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The Cost Of Prison

States fed up with high prison costs and mandatory sentencing move to change. Must the U.S. be number one in prisoners?

A correctional officer walks in a gymnasium that housed overflow prisoners in Tracy, California (Rich Pedroncelli/AP)

A correctional officer walks in a gymnasium that housed overflow prisoners in Tracy, California (Rich Pedroncelli/AP)

The USA is number one in the world when it comes to the number of people in prison. Bigger than China. Bigger than Russia. America’s prison population is tops. 2.2 million. Bigger than fifteen American states. And its incarceration rate is number one. Three times – triple – any other nation’s. All that American imprisonment is very expensive. And very debatable when it comes to effectiveness, fairness – to justice itself. Now states across the country are reconsidering the mandatory sentencing policies and more that filled those cells. This hour, On Point: slimming down American prisons.

-Tom Ashbrook


Marc Mauer, executive director of The Sentencing Project.

Brian Mann, reporter for North Country Public Radio and the Prison Time Media Project. (@BrianMannADK)

Marc Levin, policy director of Right On Crime and director of the Center for Effective Justice at the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

Jarvis DeBerry, editorial writer and columnist for NOLA.com and The Times-Picayune. (@jarvisdeberry)

From Tom’s Reading List

Washington Monthly “American streets are much safer today than they were thirty years ago, and until recently most conservatives had a simple explanation: more prison beds equal less crime. This argument was a fulcrum of Republican politics for decades, boosting candidates from Richard Nixon to George H. W. Bush and scores more in the states. Once elected, these Republicans (and their Democratic imitators) built prisons on a scale that now exceeds such formidable police states as Russia and Iran, with 3 percent of the American population behind bars or on parole and probation.”

NPR “Half a century ago, relatively few people were locked up, and those inmates generally served short sentences. But 40 years ago, New York passed strict sentencing guidelines known as the “Rockefeller drug laws” — after their champion, Gov. Nelson Rockefeller — that put even low-level criminals behind bars for decades.”

New York Times “The shift to tougher penal policies three decades ago was originally credited with helping people in poor neighborhoods by reducing crime. But now that America’s incarceration rate has risen to be the world’s highest, many social scientists find the social benefits to be far outweighed by the costs to those communities.”


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  • DrewInGeorgia

    “Must the U.S. be number one in prisoners?”

    No, but at least we’re still Number One in something.
    Privatizing The Penal System has worked out great hasn’t it?

    • Ray in VT

      Especially because private prison companies have been caught lobbying for higher mandatory sentences.  Seems more than a bit seedy.

    • hennorama

      DrewInGeorgia – We’re also #1 in private firearms ownership at about 300 million.

      I’m not saying that there is any cause/effect relationship (or any relationship for that matter) BTW, just tossing out another “We’re #1?” factoid.

      The stats on prisoners, parolees and those on probation I found are shocking.  According to Bureau of Justice Statistics, in 2011

      “Adult correctional authorities supervised about 6,977,700 offenders at yearend 2011…”

      “About 2.9% of adults in the U.S. (or 1 in every 34 adults) were under some form of correctional supervision at yearend 2011, a rate comparable to 1998 (1 in every 34).”

      “At yearend 2011, about 1 in every 50 adults in the U.S. was supervised in the community on probation or parole while about 1 in every 107 adults was incarcerated in prison or jail.”

      (“Persons supervised by the adult correctional systems include those in the community under the authority of probation or parole agencies that supervise adults and those in the custody of state or federal prisons or local jails.”)


  • Fiscally_Responsible

    This is exactly why we need the death penalty.  For example, what has the state of California spent taking care of Charles Manson?  He should have been fried to a crisp.  And that is true of many other murderers, rapists, kidnappers, etc.etc.  The reason why the death penalty is not a deterrent is that the time from conviction to execution, if it ever occurs, is too long with endless appeals, etc.   If after conviction, we would take them from conviction and immediately take them out and hang them like they did on Gunsmoke, the crime rate would be lowered dramatically.

    • 1Brett1

      Wrong; it’s cheaper to keep someone in jail for a lifetime (average about $40,000 a year) then to execute them (costing on average $3-5 million). 

      You are not advocating the death penalty, you are advocating such a fundamental change in our judicial system that it would amount to mob rule and vigilantism. 

      No thanks.

      The main problem with our prison system is the privatization of the system and the contractual agreements they have with state and local authorities. 

      • Fiscally_Responsible

        The Gunsmoke analogy was said tongue in cheek.  However, I do believe in the death penalty for several types of crime.  And the reason why execution is so expensive is because of the endless rounds of appeals and use of technicalities that left wingers like the ACLU (ok with murderous abortion, defending the 9/11 terrorists, but against the death penalty) use to clog the process and drive up the cost.

        • Ray in VT

          Execution can and should be expensive, and I can agree with it for the most heinous offenders, but the problem with the process is that many innocent people have been sent to death row, and that is unpalatable to me.  I think that if someone is going to be put on death row, then there should be no room for doubt whatsoever that they committed the crime, and that is not the case with many people who have gone there.  I’m willing to bet that you would like those endless technicalities and appeals were you to be wrongly convicted and sentenced to death.

          • Fiscally_Responsible

            I certainly don’t want to see innocent people put to death.  But examples such as the two individuals who broke into a Connecticut doctor’s home and murdered his wife and two daughters for absolutely no reason at all.  They have forfeited their right to live and are 100% guilty and should therefore be executed so that their prison space can be freed up for someone else.  

            By the way, the chances of me needing endless technicalities and appeals is zero to none.  I have no guns, don’t like guns, don’t like violence of any kind including tv/movies/video games, and don’t hang out at bars, especially in the early morning hours when a lot of this stuff seems to happen.  I just pay my taxes, give to my church, and keep my sidewalks clean.

          • Ray in VT

            I don’t know any of the details regarding the case that you mention, so I will not comment on it.  I prefer not to put myself into the position to judge who has the right to live, and I am not sure how I would ever rule were I to sit on a capital case.

            As for your second point, I’m sure that many of those who have unjustly ended up in prison or on death row thought much the same thing.

          • Fiscally_Responsible

            Here is a link to the crime.  Heinous, horrific.


          • Fiscally_Responsible

            By the way, the Wikipedia article says that the two criminals received the death penalty.  Ten years from now, we will still be waiting for the sentence to be executed.  And then we wonder why the death penalty isn’t a deterrent.

          • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

            Can you imagine life in prison, as these two are getting, easy? Fun? A day in the park?

            Because I can’t.

          • Ray in VT

            Thanks for the linkl.  That sounds vaguely familiar now.

            As to your point below, I’m not sure that even if the death penalty was carried out quickly that it would be an effective deterrant.  My thinking behind this is that everyone thinks that they’re going to get away with it.  I also don’t think that the fact that it’s allowed biblically is a very good basis for a modern system of punishment or social/societal organization.

          • JGC

            The Connecticut crime was really the most horrible and terrorizing of crimes I ever heard. And it also was an absolutely airtight case (as much as that can possibly be).  It seems like cases that only rely on witness descriptions (and that includes the police) without corroborating scientific evidence (DNA, usually) should never meet the death penalty requirement. And even then, what about the lab technician that falsified data as she reported to the courts, was that in Massachusetts?     

      • MadMarkTheCodeWarrior

        Indeed privatization is a big problem. Where can there be justice with quotas for incarceration? Republicans have gone stark raving mad!

    • jimino

      I could agree if we focus the death penalty on crimes that are exceptionally heinous or do especially widespread harm, are not subject to the inherent uncertainty of matters such as eyewitness identification, and whose perpetrators are actually deterred by the penalty.

      We missed the chance to institute the death penalty for people like Madoff, Scrushy and similar widespread financial criminals.

    • Shag_Wevera

      Are you a Christian?  Just wondering.

      • Fiscally_Responsible

        Yes I am.  And if you read my post below, you will see that my Gunsmoke comment was said tongue in cheek.  I do believe that people should be held responsible for their actions and that the death penalty is Biblical for certain types of crimes and is an effective deterrent to crime if carried out in a timely manner.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

      Gee. You say “Gunsmoke”, I say “mob hangs someone”.

    • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

      it costs on average over a million dollars to effect the death penulty on an individual.

    • nj_v2

      By any metric, the death penalty is not justifiable on any moral, practical, philosophical, economic, or rational grounds.

      It is barbaric and not appropriate for any civilized society.

