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From pecan pralines to ‘dots’ as currency: how a prison's internal economy works (theguardian.com)
32 points by EliRivers 49 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 18 comments

This video by the onion, about the prison economy, is a favorite of mine: https://youtu.be/K2IYIJc1f00

In all seriousness, complementary currencies are a huge topic of interest for me. Value exchange takes many forms when money is unavailable. Cash is distilled power, but other forms of power and exchange will always exist.

Related reading: The Economic Organization of a P.O.W. Camp by R.A. Radford.

Another one: "Games Prisoners Play: The Tragicomic Worlds of Polish Prison" by Marek Kamiński. Well worth reading – Kamiński is a sociologist who was imprisoned in Poland by the communist regime, and formulated many behaviours of inmates in terms of game theory.

The US baffles me sometimes.

> He explained his case isn’t the worst: Timothy Jackson, a man caught stealing a jacket from a shop more than 20 years ago, is set to spend the rest of his life in Angola. The average sentence in Angola is almost 90 years.

How can a civilised country allow this to be?

Looks like a “three strikes” law, which imposes a mandatory heavy (in this case, ridiculously heavy given the offenses) sentence after a certain number of felony convictions:

“After this conviction under La.R.S. 14:67, Mr. Jackson was sentenced in accordance with R.S. 15:529.1 A(1)(c)(ii), which states in pertinent part:

If the fourth or subsequent felony or any of the prior felonies is a felony defined as a crime of violence under R.S. 14:2(13) ․ the person shall be imprisoned for the remainder of his natural life, without benefit of parole, probation, or suspension of sentence.

After a sentencing hearing at which the State proved Mr. Jackson's multiple offender status, the trial court simply stated that “because of the specific provisions of the law ․ the sentence must be ․ life imprisonment without benefit of parole, probation or suspension.” Mr. Jackson has prior convictions for simple burglary in 1991 and in 1986 and for simple robbery in 1979. Simple robbery is listed as a crime of violence under La.R.S. 14:2(13).”


This is heartbreakingly cruel. It's hard to believe that an otherwise civilized country can do this to its citizens.

How about having some sympathy for this man’s many victims and the people he would have preyed on in the future? While a life sentence without parole sounds excessive, he will never again rob or burgle or otherwise prey on the citizens of that otherwise civilized country. The only reason to permit the state monopoly on violence is because the state in turn keeps the peace. That includes protecting its citizens from robbery and burglary.

Most criminals don't commit crimes as they get older. The idea of lifelong criminality is a myth. The certainty of a sentence is more important then its duration, so these harsh sentences aren't deterring crime as effectively as having more cops would.

The purpose of the harsh sentence in three strikes laws isn't to deter crime, it's to lock people up who are apparently undeterrable.

Crazy, isn't it. If deterrence appears not to work, let's pick the most expensive, wasteful alternative we can find! Taxpayers get a bad deal, society gets a bad deal, everyone involved gets a bad deal. I suppose that's what we get if the point isn't to make a better society but rather to indulge people's revenge fantasies and messed up sense of satisfaction.

I certainly sympathize with the victims, but I also sympathize with someone who has been sentenced to life in prison (a small step above the death penalty, on my own morality scale).

Life sentences are not necessary to deter crime, as evidenced by crime and recurrence statistics of other countries.

Would be interesting to learn more about the history of the prison system in Louisiana. It's the first time I hear that the Louisiana "justice" system is this harsh.

The idea of thousands of black men that are forced under threat of violence to pick cotton, fruits and vegetables and receive only a symbolic amount of money for it (in Louisiana!) does seem more than slightly suspicious given the state's history.

The prisions are not state run but commercial entities. Thus there is a certain incentive to lobby for longer sentences in order to make more business. Occasionally they pay "commission" like in this scheme to jail youth for profit: https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2011/08/11/139536686...

Prisons in the US no doubt have a lot of problems but I don't think Louisiana has any private prisons. And private prisons only hold 8.5% of prisoners across the US.

> Money is too risky to hold – making US prisons one of the few places on earth where the dollar is not accepted.

Yeah no. You can't buy in USD in tons of places around the world. Maybe the most part. You can find an exchange, but that does not qualify to make a whole country a place where the dollar is accepted.

Not my experince. Even where the dollar is not usually accepted in practice, it is known it can be converted into nearly any local currency. There is often a delay and very poorly calculted exchange rate however.

Money is like language. It's impossible to deprive a group of humans of it, because it's in our nature to immediately invent it if we don't have it. What else is like this?

Food, sex, and drugs are very ancient human commodities. Money is often thrown in the mix to simplify things.

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