to do labor in perpetuity. It was utterly dehumanizing and undeserved treatment. We do a disservice to the meaning of slavery in the USA by calling everything slavery: taxation, prison work, marriage, etc.


So other than the progeny part, how is prison labor not exactly what you said? People are literally captured, and based on overturned convictions at least some percentage are innocent. These people are then forced to work and can have their sentence extended arbitrarily by bureaucrats and not the court system. Based on the California example the system even tries to keep people working when given a court order to release people. The only thing preventing the in perpetuity part is basically the good graces of the bureacracy.

I do agree about the overuse of the term in other situations however


You're confusing things. There is a difference between forced hard labor as just (and thus commensurate) punishment for a crime and actual, particular abuses committed by the justice system. There is nothing wrong with forced hard labor as a punishment for a crime to the degree required by justice (and frankly, many crimes deserve far worse). There IS something wrong with inflicting pain on someone who is innocent, esp. when those inflicting the pain do so without authority, without sufficient justification or in excess.


In other words, you think there exist situations in which it is just to enslave people. You're trying to make a distinction that literally no one else makes because you want to separate forced labor as punishment for a crime from the connotations attached to the word slavery. It's just a sleight of hand.


As long as you allow that society has the right to force people to be locked up without their consent because they broke a law, I don't think it's a stretch to say that society has the right to force people to do work.


I don't see why that follows, considering they're two different things. In any case I do think prisons themselves are one of the blights of modern society.


While I'm not certain that society doesn't have the authority to force people to work (though, if it is ambiguous/uncertain, I would advise "don't", and I am not confident it does, so I advise "don't"), but I do agree that it doesn't really seem to follow, at least not without assuming some other premises.


If other entities were not profiting off of the labor I might agree that its a just punishment. However, if they are now cheap labor for companies, and can get extra punishments for not working, that is no longer a punishment in of itself. Its just slavery under the guise of justice


nothing wrong with forced hard labor as a punishment for a crime to the degree required by justice

Ah, justice, that famously objective thing we can measure scientifically and which is not subject to any sort of sociopolitical bias.


> and can have their sentence extended arbitrarily by bureaucrats and not the court system

That part, at least, is not technically correct.


You've described chattel slavery, the most prominent form of slavery in USAmerican history, but not the only nor to my knowledge, most prominent form of slavery in world history.

Prison labor so sufficiently meets the definition of slavery that the authors of the 13th Amendment, ending chattel slavery, excluded prison labor as still allowed.


Innocent? All human beings are morally innocent, and with enough laws, anyone can be made a criminal.

Enforced prison labor is slavery, no ifs ands or buts. It must be stopped. This is an Americanized version of Stalin's gulags.


All human beings are morally innocent

If you're a member of a society and you break the law, then you aren't innocent. If the laws of the society are unjust then that's a different argument entirely. Africans who were not even members of the American colonies were kidnapped and forced into labor. They were completely innocent but regarded as sub-human and not deserving of rights. To equate their plight with the plight of those who knowingly break the law in the USA and are forced to do labor is to demean the situation of Africans who were enslaved. IMO, that's not the argument we want to make regarding US prison problems.

Enforced prison labor is slavery

Then I guess we can't fine people either. People perform labor to make money. Fining people forces them to provide labor.

Enforced prison labor is just a fine to be paid through labor. Like any penalty, it can be punitive or it can be recompensatory. It is not "slavery".


A punishment in of itself is one thing, but these people are being forced to work for a third party(the other companies) at below minimum wage which is solely for the profit of the third party. Its not a punishment, the punishment is just whats used to keep these people in a situation where they are creating value for the company owners


Enslavement was always mostly done to prisoners. Being it military prisoners, caught fighting for the wrong side, or civilian prisoners caught disobeying some law, that could be just or not. Also, slavery wasn't always hereditary.

The point about the treatment being dehumanizing and undeserved is that this is a completely orthogonal issue. It mostly was, but then, most current prisoners aren't treated that well either.


> innocent human beings

Why the word "innocent"? Its irrelevant if they committed a crime or not, or if they were convicted of a crime or not.


Look up the word in a dictionary. It's perfectly legitimate and correct use of the term.


Words can mean whatever the speaker and the listener agree upon. I'm not arguing with the dictionary definition.

I'm arguing that here in the US, which is a very relevant context for a HN discussion on US/CA prisons, the term slavery has special meaning and we shouldn't water it down by using it to describe every perceived slight.


Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

The 13th amendment specifically calls it slavery and specifically allows that kind of slavery. The abolitionists who pushed through the 13th knew the meaning of slavery when it was more than a distant memory and still decided that it was the correct term.


This is a narrow, proper, and specific application of the term.

Must they have to work on a cotton plantation for you to make it count?

Oh wait, we call these prison farms and there are dozens of them...


How many laws on the books does the average citizen break every day? Are all crimes equal? If they are not equal, does every lawbreaker deserve to be painted with the same brush?

I would suggest this line of reasoning - "they are all criminals" - is not productive. We all are criminals. Should we all be treated as such?


Check the list of people pardoned by George W Bush. Most of them should not have been in jail in first place.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_people_pardoned_by_Geo...


Then let's make their slavery part of the official statute rather than claim we're not also committing crimes.


It essentially is, by exception. The text of the Thriteenth Amendment states:

"Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."


Slavery is already legal in the US under the 13th amendment if one commits a crime. It's literally the highest law of the land.


> Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

The 13th amendment specifically permits "slavery" as a punishment for those convicted of a crime.


Yes, that's what the poster above you said.


Is slavery enumerated as one of the punishments levied by the Court?

It is not. It may be allowed by the Constitution but it is a significant extra punishment levied on offenders that should be part of their actual punitive phase, if that is what society wants.


Yes the thought of it is horrible, but isn't it part of the purpose of criminal punishments to scare away people from committing crimes?


I get it.

However, if criminal punishment actually scared people away from committing crimes, why are our incarceration rates are so high?

You'd think a country with mandatory minimum sentences and capital punishment to deter a lot of crime, but it appears it simply doesn't work. One theory I read (I can't find the source ATM) posited deterrence tends not work against people who tend to go to prison because people who go to prison statistically have a poorer sense of risk/reward.

So what do you do?

Personally, I think it depends on the type of crime. First, we need to recognize that some of our policies incentivize crime, especially the illicit drug market. People with a poor sense of risk/reward will naturally gravitate to this line of work because they probably respond a lot more to the reward than the risk.

There may be a population that is deterred by criminal punishments and one could argue it makes sense to keep criminal punishments to simply deter that population. I don't disagree with that, but I do think we really need to reassess whether criminal punishment is the universal deterrence some people make it out to be. Our best crime prevention policy may simply be removing or poisoning incentive.