      • Fiscally_Responsible

        Actually, I and many people can easily justify it on moral, practical, philosophical, economic, and rational grounds.  But since we are making broad statements, you must therefore agree that abortion cannot be justified by any metric on moral, practical, philosophical, economic, or rational grounds as well.  Or do you only subscribe to very dogmatic, general statements that align with your own point of view?

        • nj_v2

          You can attempt to justify it, but it is unjustifiable. It is killing people to demonstrate that killing people is intolerable. It is self-contradicting. It’s an oxymoron. It is barbaric. It has no place in a society that considers itself civilized.

          Comparisons to abortion are specious.

          As for your “When did you stop beating your wife question” you can shove it in a dark, moist place.

          • Fiscally_Responsible

            All of your comments can be applied to the topic of abortion.  It is unjustifiable.  It is killing the innocent for convenience.  Calling it health care is an oxymoron.  The procedure of crushing a baby’s skull is barbaric.  It has no place in a civilized, caring society.  It amazes me how liberals get upset over the death penalty executed against a relative handful of criminals each year but are ok with the murder of millions of innocent children at the same time.

    • Don_B1

      Just what percentage of the prisoners are/could be subject to the death penalty? With a total prisoner count, mostly (85%) drug-related (and not death-related) and less than 1% extreme-murder related, just how many prisoners do you expect to reduce the prison population by? How much cost reduction will this produce?

  • Jasoturner

    Off Topic but…

    Boston Magazine has an article on Tom and On Point:


    A worthy read for all his listeners…

    • Fiscally_Responsible

      Good article.  Tom does a great job.  Thanks for sharing the link with those who live outside of Boston and would not have otherwise seen the article.

    • JGC

      I like the line in the article that describes Tom’s interview style as “skeptical without being cynical”. That is a quality I really appreciate, even as I sometimes want to reach through my radio and throttle the guest.

  • MadMarkTheCodeWarrior

    This is the legacy of the war on drugs:
    1) A record number of incarcerated people by total and by percentages.
    2) Record costs to tax payers in maintaining this system (aren’t republicans supposed to be about smaller government?)
    3) Drugs cheaper than ever? The cartels have learned well from Walmart.

    If drugs were legalized:
    1) much of the profit would be taken out of the trade and violence would fall just as it did with the end of prohibition in 1933.
    2) new taxes would be collected on billions of dollars of currently illegal income.
    3) courts and prisons could shrink to deal with violent offenders like wife beaters and child abusers and serious sociopaths like the ones on Wall Street.
    4) tax revenue would be freed up for drug treatment and abuse for those who can and will get and abuse them under today’s policies and laws.

    Prohibition is a failed policy perpetuated by ideologues, magical thinking and naïveté. It has never worked and never will: it’s human nature. Unless a strategy is founded on reality: it can not work.

    • Don_B1

      The chief technique of drug crime prosecution is to catch the “little guy” and throw the book at that person while offering greatly reduced sentencing for testifying against a “higher-up.”

      But there is little understanding of when that caught individual was peripheral to the crime and has little knowledge of the crime ring. That individual ends up spending years in prison for being the unknowing girl or boy friend of a ring member, etc.

      There is little “deterrence” achieved from these convictions.

      • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

        witht he recidivism rate it seems like most convictions have little deterramce

    • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

      but then all those prison guards and lawyers and orange jumpsuit makers would suffer and those people all have lobbiests

    • hennorama

      MadMarkTheCodeWarrior – Another obvious alternative to the issue of the number of drug offenders is the use of Drug Courts (DC) for such offenders rather than regular courts.  There are currently about 2500 DCs nationwide, according to the Dept of Justice’s National Institute of Justice (NIJ).

      These courts have been around only since 1993, but research indicates that they are effective in reducing recidivism and reducing overall costs.


      • MadMarkTheCodeWarrior

        Maybe drug courts have a better result than regular courts but they still do not address the inevitable failure of prohibition as a cure or treatment for minimizing drug abuse not to mention the incarceration of victimless criminals, criminal to a certain extent based upon the ‘moral standards’ of unethical hypocrites.

        • hennorama

          MMTCW – I’m not disagreeing with your main points about prohibition, but pointing out an alternative that is currently available in the event that legalization doesn’t come to pass. Diverting many of those involved in low-level drug offenses from incarceration can go a long way toward a goal of reducing inmate populations.

  • JGC

    There’s always room at Club Fed for the criminal banksters. Don’t worry; we’ll leave the light on for ya.

    • JGC

      By the way, does anyone know what the statute of limitations are on the financial crimes that led to the 2007/2008 crisis?  Do they just have to use avoidance techniques for another couple of years, and then they are home free (even as many regular folks have lost their homes)?

      • hennorama

        JGC – a great deal depends on where the alleged crime occurred.  New York State for example, has a 6 year statute of limitations (SOL) on both fraud and breach of contract.  (As an aside, I find the acronym SOL hilariously ironic, as one could say that if prosecutors and regulators ignore the SOL, then the public will be SOL – the far more common “shite outta luck”).

        SOLs in other states vary, as do the Federal SOLs.  Some types of bank fraud have 10 year Federal SOLs, for example.

        One also must consider that in the case of some contracts, a new breach might occur under certain circumstances, extending the SOL and resetting the clock.

        • JGC

          Thanks for that. That is my worry, that we are running out of time as they run out the clock. Preet Bharara is doing some good work with the hedge fund guys, but no one seems able to touch the main criminals, the ones who worked/are working at the big Wall Street banks.

          • hennorama

            JGC – YW. Indeed the SOLs are a pressing issue, which makes it more likely that we will see more cases being filed this year.

            Some of the stuff that happened was unethical, amoral and immoral, but not illegal, which complicates matters significantly, especially in the minds of the long-suffering public, who are clamoring for someone to suffer at least something, anything, as a result of the actions that led to the GR.

            The other factor in many cases is the difficulty in proving intent, which is seldom an easy task in criminal cases. Civil actions have a much greater likelihood of success, given the lower standard of proof required.

            Lastly, in the case of customers’ actions against banks, brokerages, etc. – virtually all consumer contracts contain mandatory arbitration clauses, making it difficult to sue unless a class action status can be obtained, especially in light of recent SCOTUS rulings.

            That’s changing a little bit. See:


    • Steve__T

       As much as I wish that would happen, It aint. Their at it right now. Have you received your IC tax return?
      Most banks are holding them for a week or more. Using it (loan it out at interest)  before you can spend it.

  • JGC

    Isn’t there skewing of populations in voting districts with large prisons, as they sometimes claim their “guest” residents as part of their resident base, then with their lop-sided numbers, attract in more federal dollars (none of which goes to assist their temporary constituents)?   I think I heard that can happen in rural areas such as the one North Country Radio covers?  

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

      I have heard the same thing. People who can’t vote bulk up the representation of people who live there. Sooo messed up.

    • Don_B1

      Absolutely! There is a movement beginning to require the prisoners’ “residence for census purposes” to remain where he lived before conviction. See:


      The current policy of the U.S. Census to count prisoners in the total of the town where the prison is located has led to “prison gerrymandering” and is used by towns to get higher amounts of government money allocated by population. Many (poor) towns seek to have prisons located there for the money.

    • JobExperience

      3/5 Compromise anyone? (Our Constitution, Article 1, Section 2, paragraph 3) Then the Second Amendment should apply only to prison guards, our militia.

  • Shag_Wevera

    When you privatize formerly public instituttions, you go from “We the People” to “We the Shareholders”.  Accountability is lost, as is oversight and accountability.

    • MadMarkTheCodeWarrior

      Agreed : Prisons are not profit and loss centers.

      • Steve__T

          Sorry too late.

  • Shag_Wevera

    The incarceration of American citizens should not be a profitable endeavor.

    • DrewInGeorgia

      Neither should the Health Care of American Citizens…but what do I know?

  • Ray in VT

    Now, apparently, the prison companies have gotten into the naming rights game:


    • JGC


      • Ray in VT

        I’m sure that they won’t be charging higher rates for their services in order to pay for such rights, though, right?

    • hennorama

      Normally, buying the “naming rights” of a venue is a promotional/advertising tactic.  What is the GEO Group promoting and/or advertising with this purchase?  And given that they have a “captive market” (sorry – couldn’t resist) already, how would they benefit from having their name on a stadium?

