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Rebecca Gordon: Arresting Our Way to "Justice"
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The figures boggle the mind. Approximately 11 million Americans cycle through our jails and prisons each year (including a vast “pre-trial population” of those arrested and not convicted and those who simply can’t make bail). At any moment, according to the Prison Policy Initiative, there are more than 2.3 million people in our “1,719 state prisons, 102 federal prisons, 942 juvenile correctional facilities, 3,283 local jails, and 79 Indian Country jails as well as in military prisons, immigration detention facilities, civil commitment centers, and prisons in the U.S. territories.” In some parts of the country, there are more people in jail than at college.

If you want a partial explanation for this, keep in mind that there are cities in this country that register more arrests for minor infractions each year than inhabitants. Take Ferguson, Missouri, now mainly known as the home of Michael Brown, the unarmed black teenager shot and killed in 2014 by a town policeman. The Harvard Law Review reported that, in 2013, Ferguson had a population of 22,000. That same year “its municipal court issued 32,975 arrest warrants for nonviolent offenses,” or almost one-and-a-half arrests per inhabitant.

And then there are the conditions in which all those recordbreaking numbers of people live in our jails and prisons. At any given time, 80,000 to 100,000 inmates in state and federal prisons are held in “restrictive housing” (aka solitary confinement). And those numbers don’t even include county jails, deportation centers, and juvenile justice institutions. Rikers Island, New York City’s infamous jail complex in its East River, has 990 solitary cells. And keep in mind that solitary confinement — being stuck in a six-by-nine or eight-by-10-foot cell for 23 or 24 hours a day — is widely recognized as a form of psychosis-inducing torture.

And that, of course, is just to begin to explore America’s vast and ever-expanding prison universe. The fact is that it’s hard to fathom even the basics of the American urge to lock people away in vast numbers, which is why today TomDispatch regular Rebecca Gordon focuses instead on what it might mean for justice in this country if we started to consider alternatives to prison.

(Republished from TomDispatch by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Ideology • Tags: American Prisons, Crime 
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  1. Anonymous [AKA "AhnenBlut"] says:

    Remember, Michael Brown attacked the officer in questioning. You make it sound like he was innocent. Most of the black people killed by police more than deserve what they got. The police have the right to protect themselves.

  2. The fact is that it’s hard to fathom even the basics of the American urge to lock people away in vast numbers,

    People are locked up in prison because they engage in habitual crime, and prison segregates habitual criminals from non-criminals, so criminals aren’t tempted to perpetrate their illicit trade on innocents.

    I’d argue that the US should go in the opposite direction, and lock up all leftist for pre-crime, for promoting their national socialism and anti-constitutional laws and incessant wars for Israel and diversity-democracy.

    More leftist in prison mean less crime and less leftist voting for illegal laws and less PC tyranny.

    Leftist in prison can receive the free government goods and service they demand and cherish, and decent people can live their life with less concern for criminals.

    Federal prisons are an ideal existence for a leftist, because everything they cherish is free in a prison.



    Free food
    Free clean water and showers
    Free shelter
    Free medical
    Free dental
    Free washed clothes and free shoes
    Free toiletries
    Free Public Transportation
    Free Birth Control
    Free transsexual operations
    Free 24 hour security
    Free TV
    Free no-qualification jobs
    Free education
    Lots of anal and oral sodomy
    Lots of left wing friends
    Disarmed civilians
    Hate speech officially suppressed
    Free Athletic Equipment Access
    Cultural and ethnic diversity
    Pay no Taxes
    Freedom from Religion
    Solitary Safe Spaces
    Free Books and magazines
    Free Mental Health counseling and therapies
    Free drug counseling and therapies

  3. Sorry. My Pop taught me the notions of Law, Order, punishment, like that. Even Blacks knew the rules many decades back. Sorry about solitary, sorry about jail, confinement, arrests. The protests of late aren’t about injustice of the police, not at heart. What they’re really about is conditioning us law and order types to accept a certain level of crime. It would be fine, except now those types bring their bad behavior out to us. And so, they go to jail? At what point do they get the message? I don’t care if we have to put half their population in jail. What’s the message, stop arresting? Stop jailing? Sounds like the Black Baby Mamas, their monster sons in jail for multiple murders, complaining about the “warehousing of Black men”. Are you kidding?

    These folks are madmen, murderers, thieves. Even at 17, look at the unmitigated evil of Michael Brown. At 17, he already needed to be jailed for life, we just didn’t know it yet. Imagine having that horror show in your midst for years, harassing, bullying, extorting. Darren Wilson was just the Karma that butt wad walked into. Sooner or later, Michael Brown was going to take his Ghetto Chops out for a test-spin against a cop. And so there he is, in a box, 6 feet under, looking up at a perfect darkness. Tens of thousands of them dead, at the hands of cops or just neighborhood foes, how many since the advent of Rap?

    Look at the evil wrought so a handful of Blacks could enrich themselves and enrage others. Except for the hassle it causes everyone to this day, I think it works out rather well when monsters are slain. Trayvon, too. All of them. If any of them had redeeming qualities, they would have been working THOSE out instead of celebrating and exercising evil. I know they all want forbearance, sympathy maybe. Myself? I’ve had a pantload, I’m tired. Negroe Fatigue, some people call it. They’re on my “Got no time for” list.

    Look for sympathy in the dictionary, now as always, between the words “shit” and “syphilis”.

  4. Tell you what Tom, I’ll spring for one new micro house if I can get ten other UNZ readers to do the same and if you’ll set them up over by your place so we can put an inmate (on probation that we get them put on pursuant to a plan you submit to the local judges) in each one of them rent free.

  5. I have a solution:

    I read on Zillow that Puerto Rico is in pre-forclosure and will soon be vacant and available as a fixer-upper.

    Uncle Sam should buy it. We can swing the mortgage, it’s just another payment.

    Then everyone who insists on behaving like savages need not be put in prison. Just give them (and their families, if they want to stay together) a ride to PR, drop them off and point out that they are persona non grata now in the CONUS and if they show back up anyone can bring them in, dead or alive, and get a nice bounty.

    Bada-bing, bada-boom. Crime in the USA plummets, because (surprise) it’s perpetrated by a small fraction of the populace. Dump them somewhere else and the crime goes with them. As an added bonus, the only taxpayer cost is the outbound trip.

    Yes, this would fall disproportionately on people of mostly African ancestry, but they’re already “sun people” so the Caribbean is an ideal and healthier place for them than is, for instance, Chicago.

    FTR, I’m not kidding. The only way to have a peaceful society is to get RID of those who insist on making it un-peaceful. Exile or execution are the only surefire ways to eliminate the revolving door of violent criminality represented by THIS CLOWN:

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