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Rethinking our prison systems

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  • Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Colorado Springs, CO
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    PolicyMic, Sweden's Remarkable Prison System Has Done What the U.S. Won't Even Consider

    This article by Zeehshan Aleem contrasts the USA prison system with high incarceration and return to prison rates with the successes of those of the Scandinavian countries, Sweden in particular.

    "The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world: It has only 5% of the world's population, but one-quarter of its prisoners. U.S. prisons are dangerously overcrowded, house 10 times as many mentally ill individuals as state hospitals, keep people locked up for unfathomably long periods of time, are plagued by inmate abuse and hold a far greater percentage of the country's black population than South Africa did under apartheid. Nearly two-thirds of the inmates released every year return to prison; crippling discrimination in employment and housing encumbers the ones who manage to function. This is all to say that if you are convicted of an imprisonable crime in the U.S., you generally get shown little mercy."

    By contrast, Sweden's prison system numbers for the past decade are far more impressive with the number of prisoners dropping from 5,722 to 4,500 out of a population of 9.5 million. The recidivism rate (return rate) is much lower at around 40% which has resulted in Sweden closing prisons. The primary difference is in the way correctional officers treat prisoners:

    "While high-security prisons in the U.S. often involve caging and dehumanizing a prisoner, prisons in Nordic countries are designed to treat them as people with psychosocial needs that are to be carefully attended to. Prison workers fulfill a dual role of enforcer and social worker, balancing behavioral regulation with preparation for re-entry into society."

    They also have a category called "open prisons" more resembling college dorms and where the prisoners and guards eat together. The article shows pictures of their prisons and they sure don't look like ours. I don't believe this type of prison system could ever work in the USA because of our deeply rooted beliefs about punishment. Furthermore, our "prisons for profit" society of lobbyists would never allow this kind of thing to take hold. It would be a threat to the highly lucrative capitalist system of enslaving prisoners to make money. They would play the "fear card".

    Nevertheless, perhaps on an experimental basis at least, a more progressive state could construct and run a prison after the Sweden model to see if it works. I'm pretty sure what we have now is less then effective.

    Thoughts?
  • Independent
    Ft.myers, FL
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    Schmidt Wrote: PolicyMic, Sweden's Remarkable Prison System Has Done What the U.S. Won't Even Consider

    This article by Zeehshan Aleem contrasts the USA prison system with high incarceration and return to prison rates with the successes of those of the Scandinavian countries, Sweden in particular.

    "The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world: It has only 5% of the world's population, but one-quarter of its prisoners. U.S. prisons are dangerously overcrowded, house 10 times as many mentally ill individuals as state hospitals, keep people locked up for unfathomably long periods of time, are plagued by inmate abuse and hold a far greater percentage of the country's black population than South Africa did under apartheid. Nearly two-thirds of the inmates released every year return to prison; crippling discrimination in employment and housing encumbers the ones who manage to function. This is all to say that if you are convicted of an imprisonable crime in the U.S., you generally get shown little mercy."

    By contrast, Sweden's prison system numbers for the past decade are far more impressive with the number of prisoners dropping from 5,722 to 4,500 out of a population of 9.5 million. The recidivism rate (return rate) is much lower at around 40% which has resulted in Sweden closing prisons. The primary difference is in the way correctional officers treat prisoners:

    "While high-security prisons in the U.S. often involve caging and dehumanizing a prisoner, prisons in Nordic countries are designed to treat them as people with psychosocial needs that are to be carefully attended to. Prison workers fulfill a dual role of enforcer and social worker, balancing behavioral regulation with preparation for re-entry into society."

    They also have a category called "open prisons" more resembling college dorms and where the prisoners and guards eat together. The article shows pictures of their prisons and they sure don't look like ours. I don't believe this type of prison system could ever work in the USA because of our deeply rooted beliefs about punishment. Furthermore, our "prisons for profit" society of lobbyists would never allow this kind of thing to take hold. It would be a threat to the highly lucrative capitalist system of enslaving prisoners to make money. They would play the "fear card".

    Nevertheless, perhaps on an experimental basis at least, a more progressive state could construct and run a prison after the Sweden model to see if it works. I'm pretty sure what we have now is less then effective.

