Friday, February 29, 2008

Prison Nation: Over One in One Hundred Americans Are in Prison

US rates of incarceration beat those of any European country to include Russia and former satellites of Stalin's Soviet Union. By the time you read this, more than 2.3 million adults will have been locked up in 'big houses' throughout the US. That number far exceeds some 1.8 million adult prisoners representing the total prison population of 36 European countries where the aggregate population is 2.7 times that of the US.

A recent Pew study fingers a trend that had been embraced by Bush's Texas --the rapid outsourcing of prison construction and management throughout the US. Over this period, crime rates have risen. It was Texas under the incompetent rule of then Governor George W. Bush that became known as the gulag state of Texas for having turned a social problem into just another GOP scam, a get rich quick scheme, another way in which GOP blood-suckers feed at the public trough. Convicts are no longer people but a source of cheap, slave labor. Guilt or innocence is of no concern to corporate robber barons. It is an Orwellian nightmare of waste, graft, and fascism in which no one is held to account.
After months alone in his cell, Scot Noble Payne finished 20 pages of letters, describing to loved ones the decrepit conditions of the prison where he was serving time for molesting a child. Then Payne used a razor blade to slice two 3-inch gashes in his throat. Guards found his body in the cell's shower, with the water still running.

"Try to comfort my mum too and try to get her to see that I am truly happy again," he wrote his uncle. "I tell you, it sure beats having water on the floor 24/7, a smelly pillow case, sheets with blood stains on them and a stinky towel that hasn't been changed since they caught me."

Payne's suicide on March 4 came seven months after he was sent to the squalid privately run Texas prison by Idaho authorities trying to ease inmate overcrowding in their own state. His death exposed what had been Idaho's standard practice for dealing with inmates sent to out-of-state prisons: Out of sight, out of mind.

It also raised questions about a company hired to operate prisons in 15 states, despite reports of abusive guards and terrible sanitation.

Hundreds of pages of documents obtained by The Associated Press through an open-records request show Idaho did little monitoring of out-of-state inmates, despite repeated complaints from prisoners, their families and a prison inspector.

...

--Suicide Exposes Squalid Conditions in Privately-Run Texas Prison; Company Operates in 15 States, JOHN MILLER
It is no surprise that filthy rich, GOP robber barons would find big bucks in the prison business, a process that begins when the 'state' outsources every aspect of penal industry --prison construction, staffing, operation. Profitability is directly related to the number of inmates who are ultimately arrested and convicted, often upon the flimiest evidence. Certainly, the money to be made in the prison business is directly related to arrest and conviction rates. Corporate profits drive the system --not justice

The lesson to be learned is that if you don't care about your soul and just want to get rich, forget about real estate! Set your sites high. Operate your own gulag archipelago of robotized prisons to warehouse 'evil doers' to include those who merely fall through the gaping, yawning holes in a 'safety net' that never was.
The United States holds the dubious distinction of having the largest incarcerated population in the world, with 2 million people behind bars as of year-end 1999.2 With only 5% of the world's population, the US holds a quarter of the world's prisoners In the 1990s alone, more persons were added to prisons and jails than in any other decade on record.

...

In a continued examination of those states that lead the national trend in increasing levels of incarceration, the Justice Policy Institute turns a focus on the state of Texas. The Lone Star State's criminal justice system is particularly worthy of scrutiny at this time, as the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) reported in August, 2000 that Texas, for the first time, leads the nation in imprisoning its citizens: Texas now has the nation's largest incarcerated population under the jurisdiction of its prison system. Since 1990, Texas has lead the nation's 50 states with an annual average growth rate of 11.8%, about twice the annual average growth rate of other state prison systems (6.1%). Even more important to the national context, since 1990, nearly one in five new prisoners added to the nation's prisons (18%) was in Texas.