>> but isn't it part of the purpose of criminal punishments to scare away people from committing crimes?

The premise: "Harsh punishments are scaring criminals from commiting crime" must be questioned. I highly doubt it is a valid premise. Just look at crime rates in regions where you have harsh criminal laws up to capital punishment. There is not even a correlation much less a causal relation between "Harsh on Crime" vs. "Low crime rate".


Except it's a horrible deterrent and many of our laws a just a waste(ie. drug laws) of taxpayers money.


The working while in prison part or the not being released early part?

I personally don't mind inmates working while in prison. What I disagree with is the inmates not being allowed to be released early because the state wants them to keep working.

I don't think having to work while in prison is going to scare any would-be offender straight. And thinking about inmates not being released early is only going to piss off everyone.


Given recidivism rates, no. A week or a month might wake someone up. A few years is just going to get them comfortable, so figure out other ways to attempt to cure them of their desire to transgress.


The loss of freedom is already a pretty big penalty.


> The thought of it is barbaric and horrible.

Know what else is barbaric and horrible? The crimes some of the "slaves" commit


Any child abusers or rapists arguably deserve it, but not to the benefit of a private company. And they shouldn't be required to work imo.


Even those classes of people include people who don't deserve it, given the extent of crimes that fall under those labels. Consider a parent being charged with child abuse for letting their child play alone outside, much like parents of old. Or consider cases that fall right outside the limits of Romeo and Juliet clauses.


Adult abusers or rapists deserve better though.


I don't think the comment meant "child [abusers or rapists]" but rather "[child abusers] or rapists". i.e. those who either are [abusers of children], or are [any kind of rapist].


yes, I meant the latter.


"Keeping people imprisoned mainly so that they can be used as a source of cheap (borderline free) labour is pure exploitation"

California is well-known for this, and Riverside County is one of the primary counties responsible. When you walk into the courtroom, there's a sign that says "Attention CUSTOMERS" instead of "Attention Citizens." Lets you know right off the bat that these people are after nothing but money and should be charged under RICO statutes.


> It really doesn't seem very many steps above slavery.

If I ever go through that system there is no way in hell I am coming out of the prison "reformed". Today when I look at a young kid I feel compassion and I will help the kid in need. After coming out of an US Prison I am likely to see everyone else as "these people were responsible for putting me through hell". That lack of compassion is way more worse.

I am not surprised that so many people turn out to be repeat offenders.


Before there was strong for-profit bit in the mix (but it was always there) but the main idea was that rehabilitation is too complicated and doesn't work. Something to the effect of "Oh look we tried, half-hardheartedly, it failed, there is no point wasting time, these people never learn so just lock them up away from the society for as long as possible". That was always going hand in hand with tough-on-crime politics and a general sadistic undercurrent in the American culture that celebrates punishment for punishment's sake.

But once the for profit element was added into the mix there is an actual disincentive to rehabilitate people as it would mean a direct reduction in profits. So before it was bad but this is like adding some gasoline into the fire.

There was for example, the case of a judge in PA who had a deal with the local prison/juvenile center of sorts where he was sending teenagers in for minor infractions and was getting kickbacks.

Prison industrial complex also lobbies the government to keep the War on Drugs going because a reform there also would directly cut profits for them.

There even a whole ecosystem of predators exploiting every single angle possible to milk the prisoners and their families' money and labor. Down to telecom companies with ridiculously expensive charges when prisoners talk to their loved ones, to companies selling food (the commissary) and so on.


> It really doesn't seem very many steps above slavery.

It is exactly slavery, and it is the explicit exception to the US Constitutional abolition of slavery in the 13th Amendment.

It's also an explicit exception to the international prohibition on slavery in the ICCPR.


It surprises me that US government has not yet started harvesting organs of the prisoners. Why does someone who has been sentenced for 20 years in prison need his extra kidney for ?

> 30% of California forest firefighters are prisoners .. The state argued against parole credit for these prisoners as it would draw down the labor force and lead to depletion of the firefighter force.

I guess if some of them die fighting fire we as a society are told to think "good riddance".

Lack of compassion for those wronged by the state is a Achilles heel of US civilization. It is going to cause a damage down further as people's respect for law erodes over time.


I can totally see them doing it. It would be the same as the GP described. It wouldn't be compulsory but those that don't agree get their good time reduced, get written up, marked for non-cooperation and so on. In other words there enough mechanisms for this to happen.


There is nothing cheap about this labor, they are paying companies 70k to house someone so they can pay them 20c/h.


Any OSHA or safety regulations don't apply to inmate working conditions. They are literally beyond the reach of the protection of the government in the "workplace."


The cheapest kind of cheap is the one where you reap the benefits but make someone else pay the bill. And make that bill extra expensive, to add insult to injury.


Except it's the state paying for both prisoners and firefighting. So, it's more stealing money from your own left pocket.


Corruption 101 - As a government official, run an effective bu ineficcient operation, then position your friends and family to benefit indirectly from it: easy and secure jobs, contracts to provide supplies at overprice, real state appreciation, etc.


well you are paying the 70k, the labour is benefitting some one else


> cheap labor

Let's call it what it is - slave labor. Text of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:

"Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."


I'd like to hope the US is just better at catching criminals than the rest of the world. Sadly these conflicts of interest make that the less likely explanation.


The commissary right for a prison should probably be a public auction, although that would put more money into the states coffers, not give much lower prices.


Well we have laws and plenty of dangerous people who belong in these prisons. Another thing to consider is other countries will execute their prisoners over drug dealing where we put them in prison. There is also the fact that we are the third most populated country and a melting pot combined with plenty of terrible neighborhoods of all ethnicity's.


> Another thing to consider is other countries will execute their prisoners over drug dealing where we put them in prison.

You can almost always find someone doing something even more horrific. That's a pretty low bar, which is usually not seen as sufficient.


European countries are often similarly diverse and don't have the same prison population. Also, when you are talking about numbers in percents of population the amount of executions to make a real difference in population would be staggering and border on genocide, which, outside of a few exceptions, isn't the case.


Actually, European countries are not nearly as diverse as the USA with the exception of the UK. The best analysis I can find on the subject is [1]. I disagree with the point I think chrshawkes is making but the diversity claim is valid.

1.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_ranked_by_et...


I get it - it's tempting to solve the Harvard Business School issue by sending the MBA students to prison before they wreck havoc on the economy. But I'm not sure their dads would pay the exceeding tuition.

Also, there is the whole question of whether it would be fair to the other prisoners. Pretty soon the prison economy would be infested with cigarette derivatives and yard swaps.