      This seems like a crude way to try to wheedle their way into the Florida prison market.  One would think it would be far cheaper to buy influence through lobbying and campaign contributions.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=584989777 Brian P. Kasso Gaidry

    If you want to understand why the number of prisoners in private facilities has increased 37% in the last 7 years, just follow the money:

    Corrections Corporation of America, the country’s largest private prison company based on number of facilities:

    $1.7 billion: total revenue recorded by CCA in 2011

    $17.4 million: lobbying expenditures in the last 10 years, according to the Center for Responsive Politics

    $1.9 million: total political contributions from years 2003 to 2012, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics

    $3.7 million: executive compensation for CEO Damon T. Hininger in 2011

    The Geo Group, Inc., the U.S.’s second largest private detention company:

    $1.6 billion: total revenue in year 2011, according to its annual report

    $2.5 million: lobbying expenditures in the last 8 years, according to the Center for Responsive Politics

    $2.9 million: total political contributions from years 2003 to 2012, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics

    $5.7 million: executive compensation for CEO George C. Zoley in 2011

    Source: http://www.propublica.org/article/by-the-numbers-the-u.s.s-growing-for-profit-detention-industry

    • William

       These efforts are not much different than say the CA prison guards union which pushes very hard for more prisons and higher pay for their members.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

        Ah, the envoy from Williamworld is here.

        • William

           You missed your calling..you should be working for Obama…

        • nj_v2

          Greggg seems to be on hiatus. Someone has to step in.

        • TomK_in_Boston

          Internet is back up in the assisted living facility.

      • Ray in VT

        I think that the argument that they are significantly different is fairly solid.  My understanding of the state of prisons in California has been under fire by the Feds for some time, due to overcrowding and such.  If the union is pushing for more facilities and staff to combat that, then that is one thing.  It’s also a pretty nasty job, so I think that they should be well paid.  Now, if they were lobbying for longer sentences and such, and they might be for all I know, as these private companies have been, then that is something entirely different.

        • William

           This union is very powerful and very proud that they got more prisons built and the 3 strikes and your out law passed.

          • Ray in VT

            That is certainly a poor legacy, and they should certainly be criticized for those policies and their outcomes.  It’s interesting that Schwarzenegger looked at privatization in order to try to get around them.

          • William

             Big money for union members won out.

          • Ray in VT

            There’s always that temptation to pursue what is best for oneself, even if it is not in the best interests of the whole.  Unions, in that sense, are no different that many private corporations or groups that have done the same.

          • DrewInGeorgia

            “There’s always that temptation to pursue what is best for oneself, even if it is not in the best interests of the whole.”

            Ahh, good ole Capitalism.

          • Ray in VT

            Just lookin’ out for ole Number One.  Usually the Right loves that.  Cough (Ayn Rand).

          • TomK_in_Boston

            Except that unions are infinitely less powerful. 

            The right loves it when corporations look out for #1 but has a heart attack when workers organize to look out for themselves. I wonder who’s pulling their strings, eh?

          • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

            What I learned from Mark Santelli:

            When a company goes t*ts-up and the Board of Dirs get golden parachutes anyway, that’s InvisibleHandBeeyotches. When one union member somewhere draws a pension  while a company fails to turn a quarterly profit, that’s “the union’s ruining competitiveness”.

          • TomK_in_Boston

            Exactly. But why do average citizens buy it? The reaction to someone making a middle class living is envy rather than “I need a union too”. Sure makes it easy for the plutocrats to keep grabbing more and more.

        • JGC

          More prisons and more prison time is also a legacy of the NRA, who used this as a political smokescreen to divert politicians from strengthening firearms laws.

          • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

            i doubt they spent much money increasing mandatory minimums for drug violations

        • TomK_in_Boston

          A serious reply to a troll.

          • Ray in VT

            Well, he does have a valid point regarding the CO union supporting the 3 strikes law back in the day.  They’ve certainly played a role, via that support, in exploding at elast a part of the prison population in the state since then.

          • TomK_in_Boston

            But it’s just parroting of the false equivalence talking point “corporations on the one hand, unions on the other hand” when corporations are more powerful than ever and unions are almost destroyed after decades of class warfare.

          • TomK_in_Boston

            But it’s just parroting of the false equivalence talking point “corporations on the one hand, unions on the other hand” when corporations are more powerful than ever and unions are almost destroyed after decades of class warfare.

          • Ray in VT

            I do think that it is something of a false equivalence, Tom, but in this case the union certainly did push for harsher sentences that has likely led to larger prison populations.  I don’t think that that should take away from the actions of private prison companies and their activities, but the role of the COs in California should be discussed in this case I think.

      • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

        yes the prison guard union is also a cancer on society

        • nj_v2

          It’s always the unions’ fault.

          Cancer? Sounds pretty bad. Are you’re sure they’re not like Hitler somehow? That would be really, really bad.

          • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

            i think corporations are just as much or more to blame for the ever expanding prison industrial complex, since prisons are more profitable than ever for corporations. it does seem pretty horrible to have a prison guard union when our goal as a society should be to have fewer prisons and guards and they by definition have to lobby for more.
            hitler also liked keeping people in prison? but i would not have gone there myself

    • DeJay79

      “The answer to 9 out of 10 questions … Money” -Vanilla Sky

      always follow the money and you’ll find the reason.

      • TomK_in_Boston

        Amen! Sorry, I said “follow the money” before I read this thread. The private prison corporations will buy enough pols and lobbyists to keep the inmates and $ flowing, which will allow them to buy more pols and lobbyists…no different from the private military contractors, private charter schools, etc. Everywhere privatization is screwing up the USA under the guise of cost cutting, while in  the end it’s actually more expensive.

  • William

    The cost of locking people up is much less than the cost of crime in society. Not every criminal needs to go to a prison but every criminal needs to be punished.

    • Shag_Wevera

      Pretty vague.

      • William

         This guy says it better than I can..worth a read..


        • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

          Ah, Townhall. A telling link.

          • William

             Afraid of the truth?

          • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

            Pfft. Townhall columnists have a track record; if you think it’s the truth I can’t help you.

          • Steve__T

             Answer this question truthfully. Have you EVER exceeded the speed limit?

            If no you get a good driver award.

            If yes you are a law breaker even if you weren’t caught.

             That makes you a criminal.
            accordingly in your own words
            ” every criminal needs to be punished”

            Do you feel that is a fair assessment?

            You need to be punished for breaking the law.

    • Don_B1

      And when prisoners come out without having learned how to survive in the outside in legitimate ways, the anger will result in more violent crimes, etc.

      There are some out-of-prison “punishments” that are effective for non-violent crimes and more need to be developed.

      • Ray in VT

        Vermont has been trying a lot of diversion programs for low level drug possession cases lately.

        • JGC

          What is the story with Gov. Shumlin? How is he perceived in VT?

          • Ray in VT

            He’s ruffled some feathers with various groups, including state workers and unions.  He’s a fairly measured guy, so I don’t think that he’s seen like any sort of firebrand.  Liberal to be sure, but he can work with the state’s GOP Lieutenant Governor.  Fast enough to outrun a bear.

      • William

         It is a tough problem for society. I think for non-violent criminals seeking “other than prison” punishment is a better idea.

    • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

      depends on the “crime”

    • jimino

      I agree in theory, but in the real world, one first has to be caught and charged.  Who we decide to focus our investigative and prosecutorial efforts on is the determining factor on who gets labeled a “criminal”.

      • William

         I’m the first one to admit our criminal justice system is very corrupt, but I also realize that are a lot of evil people in the world and those people need to be locked up or punished.

      • DrewInGeorgia

        In the real world, or at least in this country:
        No, one does not have to first be caught then charged. They should be but that only applies if Innocent Until Proven Guilty is the goal. It is most certainly not the goal, high conviction rates are.

        I agree with your sentiment but completely disagree with your comment. The Department of Justice says my situation is rare but don’t you believe them. Guilty until proven innocent is a fact, and investigative and “prosecutorial” efforts were never focused on me. My only point is that saying these are determining factors as to who gets labeled a criminal is not necessarily the case.

        For the record, I abhor the Stop And Frisk and Random Checkpoint civil rights violations. Yes they are a violation of civil rights.

  • Ray in VT

    My brother farms in the “North Country”, and just about everyone who isn’t a farmer seems to be a CO.  Prisons are a very big business up there, with facilities such as Dannemora.

