Monday, May 11, 2009

For a change

As I've been too busy to blog, I've been similarly too busy to keep up to date with The Nation. So I'm attempting to catch up by reading the May 4th issue, which arrived some time in late April as is the magazine's wont.

Shockingly, I really connected with Alexander Cockburn's Beat the Devil column, Dead Souls. The man is usually so far beyond the obnoxious level that even if I agree with what he says I can't stomach admitting it. But this week, or rather last week which actually arrived the previous week, he had a lot of good shit to say and didn't piss me off more than one or two times, and those mostly out of habit.

Life without the possibility of parole (LWOP) is unbelievably shitty as an option for someone's sentence, especially in light of how rarely lifers with the possibility of parole get out. Since the link apparently takes you to a subscribers-only page, I'll give out for free some of his numbers:

In 2007, there were approximately 30,000 people serving life sentences with the possibility of parole. The parole board found 172 of those people "suitable for parole." Then the Governator reversed 115 of the parole decisions, sent back 18 for further review, and "modified" (what that means I have no idea) 2. Leaving a whopping 37 people serving life sentences who got a chance at parole.


What is the benefit, then, of a sentence of LWOP, if it makes a difference only in, say, 15 out of 30,000 cases? The psychological harm it does to a person to let hir know that ze will be there forever is noted and, I assume, empirically verified (big assumption, I know).

I was having trouble wrapping my head around these numbers, so I translated the number of people into a number of days. Imagine getting two or three weeks off from work every 100 years. This is the scale we're talking about.

I don't have a solution to the prison-industrial complex to offer. Maybe y'all do; I'd love to hear 'em. But it's important, I feel, to remember that people who commit crimes are still people.


Ahma Daeus said...

A “SINGLE VOICE PROJECT” is the official name of the petition sponsored by: The National Public Service Council To Abolish Private Prisons (NPSCTAPP)


The National Public Service Council To Abolish Private Prisons (NPSCTAPP) is a grass roots organization driven by a single objective. We want the United States government to reclaim sole authority for state and federal prisons on US soil.
We want the United States Congress to immediately rescind all state and federal contracts that permit private prisons “for profit” to exist in the United States, or any place subject to its jurisdiction. We understand that the problems that currently plague our government, its criminal justice system and in particular, the state & federal bureau of prisons (and most correctional and rehabilitation facilities) are massive. However, it is our solemn belief that the solutions for prison reform will remain unattainable and virtually impossible as long as private prisons for profit are permitted to operate in America.

Prior to the past month, and the fiasco of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, AIG, Lehman Brothers, and now the “Big Three” American Automobile manufacturers, the NPSCTAPP has always felt compelled to highlight the “moral Bottom line” when it comes to corrections and privatization. Although, we remain confounded by the reality that our government has allowed our justice system to be operated by private interests. The NPSCTAPP philosophy has always been “justice” should not be for sale at any price. It is our belief that the inherent and most fundamental responsibility of the criminal justice system should not be shirked, or “jobbed-out.” This is not the same as privatizing the post office or some trash pick up service in the community. There has to be a loss of meaning and purpose when an inmate looks at a guard’s uniform and instead of seeing an emblem that reads State Department of Corrections or Federal Bureau of Prisons, he sees one that says: “Atlas Prison Corporation.”

Let’s assume that the real danger of privatization is not some innate inhumanity on the part of its practitioners but rather the added financial incentives that reward inhumanity. The same logic that motivates companies to operate prisons more efficiently also encourages them to cut corners at the expense of workers, prisoners and the public. Every penny they do not spend on food, medical care or training for guards is a dime they can pocket. What happens when the pennies pocketed are not enough for the shareholders? Who will bailout the private prison industry when they hold the government and the American people hostage with the threat of financial failure…“bankruptcy?” What was unimaginable a month ago merits serious consideration today. State and Federal prison programs originate from government design, and therefore, need to be maintained by the government. It’s time to restore the principles and the vacated promise of our judicial system.

John F. Kennedy said, “The time to repair the roof is while the sun is shinning”. Well the sun may not be shinning but, it’s not a bad time to begin repair on a dangerous roof that is certain to fall…. because, “Incarcerating people for profit is, in a word WRONG”

There is an urgent need for the good people of this country to emerge from the shadows of cynicism, indifference, apathy and those other dark places that we migrate to when we are overwhelmed by frustration and the loss of hope.
It is our hope that you will support the NPSCTAPP with a show of solidarity by signing our petition. We intend to assemble a collection of one million signatures, which will subsequently be attached to a proposition for consideration. This proposition will be presented to both, the Speaker Of The House Of Representatives (Nancy Pelosi) and the United States Congress.

Please Help Us. We Need Your Support. Help Us Spread The Word About This Monumental And Courageous Challenge To Create Positive Change. Place The Link To The Petition On Your Website! Pass It On!

The SINGLE VOICE PETITION and the effort to abolish private “for profit” prisons is the sole intent of NPSCTAPP. Our project does not contain any additional agendas. We have no solutions or suggestions regarding prison reform. However, we are unyielding in our belief that the answers to the many problems which currently plague this nation’s criminal justice system and its penal system in particular, cannot and will not be found within or assisted by the private “for profit” prison business. The private “for profit” prison business has a stranglehold on our criminal justice system. Its vice-like grip continues to choke the possibility of justice, fairness, and responsibility from both state and federal systems.
These new slave plantations are not the answer!

For more information please visit: or email:
To sign the petition please visit:


William Thomas
National Community Outreach Facilitator
The National Public Service Council To Abolish Private Prisons
P.O. Box 156423
San Francisco, California 94115

ronzor said...

When a felon's not engaged in his employment...