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Prisoners Endure a Nightmare 'Gulag' in Lower Manhattan (2018) (gothamist.com)
61 points by miobrien 66 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 23 comments

A place like this does not happen by accident.

It is this way because the people responsible to operate it deliberately choose to keep it this way. It is infested with rats because they want it infested with rats. Prisoners are denied medical treatment because they want prisoners to be denied medical treatment.

The individuals responsible for torturing 800 people at a time are clearly much worse than anybody held there. They have names, and homes, and could be arrested in them by New York police on New York warrants, if New York law enforcement could be persuaded to enforce New York law.

The Federal government also has laws covering the behavior of the individuals torturing inmates there. Federal prosecutors have a responsibility to prosecute them. Yet, they are not.

In the US we really need to figure out what our prisons are for. Are they for punishment or rehabilitation? Do we just want to impose pain on people that have done bad things, or are we trying to change them into people that wont do those bad things anymore? Punishment might feel good to some people on a visceral level, but what good does it do?

> Are they for punishment or rehabilitation?

Neither. They are for sequestration. They are a place to put people that society just doesn't want to deal with. Punishment is just a side-effect. This is the reason we put people awaiting trial in the same facilities as people who have been convicted of crimes.

Rehabilitation is not even on the radar.

This is a subject that demands pragmatism. At risk of stating the obvious, the primary utility of incarceration is to prevent the convict from victimizing more innocents. It's a crude solution, but it is undeniably effective. It's very difficult to commit crimes against innocents in general society from a prison cell.

So, given that the pragmatic benefit of incarceration is protecting the innocent from being victimized, which presumably we all support, we should look if there are other less crude ways to achieve the same goal. I understand that Drug Court and similar programs have had some measurable success. But we can't forget there are very bad people who will treat diversion programs as a joke and an opportunity to continue to prey on others. Those individuals should be incarcerated, not to punish, but to prevent them from offending again. Rehabilitation would be wonderful and the opportunity should be offered, but some persons just don't want to be rehabilitated.

"At risk of stating the obvious, the primary utility of incarceration is to prevent the convict from victimizing more innocents."

This is not the purpose of incarceration in Germany or the Scandinavian countries. The purpose there is simply loss of freedom for a short while as punishment, and assistance to better yourself for when you're released.

And their low recidivism rates bear this out.

Among other things, it enriches private prison operators through exploitation of indentured labour, disproportionately incarcerates low-income / racialized people on non-violent drug offenses, costs the average US household nearly $1700/year, leads to high recidivism rates, and dovetails with the growing militarization of police forces. [1]

But hey, at least it feels good to some people on a visceral level! Those world-leading incarceration rates won't maintain themselves, you know.

As a non-American, I'll never understand the cultural cognitive dissonance in simultaneously trusting the government to be "tough on crime" - despite all evidence that this approach backfires strongly - and distrusting their intervention in just about anything else.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incarceration_in_the_United_St...

This is a jail, not a prison, and has a clear purpose (holding people for trials and such).

Not defending the medieval “justice” system in the us, just being clear.

Jails are worse. Often you have lots of people in the same jail not broken out by offense as its a holding pen for the locality. Which means you have minor drug offenses in the same facility with armed burglars and rapists.

Additionally, a lot of times it makes sense for someone awaiting trial to push the date back as far as possible, in the hopes that witnesses or the prosecution decide not to show at trial or forget the offense. Maybe you can then get off with time served and without a conviction.

Which means jails are "how long can you survive in the worst possible place so your life is not ruined more than it already is". Because America is a fucking shitshow and we just don't give two tugs of a dead dogs dick about basic human rights.

I really hate this country.

The jail system is a big direct driver of poverty even before the prison system is even involved.

This was a major factor of the Ferguson riots which quickly fell out of the simplistic press narrative. The mayor decided to lower taxes and fill the gap by charging people who were arrested. The consequences of that are no surprise.

(Not sure why my GP comment was downvoted. They are different systems with different pathologies).

In the US we know our prisons are used for punishment, so there's really no point in asking that question. A better question might be: should be transform them from punishment to rehab? (I think 'yes', but there are many here in the US who disagree because 'fuck them, they're criminals and they deserve it')

It's disrespectful to victims of Gulags.

I’m guessing this is on HN because it’s where Epstein was being held.

Who is that?


Well known, well connected guy, busted for sex trafficking children.

Ugh. Sorry i asked.


This is an overly negative comment, I work in the tech field and visit HN for tech content, but value and learn from the posting and discussion of other topics. Please ignore these posts if they are not of interest.

Why was Epstein not under suicide protection, even though he attempted suicide already, and his testimony was so important to finally outing the orange cheeto? Was the camera outage really coincidental?

Prison reform issues always make me feel so contrasted. On one hand, a lot of the people held there did awful things. The article mentions El Chapo, mobsters, drug dealers, etc. as some of the people held there. It's extremely hard to feel any sort of sympathy for those people. They've done extreme amounts of damage to communities and have done far worse to other people.

But on the other hand, no one should be sexually assaulted and beaten to death.

I would argue that you can 1. assume all prisoners are guilty and 2. not care about their welfare (both assumptions that I disagree with) and still support prison reform on the grounds that it reduces criminality in society overall.

Look at the current state of American prisons. We crowd prisoners together and make them feel angry, scared, weak, and ignored by the law (except when it hammers them down) for years on end. That makes it much harder for them to integrate back into normal, law-abiding society.

We should be trying to make it as easy as possible for a convict to eventually leave criminal life behind. But our current system does the opposite.

These are also people who have been accused of doing awful things, not convicted. It’s not a huge stretch to suggest that some of them are innocent.

When it's difficult to find any compassion for these people, keep in mind that many of them are still awaiting trial, and haven't actually been found guilty yet (a poor example, but Epstein's trial was scheduled for June 2020 - it blows my mind that you could spend a year in prison without being found guilty. Or that others may spend their year and yet be found not guilty).

Or cases like the 'Manhattan Five' (and innumerable others) where entire sentences could be spent before being ultimately exonerated.

I'm not saying it should operate like a day spa on the assumption that someone may be there improperly. But if you need to scrape up a shred of humanity, remember that the worst we have to offer may not be the only people in there.

> It's extremely hard to feel any sort of sympathy for those people

It's very easy for me. Compassion is for all people, not just those you perceive to be nice. I think the inability or extreme difficulty to have compassion towards fellow humans, as you've described here, is a major problem in America today.

We must all work towards a better future by understanding why bad people were bad in the past. This would enable us to build a better future where fewer bad things happen. But you're not going to understand why Epstein was the way he was if you hate him so much you're not going to feel any compassion to someone presumably as tortured as him. By making him into a monster that everyone wanted to die in the first place, then we'll constantly be faced with Epsteins in the future.

> But on the other hand, no one should be sexually assaulted and beaten to death.


In a just system, guilt has to be proven before the accused are punished.

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