Back to the topic, prisons are just another haven for contract robbing. The prison contracts everything from security to mopping. Everything is 3x more expensive. Prison costs are a sink to our society.

Except taxpayers foot the bill. Theres an economic incentive to keeping crime low and right now were all being robbed blind, in this area as well (because yes there are too many to count)

The amount who are released within 5 years with little to no recovery or are going to end up in an even worse state, with even less of an ability to get a job, are more likely to continue to commit crime to make ends meet.

Before we talk about Harvard grads destroying the eocnomy, lets talk about making it less and less likely for 75% of the people imprisoned to ever be able to contribute to society once they are released.

We have a very protestant implementation of prison, they exist to punish people, not to reabilitate people or address the issues, and everyone ends up paying a higher cost with more damage in the end.

Yes people who are doing serious crimes should be put away, but we know that most of the time thats not the case, and furthemore, we know that alot of serious crimes including rape, have men released within 5 years, while a first time offender selling green could land 15 in prison.

Maybe.. http://www.takepart.com/article/2013/11/14/some-european-pri...


Yes the idea of having a criminal record is silly - It's a self-fulfilling label. Once you are labeled a criminal, it only makes it harder to get a job and give up crime.

Besides, crime has become such an arbitrary thing. A corporation is allowed to quietly syphon away billions of dollars from society using clever government lobbying and tax avoidance schemes but if a member of society physically steals something from a corporation, they'll go to jail. Why don't corporations like JP Morgan and their executives get a permanent criminal record when they are found guilty of criminal activity?

Either it should be consistent for all or it should be abolished entirely.


For a Spider-Man approach- https://imgur.com/gallery/gcrPf

There are a number of companies that exist with the intended purpose of providing jobs to ex convicts.

The risk that a regular company takes, however, is one of "this individual has done XYZ when times were hard in the past. How can we be sure they won't again?" This is combined with that for many good paying jobs there are more applications than positions allowing for the "filter by felon" to be a not unreasonable first level filter for HR to apply.


I mostly agree that the record makes it harder to get a job and give up crime, but what about the deterrence factor? How many more would commit crimes knowing that it wouldn't have any impact on their ability to get a decent job right after serving some time?

> A corporation is allowed to quietly syphon away billions of dollars from society using clever government lobbying and tax avoidance schemes

Was it society's to begin with?

And you can't completely pin the financial crisis on the likes of JP Morgan when the feds bailed them out with our tax dollars. That was the crime.


But is there really a deterrence factor? Most people don't commit crimes, due to a personal moral code. Those who have morals that don't get in the way of crime, just use the deterrence factor to find ways of not getting caught.

Now what would really help, especially with recidivism, is to use the profit motive of prisons in a different way. First-time offenders-- the prison gets paid full price. If an offender returns to prison, the prison should get paid less, or not at all. That would encourage the private prison system to rehabilitate, and provide post-release re-integration assistance.


Alternatively, there could be a payment based directly on the outcome. Say there is a period in which the ex-con pays back 'restitution', probably based on the crime and length of sentence. During that period the ex-con owes some percentage of their paycheck. That is, this prison makes most of its money from the restitution payments.

This would encourage prisons to also take an active role in finding ex-cons jobs afterwards, advocating for the highest possible pay (since they make more money), and also encourages them to train/teach the prisoner more to make them more likely to get a job as an ex-con. I think most victim advocates would be ok with this too as there would continue to be a penalty imposed for the crime.


> That would encourage the private prison system to rehabilitate, and provide post-release re-integration assistance.

Or to make tiers of service, where second-timers get a cheaper and more brutal experience which happens to be cheaper for the prison.


The private prisons have an interest in filling beds. That is where the money is. They don't get money by reducing recidivism, or providing job training, or providing preventative and maintenance health care (dentists to fill cavities so that the person doesn't need to get a root canal when they're released and then runs out of money on medical bills...)

Whats more, like stadiums and cities (the city paying the difference if there isn't enough attendance), there are private prisons that have a "lockup quota" ( https://www.prisonlegalnews.org/news/2015/jul/31/report-find... | http://www.njjn.org/uploads/digital-library/Criminal-Lockup-... ) where the state pays for the bed be it full or empty.

This is part of the contract, and officials making short sighted deals that have the appearance of reducing costs while actually raising them in the long term is a oft heard refrain.

I have difficulty believing that any private, for profit company would be working to negatively impact its bottom line. While it is possible that there are places where improvements in efficiency over government run facilities can be had, at the end of the day the duty of the company is to the shareholders ( CXW - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CoreCivic , GEO https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GEO_Group ) rather than to the taxpayers of a state.

https://globenewswire.com/news-release/2016/08/23/866325/0/e...

> Specifically, Defendants made false and/or misleading statements and/or failed to disclose that: (i) CCA’s facilities lacked adequate safety and security standards and were less efficient at offering correctional services than the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ (“BOP”) facilities; (ii) CCA’s rehabilitative services for inmates were less effective than those provided by BOP; (iii) consequently, the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) was unlikely to renew and/or extend its contracts with CCA; and (iv) as a result of the foregoing, CCA’s public statements were materially false and misleading at all relevant times.

The profit motive for a private prison has shown in the past that in the interest in short term gains they will understaff and cut back on programs. Give them everyone who has been incarcerated before and they'll take the profits they've gotten and close that franchise. Furthermore, the lobbying efforts of private companies creates odd incentives in writing laws and negotiating contracts compared to facilities run and maintained by state or federal workers.


>Was it society's to begin with?

Sure it does, in the sense that wealth only exists as a construct of society. If Bill Gates is on a deserted island it doesn't matter if he has $1 or $60 billion, because without society his money has no value.

One could make an argument that if society has made you very wealthy you owe a lot to society. Personally I don't disagree.

Of course from there it gets messier because everyone has opinions about how wealth is earned, how beholden the earners are to everyone else, how much of personal success is solely based on an individual's merits as opposed to support from society and other external sources. People want to minimize or maximize the particular points best serve their beliefs in this case. Hard to say who is the rightiest.


> wealth only exists as a construct of society

And so do property rights and pretty much any other kind of right. To begin with, the construct was there, but the wealth wasn't, and definitely not Bill Gates' wealth, which did not exist prior to the creation of Microsoft and the aggregate consumer surplus and capital it created.


You're blaming the fed for something they did under metaphorical gunpoint. "Too big to fail" isn't just a saying, and ultimately if we are to blame someone other than our financial oppressors, the responsibility rests on the people for not standing up in unison against the bailouts. But the blame circles back to our financial oppressors and their use of propaganda and socio-economic control.


> I mostly agree that the record makes it harder to get a job and give up crime, but what about the deterrence factor? How many more would commit crimes knowing that it wouldn't have any impact on their ability to get a decent job right after serving some time?

