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Some Reflections on Incarceration in The US

The US has by far the world’s largest prison population by both numbers and proportion.
LINK

Like many, I find this trend disturbing.

-Prisoners are captive consumers just like compulsory K-12 students or soldiers. They’re worth a lot of money to commercial interests at taxpayer expense. Imagine how it must feel as a company owner to win a contract for thousands of people who can never say ‘no’ to your products. Perverse incentives at work.

-It does not bode well when a society remains stable only by keeping over 1% of its entire population in cages.

But are most other lands any better?
I can think of reasons why other country’s prison populations may be so much smaller.

-In areas where police are corrupt and slow to respond, vigilante or crowd justice is the norm. The perp is long dead by the time the police get there to make an arrest, if they decide to come.
-Police simply kill people who piss them off. If anyone asks. “They were running away.”
-Prisons in many other countries have much fewer people in them at any one time because of a much higher “turnover rate.” That is many more inmates are killed from grinding labor, uncontrolled violence between prison gangs, organ harvesting, inadequate food and health care, wardens simply deciding they’ve had enough from an inmate and arranging for an accident.

Not to say these things don’t also happen in the US. But in many third world nations, these sorts of things are accepted parts of life as opposed to abuses of the rules.

Dear readers, any of your own reflections, leads/statistics on this matter?

4 responses to “Some Reflections on Incarceration in The US

  1. eric June 11, 2012 at 9:12 pm

    The US is one of the few countries that has the resources to keep so many people locked up and maintain order. It’s actually quite difficult to keep people locked up that don’t want to be locked up without killing them. Also our culture is more individualistic on average, so getting convictions is easier without the threat of nepotism. Though at this point that’s no longer true in all of the US.

    http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=c2d_1309960395
    http://www.texasobserver.org/lalinea/in-juarez-the-inmates-run-the-asylum
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pavon_Prison
    Pavon Prison (officially referred to as Granja Penal de Pavón) is a prison in Guatemala. It is located outside the town of Fraijanes near Guatemala City. It was built in the late 70’s and over time it became overcrowded and authorities decided to only control the perimeters of the prison and let the prisoners run the interior on their own.
    Since 1996, a society developed, with cocaine operations run by Colombian drug lords incarcerated there.

    Authorities regain control

    On Monday September 25, 2006, 3000 police and military forces overran the prison and reestablished authority. Seven inmates were killed. Among those killed was Luis Zepeda, a leader of the inmates and the head of the prison government.

    • Giovanni Dannato June 12, 2012 at 2:53 am

      Yeah it occurred to me that only the US has the luxury of locking up that many people.

      Where there’s less wealth, there’s also far less patience for a difficult 1% of the population.
      People just don’t have the time or resources to put up with it.

      So I guess I’m wondering about insights, statistics about whether in most societies these 1% tend to just end up dead through various social mechanisms rather than locked up.
      Because google search just turns up the usual demagoguery and dogma.

      I hate the exploitative US system, but I also don’t want to indulge in the sort of deluded romanticism about the rest of the world these newspapers wallow in. Mass societies in general tend to be pretty awful.

      • eric June 12, 2012 at 4:34 am

        Like Chechen’s versus Russians? They have militias that chase off or intimidate any potential trouble makers. Gangs are essentially the law enforcement because government doesn’t do their job. Others get put into refugee camps or mass graves.

        Maybe like how the gypsies are treated in Eastern Europe? Some hospitals in Slovakia got in trouble for forcibly sterilizing gypsies, for instance.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antiziganism

        “Despite the low birth rate in the country, Bulgaria’s Health Ministry was considering a law aimed at lowering the birth rate of certain minority groups, particularly the Romanis, owing to the high mortality rate among Romani families, which are typically large. This was later abandoned because of conflict with EU law and the Bulgarian constitution”

        http://www.errc.org/article/silent-attack-a-campaign-of-sterilisation-of-romani-women/620

  2. zhai2nan2 June 12, 2012 at 5:25 am

    Eric pretty much scooped me on the major issue. The USA is rich and has been corrupt for more than 100 years. Thus it has the resources to build prisons for profit.

    Further, the USA has insane pseudo-Puritanism, materialistic hedonism, and extreme racial disharmony.

    More racially coherent and Confucian countries – Japan comes to mind – are far from Utopian. But at least everyone is on the same page.

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