16
   

Is prison labor unethical?

 
 
Reply Sun 22 Jun, 2014 10:02 am
I was browsing buzzfeed this morning and came across the headline "8 Artisanal Foods You Didn’t Know Were Made By Prisoners" and made a note to go back and look at it.

I was thinking to myself that if I was locked up in prison I'd probably enjoy working at making some fancy food, or working on a farm, or really anything other than sitting around staring at the walls for big chunks of time. I thought it might be a good idea to support programs like this so that prisoners had something to do.

Then I read this:

Quote:
Forty-one states have participated in the program as of December 2013, according to the most recent quarterly report. The National Institute of Justice claims the program prepares inmates for life outside and lowers recidivism rates.

But critics say the program is exploitative and takes jobs away from non-incarcerated workers to benefit prisons, which can withhold as much as 80% of prisoners’ pay for restitution and incarceration costs. Plus, inmates have no benefits or recourse if they’re mistreated.

Both massive corporations and boutique companies take advantage of the cheap labor — and the chance to say their product is “made in the USA” without specifying exactly where.


Now I'm not so sure it's a good idea.

What say you, oh A2Kers?

Edit: here's the article: http://www.buzzfeed.com/katiejmbaker/artisanal-products-you-didnt-know-were-made-by-prisoners
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Type: Question • Score: 16 • Views: 6,515 • Replies: 84

 
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Sun 22 Jun, 2014 10:05 am
I say get new management and give the prisoners benefits and humane treatment. If they just sit around in the cells, they get restless and have more time to think negative thoughts and possibly plan new crimes for when they get released.
boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Sun 22 Jun, 2014 10:12 am
@edgarblythe,
Most American workers don't have benefits.

Prisoners at least get health care.

I wonder if a portion is paid into Social Security....
edgarblythe
 
  2  
Reply Sun 22 Jun, 2014 10:21 am
@boomerang,
Prisoners need lots of support, because few trust them anymore and it is extra hard to get out and go straight.
0 Replies
 
Ragman
 
  1  
Reply Sun 22 Jun, 2014 10:46 am
@boomerang,
They may not get paid a 'proper' salary exactly in the technical sense. They're productive and earning, though. That is an important step for self-esteem and building a person's character.
0 Replies
 
Sturgis
 
  6  
Reply Sun 22 Jun, 2014 11:15 am
@boomerang,
No problem with those incarcerated doing these sorts of things since it beats the alternative of sitting around or getting into fights. This will also give them an actual skill which may come in handy towards employment once they're released. Many times (all too often) the job 'training' programs lead nowhere as the skills taught have nothing to do with anything available on the outside.

As for benefits, sure the pay is low, however they do get a place to stay, they have medical if needed, they receive meals. There are thousands of homeless folks who by not committing any crime, have none of those things. These men and women are in prison, they are not supposed to be making a fortune.

The one thing which should be though, is having it indicated on packaging where the items come from. Sure some people would not buy if they knew; others however would and some might even buy the product just because it was created by a prisoner and this would be a step towards helping get that guy or gal back into the mainstream.


Ragman
 
  1  
Reply Sun 22 Jun, 2014 12:20 pm
@Sturgis,
well said/written.
0 Replies
 
boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Sun 22 Jun, 2014 12:50 pm
@Sturgis,
Quote:
some might even buy the product just because it was created by a prisoner and this would be a step towards helping get that guy or gal back into the mainstream.


This is what I was thinking I might do until I read that there was such criticisms about prison labor.
0 Replies
 
Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Sun 22 Jun, 2014 01:26 pm
@boomerang,
In Germany, according to the Prison Act - Act concerning the Execution of Prison Sentences and Measures of Rehabilitation and Prevention involving Deprivation of Liberty, prisoners have to work:
Quote:
Section 41
Duty to Work

(1) The prisoner shall be obliged to perform the work allocated to him and in keeping with his physical abilities, or work-therapeutic or other occupation which he is able to perform owing to his physical state. For up to three months a year he may be obliged to perform some auxiliary work in the institution, and if he consents also for a longer period. The first and second sentences shall not apply to prisoners who are older than 65 years, nor to expectant mothers or mothers nursing a baby, as far as there are statutory provisions prohibiting employment in order to protect mothers who are gainfully employed.

Especially in youth prisons, it's quite successful that prisoners can make an apprenticeship in various professions.
Instead of working, they can get school/college (in prison schools) and university qualifications (Open University).