It's very little deterrence.(look up hyperbolic discounting) The average person is pretty bad at weighing consequences 10 years from now. And criminals I imagine are far worse than average.


Yes, that's the average person, but for those who aren't average like the upper middle class kid wanting to get into a decent school, get a good job and not bring life-long shame to his family, I think it's fairly strong.

Criminals definitely are worse at it, but I asked "how many more would commit crimes..." so that's not really relevant.


Hypothesis: most people who commit crimes are (for whatever reason) focused far more on short term goals then long term goals when they commit the crime.


Are you one of those people that thinks serving time is like a stay in a hotel with free food and cable TV?


No, but if it were, would you be more likely to break the law?

My point was about the total cost of the crime. e.g. if speeding tickets had no impact on insurance rates, don't you think fewer people would care about a $200 fine?


How is it silly? If you are socially irresponsible and destructive you should have consequences. Just like financially irresponsible results in a credit hit and difficulty getting loans. You label yourself a risk when you do dumb things.

I actually know someone who didn't get a government job at an animal shelter because of his poor credit. He has an MBA too. I don't think that's fair but maybe financially irresponsible people aren't as good at their job. Same with criminals.


Consequences, like jail time?


Sure that's part of it if it's actually adequate, but people and businesses have a right to know if you have a criminal record and make risk-assessments based on that.

Jail time doesn't reverse your wrongdoing on society and the way it's currently setup - it's not really a redeeming process. Why should a business hire you over someone as qualified with no record?

We're basically talking about felonies anyway. Misdemeanors are generally irrelevant for most jobs and you can get those expunged from your record.


At the same time, would you want to work with a guy who raped some body? Lets assume that the video was leaked on facebook or something and there isn't much doubt about the guilt.


'The prison contracts everything from security to mopping.'

In the vast majority of American prisons, the prisoners do the mopping. Security is still done by guards, but nearly every other job in the prison is done by the offenders. It's much cheaper this way - for state prisons average starting wage for non-industrial jobs is $0.25/hr. Industrial jobs don't start much higher, but they tend to have a higher cap around $2.50/hr instead of the standard cap of $1.00/hr. There are a few cases of offenders making minimum wage, but these are the exception rather than the norm.

Prisons are run by the offenders - it's cheaper this way.


So where is the $75k cost to house them coming from? Clearly some contract is too expensive and something is not adding up.

For that price, we should have Harvard classes taught at prisons, and maybe these inmates could have a shot at using their disparate lifestyle extremes to have new ways to employ/create new businesses that can improve society in areas where they see/experience/witness need for improvement, and put our tax payers to good work.

If every prisoner is cooking mopping and doing whatever for free, where is the $75k/yr coming from?


According to the article, a big increase in California's state prison system is for salary and medical of the guards. I'm not sure if they're union guards over there, but the prison guard union is pretty powerful in the federal system and many states.

As far as other costs go, I'm not sure where they're getting up to 75k/year/offender. My experience has been mostly in the federal and midwest, where average cost of housing an offender for a year in a low/medium security facility is around 20k-25k.

It would be interesting to look at their books!


The prison guards union in California is insanely powerful. The guards probably make 3x as much as guards in some other states.

This will explain a lot: http://transparentcalifornia.com/salaries/search/?q=correcti...


I have a friend that is a Phd candidate at the University of Utah. He teaches physics/math/cosmology at the state prison from time to time. He says that inmates are far-and-away the best audiences he has ever taught to! They are a "captive" audience! Couldn't resist :)


And often times they can even sell the surplus labor, which is basically free money for the company operating the prison. (that they can then spend to lobby for harsher sentences)


I had a friend who lived in Bisbee, Arizona, which is a small town next to the border that has a big border patrol station in the city. He said that because of the border patrol presence there aren't any illegal aliens around to do construction. He could only get cheap labor from ex-convicts. It made me think that typically ex-cons have formed the lowest rung in the economic ladder that illegal aliens now fulfill.


How about paying what it's worth for labor instead of expecting to get 'cheap' labor?

Yesterday people expected cheap construction labor, today they complain there's not enough cheap home nurses around. I wonder if they'll aim for cheap software development labor tomorrow.

I wonder why I don't feel entitled to cheap caviar and cheap yachts?


I'm not entitled to their labour, I can't afford higher price labour (well I can). Also, middle class salaries can barely afford current rates (in this forum we're mostly upper middle class or higher. A lot looks cheap to us. Do the math for the cost to salary for a child care facility. Costs a fortune even for us, yet the employees are getting paid peanuts. )

Which, if there is a real labour shortage, is fine with me. I'll just forgo the project I wanted to build, build less. Whatever.

But there isn't a labour shortage. At least not when you look at particulars segments, locations, past-histories, ect.

I'm not trying to push any ideology here. I'm just saying that the economy, actually, sucks despite what point estimates that grossly overgeneralize are saying. It sucked under Bush. It sucked more under Obama. And it getting suckier under Trump.

Why? I don't know. In the meantime hire a local contractor and pay them double their rate (or give the employees a tip == to the cost of the service < this is what I do to my monthly cleaners)


Imagine if less people will be working illegally and taxation will be more transparent, with more people paying their share, with less spent on prisons for people who could be gainfully employed - you will probably have free child care, paid for by taxes. Staffed with legal workers too.


> I wonder why I don't feel entitled to cheap caviar and cheap yachts?

Let's stick to discussing services.

In well-populated niches like construction, nursing, and software development, you can safely assume that competition will make the price of the service as low as it can reasonably go and still get acceptable quality.

If construction labor costs go up to whatever point you consider "fair", then the cost of the finished products will rise to compensate. If you extrapolate this out for the results of all super-low-priced labor, then lots of costs go up, and the middle class suddenly has less buying power than before. Why, they'd need a raise just to keep the same standard of living!

It's a web, you can't tug on one part without moving lots of others. The only "stretch" available in this web is people who are earning more than they are actually worth, like some CEOs or Waltons. Which, come to think of it, is not that dear to me. So okay, fine, let's start raising the minimum wage.


- I wonder why I don't feel entitled to cheap caviar and cheap yachts? -

both of which are available if you're interested.


> How about paying what it's worth for labor instead of expecting to get 'cheap' labor?

Sure! but will you rent a place that is $500 expensive while bringing no additional benefit other than it employed someone at higher wages ?


When I was doing renovation at my place, I think I could go for much cheaper labor. Deadlines will likely slip, tho, as quality of work. I would perhaps end up paying more for worse result.

Try to pay as much as feasible for the actual work, as few as possible for overhead.