--An Analysis of Incarceration and Crime Trends in The Lone Star State

As the GOP "Enronized" the great state of Texas, an assembly line criminal justice system, in cahoots with a medieval, privatized prison system, proved to be an oxymoron. It was "criminal" but hardly "justice". Despite the GOPs "worst" efforts, crime in Texas, always a topic of much discussion and study, has gotten worse. Texas is big on capital punishment, but even its industrialized application of the death penalty just cannot kill off the criminals as fast as they procreate and multiply. The GOP may be seeking a "final solution".
...by year's end 1999, there were 706,600 Texans in prison, jail, parole or probation on any given day. In a state with 14 million adults, this meant that 5% of adult Texans, or 1 out of every 20, are under some form of criminal justice supervision. The scale of what is happening in Texas is so huge, it is difficult to contrast the size of its criminal justice systems to the other states' systems it dwarfs:

  • There are more Texans under criminal justice control than the entire populations of some states, including Vermont, Wyoming and Alaska.
  • According to Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates, one quarter of the nation's parole and probationers are in Texas. California and Texas, together, comprise half the nation's parolees and probationers.

  • The number of people incarcerated in Texas (in prison or jail) reached 207,526 in mid-year 1999. Only California, with 10 million more citizens, has more people in both prison and jail.
  • Texas has a rate of 1,035 people behind bars for every 100,000 in the population, the second highest incarceration rate in the nation (second only to Louisiana). If Texas was a nation separate from the United States, it would have the world's highest incarceration rate--significantly higher than the United States (682), and Russia (685) which has 1 million prisoners, the world's third biggest prison system. Texas' incarceration rate is also higher than China (115), which has the world's second largest prison population (1.4 million prisoners).
  • If the US shared the incarceration rate of Texas, there would be nearly three million Americans behind bars (2,822,300)--instead of our current 2 million prisoners.
  • The Texas prison population tripled since 1990, and rose 61.5% in the last five years of this decade alone. In 1994, there were 92, 669 prisoners in Texas. This number had increased to 149,684 by mid-year 1999.
  • The Texas correctional system has grown so large that in July 2000, corrections officials ran out of six digit numbers to assign inmates, and officially created prisoner number 1,000,000.

    --An Analysis of Incarceration and Crime Trends in The Lone Star State

Texas is called the gulag state for good reasons. Certainly, justice in Texas is applied inequitably. Minorities --primarily black and hispanic --are disproportionately represented in the Texas gulag system but under represented in the State legislature, the various city councils, and the state judicial system. For example, blacks represent only 12% of the Texas population but comprise 44% of the total incarcerated population. Whites make up about 58% of Texas' total population, but only 30% of the prison and jail population.
  • While one out of every 20 Texas adults is under some form of criminal justice control, one out of 3 young black men (29% of the black male population between 21 and 29) are in prison, jail, parole or probation on any given day.
  • One out of every four adult black men in Texas is under some form of criminal justice supervision.
  • Blacks in Texas are incarcerated at a rate seven times greater than whites. While there are 555 whites behind bars for every 100,000 in the Texas population, there are an astonishing 3862 African Americans behind bars for every 100,000 in the state. This is nearly 63% higher than the national incarceration rate for blacks of 2366 per 100,000.
  • If Texas' black incarceration rate was applied to the United States, the number of blacks behind bars on a national level would increase by half a million. There are currently an estimated 824,900 African Americans in prison and jail in the US The new figure, 1,346,370, would increase the number of African Americans incarcerated in the US by 63%.

The GOP are consistent to the point of boring. Therefore, what the GOP has done to Texas is a clue to the effect Bush/GOP rule has had nationally, globally. The GOP modus operandi is premised as it is upon delusion, lies, spin, claptrap ideology and bullshit! The increasingly absurd campaign of John McCain is proof of that. Failing to wage an effective "war on terrorism" abroad, the GOP presides over rising crime rates at home, throughout the nation.

The GOP has always been fond of waging wars on crime though the party itself is a crime syndicate.
Five years of crime rates show that murders, robberies, rapes and other violent offenses last year were returning to the peak, set in 2002. Crime dropped dramatically after that, the figures show.

In 2006, an estimated 1,417,000 violent crimes were committed, a sharp increase from the 1,360,000 reported in 2004 and approaching the estimated 1,425,000 in 2002.