Nearly all prisons have now online shops.

What is a big problem though, really is the paying.
Depending on the work and how many hours they, differing a little bit from state to state, they get on average $ 400 per month. 2/3 of that can be used for shopping in the prison shop, the rest is given when leaving prison.
Those, who can't/don't work, get $ 40/month as "pocket money".
Day release prisoners are paid according the relevant tariff but have to pay for the "B&B" in prison.
roger
 
  1  
Reply Sun 22 Jun, 2014 01:29 pm
@Walter Hinteler,
Yeah, but I bet you don't have anything like Parchman Farm.
0 Replies
 
bobsal u1553115
 
  1  
Reply Sun 22 Jun, 2014 11:34 pm
@boomerang,
Yes it is. It is slavery.
Finn dAbuzz
 
  1  
Reply Mon 23 Jun, 2014 12:31 am
@Sturgis,
Agree completely with you.

As for "taking" 80% of the prisoner's pay, I see nothing wrong with prisoners contributing towards covering the costs of their incarceration, and this is an excellent way to ensure that the restitution element of their sentence is actually met. Restitution is for the benefit of the victims of the prisoners' crimes. I can't imagine why anyone would have a problem with restitution and this process can help ensure that it is actually paid. The majority of prisoners never pay the full amount. Once they leave prison, payment usually stops.

I suppose it's true that some of these jobs would be available for the people outside of prison if this program was ended, but the reality is that many of these jobs would otherwise be sent overseas. There are better ways to grow jobs than to send prisoner back to the yard or their cells.

I'm not sure how this program increases the potential for mistreatment of prisoners. It seems to me the opposite should be the case. In any case, it's simply not true that prisoners don't have recourse for mistreatment. What they have, may or may not be as effective as it should be, but I hardly think it's not available for prisoners who are "on the job" Anyone worried about this can relax, eventually we'll see unions making attempts to organize prison labor.

Walter Hinteler
 
  3  
Reply Mon 23 Jun, 2014 01:15 am
@Finn dAbuzz,
Finn dAbuzz wrote:
Anyone worried about this can relax, eventually we'll see unions making attempts to organize prison labor.
A couple of weeks ago, in a Berlin prsion, prisoners founded what is said to be the "world's first prisoner union". (Which actually is a bit stupid, since they already send members to the relevant board in their prison.)

Edited: Inmates at Berlin Tegel jail set up world's first union for prisoners
Quote:
Group's founders want minimum wage and pension scheme for prison's convicts, who work regular shifts
0 Replies
 
boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Mon 23 Jun, 2014 06:48 am
@bobsal u1553115,
Can you elaborate?

I don't really know enough about how prisons operate. Isn't it normal for prisoners to preform some kind of work -- laundry, kitchen, cleaning? Do they have any choice at all into what work they're assigned? Should they not do any work at all?
bobsal u1553115
 
  2  
Reply Mon 23 Jun, 2014 07:28 am
bobsal u1553115
 
  1  
Reply Mon 23 Jun, 2014 07:33 am
Private Prisons: The New Slave Plantations of America
March 5, 2013 | Filed under: Featured,Headlines | Posted by: Editorial_Staff

http://www.africanglobe.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Slavery-Prison-Labour-Louisiana.jpg

Prisoners now the cheapest labour source in U.S.

AFRICANGLOBE – Dr. Niaz Kasvari, Director of the NAACP Criminal Justice Program recently wrote a very compelling article about the serious dangers of private prisons. Dr. Kasvari mentions specifically the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) as the primary culprit, and the company that is truly happy to see you and your loved ones behind bars.

I know the prison system well: I’ve had several close relatives go to prison, all of them men. I also know that none of them were better men because of it, and that it was a life of post-felony marginalization that left the man I considered to be my older brother destitute and homeless until he died last summer. These institutions are as poisonous to our society.

Another interesting article at Techyville.com goes into detail about how the private prison industry is structured, and who benefits. According to Dr. Niaz Kasvari, the CCA sent a letter to 48 governors offering to purchase their prisons in exchange for a guaranteed occupancy rate of 90 percent.

This dangerous statement implies that the CCA is actively seeking to persuade legislators to modify and enforce laws in such a way that more American citizens will end up in prison.

While law-abiding Americans reading this article may not see the dangers in such a proposal, I encourage you to remember that everyone breaks the law at some point, and it is only the strictness with which the law is enforced that makes the difference between whether we are free or incarcerated.