You end up paying extra for 'cheap' labor anyway, in the form of higher taxes for those who have to pay them, that includes you. Less transparent economy leads to what is discussed in parent article. All what 'cheap' labor does is lining the pockets of middle men selling this snake oil. With your money.


There is very often is an additional benefit. It just isn't directly to you.

Isn't that what minimum wage is all about? And disability, social security, and public education? There are lots of benefits to these programs, but the benefits often go directly to someone else, and indirectly back to whoever paid for them.

Also, I think a lot of problems come from paying the cheapest possible price, rather that paying for value. An over-focus on short-term profits causes a lot of long-term issues.


Yes.

Well no, because of lack of general availability. But I pay extra for many things to avoid certain corporate behaviour. In a free market, that's my right. We're trying to wean ourselves off of Amazon, in fact, but we're a one-car family, and Prime is an amazing service.


>How about paying what it's worth for labor instead of expecting to get 'cheap' labor?

Tell that to all of the companies that outsource manufacturing.


Outsource manufacturing is a slightly different case because the labor might not be 'cheap' in the offshore country.

Offshore workers are often abused, but when they are not they might be paid a decent wage which is also peanuts when onsite wages are considered. You profit from arbitraging cost of living, not from exploitation.

Even if we enforce unions at oursource locations with wage control, outsource manufacturing won't disappear overnight.


in the UK, they are doing their best to optimize for cheap police. Seems a worrying trend with no clear boundaries.


> Before we talk about Harvard grads destroying the eocnomy, lets talk about making it less and less likely for 75% of the people imprisoned to ever be able to contribute to society once they are released.

Why not both?


To play devils advocate prison contracts have valid extra costs you have to vet contactors more than say an office cleaner.

You also have to budget for extra security if your a contractor working in a prison you have to log all of your tools in and out to stop inmates nicking things that could be used as weapons or to aid an escape


I agree with who on the whole but I'm going to play....Angel's advocate? (What do you call the person playing devil's advocate to the Devil's advocate?)

There is a (relatively famous) prison in Norway where the rehabilitation is so effective that the prisoner's are given these jobs and are handed chainsaws, picks, the keys to the boat off the island. The prisoners are the ones ferrying people to and from the prison.

Sounds to me like (for the most part) we're doing prison wrong in the states.


What level of security is the prison? There are low security facilities in the United States where prisoners leave to work for the day and have to be back at a certain time.


Agreed. But how many ppl are in low security vs. max security?

How easy is it politically to build a min security facility in an area affluent enough to have day jobs for prisoners vs. building a max security prison in the middle of unemployed nowhere?


Do you have any link(s) on this?



How common is that though? Taking one example is pretty fraught especially because the prisoners that are sent to that prison are naturally going to be of the lower risk, non-violent type unless that's how a majority of the prisons are run. There are prisons in the US with very open security too (though mainly for rich white collar criminals but then that's a group with a low likely-hood of attempting to escape). Heck there's a fair number of programs where prisoners are given big tools like that here in the US too.


nope, its not just an anecdotal example, its an entire country, and multiple countries in Europe do this now. They are collectively intelligent enough to agree everyone is better off when you enable people for success instead of punishment, torture, emotional and social isolation, abuse, lack of food and healthy outlets, and give them access to a job, a sense of pride, and allow them to reabilitate themselves.

but this is all based on a deep rooted belief that most people are good, and crime is usually a result of low income/and growing up in places stuck in a cycle of socioeconomic hopelessness (atleast the kind of crime people are imprisoned for, weve already established wallstreet bankers commit crime and dont go to prison), taking people out of these toxic environments and equipping them with a job where they are exposed to society and have a chance to rebuild their lives is beneficial, for them, and society as a whole.

In U.S. politics we have 300million people binned into two extremist views and prison reform is'nt trending hot on twitter right now and if it was it would be used as a litmus test to pit half the country against the other and a debate about whether people deserve the life they have or can better themselves and deserve to be treated better and we all know how that has played out in politics recently. bigotry and stereotyping win.

Very little hope for the incarcerated in this country


Do you mean economic incentive to send people to prison (not necessarily the same thing as keeping crime low)


Also political as a lot of politicians run on tough on crime


Think of the economic efficiency we would achieve by just sending the HBS kids en masse to prison.

Instead of wasting time and resources to select the "best" possible level of future criminal, we just throw the whole lot in jail.


Quick aside, many people who go to Harvard Business School receive financial aid or pay for it out of their own pocket -- the school determines need based on your assets and not those of your parents. While there probably are still students who get support from rich dads, it is not the same kind of only-for-the-rich place that you are depicting...


I'd like to see what would happen in prison if these Harvard types destabilised the market...


That was recently answered... http://www.marketwatch.com/story/new-series-casts-bernie-mad...

> “Bernie really was a successful businessman with quite original insights into the market, and he’s continued applying his business instincts in prison,” Fishman said. “At one point, he cornered the hot chocolate market. He bought up every package of Swiss Miss from the commissary and sold it for a profit in the prison yard. He monopolized hot chocolate! He made it so that, if you wanted any, you had to go through Bernie.”

The search for "madoff swiss chocolate" will find many more articles based on the above quote.


MBAs destabilise the market? By taking a six sigma approach to introduce cryptocurrencies into the prison system, I don't see how it couldn't be a success.


Just like in the producers :-)

"While Max and Franz earnestly supervise rehearsals, Leo continues their old scam - overselling shares of the play to their fellow prisoners, and even to the warden. The song "Prisoners of Love" plays while the credits roll."


Absurd comparison is meant to highlight the futility, not the [un]fairness.


This is a cheap, sensational headline and an article that lacks depth and analysis.

At the end of 2006, there were ~160,000 people in prison "institutions" in the state of California[1]. The design capacity of those institutions was ~79,000 people[1], so the occupation was ~204% of the design capacity.

At the end of 2016, there were ~114k people in prison institutions[2], which was ~134% of the design capacity.

Obviously, if prisons are vastly overcrowded, and over time the number of people in prison is reduced substantially, the per-prisoner cost will sharply increase. There are no financial savings on infrastructure because institutional capacity is still vastly exceeded, and the savings in other areas will not be proportional to the overall drop in prison population because the people released early tend to be less expensive to imprison, as they tend to be incarcerated for less serious crimes.

Whatever one's political allegiance, the fact that the prison system in the state of California has been running at a minimum over 130% of design capacity for the last decade is a tremendously serious issue, and it feels trivialising to make a nonsensical comparison to the cost of university tuition, and to present the fact that per-prisoner costs have risen while prisoner numbers have fallen as anything less than blindingly obvious.

A discussion of the prison crisis in California seems completely worthy of Hacker News, but it shouldn't be based on an article like this.