  • ToyYoda

    Please mention the “Kids for Cash Scandal” in Pennsylvania, whereby judges were given kickbacks by juvenile prison owners to sentence kids to harsher penalties than they would have otherwise received.


    Also talk the conflict of interest between law makers and the prison industry that supports them.

    • JGC

      And the recent “school to prison pipeline” Mississippi scandal.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bkort Barry Kort

    In the field of Medicine, every proposed treatment or cure has to be carefully studied and reviewed to ensure that it has demonstrated therapeutic value, and does not inadvertently spread, exacerbate, or even cause the malady it sets out to treat. In the medical literature, a treatment is called “iatrogenic” if it is counter-productive to the primary objective of curing disease.

    The field of Law does not employ such safeguards, and as a result a substantial fraction of our public policies and practices, operating under the color of law, turn out to be iatrogenic — ineffective at best and counter-productive at worst.

    Alan Simpson, the retired Senator from Wyoming, spent some three decades in Congress, during which time he helped craft and enact a great deal of legislation. But after he retired, he remarked that during his tenure in Washington politics, he discovered a law, the way a scientist would discover a natural law. Simpson said he discovered the Law of Unintended Consequences, meaning that the actual outcome of legislation, passed in good faith with an expectation of curing one of society’s ills, frequently turned out to have unanticipated, unexpected, and undesirable consequences. In science, if one is relying on a theoretical model, and the actual outcome of an experiment does not jibe with that predicted by the model, one is obliged to discard the model as unreliable.

    Our governmental systems are rife with unreliable models which give rise to unwise practices, many of which are ineffective at best and counter-productive at worst. We have built governmental systems that lack viable safeguards against iatrogenic treatments of many of our most problematic social ills.

    Here is an example of the kind of scholarly article one might find on JSTOR (which recently relaxed its policies to make many more of them freely available without a costly institutional subscription).

    “Punishment and Violence: Is the Criminal Law Based on One Huge Mistake?” by James Gilligan, Harvard University; published in the Journal of Social Research, Fall 2000.


    • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

      yup exactly why we need less gun control laws not more

    • http://www.facebook.com/drpmeade Paul S Meade

       An excellent comment. When these laws were enacted, the drugs of abuse were nearly completely of the illegal variety: marijuana, heroin, cocaine, etc. Now the many of the preferred drugs of abuse are perfectly legal but illegally distributed pain medications.

      Oh, what a conspiracy theory could be generated out of the existing situation where the companies manufacturing the abused drugs also manufacture the drugs used to treat the abuse. 

    • DeJay79

       My question is: where is the line between “freedom and self rule” democracy and “wise and benevolent” Geniocracy?

      • http://www.facebook.com/bkort Barry Kort

        See the Kohlberg-Gilligan Model.  The boundary you are looking for lies between the 4th and 5th rung of Kohlberg’s Ladder.

  • J__o__h__n

    The disproportionate number of blacks in prison was part of the plan not something they discovered after. 

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

      I hate saying this continually, but it sounds like “That’s a feature, not a bug.”

    • JGC

      Right. There is the added “benefit” that when they do get out, they have forfeited their voting rights. That had to be a part of the plan, as well.

  • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

    yup prohibition has turned us into the most repressive police state on earth. when will we end the war on drugs which is in fact a war on america?

    • Ray in VT

      It certainly hasn’t worked.  We’ve filled prisons, spent billions, and there’s still so much demand that people will line up to supply the product.  There has to be a better way.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_BHLNUP6LU6CNIOER4M4BGHVXZI My

     “Since the mid-1980s, a proliferation of vague and overlapping federal
    criminal statutes has given federal prosecutors the ability to indict,
    and convict, virtually anyone unfortunate enough to come within their
    sights. And sentencing guidelines confer yet additional power on
    prosecutors, who have the discretion to pick and choose from statutes
    covering the same behavior.”

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

    I hope one of our guests brings up the idea of prison as a “finishing school for criminals”. Locking up non-violent offenders with violent ones has predictable outcomes.

  • MrStang

    Tom please ask your guests about the effects of environmental lead poisoning
    on incarceration rates.
    Also, how does this phenomenon square with the prison for profit activities of corporations getting favorable legislation written (i.e. harsh, mandatory sentencing) via ALEC.

  • donniethebrasco

    The final solution to prison populations:

    Start growing cotton on prison grounds.

    • JGC

      I was going to say, “ouch”, but then I just saw on Wikipedia that they do exactly that in Louisiana.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_Y6CO5C2HE4WM2OYGCDVWGPRXXM oldman

    There needs to be a big shift – we need to stop using the legal system as a profit center.

  • DrewInGeorgia

    What was the biggest driver behind the Criminalization of marijuana?
    Here’s a hint: it had a LOT to do with Mexican Immigrants…

    Also, Americans are a lot like teenagers: The best way to get them to do something is to tell them not to do it.


    • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

      Wow. I thought it had to do with that debbil’s music, jazz. At least that’s what Reefer Madness taught me.

    • Steve__T

       I think you need to look at something a lot more substantive, this is a link to why it’s Illegal and a history of the plant starting from 7000- 8000 BC up to today. Its very educational, and eye opening, a truth worth your time. It might also tick you off, It made me fairly angry.


      • DrewInGeorgia

        Seen it, thanks for posting the link. The Grass documentary was just the first thing that popped to mind regarding the results of telling people NOT to do something.

    • hennorama

      The film Reefer Madness was one of the anti-marijuana propaganda pieces of the time just prior to the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act.  It was released in 1936.  Here’s the IMDB synopsis:

      “Cautionary tale features a fictionalized and highly exaggerated take on the use of marijuana. A trio of drug dealers lead innocent teenagers to become addicted to “reefer” cigarettes by holding wild parties with jazz music.”


      One has heard that watching this film while using “the torturer that never stops!” (from one of the film’s lobby posters) can be uproariously fun.


      • DrewInGeorgia

        Refer Madness clips are abundant in the Documentary I posted a link to. I remember thinking way back when I first watched Refer Madness that it was propaganda of a caliber that would make Joseph Goebbels proud.

        I don’t use marijuanna or endorse its use but I don’t decry those who use it either. I have always found the war against it to be a perfect demonstration of an over-reaction to a non-existent problem. The Industrialized Hemp Evisceration that resulted when it could have been (and still could be) such a benefit to all also fascinates while simultaneously infurriating me.

        Lumber, pulp, textile, construction, and feul industries gotta protect (monopolize) their business models though don’t they…

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_Y6CO5C2HE4WM2OYGCDVWGPRXXM oldman

    One big problem is who is going to jail – we have thousands getting very stiff sentences for very trivial stuff – but when people break the law up to and including killing people in the role of trying to make corporate profits, the corporation gets the equivalent of a speeding ticket (a fine) and these folks all walk.

  • MrStang

    Here is a useful factsheet on the drug war, mass incarceration, and race, from a group called ‘drugpolicy.org’


  • Kea Van der Ziel

    Last night I attended a forum on mass incarceration sponsored by the Mass Incarceration Action Group at a church in Roxbury, Mass.  There were 4 panelists.  Jack Cole of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition argued that drugs now illegal need to be legalized.  His main point was that the touted benefits of the War on Drugs have not been realized, namely the level of drug addiction has remained the same since 1914 (1.3%), drug use has not decreased, drug ODs have not decreased, drug associated murders have increased especially in countries such as Honduras and Mexico, drugs are cheaper and more pure now than in the past.  He argues that the diversion of money to the drug war has resulted in a decrease of solving of other crimes such as murders (now solved ~61% of the time, previously solved in the 90+% range).  Barbara Dougan from Families Against Mandatory Minimums spoke about her organization’s efforts to alter our laws regarding sentencing and the restoration of judicial discretion.  Michael Corey of the NAACP spoke as well as a lawyer from the ACLU. 

    We need to realize that the burgeoning prison population is a money maker for some in our country as previoulsy stated, not just in the building and servicing of prisons.  Corporations find the imprisoned are a ready source of low-cost labor.  Companies such as Victoria’s Secret, Macy’s, Target, Motorola, etc, pay pennies per hour for labor done by prisoners, a new source of what is essentially slave labor.