    Thoughts?
    Yes , in the Netherlands the same way; even get TV in their cells.
  • Democrat
    Philadelphia, PA
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    Do both of you believe that all prisoners can be rehabilitated and re-introduced into society as productive members ? Are there not members of our society who deserve lengthy terms of imprisonment as punishment rather than as a reward for their criminal behavior ? I am speaking from just my perspective as a former law enforcement officer.
  • Strongly Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Portland, OR
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    johnnycee Wrote: Do both of you believe that all prisoners can be rehabilitated and re-introduced into society as productive members ? Are there not members of our society who deserve lengthy terms of imprisonment as punishment rather than as a reward for their criminal behavior ? I am speaking from just my perspective as a former law enforcement officer.
    This is a classic straw man argument. No where in Schmidt's posting did he suggest that all prisoners can be rehabilitated and re-introduced into society. That wasn't the point of his posting whatsoever.

    What he was talking about is how other countries, specifically the Scandinavian countries, punish people who break the law--mainly with how prisoners and staff mingle and how they incorporate a system that focuses on getting an inmate ready to reenter society as opposed to warehousing them and setting them up to become repeat offenders because a felon carries around a Scarlet Letter for the remainder of their lives in the good ole U S of A.
    Schmidt Wrote: Nevertheless, perhaps on an experimental basis at least, a more progressive state could construct and run a prison after the Sweden model to see if it works. I'm pretty sure what we have now is less then effective.
    Thanks for posting this. I am a big advocate for major, some might call it revolutionary, prison reform. Our criminal justice system is literally broken and our leaders continue to stick their head in the sand and act like there's no problem at all. What does it say about us as a nation when we spend billions of more dollars a year on housing inmates than on our education programs? Some states spend more than twice or three times as much on prisons than education budgets. Try to wrap your head around that.

    How in the world have we allowed this to happen as a citizenry? How can anyone say that this is a smart use of our resources? Instead of investing in things that will prevent people from going to prison, we just double down on sending as many people to prison as humanly possible. And if that weren't bad enough, our criminal justice system is rigged to punish poor, largely minority, 'offenders' while often letting rich, white offenders off scot-free.

    This is what happens when you have a private industry housing inmates. Capitalism is great for certain things, but not so much when it comes to housing prisoners. These private corporations obviously want to make as much money as possible, which means that they need their prisons full. That's why so many nonviolent offenders in this country are given lengthy prison sentences. It makes me sick to think that we have private corporations determining how long a nonviolent offender is locked up.

    It doesn't surprise me that cops have no problem with locking away every possible person they can arrest, but that is not how a just society is supposed to operate.
  • Democrat
    Philadelphia, PA
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    There was no intent of a straw man argument , I was asking only for clarification of a viewpoint that I don't fully understand, because some of the criminals I have met during my career were mostly from impoverished families with very little parental support and with a complete disdain of authority,some of these criminals received their high school education while in prison as well as medical attention on a some what regular basis, so prison was not necessarily seen as a form of punishment but merely as a pause in their life style. There are those who do not re-commit themselves to a life of crime but they are few in number ,and given my theory of the predatory society we live in, I hold firm to the notion that there are some individuals who need to be locked up..
  • Strongly Liberal Democrat
    Democrat
    Portland, OR
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    johnnycee Wrote: There was no intent of a straw man argument , I was asking only for clarification of a viewpoint that I don't fully understand, because some of the criminals I have met during my career were mostly from impoverished families with very little parental support and with a complete disdain of authority,
    Do you think they may have a disdain of authority because they are constantly being harassed, arrested, and murdered by said authorities? Do you not think it's somewhat understandable for someone to hate the people who make their lives hell? Instead of going after the criminals who took our entire financial system down and threw millions of lives into chaos, cops throughout this country spend all their time taking down nonviolent 'offenders' who are just trying to get by in this world.
    johnnycee Wrote:some of these criminals received their high school education while in prison as well as medical attention on a some what regular basis, so prison was not necessarily seen as a form of punishment but merely as a pause in their life style. There are those who do not re-commit themselves to a life of crime but they are few in number ,and given my theory of the predatory society we live in, I hold firm to the notion that there are some individuals who need to be locked up..
    My guess is that the fifty percent of prisoners who wind back in prison do so because they are labeled with their Scarlet Letter and can't find a legitimate job. Add in the fact that we spend twice as much on prisons as we do education and you get my point. How do you expect former felons to turn their life around if you make it literally impossible for them to turn their lives around?
  • Independent
    Ft.myers, FL
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    Dutch Wrote:
    Schmidt Wrote: PolicyMic, Sweden's Remarkable Prison System Has Done What the U.S. Won't Even Consider

    This article by Zeehshan Aleem contrasts the USA prison system with high incarceration and return to prison rates with the successes of those of the Scandinavian countries, Sweden in particular.