  [1] http://www.cdcr.ca.gov/Reports_Research/Offender_Information_Services_Branch/Monthly/TPOP1A/TPOP1Ad0612.pdf

  [2] http://www.cdcr.ca.gov/Reports_Research/Offender_Information_Services_Branch/Monthly/TPOP1A/TPOP1Ad1612.pdf


The article does lack any sort of depth. However, it sounds like you're opposed to the headline itself, which seems to be true, and you haven't refuted it, have you? The article does indeed mention the prison population has declined due to a reduction in overcrowding, but that costs are still rising. The high per-prisoner cost remains a fact, regardless of whether it was cheaper in the past or what caused that.


I think the Prison Industry should be judged by their recidivism rate. The Prison Guards union in Cali is very, very strong (they were behind the '3 strikes' law, ensuring a lifetime of "clients"). Their pay and benefits should be tied to the recidivism rate.

Prisons should not be training grounds for future criminals, but they are today.

Also: prisons should be shuffled periodically, mixing up the population. That'll prevent the formation of criminal gangs inside. Outside, they'll be living in a diverse, mixed environment anyways; might as well get them started on that inside.


Shuffling prisoners around breaks up the family ties they have on the outside; visitors have a harder time if they have to travel further. This increases the likelihood prisoners will offend again.


I meant, shuffle them around within the prison, so they're forced to interact more with other groups.


Think about that for a second...$75K/yr for abhorrent, yet improving conditions and you'll come to the correct conclusion that contractors are absolutely fleecing not only the p̶r̶i̶s̶o̶n̶s̶ tax payers, but the prisoners themselves.

Half a lifetime ago, I had to spend a weekend in jail while visiting a friend in California (accused of theft by a drunk lady who couldn't find her credit cards and fingered me instead of realizing that she may have left it at the bar. The best part was when I had to fly back out for a court date, they told me they were dropping the charge for an obvious lack of evidence. This decision was made on the actual court date, so I got to waste even more money on airfare and travel ). I was surprised at the entrepreneurial zeal of those who have no issue profiting from misery and suffering. In the LA area at least, many former/older celebrities are investors or owners of prison supply companies. Most notable was Bob Barker's company which sold travel-sized generic toothpaste for $7. In this case, the price is wrong, Bob.

The fingerprinting machine was the size of a ultra-deluxe 70's Xerox machine, regularly needed service, and looked like it had a sticker price around 5 figures (a feature that is just an add-on to $500 phones.) I think that 10x-20x inflation is pretty consistent across the board in the American penal system. The collect calling system is also beyond ridiculous given the near zero cost of landline telecommunications and that most cell phones can't receive collect calls. The food you're eating is the absolute worst (in terms of taste of course) nutritionally. Nearly everything is processed and is done so in the cheapest way possible. When I say as cheap as possible, I mean that the $.49 Nissin Ramen is an actual delicacy (No exaggeration. Some of the inmates would pool their resources together and "cook" the ramen in a giant plastic bag with hot water that surely must be leeching pcb's and/or phthalates from the container.) After a few months of that diet, even the most physically fit people developed a weird type of gut and loss of musculature. I didn't eat anything while there, but I observed that the only nutritional guideline that could possibly be met that of 2K+ calories/day. I know it's not Club Med, but that type of diet is a blocker for any type of rehabilitation. It was depressing to look at and had the effect of making one more docile and depressed.

So while California may spend $75K per prisoner, the value they spend is probably closer to $7K. It's kind of brilliant in a sadistic way, as if the prisons, their programs, food, and environment were designed to maximize recidivism.

Now that I think about it, I wouldn't be surprised if some elements were designed in this way


You are blaming unethical people for profiting from a flawed system. I would say fixing the system is a easier problem, then fixing humanity as a whole.

For instance, what are the consequences for the mid level government bureaucrat who accepted the 7$ a tube toothpaste contract? It is obviously a flagrant violation with a paper trail. Even if it is revealed he gets a fully paid vacation every year from the bidding company, how do people even hold him accountable?

The government is involved in so many projects and employs so many people, that your one vote every few years means next to nothing.

Democracy was meant as a safeguard against tyranny. It cannot hold individual people in a vast system accountable very well.

You either split up each department in separate elections or reduce the scope and size of the government such that essential services like law and order get maximum visibility and priority.


You are blaming unethical people for profiting from a flawed system

Yes, and? Are unethical people somehow immune from blame for their decision to act unethically? Just because you see an opportunity for profit does not mean you are compelled to take it. That is, after all, the whole basis for incarceration in the first place, otherwise bank robbers would go free on the basis that once they realized how easy it was to rob a bank, they were unable to stop themselves.


> You are blaming unethical people for profiting from a flawed system. I would say fixing the system is a easier problem, then fixing humanity as a whole.

Find me a system that isnt flawed...


>It's kind of brilliant in a sadistic way, as if the prisons, their programs, food, and environment were designed to maximize recidivism.

They are. In this Jon Oliver bit they cite a Powerpoint sales pitch from a prison corporation which notes that high recidivism rates are one of many reasons why you should invest.

https://youtu.be/_Pz3syET3DY?t=673


I get sociopaths who have no remorse and don't really have a problem with them per se.

People who do this and try to rationalize their behavior with some flimsy excuse about putting food on the table or keeping America safe are, I'll say it, deplorables.

It's a socially acceptable form of mental torture whose aim is to break you down, not build you back up. In particular, the dehumanization you face from the guards makes one more anti-social.


Does the US court system not refund travel cost? Over here you can get full refund of travel cost if you are summoned to court(within reason - if you travel first class you will only get price of a normal ticket back).


> Does the US court system not refund travel cost?

I'm sorry, I'm actually laughing out loud for that one. No, they do not refund any cost you incur for going to court.

Luckily, I wasn't accused of any drug crimes or they may have seized my car and kept it under then-existing asset forfeiture (legal theft) laws


For future reference, if you or others reading this catch a bullshit charge like you describe, it is very likely that you can have a lawyer handle everything for you and it may be cheaper than the extra travel costs and missed work days. Even if you are supposedly 'required' to appear. I'm not a lawyer so my specific advice is to call a few and explain the situation, then hire one to handle everything for you.

Even if a charge sticks, they will be better then you at pleading it down and/or negotiating reduced fines when possible.

Again, it's likely going to be cheaper then travel costs and you should have a lawyer anyway, right from the very start. It sucks to be unfairly targeted but there is an easy way out. I hire a lawyer for even the most minor traffic violations and they really can save you money once you factor all costs (insurance rates, etc...).


