Saturday, 6 February 2010

I knew the U.S prison system was fucked but really...?!

Merrily watching a knowledge based comedy panel show in the U.K called QI (I highly recommend it) the mood in the studio changed from fun frivolity to tense, silent shock and disgust as the host, Stephen Fry, started reading some stats regarding the american prison system.  This is off the top of my head so forgive slight inaccuracies...

1 in 99.2 Americans are in Jail... some 2.3 million people.  That is a higher proportion than South Africa, Iran, China, Russia... anywhere in the world in fact!  Now I knew this already... it was the following that had the place shocked...

Prison labour is responsible for the production of 100% of U.S bullets, flak jackets and helmets as well as producing other military equipment.  They produce 70% of paint and 36% of household appliances.  In fact, there is so much cheap labour that it allows American companies to compete with those who use cheap foreign labour in Mexico.

If they dont work, they get put in Solitary confinement. 

OK, so here we have the capitalist system incentivising ever more prisoners to satisfy what is in effect a modern slave trade.  That they are predominently Black does nothing to assuage that comparison... 1 in 9 young, black men are in jail.

The outrageous 3 strikes and your out rule means that someone who stole four cookies got life.  The argument for three strikes rests on the assumption that that wouldn't happen.   Having a system rest on nothing more than what should be rational is the most stupid, unworkable system I could think of. 

That is beyond dark.  That is fucking 18th century shit.  How on earth is this tolerated?  Surely it either means that a) America has the culture most specifically suited to create criminals in the world or b) the numbers are inflated through racism and financial incentives to imprison people for slave labour and government contracts.

Either way it's Lose/Lose. 


On another note, here in the UK four of our MP's have decided that in order to worm out of the criminal charges laid at their door for expenses fraud, they should use 'parliamentary priviledge' to argue it is a matter for parliament, not the criminal courts.

'Parliamentary priviledge' dates back to the 17th century and essentially protects them from being libelled for anything they may say in parliament.  It is an important rule, allowing MP's freedom to raise issues and questions in the House.

By using it to try and cover their asses on fraud is an absolute disgrace.  It is as good as admitting that they think they are above the law.  It is yet another nail in the coffin of public perception of MP's.

If anyone in America wants to know how you get all the public against all the government?  LOOK INTO THEIR EXPENSES! Over half of our MP's have been forced to pay back more than £1.2m.  I'd be very surprised if it wasn't the same in every democratic government.  It's good fodder at times of recession... expecially if those expenses include 'cleaning the moat' (I shit you not...!)


Anonymous said...

To be honest, I dont see why prisoners don't work while doing time. At least they become in some way productive to society. Now whether it is to help private enterprise is a different argument; I would be more comfortable if their work produced some direct social benefit.
Something we should adopt in the uk.

Ben King said...

I totally agree. I think the best thing for prisoners to do is to do work that has visable, positive, satisfying effects for their local community, or the local community of the victim.

Putting them to work for the private sector accomplishes nothing. It's no different to the sort of low income jobs they would otherwise be forced into. Plus, if its the only way for private companies to continue competing against cheap foreign labour then the system is tying itself to this method.

Profit shouldn't come in to it. Did you hear about that judge that was receiving kick backs from the juvenile facility resulting in him sending kids there for pathetic reasons? A Judge for crying out loud.

Money is a corrupter. It should be well away from the prison system entirely.