Sunday, February 1, 2009

Lock 'em Up and Throw Away the Key

Further to our discussion the other day about the Two-Tiered Justice System, I discovered this article in the International Herald Tribune, which although a bit outdated (April 2008), does provide some fascinating statistics.

We've all heard about the overall numbers, that the U.S. makes up 5% of the world population but has 25% of the world's incarcerated, but here's another way to look at it:

The United States comes in first, too, on a more meaningful list from the prison studies center, the one ranked in order of the incarceration rates. It has 751 people in prison or jail for every 100,000 in population. (If you count only adults, one in 100 Americans is locked up.)

The only other major industrialized nation that even comes close is Russia, with 627 prisoners for every 100,000 people. The others have much lower rates. England's rate is 151; Germany's is 88; and Japan's is 63.

A number of factors are mentioned as explanation of America's extraordinary incarceration rate: "higher levels of violent crime, harsher sentencing laws, a legacy of racial turmoil, a special fervor in combating illegal drugs, the American temperament, and the lack of a social safety net. Even democracy plays a role, as judges — many of whom are elected, another American anomaly — yield to populist demands for tough justice.

Whatever the reason, the gap between American justice and that of the rest of the world is enormous and growing."

The article describes how this is a fairly recent phenomenon.
The spike in American incarceration rates is quite recent. From 1925 to 1975, the rate remained stable, around 110 people in prison per 100,000 people. It shot up with the movement to get tough on crime in the late 1970s. (These numbers exclude people held in jails, as comprehensive information on prisoners held in state and local jails was not collected until relatively recently.)

As a further attempt to explain the discrepancy, we have this gem of a quote.
The nation's relatively high violent crime rate, partly driven by the much easier availability of guns here, helps explain the number of people in American prisons.

"The assault rate in New York and London is not that much different," said Marc Mauer, the executive director of the Sentencing Project, a research and advocacy group. "But if you look at the murder rate, particularly with firearms, it's much higher."

Naturally, I liked those words on the part of the author of the article because they perfectly match what I always say. I really don't think it's fair to attribute this opinion to people who lie or ignore facts. I believe it's a fair conclusion which many of us come to.

The other comment I liked too. I don't know what agenda the Sentencing Project might be trying to further with this remark, unless it's to support the claims often made on this blog.

What's your opinion? Last week a couple commenters mentioned that the problem with our criminal justice system is that it's too lenient, that the plea bargaining system weakens it too much. Does that make sense to you in light of our standing in the world? Should we lock more people up and keep them locked up for longer?

Please tell us what you think.


  1. "The assault rate in New York and London is not that much different," said Marc Mauer, the executive director of the Sentencing Project, a research and advocacy group. "But if you look at the murder rate, particularly with firearms, it's much higher."

    I don't think he's citing good data. The UK in General (Scotland is the worst part, but London is no peach) has far higher violent crime, murder and gun crime rates than the US, and New York is hardly our most dangerous city.

    Bunk Data, sez I. the Stats have been presented before, (as well as admissions by the Home office of distorting crime rates to make their little Utopia seem safer)

    Garbage in, Garbage out.

  2. Let me add another factor to Americas over the edge per capita incarceration rate.
    America's corporate outsourcing of it's prison system.
    Who do you think controls a major part of the American Prison System?
    That's right, the colonel doesn't do just chicken any more and they aren't doing it for some lousy fedral handout contract, this is business and they have to turn a profit.
    This is a source of extremely cheap outsourced labor. The main recipients of the cheap labor costs are companies like Estee Lauder and Microsoft, but there are many others.
    This cannot be ignored in the inordinately high prison population in America....
    Could there be a quota system at work here?

  3. Do you have a link to that KFC info (I assume you actually mean the YUM brand Corperation)?

  4. A number of factors are mentioned as explanation of America's extraordinary incarceration rate: "higher levels of violent crime, harsher sentencing laws, a legacy of racial turmoil, a special fervor in combating illegal drugs, the American temperament, and the lack of a social safety net.