I learned this lesson the hard way. I have weird facial tics. People often remark that I must be a very happy go lucky guy because I often smile involuntarily (or maybe that's the default position of my lips). During a pleading where I was highly anxious, a judge thought I wasn't taking the matter at hand seriously because I was smiling and decided to throw the book at me for that. This phenomenon is also what caused "Foxy Knoxy" to be immediately labeled guilty. One would think that judges would judge people by more objective measures, but sometimes they can be the worst judge of character.

Protip: If you have to appear in front of a judge, try your best to be the first party the judge sees in the morning or right after lunch. Your chances of a favorable judgment lessen as time wears on and judge's get cranky. I use this same philosophy for job interviews: try to appear before the interviewer at the least stressful time, and they are more likely to view you favorably.

ALWAYS lawyer up with the best you can afford. Justice may be blind, but the more money you have and, accordingly, the higher a quality of lawyer you can afford, the more "justice" you will receive.

That's why it's so difficult for rich/powerful people to ever land inside a jail cell.


>Justice may be blind

Which is why it has never found its way into the courts.


At the end of my ordeal I had to pay 25 dollars of non-refundable "court costs". There is a Supreme Court to be decided on soon which should determine the constitutionality of this practice even after one has been exonerated.


You mean NELSON v. COLORADO? Good news! https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/16pdf/15-1256_5i36.pdf


I do mean Nelson and I am elated! Didn't notice they had already announced the decision, I'm behind it seems. Ty!


My ex was found not guilty for driving while suspended (he didn't know at the time). They took about $45 of his bail money to cover it, and this was back in the late 90's.


if you were wrongly convicted of a crime, would the costs of your defense be somehow be re-imbursed or compensated?


There have been people wrongly convicted who can't even get out of prison once something like DNA evidence exonerates them.


I believe there's even been cases where people have been executed despite DNA evidence exonerating them.

IIRC, the judge's opinion was something like "Well, we followed all the procedures correctly, it doesn't matter if the wrong conclusion was reached"


Um, no? That verdict is what you are paying your lawyer to get for you. And if you are one of the few who aren't to accept a plea bargain and actually force the issue to go to trial (which is necessary to prove that you were wrongly convicted), it's going to cost many thousands of dollars.

A median for the defense is about $1500, including all the cheap plea bargains that don't go to a time-consuming expensive trial. A starting price for a misdemeanor that goes to trial might be $2000-$3000. Felonies and long, complicated trials just go up from there.

You may be thinking of a civil defense, where you can work out to pay nothing if you lose, but they're going to take some of the pot if you win. Or of a public defender, who is nominally free, but most states charge a few hundred to a couple thousand in court fees anyway.


No, though I'd think your attorney fees and court costs are the least of your worries after a few years in prison.

Looks like there are some attempts to provide compensation, but they vary

https://www.innocenceproject.org/compensating-wrongly-convic...


No. In the US, costs are never reimbursed in criminal trials. They might be reimbursed in civil suits, if rarely.

Even the juror compensation is something ridiculous like $10/day. I don't think subpoenaed witnesses are compensated for anything.


> Even the juror compensation is something ridiculous like $10/day

Yes, it seems logical if jurors would be compensated at least as the minimal wage per hour. In small communities it could probably lead to something like 'professional juror' but I think it could be dealt with by monthly/yearly cap for compensation.


You can't choose to sit on a jury in the US. People are randomly selected (I think from voting registrations). Small towns have less crime and less need for jurors. Even so, because the choice is not up to you, the "professional juror" would just be a very unlucky person.


Yes, you're right, small towns have less crime, so it shouldn't be a problem.


I get sufficient pay from my "real job" and vacation time, and never, ever was required to provide military service (or even register for the draft due to my date of birth), so I don't worry about compensation when the jury summons comes.


Some states you get money, some states you are not entitled to any whatsoever.


LOL no - not laughing at you, but laughing so as not to cry at the injustice. The US approach to this issue would be that you should spend more money suing the person who made the false accusation against you.

Although it's a little dense, a really good book on American legal culture is Adversarial Legalism by robert Kagan. Culturally the US is absolutely obsessed with property rights and the exhaustive accounting for them has provided fertile soil for a whole forest of complex litigation practices.

Many people would rather spent $10,000 on fighting a court case than pay $500 that they felt was unjustly billed to them. I once worked for a guy who got in a dispute with someone he had hired over ownership of the work product - he had not paid the bill for the photography and so the photographer was sitting on the footage. He took the photographer to small claims court; the court basically said 'meh, pay him what you owe and you, photographer, hand over the footage when he does.' We went outside and my erstwhile boss said 'well I showed him! that's the last time someone sues ME!' I literally walked away on the spot and never returned any of his calls even though he owed me some money; for my own sanity and safety I can not be around someone with that level of cognitive dissonance. I liked the guy, a lot, but he was literally editing reality in his head to fit his feelings from moment to moment. That sort of person is dangerous.


No. When I got a jury summons in SF, the notice said they didn't give jurors free parking.


where is "over here"?


In UK you can claim cost of travel, meals, loss of earnings and childcare:

https://www.gov.uk/going-to-court-victim-witness/expenses-fo...

Where I'm originally from(Poland) it was the same - I was summoned to court, after the trial I went to the clerk, said where I drove from and was paid cash for fuel. Had I taken the train it would have been refunded fully.


Is this the same regardless of your role in the trial?

Over here (Finland), if you are witness, you are compensated (meagerly, not always reasonable).

If you are the accused, you pay for your own travel - so the professional criminal class just skips the trial, thereby causing lot of unnecessary hassle to witnesses and injured parties. Then a new trial date is set, and on the nth try the police might pick up the accused, and bring him or her to trial (at no cost), then to be released on a conditional discharge.


According to [0](sorry, in Polish) both sides can get the money back for costs of getting to/back from court, not just the accusing/witness. Not sure about UK.

[0] http://e-prawnik.pl/artykuly/postepowanie-przed-sadem/zwrot-...


Correction: contractors are fleecing tax payers.


Correction : Union.

The California Correctional Peace Officers Association is very powerful in state and local elections and through association with other providers who are also union pretty much have the state on the ropes.

Contractors might be part of the problem but they only are as much as CCPOA allows for. As in, you play by their rules or you don't get to play.

Same reason we spend so much on education and don't see improvement. Nothing is about the prisoner or the student, it is all about political control


Prison guards aren't regularly raking in six figures, they make on average less than police officers.

Ultimately, I think you've got it the other way around. Prisons don't build themselves, contracts are put out for their construction, their vastly overpriced buses, cells, etc.

For example, the absolutely disgusting and dehumanizing water fountain/toilet combo, ensuring that every sip you take you smell and taste feces, costs $2600 while a normal stainless steel toilet runs about $250. Also, private prisons gain the benefits of a conscripted labor force without having to worry about slavery laws.