    I recommend that everyone  who has an opinion on this issue read Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow” and look at the websites of LEAP and FAAM (www.faam.org) as well as the ACLU and NAACP.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_Y6CO5C2HE4WM2OYGCDVWGPRXXM oldman

    Another point to touch on – with more and more police moving into schools, and getting involved in events that used to be settled by methods like detention, many kids are being pushed into this cycle at earlier ages.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/MUP4QFLVOF62SBERMYJDMVRVJY Jamie Folk

    Look no further than Annie Dookhan to know what mass incarceration has done to our criminal justice system.   It has made it rotten to the core.  It is now a for profit business where our tax dollars are the only source of income to massive multibillion dollar corporations.  This is why the republicans can’t balance the budget.  You can’t have a balanced budget and have this system of mass incarceration. 

    Legalizing pot would not only give us millions in taxable revenue but also save us millions in court costs and prison terms.  We need to legalize pot and do away with mandatory minimums.

    Gov Patrick needs to stop focusing on raising taxes and start reducing our criminal justice spending.  It is out of control and does not reduce crime.  If it did, we wouldnt have so many people in jail.

  • durandtodd

    Did private prison interests have any thing to do with the establishment of mandatory sentences?

    • DrewInGeorgia

      Establishment? Not necessarily.
      Increased sentence lengths and decreased “qualifiers”? Definitely.

  • Kimleedelle

    Thanks for this.

  • DonMottolo

    The growth of gangs and gun violence is one large reason for the growth of prison population.   If we can get the guns out of the hands of young gang members very early, without putting them in jail if the gun has not been used for a crime, we can reduce the prison population while reducing gun violence.

    The solution to the gang violence which is terrorizing urban communities is for our leaders to try a radical new approach.  We need the police to be able to get guns out of the hands of gang members, but the laws that protect our civil liberties work against this.  When children live in fear of being killed on their own front steps, we have a desperate situation.

    Just like we agree to temporarily suspend our rights of being personally searched to get into an airport, communities in high crime areas should agree to allow police to stop and search anyone suspicious.    Yes, it’s an awful invasion of privacy and personal rights, but how else can we keep innocent people safe?  The current methods aren’t working.

    If a person is found with an illegal gun and it can be traced to a crime, the police can get them off the streets immediately.    If it’s a young man with no prior record, we may have caught someone at a point where they at the beginning stage of gang life, and they should be given a fine without jail time, and counseling to stay out of gangs.

    Because of the arguments about constitutionality,  the only way this could possibly work is if the local community leaders and their political representatives to demand it.   By design there would need to be a provision for the community to be able to take away these temporary search rights from the police once the violence level has dropped.

    This shouldn’t be a permanent change of our laws, and it should not be used in most of the country,  but only by the request of the leaders of individual cities and communities.   We all cherish our civil liberties, but as a society we need to be flexible to solve the complicated problems that face us. 

    Obviously, this would bring on legal challenges by both conservatives and liberals, from blacks and whites,  from the NRA and from the ACLU.  For it to succeed it would need a strong backer, like President Obama, and the local community would have to not only allow it, but demand it.

    • hennorama

      DonMottolo – as you likely know, the NYPD has been using “stop and frisk” practices for quite a long time.  They base their defense of this somewhat questionable practice in large part on the 1968 Supreme Court decision in the Terry vs. Ohio case.

      SCOTUS held, in part, that

      “5. Where a reasonably prudent officer is warranted in the circumstances of a given case in believing that his safety or that of others is endangered, he may make a reasonable search for weapons of the person believed by him to be armed and dangerous  regardless of whether he has probable cause to arrest that individual for crime or the absolute certainty that the individual is armed.”


      There also are a variety of penalties for illegal handgun possession already on the books, depending on location.  See


      My point is that when you say “…communities in high crime areas should agree to allow police to stop and search anyone suspicious,” this is already happening, and there are already prohibitions in place regarding illegal firearms possession.

      • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

        and its not working and has been shown to be applied in a racist manner

    • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

      stripping people of their rights is not the answer. the gangs are not created because of guns but because of prohibition of drugs anyways. do you think if you harrassed every person in a urban area there would not be gangs? i pray people do not rise up and demand to be stripped of their rights.

    • http://hammernews.com/ hammermann

       I sympathize with this idea, but police are often too abusive, lazy, and uninterested to do this properly. And having lived in a hellish little chunk of half black ghetto, where a real estate woman neighbor 100 ft away was shot to death being robbed, I think most residents prefered the freedom of their hell than the intrusion of police.

  • Scott B

    Some of this is the result of the ridiculous use, and abuse, of laws.

    Leave your joint within so many feet of your box of sandwich baggies you use for your lunch at work, or too close to the bathroom scale, and they can nail you for “Intent to distrubute drugs”

    Shoot a warning shot into the ceiling to scare off your abusive partner in Miami and there’s an automatic 20 or 25 year prison sentence for dis charging a gun within city limits.  If the woman that’s sitting in jail had actually shot her abuser she could have gotten a 5 – 10 year sentence had she just wounded or killed him, for attempted murder and/or assault with a weapon, or gotten off entirely under FL’s “Stand your ground” law.

  • MrStang

    A great blog covering the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC)

  • Scott B

    The current system is a jobs program and way to get state and federal dollars for the increase in the area’s population.

  • arydberg

    In the end, after all is said and done, we live in a profoundly evil country.   Wars without reason,   Imprisonment  for victimless crimes based on race,   Health  among  the worst of the advanced counties,   Million dollar giveaways to banks to big to fail.  and then the patriot act  nulling out the Constitution.    I am truly ashamed and outraged to be born into this country.

  • skinnybuddhaboy

    There is also a political reality that has not been mentioned – inmates cannot vote – and are as well severely restricted from voting even after the completion of their sentence – and also inmates are not counted as unemployed persons – so the more we incarcerate the better are employment numbers seem – there are many insidious forces at work to keep minorities behind bars in great numbers - 



  • http://www.facebook.com/skiplinger Sutton Kiplinger

    I echo Jarvis DeBerry’s recommendation of Michelle Alexander’s book, “The New Jim Crow” about how mass incarceration functions as a nominally color-blind system of racial discrimination.

    One of the most striking points of Michelle Alexander’s book, to me, was how every stage of our justice system — from police searches, to bringing charges, to plea bargaining, sentencing, and parole — not only allows racial discrimination but has actually systematically closed off the avenues for challenging blatantly discriminatory practices.

    Research shows that white people and black people commit drug offenses at the same rate — not just close; identical. Black people are sent to prison for drugs; white people are, for the most part, not. Black communities bear the brunt of the resulting disenfranchisement, and white communities escape it.

    This is absolutely the civil rights issue of our time. Our courts are turning a blind eye, and economic pragmatism will only take us so far.

    Tom, can your guests comment on any prospects they see for a broader based social movement to challenge this profound injustice?

    - Sutton

    • John Nisbet

      From my spot as an assistant public defender in a virtually all white county in Tennessee, the issue is CLASS.  Your comment is dead on that poor people go to jail (of whatever ethnicity) and wealthier people, for the most part, do not go to jail.  Or have the Department of Children’s Services take their children away for being a bad parent.

  • EKYgrrl

    In addition to all the human rights issues you raise, the Daily Yonder has an excellent article today that shows that siting prisons in rural communities is not a positive economic development strategy. In fact communities are left as poor and with fewer resources for development. Check it out

  • Scott B

    One study showed that people missing probation and  court dates was significantly cut if the people were just given a reminder call or two in the days before the appearance date.
    Missing dates is a prime driver of “recidivism”. The people aren’t necessarily doing crimes, they just forget,as simple and almost amusing as that seems.

    • Steve__T

       In North Carolina and in most states. if you are placed on probation, you pay for it. You pay for your PO’s time at about 40 bucks a month plus court cost, if its a drug charge you will pay for testing about 60 a month. With a criminal record its harder to find a job that pays over min wage making payments hard to keep up with. If you miss a date with your PO or can’t pay your fines back to the Judge you go. Now you either get extended Probation, or jail, or both and new fines. Most end up doing some time and get an ever evolving criminal background. That’s starting with something as small as a misdemeanor charge. Who say’s we don’t grow our own criminals?

      • hennorama

        Steve__T – there’s a clear opportunity here for private enterprise.  Imagine a new category of legal loan sharking – Prison Day Loans!
        “Check OUT of jail and CheckIntoCash!”

      • Scott B

         That is another issue. I know guys that end up in jail because times get hard (job loss, car breaks down, whatever) and they miss a child support payment. He tries to work something out with the ex and courts, neither wants to hear it. The ex gets POed, calls the system. He ends up in jail, so he looses his job, has fines and fees he now has to pay on top of the back child support. Now he has a record and looks like a deadbeat dad that ends up in the media.  So he misses another payment, goes back to court, back to jail, more fines, more fees, and now he’s a repeat offender.
        This costs the guy money and a decent future, and the tax payer because  it costs to have him in the legal system from cop car to court to jail.

        • http://hammernews.com/ hammermann

           Child support + alimony are the new US debtors’ prisons, though that’s supposedly illegal. This kind of stuff happens nowhere else in the world- it is considered a civil matter. What do these moron judges think happens to a guy’s chances of ever paying when he is jailed?

          • Scott B

             The big problem is that to the courts it’s black & white, and if the dad doesn’t pay, regardless of the reason, he’s guilty and punished. There doesn’t seem to be any incentive to work out a deal, and it’s a downward spiral for the owing parent.

              I don’t hear about this when it comes to mothers in this type of situation. I might, somehow, miss those stories, but I have heard in the first-person countless tales from dads trying to do the right thing and being handcuffed by the legal system, literally and figuratively, from doing so.

  • Michiganjf

    The legalization of victimless crime will also go a LONG WAY to alleviating violent crime!!!

      The main source of funding for organized crime is removed, as well as the driving force of gang activity… curtailing these forces eliminates a HUGE contributor to a culture of violence.

    Tax victimless crime, and use some of the revenue for first rate anti-drug advertising campaigns and first rate drug rehab… but even the elimination of the “taboo” factor will help to stem some of the drug “coolness” factor, curtailing use by teens.

    These things also all help ensure that drug addicts won’t need to burglarize or mug to support their habit, as does the fact that drugs would be far cheaper.

    Everyone knows that legalizing victimless crime is THE ANSWER to myriad problems in our society, SO JUST DO IT!!!!

    • DrewInGeorgia
      • hennorama

        Drew – I thought Rush Limbaugh was “society’s favorite oxymoron” based on his reportedly illegal acquisition and use of OxyContin.

        And speaking of oxymorons, I’ve always been surprised that Pres. Obama’s detractors don’t use “Oxy-moron” as an epithet, given Pres. Obama’s having spent two years at Occidental College in Los Angeles.  (For those that don’t know, Occidental College refers to itself as “Oxy” and its website is http://www.oxy.edu).

    • johndickason

      Be careful what you call “victimless crime”.  Possession of marijuana is one thing, but running a meth lab is totally different.  I am from Michigan too and my close friend took his own life after becoming hopelessly addicted to crystal meth.  Making and distributing drugs is not a victimless crime.  My friend’s orphan children can tell you that. 

  • PithHelmut

    It is us who give leverage to the wealthiest and most brutal types of humans.  We vote them into office, we buy their products, we worship them. We should hang our heads in shame for allowing the mentally ill or the poor to rot in jail. In fact jail itself is so antiquated an idea that it is reason enough to look at ourselves as a modern, civilized or decent society.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/RKQBQY63LGAUT4OA5KDJF6JNQI Smooth Come Up

    You guys missed a vital point. 600,000 people are released from prisons every year and will NOT find jobs because of ubiquitous background checks. Think recidivism rates are high now? You ain’t seen nothing yet.

    • DrewInGeorgia

      The caller (missed his name) discussing a severe decrease in manufacturing employment brought that up.

    • hennorama

      One looks at Wal-Mart’s recent announcement that they plan to hire 100,000 military veterans, and contrasts it with what might happen if they were to announce a plan to hire 100,000 ex-inmates.

      Regardless of the strength or weakness of the economy or any particular industry, ex-inmates will have a difficult time finding work.  There is an inherent negative prejudgment of the individual based solely on the fact of prior incarceration.  This is VERY difficult to overcome.

    • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

      its good for the prison industrial complex always plenty of repeat “clients”

  • TomK_in_Boston

    Follow the money. As profits flow to private prison corporations, they will lobby to keep the inmates coming. It will turn out that private prisons actually don’t save the states any money, as with the privatized military contractors and the federal gvt, but that won’t make any difference as long as the contributions are there for the pols.

  • John Nisbet

    The real issue is the State legislatures.  Here in Tennessee, the legislature is making more and more conduct crimes and at the same time increasing the mandatory sentences to existing crimes.  The legislature is also making more and more sentences 100% sentences–sentences that are not eligible for parole until the sentence has been completely served.  Most of these sentences are 10 years or longer (most are 25 years).  A life sentence in Tennessee takes 52 years to serve.

    Until the State of Tennessee faces bankruptcy from the prison population, there is nothing to stop this conservative Republican legislature to do anything different than locking people for as long as possible.

    • JGC

      But does the state legislature have to answer to the leadership of the governor’s office?  I found it interesting  that some of the other Republican governors (Jindal, Kasich, even Perry, for chrissake) are being more creative to address some wrongs within the justice system of their states. What is the TN gov up to?

      • http://www.facebook.com/john.nisbet.146 John Nisbet

        Tennessee governor a non-factor in any sort of prison/criminal justice reform.  Largely because no incentive to do anything but lock them up for as long as possible.

  • DrewInGeorgia

    Out of Sight, Out of Mind.
    Never worked, never will.

    • harverdphd

       I don’t see your point….forget it…

      • DrewInGeorgia

        Easy not to see something when you spend your time trying to avoid looking at it. But maybe that was your point? Nah, couldn’t be you made an insightful comment. Inciteful maybe…

        The point? A problem is never solved by ignoring it.

  • burroak

    Record prison rates, divorce rates, mass shootings, and poverty; also, our nation poor handling of our mentally ill.  What do these say about our society?
    Are these all something systemic? Part of greater root problem?
    Perhaps these societal ills do have an economic correlation.
    When economic opportunites are few and of low quality, and companies and corporations abandon many of our nation’s cities, what fills this void?

  • nj_v2

    Highest incarceration rate in the world, yet not one criminal prosecution or conviction of any of the criminals in the finance sector responsible for crashing the economy and ruining the lives of millions of people.

    Sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing…

    • harverdphd

       Because Obama is bought and paid for.

  • Davesix6

    Excelent program.
    As one who leans hard toward libiratian ideals I believe our justice system from the Patriot Act down definately needs a through examination and re-thinking.

    • jefe68

      I’m not a libertarian and I agree with you.

      • nj_v2

        I’m not a “libiratian” or a Libertarian, and i agree, too.

        Maybe we can all just get along?

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/RKQBQY63LGAUT4OA5KDJF6JNQI Smooth Come Up

    I repeat. Your show missed the most vital “point.” Half a million people per year are released into a society where they will never find a job b/c 90% of employers do background checks.

    If these people can’t find a job what are they supposed to do?

    • SomeGuyNamedMark

      Resort to crime again so they can get rearrested and therefore justify those big prison budgets and private jail profits.  See?  The system works!

    • harverdphd

       Hey! Mr Horsepower!

  • nelson151

    you may want to let your listeners know that Michelle Alexander author of The New Jim Crow  mass incarceration in the age of colorblindness will be speaking at 5:30 Feb 25 at the Yale Divinity School on line.  yaledivinityschool.com

    this is right on point to you topic and lays out serious flaws
    in the social justice system.  The War on Drugs is central to the concerns and solutions presented.

    Peter A

  • Call_Me_Missouri

    I was disappointed by the lack of mention of the new EEOC Guidance on the use of Criminal Background Checks in Employment Practices that was issued just last year.

    It is important that persons with a criminal backgrounds know that you cannot be discriminated against just because you have a criminal background.  Your criminal background must specifically be related to the job that you are applying for in order for it to be disqualifying for employment.

    For more information from the EEOC here are a couple of links.



    • DrewInGeorgia

      Unfortunately, even persons with a FALSE criminal background are discriminated against on a daily basis. Most just never become aware of said discrimination. The Fair Credit Reporting Act has been around a while, it hasn’t accomplished a damn thing. Companies will not act responsibly when they are never held to task.


    • SomeGuyNamedMark

      Agree.  Hard to expect someone to clean up their act if you won’t even give them a fair chance.

      • kjsch

         Rehabilitation is not something they do or are interested in, they will welcome them back.

    • hennorama

      Call_Me_Missouri – an excellent point about criminal background checks.

      However, regardless of the law or regulations, employers use all sorts of background and records checks to sort applicants – credit, worker’s comp, arrest/criminal, education, checkwriting history, driving, tenant history, insurance claims, sex offender, licensing etc. etc.  It’s all available for relatively low cost.

      And since employers are rarely if ever required to inform applicants why they were turned down, it is very very difficult to determine whether one has been discriminated against.

      • Call_Me_Missouri

        Obtaining reports doesn’t mean they are using them as a primary method of disqualifying an applicant so that in and of itself is not illegal… But patterns of employment discrimination cannot be hidden as they are statistically analyzed and EEOC does have the authority to investigate.

        If the company is a Federal Contractor, OFCCP investigates and has the authority to go on-site to review in person employment records.

        Again, if you feel that you are being discriminated against, you have the obligation, not just to yourself, to report it.  If you don’t report it, well…

        And if you see any job description that says “Must have a Clean Background Check”… You should definitely report that to EEOC.

        • hennorama

          Call_Me_Missouri – TY for your repsonse. I yield to your superior knowledge on this topic.

          My point is that it is nearly impossible for the APPLICANT not only to know why the employer did not hire them, but also to determine whether they have been discriminated against by the employer. This is especially true in the far more common instance of small employers, who may be ignorant or the law, careless in its application, or who may feel they can act in any way they wish, regardless of the law. Without some knowledge as to a basis, the unhired applicant is unlikely to file a complaint.

          As you point out, EEOC and OFCCP have significant authority to investigate and enforce the law, but they won’t act outside their purview or without being prompted by complaints. Per the EEOC’s website, in FY 2009, they received 93,277 private sector charges of discrimination, and “… secured both monetary and non-monetary benefits for more than 17,491 people.” Not huge numbers by any measure compared to the overall labor force.


          • DrewInGeorgia

            Which was exactly my point. All they have to do is say “We’re sorry, we’ve decided not to hire at this time” or “The position has been filled” and then File 13 your application and background check results. You can’t accuse an HR department of breaking the law when there’s no record of them breaking the law.

          • hennorama

            File 13 is my “phrase of the day.”  Context alone told me it was equivalent to “round file.”

            OnPoint forums help to expand one’s collection of colloquialisms.  Today it is “File 13″ and yesterday was “choit.”  Maybe I should start a list …

  • Ben Hall

    I have often found that Tom cuts off rambling callers.  While I understand it, it has frequently struck me as less than nice.  Today, though, I thought he was flat-out rude to the woman who mentioned that because the United States was a young country China and Iran (and another country) were not good comparisons.  Regardless of the validity of the point, Tom basically mocked the idea but gave the caller no chance to explain what she meant.  It was disappointing.

    • SomeGuyNamedMark

      The show has to stick to a schedule and allow others a chance to call in.

      As to her point the cultures are old but the governments of those countries are younger than the US’.  The people of the US come from old cultures also.

    • snapandwhistle

      I thought the same thing.

  • William

     1 ticked at 17. I paid the 50 dollar fine and learned my lesson.

  • vito33

    And when you have for-profit corporations running prisons, (Corrections Corporation of America, GEO Group, etc.), it’s in their vested interest to support things like draconian minimum sentencing. They want to lock up as many people as possible and keep them there as long as possible, justice be damned.  

  • harverdphd

    Probably because most offenders in China and Russia never make it to prison.

  • harverdphd


  • harverdphd

     I was thinking of “work camps”

  • drjones2012

    I know your states are true. My brothers are victims of cooperate greed and white-supremacy.

  • Steve__T


  • Kate Mosher

    Many people don’t realize the secondary costs to the children who are left without a parent and are put into foster care, require mental health treatment, or struggle to progress with school related to the stress they are under.

  • Kate Mosher

    If you look at behavioral psychology, punishment is only effective in changing behavior when used infrequently and paired with reward.

  • Steve__T

    This was taken from the legislative Analyst’s office of CA

    California’s Annual Costs to Incarcerate an Inmate in Prison

    Type of Expenditure Per Inmate Costs

    Inmate Health Care

    Medical care

    Psychiatric services


    Dental care


    Facility operations (maintenance, utilities, etc.)

    Classification services

    Maintenance of inmate records

    Reception, testing, assignment



      Inmate Support


    Inmate activities

    Inmate employment and canteen


    Religious activities

    Rehabilitation Programs

    Academic education

    Vocational training

    Substance abuse programs



    • JGC

      Thanks for the detailed breakdown. It is kind of interesting to see, for example, that works out to a budget of $4 per day for food, $24 per day for medical care and $10 per day for administration. 

    • hennorama

      Steve__T – to clarify your post, the Inmate Health Care total of $12,442 INCLUDES the 4 categories that follow (Medical care, Psychiatric Services, Pharmaceuticals, and Dental care.  Otherwise, one might think the total was double the $12,442 figure.

      Same thing with the Operations figure, which includes everything down to Transportation, and with Inmate Support including everything down to Religous activities, and Rehab Programs which include everything down to Substance abuse programs.

      I discovered this by doing a quick addition in my head and thought – “Wait, health care, medical care, psych, drugs and dental are almost $25K?  That doesn’t sound right. And what’s the diff between Inmate Health Care and Medical Care?  Why are those separate?”

      Here’s a link to the data:

      • Steve__T

        That link is where I got that information. Sorry I did not break it down better,

        • hennorama

          Yeah I hear ya. Been there. DISQUSting. :-)

  • S Farrelle

    On the topic of prosecution of criminals in the contemporary War on Drugs:

    I seriously find the weight of race or color of one’s skin to be less than what it used to be in decades past when it comes to prosecution.  Instead, lawyers who represent the prosecution are more interested in raw numbers.  It is not a matter of race/gender/economic background but instead a matter of how many people one lawyer can put into prison over another.

    A feather in one’s cap goes to the highest prosecution rate.

    • DrewInGeorgia

      Absolutely right. The weight of Conviction Rate far exceeds the value of Justice. It’s tragic.

  • rlsain

    Tom: Thanks for this program. The majority of persons behind bars can be diagnosed with major psychiatric disorders. It’s not a coincidence we ruined the mental health system from the 1960′s on. As a community child psychiatrist in Michigan for the past 30 years, I know that our collective failure to intervene effectively with troubled children results in filling our prisons. Fortunately, the solution is to provide effective psychiatric and mental health services to the families of children behind the 8-ball.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bkort Barry Kort

    A Company That Runs Prisons Will Have Its Name on a Stadium

    The NY Times reports that Florida Atlantic University, in Boca Raton, has struck a deal to rename its football building “GEO Group Stadium.” 

    The GEO Group is a private for-profit prison corporation.

    • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

      and if the team does not make any money there they can just put some razor wire around the top and get more govt “clients”

  • selfemployed_mom

    My son has spent over 1 year in jail.  During high-school graduation week, he aided his friend who was being attacked by a violent, drugged up person.  This person had a better lawyer.  There are many mis-conceptions about incarceration held by people who have never had anyone in jail. In one local jail, there is no outdoor space -when held there for up to a year – the inmates will never go outside.  Another local jail will not allow books to be donated, even though they don’t have enough books.  Inmates are shipped 70 miles from the suburban area; we, a relatively affluent suburban family could still visit our son – but this is a terrible burden for the families who cannot just get into a reliable car and spend $50 on gas each week to support their family members.  Information to lock people up is not reliable – my son was sent back to jail for allegedly failing a drug test which he allegedly did not show up for!!  The worst results however, are when these people get out.  Even when a person has finished his sentence and paid society for his crime – he will not be able to get a job.  The military will not take felons with 1year + sentence   Most corporations and government entities will not hire prior felons.   The extensive computer networks which checkup on people make it extremely hard for well-intentioned young people to make a fresh start.  We ended up sending our son to Europe.  Over there he can be the bright, intelligent, reliable, hardworking man that we know he is, and he can contribute to society.

    • DrewInGeorgia

      The supplied link is from 2009 but unfortunately it is just as relevant in 2013 (if not more so). It is still going on but doesn’t come to light very often for obvious reasons. I am sorry to hear of your troubles, just be thankful your “affluence” put you in a position to be able to do something about it. The majority of parents in that situation have Zero options.

      Judges Plead Guilty in Scheme to Jail Youths for Profit

    • http://hammernews.com/ hammermann

      How terrible. The prison industrial complex is destroying most of the people sent through it, making them damaged emotional cripples who can’t take initiative, can’t get a job, can’t ever get clear. What do the hard-line bastards think happens when inmates are raped, beaten, bullied for even a few months? Half the people are there for drugs- nothing more. The expansion of America’s PIC is a tragedy and an obscenity that costs a fortune. We could GIVE cons $20K a year, save 60% and they wouldn’t have to be criminals! Wasn’t the old rub against the Commies that they were “Police States”. Well step aside world- we’re # 1!!!!!!  USA USA!