The CCA earns $1.7 billion per year by putting people in prison, mostly African Americans. Part of the reason that I am gathering for a public forum with Min. Louis Farrakhan in Chicago on March 30 (5 pm, UIC forum) is because mass incarceration has served to destroy the Black family in America.

The rapid increase in single parent homes and the pervasive spread of prison culture in the Black community is largely driven by the growth in incarceration rates all across America. Black people are being fed like cattle into the prison industrial complex, and the lives of our children have little value to this system.

Dr. Niaz Kasvari also notes that the CCA considers modifications to even the most Draconian drug laws to be a threat that could “affect the number of persons arrested, convicted, and sentenced, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them.”

As a Finance Professor, I am well-aware of the dangers of hardcore capitalism. If it is not properly regulated, capitalism can be as harmful to our society as crack cocaine is to the mind of an addict. Similar to crack, the drug of capitalism can cause you to make decisions that are in direct contradiction to the values you claim to embrace as a human being.

It can create a pharmaceutical industry that lets human beings die because they can’t afford medication, and it can create a prison industry that actually wants to see people behind bars, even if our society is being ruined because of it.

When we incarcerate so many millions of Americans, our world becomes less safe and more unstable. Today, the streets are filled with young, misguided teenagers, many of whom grew up without parents who were given long sentences for non-violent, drug-related offenses. Black women have fewer men to marry because prison culture has come to play a role in shaping how too many Black men think and live.

Even worse, many of our men grew up with a steady dose of brainwashing via commercialized hip-hop on the radio that teaches them that every Black man is supposed to be a blunt-blowing, gun totting thug who wastes his money and takes pleasure in killing other Black men while disrespecting Black women. These systems create a type of mental illness that causes us to become something other than what we were truly meant to be, and that is why our families are falling apart.

This is the society that is being created around us, and this is the battle we are in. All of us should support those like Dr. Niaz Kasvari who are fighting against the dangers of the prison industrial complex. The goal is not to get rid of punishment and rehabilitation as a logical response to crime. Instead, it is to embrace productive rehabilitation that makes communities stronger and not weaker.

We are in the fight of our lives.



By; Dr. Boyce Watkins

Dr. Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition. For more information, please visit http://BoyceWatkins.com.
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0 Replies
 
bobsal u1553115
 
  1  
Reply Mon 23 Jun, 2014 07:35 am


From Plantation to Penitentiary to the Prison-Industrial Complex:
Literature of the American Prison

by H. Bruce Franklin

http://andromeda.rutgers.edu/~hbf/MLABLACK.htm

(Paper delivered at the Modern Language Association Convention, December, 2000.)

The prison looms today as a central feature of American society. Since 1976, we have been building on average one prison every week. More than two million Americans are now crammed into the nation's still overcrowded jails and prisons. In fact, there are now about as many prisoners in America as there are farmers. Over half of those incarcerated are people of color. More than four million Americans, again mainly people of color, have been permanently disenfranchised because of felony convictions, many under laws enacted explicitly to prevent African-Americans from voting. (1) Studies have shown that this disenfranchisement has had a significant impact on the outcome of presidential and senate elections prior to 2000. (2) We need no detailed studies to show the direct impact of this disenfranchisement on the most recent national election. Prior to November 2000, one third of the African-American men in Florida were convicted as felons and then stripped of their right to vote, while thousands more were purged from the voting rolls as alleged felons by fiat of a corporation hired by Governor Jeb Bush. If only a small percentage of Florida's 204,000 disenfranchised male African-American citizens (not to mention the other 200,000 disenfranchised ex-felons in Florida) had been allowed to vote in 2000, even the U.S. Supreme Court could not have installed George W. Bush as President of the United States.

As the prison has become ever more central to American society, oral and written literature created by American prisoners and ex-prisoners has become ever more vital to understanding its wider significance. One central theme unifies the entire body of American prison literature, a theme that emerged from African-American experience: Who are the real criminals? As Frederick Douglass wrote in 1845 about the law-abiding citizens of America: "I could regard them in no other light than a band of successful robbers, who had left their homes, and gone to Africa, and stolen us from our homes, and in a strange land reduced us to slavery." A hundred and twenty five years later, George Drumgold, writing from Comstock Prison, expressed a similar idea in this couplet:

They say we're the criminals, a threat to society
But in truth they stole us, so how can that be?