Corps have co-opted the unions to vote in their interest. After all, they have the carrot of offering a nice, kushy corporate gig. That prison guard's pension isn't going too far. Follow the money


"More than a third of officers [at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation] make more than $100,000 a year."

http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/watchdog/sdut-priso...

(dated 3/25/2015)


That doesn't seem very outrageous. Even at $500m in overtime that's only 5% of the total prison budget. You'd probably have to hire up to counter the overtime cost so its not like its more than a few percentage points of waste.


Prisons are not expensive due to high salaries for prison guards, so I'm not sure why you think it's the union's fault.


Apparently, California's prison guard union (CCPOA) has a history of lobbying against measures that would reduce the prisoner population and/or reduce state spending on prisons:

1994: With the help of CCPOA’s $101,000 support, Californians passed Proposition 184, the nation’s toughest three-strikes law mandating 25-years-to-life sentences for most felony offenders with two previous serious convictions.

2000: The CCPOA contributes at least $75,000 to the opponents of Proposition 36, the 2000 initiative that replaced incarceration with substance abuse treatment for certain nonviolent offenders.

2004: The CCPOA spends over $1 million to defeat Prop 66, the initiative that would have limited the crimes that triggered a life sentence under the Three Strikes law.

2005: The CCPOA defeats Governor Schwarzenegger’s plan to “reduce the prison population by as much as 20,000, mainly through a program that diverted parole violators into rehabilitation efforts: drug programs, halfway houses and home detention.”

2008: The CCPOA contributes $2 million to Jerry Brown’s gubernatorial campaign. The CCPOA contributes $1 million against Prop 5, a measure to reduce prison overcrowding by providing treatment rather than prison sentences for nonviolent drug users.

Source: http://californiapolicycenter.org/the-role-of-the-prison-gua...


Well, that's one part of it.


Just a heads up. The Bob Barker company is not run by the former Price is Right host. AFAIK he's never had anything to do with the company. Just the same name.

Oddly, this company which has been in existence for 20+ years fleecing correctional facilities still doesn't have a wikipedia page, and little is known about them. Would somebody please fix this?


You seem ideally positioned to make a start on this, as you certainly know more about it than I do.


I just visited https://www.bobbarker.com/

This is a company that basically makes products of the lowest quality for the cheapest amount possible. An $800 3D printer I've used created higher quality items.

If you want a real laugh, check out the "Mission and values" section of their website. SPOILER: it has by far the least amount of content


As an addendum, the most disgusting thing I witnessed was the mandatory racial segregation that was enforced by the guards, ostensibly to make their jobs easier by cutting down on conflicts and physical fights. As a native of Detroit, I know all too well what racial segregation does to your view of the other, the out group(s).

I know it's just a smidge harder and takes a little more effort, but it is beyond crazy that we institutionally indoctrinate inmates into a race-based ideology. This engenders further wedges and future conflicts when inmates are released and trained to view other people with suspicion and mistrust....

Unless that's the point, serving as a useful distraction while the prestige is being performed


Remember when a small team built a better healthcare.gov? Why not open up well-regulated competitive markets for these kinds of problems? Let some bright people solve them by going at them with their ingenuity. The fastest way towards progress is fair and honest competition.

Government can regulate the market by setting the goals: low violence inside, low costs, low re-offences of released, high security, high educational opportunities


> I think the best answer to these problems we face is competition.

I'm sorry, but that is the worst answer. Perverse incentives and moral hazard problems not withstanding, incarceration as a market, profit from human misery and suffering is absolutely morally repugnant.

> Remember when a small team built a better healthcare.gov?

You're comparing apples to naked mole rats. Running a website (that does exactly what you tell it) is a wee bit different than caring for violent, mentally disabled, borderline personalities, sexually, mentally abusive and abused, etc. individuals. (I'm including a lot of the guards in this description too)

> Businesses that get high marks automatically get more prisoners, ones that get low marks get none.

> That's a lot worse than gov run facilities, but gov facilities are probably not as good as properly regulated market.

Incarceration, and security in general, is the very definition of a market failure and one of the few things that a government needs to provide in the most liberal, laissez-faire economy

Think about how this will play out in reality, considering that prison guard unions and companies wield a large amount of political capital and no one really cares about the welfare of prisoners, if they're being mistreated/abused, etc. Companies can cook their books and no one will care.

We also live in the era where speech=money. Prison corporations spend large amounts of money lobbying. And they lobby for the sickest things possible: increases in sentences, increases in mandatory minimums, fighting against medical marijuana legalization just so they can imprison and profit off of "scary, criminal mastermind potheads"

Our economics is so backwards that we include spending on prisons in our GDP. Growth in the prison sector should not be added as growth in the overall economy

The market solution will not magically erase the culture of the prison economy or change its major players


Where we agree is that it is a dangerous place to open up to the market. If it's not well-regulated it could face these kinds of problems you mentioned, and others as well.


>Remember when a small team built a better healthcare.gov? Why not open up well-regulated competitive markets for these kinds of problems?

Because the solution ("making prison a market") is what caused the problem in the first place.

And because some things, like treating people in prison humanely, you don't want to live to the lowest bidder (though even that would be an improvement over the worse than third world shithole that are us prisons).


There is actually no competitive market here.

I agree there is a lot of danger in profiting from incarceration. However, it would be good if someone figured out how to solve the problem and a profit motive is a reliable way to do it.

In other words, the profit motive would have to work towards eliminatin the problem--that's my point about a properly regulated market.

Maybe some other users here are right and I am naive in thinking people will create fair and just rules that others wont try to cheat.


> Maybe some other users here are right and I am naive in thinking people will create fair and just rules that others wont try to cheat.

There's just not a lot to gain and a lot that can go wrong. It's high risk, minimal rewards. Making prisons more rehabilitative isn't difficult or some unsolved problem.

People in this country just have an appetite for righteous vengeance and ensuring that criminals receive their due suffering.


The problem is that the prisoners are not the buyers, the taxpayers are.

Which means any "profit motive" can (and normally will) work against them (the prisoners). After all feeding them crap and stuffing them in tiny cells is cheaper than giving them quality prison time and rehabilitation opportunities...



[flagged]


You are indeed not supposed to say 'penal system' and 'market' in the same sentence. That's kind of amoral and ends up costing everyone - that is what all for-profit prisons successfully show.


> That's kind of amoral

I don't think anyone claimed it to be moral or immoral?

> That is what all for-profit prisons successfully show

Seems like this argument could be made for the socialization of virtually any institution. In particular, the OP's solution is different from existing for-profit penal institutions, so there is no logical reason to downvote the OP on the basis of existing institutions.


Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: