Tuesday, February 17, 2015

steep price for overcrowded prisons

Horrifying news from California prisons.
California state prisoners are killed at a rate that is double the national average -- and sex offenders ... account for a disproportionate number of victims, according to an Associated Press analysis of corrections records.
Readers will expect me to rail against the murder of sex offenders--and of course I do--but we should all rail against the fact that any prison inmates are murdered.
Male sex offenders made up about 15 percent of the prison population but accounted for nearly 30 percent of homicide victims, the AP found in cataloging all 78 killings that corrections officials reported since 2007, when they started releasing slain inmates' identities and crimes.
As we all know, sex offenders are at the bottom of the prison hierarchy; they are generally not welcome in gangs; they are generally not hardened criminals. They can be easy targets, mostly because they are accepted as targets.

Categorizing a broad range of crimes as sex offenses instead of treating each crime as a distinct event--streaking, rape, public urination, possession of illegal images--encourages a public perception that all sex offenses are as bad as the worst of them.

Prison officials know that sex offenders are often targeted.
The deaths -- 23 out of 78 -- come despite the state's creation more than a decade ago of special housing units designed to protect the most vulnerable inmates, including sex offenders, often marked men behind bars because of the nature of their crimes. 
In some cases, they have been killed among the general prison population and, in others, within the special units by violence-prone cellmates. Officials acknowledge that those units, which also house inmates trying to quit gangs, have spawned their own gangs.
The special housing units do not--cannot--protect.
Corrections officials blamed a rise in the prison homicide rate on an overhaul meant to reduce crowding. As part of the effort, the state in 2011 began keeping lower-level offenders in county lockups, leaving prisons with a higher percentage of sex offenders and violent gang members. [My emphasis.]
That's a bad mix, something else that prison officials know.

When prisons are so crowded that neither inmates nor corrections officers are safe, it is time to think about why we put so many in prison. It is not because of a high crime rate

Over-criminalization can be blamed. A larger number of laws that we can break--and a larger number of laws that don't require criminal intent for there to have been a crime--means that more laws are broken. 

Increasing sentence length can be blamed.

All of us pay the price for crazy laws and for legislators who pretend they are not crazy laws.

Taxpayers pay around $40 billion annually for incarceration in the United States. We pay tens of thousands of dollars annually to incarcerate non-violent criminals who are housed with violent criminals.

Families pay needlessly when a family member goes to prison for a non-violent crime.

Corrections officers pay when they have to work in dangerously overcrowded prisons.

We all pay. Maybe not as much as sex offenders pay, though.

We should put as few people in prisons as possible. 

1 comment:

Bevin Armstrong said...

"Families pay needlessly when a family member goes to prison for a non-violent crime."
You said a mouthful there Ms Marie. I watched my cousins family disintegrate when he was sent to federal prison for 5 yrs for a non-violent, no victim crime. (He grew his own pot) His babies lost their daddy for 5 yrs. Thank God he's home now, & they're rebuilding their relationships. I honestly don't see how some of these law enforcement folks sleep at night. I told one of them once, go home & pat yourself on the back for stealing those kids father away from them. I hope you're proud of yourself. He did not have a response.
Hope you & yours enjoy Memorial Day. Hug a veteran! 😊