    Over 50% of our Federal budget spent each year on a social safety net and the claim is with lack a safety net? WTF? Gee, perhaps there is a little bias there.

    The American temperament versus say the English temperament, I'll any day. I would rather know that people who commit assault are locked up, not given an "ASBO".

    The nation's relatively high violent crime rate, partly driven by the much easier availability of guns here, helps explain the number of people in American prisons.

    Any evidence of this?

    Drug offenders, up 37%, represented the largest source of jail population growth between 1996 and 2002- Bureau Of Justice Statistics

    I would say that drug offenders and the mandatory sentencing has more to do with the growth of the prison population the firearms. Firearm violations are usually secondary to the drug crimes. Using a firearm to protect a turf or deal with someone stealing drugs...remove the drug crime, reduce the firearm crimes.

    Mike, I've noticed that you rarely state your opinion on what we should do. Great at asking questions and pointing on the problems....but not so hot at being a part of the solution.

    What do you think we should do?

  5. spending money on something --- or ostensibly on something --- does not mean you'll achieve that something, bob.

    in fact, that's been a favorite tactic of the republican party for many years now; ensure that whatever money the government spends doing something is misspent and wasted, then to crow "see, the government can do no good!". it's treasonous sabotage, in my opinion.

  6. Nomen,

    The claim was, in part, that our crime rate was based on a "lack of a social safety net".

    Either we have one or we don't, right? Just because it isn't what all the socialist/communists want doesn't change the fact that we have a safety net. It exists and it is a huge portion of the budget.

    So, do we have a "social safety net" or not?

    If we do, doesn't that discredit part of the argument?
    If the part of the argument is discredited, aren't the conclusions also at least partially discredited?

    Strong economies value education, social safety net

    Last month, the World Economic Forum announced its ranking of the most globally competitive economies. The Nordic countries proved to be the most competitive, with Finland ranking first and Sweden third. Canada is ranked 14th, behind nations like Singapore and Denmark. Inevitably, one has to wonder what makes the Nordic countries so successful.

    Given the common perception that Nordic economies are hampered by high tax loads, which are alleged to discourage investment, many may be surprised at these findings. However, when you peel back the layers of their macro-economic policies, it is quite evident that these nations have meticulously designed strong economies that include a successful and vital social safety net.

    So, does a strong "social safety net" correlate with a lack of crime? Total Crimes per Capita Top 10 - per 1,000 people

    #1 Dominica: 113.822
    #2 New Zealand: 105.881
    #3 Finland: 101.526
    #4 Denmark: 92.8277
    #5 Chile: 88.226 p
    #6 United Kingdom: 85.5517
    #7 Montserrat: 80.3982
    #8 United States: 80.0645
    #9 Netherlands: 79.5779
    #10 South Africa: 77.1862

    Hmm, perhaps there are other factors more important then how much money we spend on a social safety net.

    If there is not correlation as implied, perhaps there are other problems with the listed explanations.

  7. Either we have one or we don't, right?

    either we have an army or we don't. this is true even if we're Icelanders; there is an Icelandic army... you'd just never know it to look at the place.

    either we have a police force or we don't. this is true even if we're Mexicans, and the police force we have is nigh impossible to tell apart from a criminal gang.

    either we have a justice system or we don't. this is so even in Russia, where the "justice" system is... well...

    the American social safety net is much like those other systems, bob.

  8. Regarding the privatization of the American prison system.
    In 1983, the Tennessee based CCA or the Correction Corporation of America was formed and is even now, one of the top rated growth companies in the USA. Their parent company is KFC.
    CCa controls 53% of the private prisons, Wankenhut controls 22.5%, a firm called MTC controls 9%, Cornell Inc. another 7% and the rest, apprsimately 9%, by local firms.
    As of mid decade, there were approximately 200,000 inmates in America in the privatized systems.

    If you want to start digging around, check out a conservative think tank organization called ALEC, American Legislative Exchange Council.