But there's a difference. Unlike Drumgold, Douglass did not have to be convicted of a crime to be enslaved.

Prior to the Civil War, African-American slavery was not legitimized or rationalized by any claim that the slaves were being punished for crimes. That was to come next. The necessary legal transformation was effected in 1865 by the very Amendment to the Constitution--Article 13--that abolished the old form of slavery:

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States . . . .

Article 13 actually wrote slavery into the Constitution of the United States, but only for those people legally defined as criminals. So America now had to transform the freed slaves into criminals--by law and through culture.

Why? Because massive slave labor was needed for the plantations, coal mines, lumber camps, railroad and road construction, and prison factories, where during the Civil War white slaves produced equipment for the Union army.

The former slave states immediately devised legislation--the Black Codes--branding almost every former slave as a criminal. These laws specified that many vaguely defined acts--such as "mischief" and "insulting gestures"--were crimes, but only if committed by a "free negro." Mississippi's Vagrancy Act defined "all free negroes and mulattoes over the age of eighteen" as criminals unless they could furnish written proof of a job at the beginning of every year. (3) "Having no visible means of support" was a crime being committed by almost all the freed slaves. So was "loitering" (staying in the same place) and "vagrancy" (wandering).

Many of the new convicts were leased. The convict lease system had a big advantage for the enslavers: since they did not own the convicts, they lost nothing by working them to death. For example, the death rate among leased Alabama black convicts during just one year (1869) was 41 percent. (4) Much of the railroad system throughout the South was built by leased convicts, often packed in rolling iron cages moved from job to job, working in such hellish conditions that their life expectancy rarely exceeded two years. (5)

Besides leasing convicts, states expanded their own prison slavery. The infrastructure of many southern states was built and maintained by convicts. For example, aged African-American women convicts dug the campus of Georgia State College, and prisoners as young as twelve worked in chain gangs to maintain the streets of Atlanta. (6) Some states went into big business, selling products of convict labor. Hence the vast state prison plantations established in Arkansas, Tennessee, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas, where cotton picked by prisoners was manufactured into cloth by other prisoners in prison cotton mills. These plantations dwarfed the largest cotton plantations of the slave South in size, brutality--and profitability.

The old plantation slave songs now metamorphosed into the convict work songs of the prison plantations, the forest-clearing and tunneling crews, the road and track-laying gangs. The encoded hopes for liberation and mass escape characteristic of the slave songs were now replaced by the grim desperation of such widely sung convict songs as "Go Down Old Hannah," with its visions of "a dead man, on every turn row," or hammer songs that turned the beat of the work instrument into the beat of despair or hope for individual escape. Another hope lay in some heroic existential triumph over the machine and the bosses, as in "John Henry." But the most audacious figure was the Black Bad Man, the criminal as hero. Singing songs such as "Po' Laz'rus" thus itself became a form of rebellion against the white man's law and order, suggesting a direct line from these songs to Gangsta Rap.

Scores of African-American convict artists then transmuted those collective prison songs into individual works that shaped the blues tradition forming the fountainhead of jazz, soul, rock, and rap--that is, the core of modern American music--which has become the dominant music of the world.

The prison experience is explicit in many of the formative blues songs such as "Penal Farm Blues," "Prison Bound," "Back in Jail Again," "My Home Is a Prison," and the many different songs entitled "Prison Blues," "Jailhouse Blues," and "Chain Gang Blues." Many of the finest artists were prisoners and ex-prisoners: Bukka White, Leroy Carr, Charley Patton, Cow Cow Davenport, Robert Pete Williams, Texas Alexander, Son House, Willie Newbern, and of course Leadbelly, Lightnin' Hopkins, whose ankles bore the scars of chain gang shackles, and Billie Holiday, who was first jailed at the age of ten for resisting a sexual assault.

From the 1860s until the mid 1960s, Black prison literature remained predominantly oral. Unlike the period before the Civil War when prose narratives by former slaves were widely published, African-American convicts had few publishing avenues prior to the mid 1960s. Even one of the rare exceptions--the great convict novelist Chester Himes--was forced into European exile to gain access to publishers and an audience.

Meanwhile, however, written literature by white convicts had become increasingly influential. Writers such as Jack London, Agnes Smedley, Kate Richards O'Hare, Robert Burns, and Nelson Algren had given America terrifying visions of itself from the bottom of its class pits. These two streams, Black and white, oral and written, merged into an explosive torrent of prison literature in the mid 1960s, signaled by the publication in 1965 of one of the most influential books in American literature, The Autobiography of Malcolm X.

The tidal wave of great literature--fiction, nonfiction, drama, and poetry--that poured out of America's prisons from the mid 1960s to the mid 1970s did not emerge by chance. Tens of millions of Americans were being drawn into the global struggle against colonialism and imperialism, a struggle that swept into America in the urban rebellions that began in 1964 and culminated in April 1968 with revolts in 125 U.S. cities the week after the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr. A year earlier, King, himself a former prisoner, had declared that in Vietnam our nation was fighting on "the wrong side of a global revolution" and our government was now "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today." The radical voices from prison were now as varied as George Jackson, Etheridge Knight, Iceberg Slim, Piri Thomas, Jack Abbott, and Donald Goines.

In response came a ferocious repression of prison literature: Creative writing courses and other prison educational programs were defunded. Congress abolished Pell Grants for prisoners. "Son of Sam" laws outlawed convicts earning money from their writings. (7) By 1984, every journal devoted to publishing poetry and stories by prisoners was wiped out.

Amid this repression, the literature coming out of America's prisons today is even more crucial, as writers like Jimmy Santiago Baca, Patricia McConnel, Dannie Martin, Kathy Boudin, and Mumia Abu-Jamal reveal what our society is becoming. American prison literature is now a defining feature of American culture.

Once upon a time, before the late 1960s, the literature canonized in our anthologies and the literature taught at all levels of American education, not to mention the literature departments of most colleges and universities, were all as white as the skeleton on the prow of the slave ship in Herman Melville's Benito Cereno. And the literature of the ante-bellum United States was being taught as though it were not the product of a society that revolved around its most distinguishing institution: African-American slavery. In the wake of those urban rebellions, racial integration began to penetrate literature departments, anthologies, and the canon of American literature. No enlightened person today would think of teaching exclusively white American literature or--and this is a more critical point--teaching nineteenth-century American literature without reference to slavery as its matrix. Just as slavery was the central and distinguishing feature of American society before the Civil War, the modern prison system, which was largely an American innovation, has ever since the Civil War been evolving into a central institution of contemporary America. Indeed, today the prison-industrial complex is a feature that distinguishes American society from all other societies in the twenty-first century. So if we teach modern American literature without reference to the American prison and its literature, we are behaving like those who failed to see, hear, or speak about slavery and its literature.

Notes

1. On the history of felony disenfranchisement laws, including explicit expressions of the intent to prevent African-Americans from voting, see Andrew L. Shapiro, "Challenging Criminal Disenfranchisement Under the Voting Rights Act: A New Strategy," Yale Law Journal, 103 (1993), 537-566.

2. See Jamie Fellner and Marc Mauer, Losing the Vote: The Impact of Felony Disenfranchisement Laws in the United States (Washington, DC: The Sentencing Project and Human Rights Watch, 1998) and Jeff Manza, Christopher Uggen, and Marcus Britton, "The Truly Disfranchised: Felon Voting Rights and American Politics," Working Paper, 2001.

3. David M. Oshinsky, "Worse Than Slavery": Parchman Farm and the Ordeal of Jim Crow Justice (New York: Free Press Paperbacks, 1997), 21. This book provides a marvelous history of how the penal system was used to reenslave African-American people.

4. Report of the Board of Inspectors of Convicts for the State of Alabama, cited in John G. Van Deusen, The Black Man in White America (Washington, DC: Associated Publishers, 1938), 124.

5. Oshinsky, 58-59.

6. Paul Oliver, The Meaning of the Blues (New York: Collier Books, 1963), 240; W. E. B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk (New York: Fawcett, 1961), 134.

7. Joseph Bruchac, "The Decline and Fall of Prison Literature," Small Press (January/February 1987), 28-32; Scott Christianson, "Corrections Law Developments: Barring the Convict from the Proceeds of His Story," Criminal Law Bulletin 16 (May-June 1980), 279-287.

Copyright 2002 by H. Bruce Franklin. All rights reserved.

E-mail to H. Bruce Franklin: [email protected]

0 Replies
 
boomerang
 
  2  
Reply Mon 23 Jun, 2014 08:02 am
@bobsal u1553115,
Interesting.

I take it that the clip is from a larger documentary. If so, I'd like to see the whole thing.

