A converted prison gymnasium at San Quentin, 2007
|Interest of||Josh Begley|
Prisons are places where people are held against their will, typically by authorities, generally as a result of a legal infraction or on grounds of poor mental health, although Illegal detention is increasingly used on suspected "terrorists". Prisons around the world vary widely in appearance.
The official narrative is rather confused on this point. Wikipedia lists several justifications for locking up people, with little in the way of empirical evidence. As with its partner institution, school, discussion is encourage about how it should happen rather than why or whether.
As Ivan Illich, Angela Davis and others have argued, the evidence appears to show that such treatment tends to promote rather than reduce crime, so makes sense only from a point of view of retribution rather than harm reduction or damage restoration.
The number of people imprisoned under state and federal custody increased 772% percent between 1970 and 2009, largely due to the incredible influence private corporations wield against the American legal system.
War on Drugs
- Full article: “War on Drugs”
- Full article: “War on Drugs”
The "War on Drugs" has provided a huge boost to prisoner numbers (now around half US prisoners are incarcerated for non-violent drug offences), and allowed prison populations to keep growing even as rates of other crimes dropped.
The singular position of the self-styled 'land of the free' deserves special mention in an article on prisons, since it has lead the global "war on drugs", which has been a boon to the private prison industry. The US locks up more people than any other country, both proportionally and in absolute numbers.
In 2012, almost 160,000 US prisoners were serving life sentences. Of these, 49,000 are serving life without possibility of parole, an increase of 22% since 2008. The ACLU reported that over 3000 of these were for minor, non-violent crimes, for example theft of a jacket valued at $159. The reports wrote that the US was “virtually alone in its willingness to sentence non-violent offenders to die behind bars.” Life without parole for nonviolent sentences has been ruled a violation of human rights by the European Court of Human Rights.
Confining people against their will uses up a lot of resources, and so in this age of privatised prisons allows a small number of people to garner immense profits, providing an incentive to increase incarceration rates. Some judges have been found to be involved in corrupt "cash-for-prisoners" scams.
In 2015, EFF reported that a FOIA request had revealed at least one inmate in a South Carolina prison was receiving more than 37 years in isolation for using Facebook. In 2015, an autopsy of Samuel Harrell revealed that he died not, as authorities had claimed an overdose of synthetic marijuana (K2), but of homicide after "physical altercation with corrections officers" (interviews suggested that as many as 20 corrections officers kicked, punched and dragged him down a flight of stairs while he was handcuffed).
|Rheinwiesenlager||US army run concentration camps in Western Germany|
|Document:The Economics of Incarceration||article||5 February 2012||Nile Bowie||"The number of people imprisoned under state and federal custody increased 772% percent between 1970 and 2009, largely due to the incredible influence private corporations wield against the American legal system..."|
- Document:The Economics of Incarceration