northanger (northanger) wrote,
northanger
northanger

The Prison Industrial Complex

in 2003 a judge heard the appeal of an inmate and recommended he be set free or a reason given why he still remained imprisoned. in 2004, probably due to severe backlog, this inmate did not receive a hearing before the parole board. last saturday, quite by surprise, a new lawyer working pro bono informed this inmate that he had a hearing on wednesday and, after looking at his file, could see no reason why he still remained in prison. probably sometime that night or in the next few days a few guards, and even the warden, advised him of things to do (like get a driver's license) once he got released — everyone was so sure. they deliberated from 11am to 5pm and the two women, speaking highly for this inmate, looked as if they had aged five years when this man was called back in to hear he was denied parole. the board ignored the judge's order listening to the testimony given by the santa clara district attorney. today (thursday) his wife called me with her husband on the phone ... and he thanked me. and he prayed. and i said amen.

time is a funny thing ... we came in chains & we remain in chains. is it because that's all we know?

The Prison Industrial Complex @ talkingdrum.com

Peace And Revolutionary Greetings, This Page Is A Attempt At Raising The Consciousness Level To The Profit Motive Behind Warehousing, Incarcerating And Enslaving Of TheThe Poor, Orchestrated By The Government, For Multinational Corporations... POWER TO THE PEOPLE!...Web Brother Jacuma.

Correctional officials see danger in prison overcrowding. Others see opportunity. The nearly two million U.S. citizens behind bars the majority of them nonviolent offenders mean jobs for depressed regions and windfalls for profiteers

New Folsom

In the hills east of Sacramento, California, Folsom State Prison stands beside a man-made lake, surrounded by granite walls built by inmate laborers. The gun towers have peaked roofs and Gothic stonework that give the prison the appearance of a medieval fortress, ominous and forbidding. For more than a century Folsom and San Quentin were the end of the line in California's penal system they were the state's only maximum security penitentiaries. During the early 1980s, as California's inmate population began to climb, Folsom became dangerously overcrowded. Fights between inmates ended in stabbings six or seven times a week. The poor sight lines within the old cell blocks put correctional officers at enormous risk. From 1984 to 1994 California built eight new maximum security (Level 4) facilities. The bullet holes in the ceilings of Folsom's cell blocks, left by warning shots, are the last traces of the prison's violent years. Today Folsom is a medium security (Level 2) facility, filled with the kind of inmates that correctional officers consider "soft." No one has been stabbed to death at Folsom in almost four years. Among its roughly 3,800 inmates are some 500 murderers, 250 child molesters, and an assortment of rapists, armed robbers, drug dealers, burglars, and petty thieves. The cells in Housing Unit 1 are stacked five stories high, like boxes in a vast warehouse glimpses of hands and arms and faces, of flickering TV screens, are visible between the steel bars. Folsom now houses almost twice as many inmates as it was designed to hold. The machine shop at the prison, run by inmates, manufactures steel frames for double bunks and triple bunks in addition to license plates. Less than a quarter mile from the old prison is the California State Prison at Sacramento, known as "New Folsom," which houses about 3,000 Level 4 inmates. They are the real hard cases: violent predators, gang members, prisoners unable to "program" well at other facilities, unable to obey the rules. New Folsom does not have granite walls. It has a "death wire electrified fence," set between two ordinary chain link fences, that administers a lethal dose of 5,100 volts at the slightest touch. The architecture of New Folsom is stark and futuristic. The buildings have smooth gray concrete façades, unadorned except for narrow slits for cell windows. Approximately a third of the inmates are serving life sentences more than a thousand have committed at least one murder, nearly 500 have committed armed robbery, and nearly 200 have committed assault with a deadly weapon.

Inmates were placed in New Folsom while it was still under construction. The prison was badly overcrowded even before it was finished, in 1987. It has at times housed more than 300 inmates in its gymnasiums. New Folsom like old Folsom, and like the rest of the California prison system now operates at roughly double its intended capacity. Over the past twenty years the State of California has built twenty one new prisons, added thousands of cells to existing facilities, and increased its inmate population eight fold. Nonviolent offenders have been responsible for most of that increase. The number of drug offenders imprisoned in the state today is more than twice the number of inmates who were imprisoned for all crimes in 1978. California now has the biggest prison system in the Western industrialized world, a system 40 percent bigger than the Federal Bureau of Prisons. The state holds more inmates in its jails and prisons than do France, Great Britain, Germany, Japan, Singapore, and the Netherlands combined. The California Department of Corrections predicts that at the current rate of expansion, barring a court order that forces a release of prisoners, it will run out of room eighteen months from now. Simply to remain at double capacity the state will need to open at least one new prison a year, every year, for the foreseeable future. {more}