--New York Times, Violent Crime Reported Up 2% in 2006

Those stats confirm a trend of at least two years. Yet, Justice Department flack, Brian Roehrkasse, called the report "good news", a lie not unlike "we are winning in Iraq". I wonder how Roehrkasse felt about the FBI summary of 2006 indicating that robberies had increased 9.7 percent nationwide, arson 6.8 percent, murders 1.4 percent! It is the situation in Texas, Bush's so-called "homestate", where the effects of the GOP's medieval policies have fallen to Rick Perry.
Reflecting a surge in crime in Texas after the dislocations of Hurricane Katrina, Houston recorded a sharp increase in homicides, to 202 for the first half of 2006, up from 158 in the comparable pre-storm period last year. Three Texas cities ranked among the nation’s top 10 in crimes per capita.

Homicides in Dallas were down to 101 from 106 but it still ranked as the nation’s most crime-ridden big city, with 3,985 overall crimes per 100,000 population, followed by Houston with 3,444. After Phoenix with 3,436, San Antonio was 4th with 3,422.

--An Analysis of Incarceration and Crime Trends in The Lone Star State

FBI statistics prove that since Bush seized the White House, crime rates have jumped. Violent crime increased at 2.5 percent in 2005, the highest rate in 15 years. Nevermind! Bush favored a 52 percent cut in law enforcement funding. That's not the worst of it. Bush and the GOP will never admit that GOP policies prove the utter failure, the moral paucity, the complete intellectual inadequacy of the GOP as a party, as an institution. Utterly predictable, the GOP will cite every fact proving their endemic failures as reasons to compound the problem. Having replaced ideas with propaganda, plans with platitudes, the GOP will simply roll out more of the same old GOP eyewash, claptrap, and bullshit!

We would call a doctor an idiot who tells you to just keep on doing whatever it is that's making you sick. Yet the GOP does that repeatedly, mistaking the illness for the cure and making it worse with greed and incompetence. Confronted with rising crime and swelling prisons, the GOP will propose even newer programs guaranteed to raise crime rates even as they enrich cronies with privatized prison systems, privatized Blackwater storm-troopers, a robotized surveillance system.

It is but a small step then to privatizing the state police or even the various metropolitan police departments. Blackwater, I am sure, would love to get the juicy contract, the license to kill and get paid for it. In that event, the march toward fascism will have been completed. Life in America will have become a nightmare for everyone but an elite of about one to five percent of the population. The streets will be patrolled by armor-plated Blackwater goon squads and other gung ho gun nuts for whom human life means little to nothing.

In the meantime, the words of the late Molly Ivins seem prescient, a plaintive warning about the breakdown of law and order that follows from the complete and institutional breakdown of the rule of law. We will have the right-wing to blame for having made of America the ugliest police state in the history of the world.
The notorious inability of prosecutors to admit that they are ever wrong is a fact of life. What is far more horrifying is the refusal of judges and courts to look at evidence that proves innocence. Can you imagine how that must feel - to be in prison for a crime you didn't commit and to finally be able to prove it, only to have a court refuse to consider the evidence? Most of this is a consequence of a noxious law that Congress rushed through after the Oklahoma City bombing. Called the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, the law was aimed at the ability of federal judges to second-guess state courts and at the ability of prisoners to file endless habeas corpus claims challenging the constitutionality of their convictions.

--Molly Ivins

A day after the United States Supreme Court halted an execution in Texas, that medieval state made public more plans to murder more people in the name of state and justice.
Though several other states are halting lethal injections until it is clear whether they are constitutional, Texas is taking a different course, risking a confrontation with the court.

“The Supreme Court’s decision to stay convicted murderer Carlton Turner’s execution will not necessarily result in an abrupt halt to Texas executions,” said Jerry Strickland, a spokesman for Attorney General Greg Abbott of Texas. “State and federal courts will continue to address each scheduled execution on a case-by-case basis.”

--Texas Planning New Execution Despite Ruling, New York Times

This latest outrage points up an interesting and apparent correlation between Bush's failed "war on terrorism" and the equally failed "war on crime" in Texas. Now, of course, Texas' prison virus will spread across the prison nation that Bush and his ilk --the GOP --has made of America.


The American Gulag: System Failure



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