I need to pull some strings together and think on this a bit...
Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Mon 23 Jun, 2014 08:27 am
@boomerang,
boomerang wrote:

I don't really know enough about how prisons operate. Isn't it normal for prisoners to preform some kind of work -- laundry, kitchen, cleaning? Do they have any choice at all into what work they're assigned? Should they not do any work at all?
Article 10.3 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR): "The penitentiary system shall comprise treatment of prisoners the essential aim of which shall be their reformation and social rehabilitation."
Articles 22, 23, and 24, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, provide that "Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security…the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favorable conditions of work…to equal pay for equal work…to just and favorable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity…the right to form and to join trade unions."
Source (and more): UNITED STATES HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN CORRECTIONAL PRACTICES A contribution to the 2010 UN Universal Periodic Review, By NGO International CURE
0 Replies
 
Finn dAbuzz
 
  1  
Reply Mon 23 Jun, 2014 10:48 am
@boomerang,
The video bobsal provided contains some superficially attractive notions, but it's a case of concluding there is a world consuming fire somewhere below a wisp of smoke.

The bit about the police is deeply flawed, from a factual standpoint.

The contention of the video (presumably shared by bobsal) is that the purpose of the American prison system is to at least control African-Americans , and by the argument of at least one of the people on the video, to enslave them.

It conveniently ignores the non-black prison population, or assumes that all of these individuals, actually deserve to be in prison.

There are a number of reasons to criticize the American penal system: Over-crowding, the degree of prisoner on prisoner violence, and ineffective rehabilitation programs are three.

The subject of this thread seems, to many, a worthy attempt to address problems of cost, recidivism, and the dangers of non-productive time for the inmates.

What are inappropriate criticisms of our penal system are: the rate of incarceration, the extent of incarceration for non-violent crimes, and the extent to which stigmatization impacts prisoners after they have paid the dues to society and are released.

To the extent that these are a problems (and I think to varying degrees they are), legislators/politicians , judges and society as a whole are to blame.

Society, in fact, bears some responsibility for most of the problems associated with prisons (whether or not they are problems that simply manifest within a prison or are directly under the control of the penal system).

This is not to say though that society is the cause or intigators of these problems The majority of prisoners are people who have violated one or more of society's laws. Circumstances which can reasonably be argued "force" a person to commit a crime are rare. No one is forced to rape, murder, commit burglary, burn down houses or buildings, drive drunk and kill a family, abuse animals, sell or buy drugs etc. Society should have an effective and humane way to deal with those who break the law but the old cliche "If you can't do the time, don't do the crime," is quite apt. The conditions of prison life and the lasting effects of a criminal record are well known in this country, and no one can argue that they didn't have a good idea of what they were in for if they were caught for a crime. This wouldn't be a valid excuse under any circumstances, but it reinforces the idea that the criminal, ultimately, bears primary responsibility for the consequences of his or her crime.

However, because they are criminals who have violated society's laws, the members of society who abide by these laws and who have the power to insist on reform don't find the plight of prisoners qualified for a top spot on their list of priorities. In addition, it is society's basic attitude towards crime and criminals that allows politicians to win votes by proposing "tough" anti-crime laws.

Considerable efforts have been made over a long period of time to influence the public's thinking on the prosecution and incarceration of criminals, but with minimal effect. Where such efforts have been very successful in terms of civil rights for African-Americans and, more recently, gays and lesbians, Americans just aren't being moved by the efforts devoted to criminals. Another failure is in terms of gun control. Whatever one thinks about any of these issues, it is clear that education and/or propaganda alone are not sufficient to sway public perceptions and beliefs. We are not, contrary to the notion popular among cynics, a herd of sheep that can be led by our collective nose by clever messaging.

This is not to say that prison reform is not worthy or needed, just that it faces a big obstacle in the form of public opinion.

Attaching the issues to the very successful efforts of Civil RIghts has not proven effective either, because people are not willing to ignore the fact that the African-Americans who are being incarcerated at a disproportionate rate to Whites, are still, in most cases, criminals. The disproportionate rate, for many, is not to be solved by not incarcerating African-Americans, but to incarcerate more of the White criminals that the statistics used by folks in this video would suggest are getting away with their crimes.

The one area where there does seem to be some traction in terms of public opinion is incarceration for non-violent, drug related crimes, but I don't think this has as much to do with empathy for the incarcerated as a concern about finding oneself in the same dilemma.

Any notion that this program is intended to replace long ended slavery as a source of very cheap labor is pretty wild.
 

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