Liberal Legacy

The origins of the prison industrial complex can be dated to January of 1973. Senator Barry Goldwater had used the fear of crime to attract white middle class voters a decade earlier, and Richard Nixon had revived the theme during the 1968 presidential campaign, but little that was concrete emerged from their demands for law and order. On the contrary, Congress voted decisively in 1970 to eliminate almost all federal mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders. Leading members of both political parties applauded the move. Mainstream opinion considered drug addiction to be largely a public health problem, not an issue for the criminal courts. The Federal Bureau of Prisons was preparing to close large penitentiaries in Georgia, Kansas, and Washington. From 1963 to 1972 the number of inmates in California had declined by more than a fourth, despite the state's growing population. The number of inmates in New York had fallen to its lowest level since at least 1950. Prisons were widely viewed as a barbaric and ineffective means of controlling deviant behavior. Then, on January 3, 1973, Nelson Rockefeller, the governor of New York, gave a State of the State address demanding that every illegal drug dealer be punished with a mandatory prison sentence of life without parole. {more}

Big Business

The black-and-white photograph shows an inmate leaning out of a prison cell, scowling at the camera, his face partially hidden in the shadows. "HOW HE GOT IN IS YOUR BUSINESS," the ad copy begins. "HOW HE GETS OUT IS OURS." The photo is on the cover of a glossy brochure promoting AT&T's prison telephone service, which is called The Authority. Bell South has a similar service, called MAX, advertised with a photo of a heavy steel chain dangling from a telephone receiver in place of a cord. The ad promises "long distance service that lets inmates go only so far." Although the phone companies rely on clever copy in their ads, providing telephone service to prisons and jails has become a serious, highly profitable business. The nearly two million inmates in the United States are ideal customers: phone calls are one of their few links to the outside world most of their calls must be made collect and they are in no position to switch long distance carriers. A pay phone at a prison can generate as much as $15,000 a year about five times the revenue of a typical pay phone on the street. It is estimated that inmate calls generate a billion dollars or more in revenues each year. The business has become so lucrative that MCI installed its inmate phone service, Maximum Security, throughout the California prison system at no charge. As part of the deal it also offered the California Department of Corrections a 32 percent share of all the revenues from inmates' phone calls. MCI Maximum Security adds a $3.00 surcharge to every call, When free enterprise intersects with a captive market, abuses are bound to occur. MCI Maximum Security and North American Intelecom have both been caught overcharging for calls made by inmates in one state MCI was adding an additional minute to every call. {more}

Bed Brokers and Man Days

Last year a videotape of beatings at a private correctional facility in Texas provoked a great deal of controversy. The tape showed correctional officers at the Brazoria County Detention Center kicking inmates who were lying on the floor, shooting inmates with a stun gun, and ordering a police dog to attack them. The inmates had been convicted of crimes in Missouri, but were occupying rented cells in rural Texas. One of the correctional officers in the video had previously lost his job at a Texas state prison and served time on federal charges for beating an inmate. The Brazoria County videotape received nationwide publicity and prompted Missouri to cancel its contract with Capital Correctional Resources, the private company operating the facility. But the beatings were unusual only because they were captured on tape. Incidents far more violent and surreal have become almost commonplace in the private prisons of Texas. {more}

The Mega-Prison

About 200 inmates were in the A yard at New Folsom when I visited not long ago. They were playing soft-ball and handball, sitting on rocks, standing in small groups, smoking, laughing, jogging around the perimeter. Three unarmed correctional officers casually kept an eye on things, like elementary school teachers during recess. The yard was about 300 feet long and 250 feet wide, with more dirt than grass, and it was hot, baking hot. The heat of the sun bounced off the gray concrete walls enclosing the yard. "These are the sensitive guys," a correctional officer told me, describing the men in Facility A. Most of them had killed, raped, committed armed robberies, or misbehaved at other prisons, but now they were trying to stay out of trouble. Some were former gang members some were lifers because of a third strike; some were getting too old for prison violence some were in protective custody because of their celebrity, their snitching, or their previous occupation. A few of the inmates on the yard were former police officers. As word spread that I was a journalist, groups of inmates followed me and politely approached, eager to talk. Lieutenant Billy Mayfield, New Folsom's press officer, graciously kept his distance, allowing the prisoners to speak freely. [Corcoran State Prison @ California Prison Focus & wikipedia] {more}

Factories for Crime

LEXIS de Tocqueville's Democracy in America is one of the most famous books ever written about the politics and culture of the United States. The original purpose of Tocqueville's 1831 journey to this country is less well known. He came to tour its prisons on behalf of the French government. The United States at the time was renowned in Europe for having created a whole new social institution: the penitentiary. In New York and Pennsylvania prisons were being designed not to punish inmates but to reform them. Solitary confinement, silence, and hard work were imposed in order to encourage spiritual and moral change. At some penitentiaries officials placed hoods over the heads of newcomers to isolate them from other inmates. After visiting American prisons Tocqueville and his traveling companion, Gustave de Beaumont, wrote that social reformers in the United States had been swept up in "the monomania of the penitentiary system," convinced that prisons were "a remedy for all the evils of society." {more}

Links: Prison @ wikipedia | Prison-industrial complex | Prison Advocacy in a Time of Capital Disaccumulation | Private Prisons & Prison Labor | The Prison-Industrial Complex @ Atlantic Monthly (must be subscriber) | Prisons: A Social Crime & Failure | Quotations related to Prisons and Justice (Word)

How is it possible that penal systems could have expanded so rapidly and that corporate interests could have become so ensconced in punishment practices without a significant critical discourse developing? —Angela Davis

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