    "The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world: It has only 5% of the world's population, but one-quarter of its prisoners. U.S. prisons are dangerously overcrowded, house 10 times as many mentally ill individuals as state hospitals, keep people locked up for unfathomably long periods of time, are plagued by inmate abuse and hold a far greater percentage of the country's black population than South Africa did under apartheid. Nearly two-thirds of the inmates released every year return to prison; crippling discrimination in employment and housing encumbers the ones who manage to function. This is all to say that if you are convicted of an imprisonable crime in the U.S., you generally get shown little mercy."

    By contrast, Sweden's prison system numbers for the past decade are far more impressive with the number of prisoners dropping from 5,722 to 4,500 out of a population of 9.5 million. The recidivism rate (return rate) is much lower at around 40% which has resulted in Sweden closing prisons. The primary difference is in the way correctional officers treat prisoners:

    "While high-security prisons in the U.S. often involve caging and dehumanizing a prisoner, prisons in Nordic countries are designed to treat them as people with psychosocial needs that are to be carefully attended to. Prison workers fulfill a dual role of enforcer and social worker, balancing behavioral regulation with preparation for re-entry into society."

    They also have a category called "open prisons" more resembling college dorms and where the prisoners and guards eat together. The article shows pictures of their prisons and they sure don't look like ours. I don't believe this type of prison system could ever work in the USA because of our deeply rooted beliefs about punishment. Furthermore, our "prisons for profit" society of lobbyists would never allow this kind of thing to take hold. It would be a threat to the highly lucrative capitalist system of enslaving prisoners to make money. They would play the "fear card".

    Nevertheless, perhaps on an experimental basis at least, a more progressive state could construct and run a prison after the Sweden model to see if it works. I'm pretty sure what we have now is less then effective.

    Thoughts?
    Yes , in the Netherlands the same way; even get TV in their cells.
    I like to add that there is also no death penalty
  • Center Left
    Independent
    Central, FL
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    I saw a television show recently about mandatory minimum sentences in Florida.
    Pull a Gun 10 years
    Fire a Gun 20 years
    Shoot someone Life sentence (not sure if this means if killed)

    A man in Florida had a 17 year old daughter who was dating a Brash 17 year old. (later it was identified he had drug a violence issues). One night the boyfriend was arguing with the daughter on the front porch. 53 year old dad goes out to say his piece...... The large/strong 17 year old was very physical with the dad who agreed to return inside of the house. Both teens leave the property. Hours later, everyone is in bed when the 2 teens return. In the daughters room there is a big argument. The other daughter goes to dads room and says the BF was beating up the daughter. Dad comes out with his loaded 357......calls the boyfriend to the living room. BF refuses to leave the house. Dad fires a shot towards the BF and the bullet hits a leather strap that was on something the BF was wearing. The bullet goes through a wall in the house.
    Months go by. Teens are not seeing each other any longer. Someone tells the boy...... You could seriously get that man in trouble. They call the law. The man is arrested and charged.
    He could have used "Stand you ground" as his defense but neither he or his lawyer thought about that since he didn't actually shoot the kid. Based on the Mandatory Minimums....... Dad was sentenced to 20 years in jail. Dad expects he'll probably die in jail for just standing up for his daughter.
    Many years go by......... The man files an appeal. The Judge who hears the appeal decided he had to be loyal to the mandatory minimums in place. Appeal was denied.
    This story pissed of a lot of citizens. They are considering making changes to the law and the mandatory application of the sentencing.
    I don't know where it stands today but I think the old guy deserves a break because he was doing the right thing.
  • Independent
    Campbellsport, WI
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    What was the mans name?
  • Democrat
    Philadelphia, PA
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    jaredsxtn Wrote:
    johnnycee Wrote: There was no intent of a straw man argument , I was asking only for clarification of a viewpoint that I don't fully understand, because some of the criminals I have met during my career were mostly from impoverished families with very little parental support and with a complete disdain of authority,
    Do you think they may have a disdain of authority because they are constantly being harassed, arrested, and murdered by said authorities?
    johnnycee Wrote:some of these criminals received their high school education while in prison as well as medical attention on a some what regular basis, so prison was not necessarily seen as a form of punishment but merely as a pause in their life style. There are those who do not re-commit themselves to a life of crime but they are few in number ,and given my theory of the predatory society we live in, I hold firm to the notion that there are some individuals who need to be locked up..
    My guess is that the fifty percent of prisoners who wind back in prison do so because they are labeled with their Scarlet Letter and can't find a legitimate job. Add in the fact that we spend twice as much on prisons as we do education and you get my point. How do you expect former felons to turn their life around if you make it literally impossible for them to turn their lives around?
    I believe the disdain comes from their home where they also have a total lack of respect of both parental and school authorities, the police authority is just one more agency for them to get over on, you also should know that the crime rate in those communities is much higher than anywhere else in the city, so there is a higher proportion of a police presence there then elsewhere, so that means a higher rate of interaction between those people and the police, these areas are also prone to react more violently than others and many police officers go into these areas with that thought in mind, and I know from personal experience that many of these young offenders do not want to improve lives with a 9-5 job or a collage education, so many of them feel trapped in their communities and want only to aspire to being top dog on their turf. As for turning their lives around that is on the offenders time, and depending on the type of crime they were convicted of some never do because the public at large doesn't trust them and are always waiting for them to revert back to their former life style, which puts a lot of pressure on the ex-offender and depending on the offenders level of patience some can't wait for that approval and then they revert back to where they get a modicum of respect from their former peers. it's so easy to blame law enforcement for what ails society but when in fact the problem goes much deeper than that, so blaming or holding a viewpoint with such a simplistic view as .the police are to blame does not give justice or a hope of a solution to the problem.
  • Liberal
    Other Party
    Llos Angeles, CA
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    The seperation from society is the punishment.......anything after that is unneccessary.....therefore cruel and unusual.
  • Democrat
    Philadelphia, PA
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    L.A. Citizen Wrote: The seperation from society is the punishment.......anything after that is unneccessary.....therefore cruel and unusual.
    Since many of these individuals preyed on society removing them from that society is more of an inconvenience to them akin to being unemployed, while those in society who were preyed upon have a sense of relief that the individual is removed . As for anything else being cruel and unusual, as time is all that is given in a sentencing procedure, I don't know what you are referring to, but after their incarceration is over and whatever happens upon their return is not punishment or the continuation of their punishment but a chance for them to rebuild the trust that they feel they must have to be able to survive their re-introduction into society, no small feat as the stats themselves prove the failure rate of many ex-offenders.
  • Liberal
    Other Party
    Llos Angeles, CA
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    johnnycee Wrote:
    L.A. Citizen Wrote: The seperation from society is the punishment.......anything after that is unneccessary.....therefore cruel and unusual.
    Since many of these individuals preyed on society removing them from that society is more of an inconvenience to them akin to being unemployed, while those in society who were preyed upon have a sense of relief that the individual is removed . As for anything else being cruel and unusual, as time is all that is given in a sentencing procedure, I don't know what you are referring to, but after their incarceration is over and whatever happens upon their return is not punishment or the continuation of their punishment but a chance for them to rebuild the trust that they feel they must have to be able to survive their re-introduction into society, no small feat as the stats themselves prove the failure rate of many ex-offenders.
    That's my point,