  • http://www.facebook.com/johnkfitzpatrick John K. Fitzpatrick

    Hats off to caller Jim in New Orleans!  “Looking too low in the weeds” with an “uneven economy”.  I would add, there are plenty of tasks needed, that capitalist “jobs” will never accomplish.  Tasks that anyone, even an “ex-con”, would feel useful doing, and could even be remunerated for, but can not count as capitalist “jobs”.

    • Bluejay2fly

      Good Job Jim! I have been a prison guard for 15 years and knowing these inmates, as I do, many would function well in factory jobs, construction, etc. If we had decent paying jobs available we could get way from welfare and state support that which being in prison is the highest sort. 

  • Tyranipocrit

    we put more people in prison by a long shot because that is what fascists do

  • Kelly Jewell

    My husband and I are both full time students and this past winter he made the mistake of changing the date on his handicap tag in his window when he parked at school because he hadn’t made it to the DMV to renew it. Someone called the police from campus and when the officer showed he wrote my husband a ticket for a Misdemeanor rather than a violation and from there it got worse. When he showed for his appointment with the Prosecutor he began by telling my husband if he had his way my husband was going to serve jail time and pay a 500 dollar fine. My husband has never had more than a traffic ticket in his life an no run ins with the law. Fortunately the judge looked at him and the lawyer we had to hire and was appalled it made it to his court room!!! Our whole system is set up to punish and not use any common sense quite often.  Oh, and the handicap placard is now a permanent one after my husbands three knee surgeries and needing a fourth

    • Frank N. Blunt

      Prosecutors can be among the worse of society. Should be held accountable for lying & perpetrating injustice while pursuing persecution. Even the public defenders collude with them, no objectivity or concern but railroading, trumping up charges, & sacrificing people.

  • James M. Kilpatrick

    Why is it that we claim to be the best when we (I include myself) are so bad?

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/GVNSLALVZK5KXG6UCEUYVX3EZU Craig

    The Germand & Austrians – case of Josef Peter Nusser – now parolled.  He was a kingpin of organized crime in Hamburg, Germany from circa 1978 until convicted in 1986.  Known by has nickname of “Wiener Peter,” this Austrian from Klagenfurt (not Vienna) ran prostitution and coccaine trafficing rings in Hamburg’s Sankt Peter “entertainment” district.  Nusser ordered contract killings of several rivials and errant underlings, and may have killed one of them pimp “Chinesen” Fritz Schoer himself – shooting him on a barstool in of the “zur Ritze” tavern.  A German court handed down a life sentence, but later extradited him to Austria.  Nusser learned some IT skills in prison


    and in the conclusion of the NDR (German public TV documentary, we learn the Nusser lives on the Spanish resort island of Ibiza today and is an entrepreneur who designs cell phone aps.

    http://vimeo.com/27212775 or

  • Bluejay2fly

    Tom’s wise crack about “we are not 5 years old” to a caller he disagreed with is again evidence Tom is turning into one of those Fox talking heads!! Shame on you. Do you want to be another millionaire propagandist like Bill O’Reilly? If so your heading there.

    • Zane Lodmell

       I agree with the people that need to be in prison. But I WILL NEVER agree with the prison system as far as luxury goes. Don’t give these people a life. Give them the food they need to survive, bare minimum and nothing more! They do not need Gyms, they do not need Televisions, and they do not need any form of entertainment whatsoever. Stop making prison a vacation, and make it an actual punishment!!

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/ZFQ6OBYOCE2CKAXXA2CJHK4MTQ Tony

         As a person who worked in a jail facility I would advise some sort of activity to keep their minds stimulated.  Books are good, Television, radio, coffee, tea.  Most facilities force inmates to work on the grounds, auto maintenance, kitchen facilities and janitorial functions.  I guess they could just allow them to do their time without bothering them and just provide food and clothing.  Maybe allow them to sit around and do nothing but plot other crimes to commit, or plan riots, attacks on jails staff etc.  Exactly what kind of punishment do you want for them?  What would you want a family member of yours to endure if they are ever accidentally incarcerated?

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/ZFQ6OBYOCE2CKAXXA2CJHK4MTQ Tony

       Could be that these drug offenders had to adapt to their new environment to survive.  I worked in a correctional facility as a food service worker for 4 yrs and I didn’t seen any such behavior.  It could be circumstances such as the facility, its locations, number of inmates, behavior of the jail staff.  You and I know that being in jail or prison is like being in a whole different kind of world totally opposite from being free on the outside.  Rules change when your inside.  You have to be aware of the other inmates and sadistic jail or prison staff.

      • Bluejay2fly

        I have worked in the kitchen and in other civilian areas of the jail and can tell you that cooks do not see the violence because of where you work. Most facilities see the majority of the violence take place in the recreation yards, solitary confinement units, housing units, or behavioral heath units. Most inmate kitchen workers rob the mess hall blind and are pretty easy going because of that benefit. They would be stupid to be antagonistic in a place where they have access to free food. As far as rules changing L.A. had 1,000. gang murders a year back in the 80′s. I seriously doubt that prison is more violent than many of the neighborhoods from where some of these inmates are raised. They are socialized and brought up to be violent and selfish and if they wind up in jail on seemingly petty drug crimes I can assure you they have committed or are capable of committing much worse deeds. It may seem like Minority Report but locking up Jamal on a drug crime most likely prevents a murder, rape, or robbery in outside society. I do not necessarily agree with this approach but it is popular because it is effective. I am a Christian and am very respectful and pleasant to inmates because that is my nature ,but I never, ever, trust them or think any of them are normal, drug charges or not. I forged that that opinion over 15 years having worked in a Camp, a Minimum, two Mediums, two Maximums, and a Super Maximum Facility.

  • http://twitter.com/PEPtweets PEP in Texas

    Check out this NY Times article, “Starting New Businesses Behind Bars Creates an Incentive for Texas Inmates” – http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/17/us/entrepreneurship-program-for-texas-inmates.html?_r=0

  • http://onpoint.wbur.org/about-on-point/sam-gale-rosen Sam Gale Rosen

    Hey, was reading through the threads and found this comment. If you’re interested, we actually did do a full hour with Michele Alexander, author of “The New Jim Crow”! http://onpoint.wbur.org/2012/04/02/a-new-era-of-jim-crow

  • Jillian Cundiff

    I truely believe that the war on drugs made sense.  As a politician , a policy needed to be implented.  Drugs destroy society.  Drug abuse is a slow death, and addicts can’t stop, ultimately killing innocent babies.  You would think that tough sentences would deter

    Would deter drug traffickers from their occupation and get a
    real job.  Families of both traffickers
    and users crumbled abandoning children, the other parent, and elderly family
    members dependent on them.  Nobody got
    the picture?  Discrimination has definitively
    affected the statistics; there is no question about that. I believe the cause
    of this fact is a disgruntled police force 
    that were given too much authority to do what they pleased before the
    heat of racial riots and suburban white flight had a chance to digest and sever
    animosity was present.  It is a real tragedy,
    but ultimately, it was a choice made by the offenders to resort to trafficking,
    whereas slavery was not. 

    What absolutely disgusts me, is that it took 40+ years and
    an extreme U.S. budget deficit to call attention to the problem and a need for
    reform? I really believe the answer to this problem, depending upon the
    offense, is a moderate 1-3 year sentence to provide an adequate amount of time
    to reflect and spark a drive for success. 
    Upon release, if this offender did not face employment and aid barriers,
    the recidivism rate would drop.  A plan
    needs to be derived on how to appropriately place this population through
    assessment procedures.  Wishful thinking
    here, but I believe if 35%-45% of those inmates that have served over 10 years can
    gain recommendation letters from reliable sources of their demeanor and
    readiness to be released, let them free. 
    The money saved could fund a professional organization responsible for a
    smooth acclimation back into society. 
    Counseling should be provided a few months before release and classes
    discussing important transformation practices should be delivered from a
    professional and respectable instructor that displays great role model
    properties.  Barriers should be banned,
    so this person has the tools, accessibility, and privileges to properly adjust while
    that ambition is fresh. 

Sep 2, 2014
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