    There are no pell grants, no education, no job training...NO NOTHING. There's nothing to look forward to with most inmates getting out. It's the very reason the recedivism rate is high.

    I had the ability to pay for my own college courses when I was in prison. I had the ability to shop every month.....there's many who don't. Prison is just a place where men are confined. Most of these guys are getting out eventually so it would be wise to train them. Prison doesn't have any type of effective mental health services. Basically you see the DOC and he prescribes psych meds,,,,They tranqualize as many as they can. That's the honest to god ( my gardener)truth.
    I've seen guys lose their minds.. One day they just lose it. Seriously, people out here claim they have anxiety....shit, in prison you skip anxiety and go straight bonkers. It has always amazed why guys will strip down naked and start running around like chickens when they lose it. Always the same pattern.
    That used to scare me because mental ilness can get anyone...especially in stressful situations. You just snap
    .
  • Liberal
    Independent
    Durham, NH
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    Jared is correct - there is no incentive to rehabilitate much less help inmates. The money is made in the prison system. More jobs created, more police needed, more prisons, more judges, lawyers, they all live off the suffering of the oppressed minirities!
  • Center Left Democrat
    Democrat
    Flagstaff, AZ
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    We've covered the abuses of the Correction Corporation of America already, but here's a brief summary:

    To date, 4 states have cancelled contracts with CCA due to mismanagement, but due to the company's support by ALEC, they still find favor in a lot of states. In Arizona, they control one sixth of the prison population, and they are paid for at least 90% occupancy even if the cells aren't being used.

    https://www.aclu.org/blog/prisoners-rights/corrections-corporation-america-loses-four-prison-contracts-month

    Arizona has historically one of the worst offenders when it comes to the funding of schools. Governor douche bag's proposed budget cuts cuts an ADDITIONAL $105.7 million from various education institutes, but ADDS $52.5 million to the Department of Corrections.

    Like many Republican governors, Governor Ducey is focusing on the wrong priorities, as evidenced by the fact that he thinks he can cure a $520 million deficit by CUTTING TAXES.

    That approach wasn't exactly a resounding success in Kansas.