    Privatized prisons are ideally supposed to pay for themselves and turn a profit for the management corporations. They avidly market their cheap labor to American corporations.
    CCA and Wakenhut are in the midst of huge global expansion programs.

  9. Nomen,

    Spin it all you like, the question still remains the same.

    The statement wasn't that America didn't have an effective social safety net or that America's social safety net was ineffective; it was simply the "lack of a social safety net" was part of the reason for our crime rate.

    I questioned that because we have one...we have one is consuming an every larger portion of our money. Is that social safety net producing in correlation to the amount of money spent? I say no.

    The more we spend on our social safety net the more we see of single parent family homes, the more crime we see, the more drug use we see, the more chronic unemployment. The social safety net isn't part of the solution, the way it is ran now it is part of the problem. It's not the lack of it but the actual social safety net.

    I posted statistics that show doubt about the social safety net being a contributor to the crime rate. What is so hard to accept about that?

    Mike is trying to cast aperations on gun ownership as part of the problem. I disagree with that also.

    Weer'd posted earlier about the lack of integrity in the U.K.'s numbers.

    Adults prosecuted per capita per 1K
    #1 United States: 48.029
    #2 Finland: 31.6349
    #3 New Zealand: 31.059
    #4 Turkey: 29.5727
    #5 U.K.: 24.8958

    If we compare adults convicted, the numbers are quite as lopsided. Still bad, but not as bad.

    Maybe the full jails are serving a about this stat from
    Total crime victims - percentage
    #1 Australia: 30.1%
    #2 New Zealand: 29.4%
    #3 United Kingdom: 26.4%
    #4 Netherlands: 25.2%
    #5 Sweden: 24.7%
    #6 Italy: 24.6%
    #7 Canada: 23.8%
    #8 Saint Kitts & Nevis: 23.2%
    #9 Malta: 23.1%
    #10 Denmark: 23%

    and America is listed, where?
    #15 United States: 21.1%

    So less of our population reports being a victim of crime.....isn't that one of the reasons we have prisons?

    Maybe we should focus more on education or the lack of it, the repeat offenders and keeping them in jail, the right to keep and bear arms...instead trying to be a socialist country and sharing the wealth.

  10. Weer'd, You said "bunk data" and "gargage in, garbage out."

    Well, couldn't we agree that statistics are always suspect and should be taken with a grain of salt. You never know when the data-gatherer is biased.

    I don't believe it's a case of all mine are garbage and all yours are fact.

    Bob, You said, "Great at asking questions and pointing on the problems....but not so hot at being a part of the solution.

    What do you think we should do?"

    Well, that's not exactly right. Don't you remember just last week when I outlined the three-part plan for this very problem of overcrowded jails? 1. white collar guys are out. 2. drug addicts and alcoholics get treatment. 3. the least dangerous 25% that remain get out too.

  11. "Well, couldn't we agree that statistics are always suspect and should be taken with a grain of salt. You never know when the data-gatherer is biased."

    Unless the study is presented and shown to be done properly.

    Statistics can be done two ways, right and wrong. You do them the right way bias is unimportant.

    How about we admit this. You've been blogging and reading up on this subject for some time now...yet you have yet to come up with any framework for real-world legislation to archive your goal, and instead you choose to defer to the opinions of people less knowledgeable and/or less scrupulous than yourself...or you ask us Gunnies how we want our throat slit, and hurl insults when we declare that to be a loosing proposition.

    Maybe the reason why you can't talk about this subject in real-world concrete terms, is maybe because you're on the wrong side of the issue?

  12. Weer'd, thanks to you and the other guys I feel more convinced than ever that I'm on the right side of the issue. My difficulty in coming up with answers is because there are no simple ones. It's a complicated case. We're talking about guns now. About the overcrowding in prisons, I mentioned a concrete 3-point solution.
    About statistics, you're right, if it's done right, if you can trust the people involved, they're reliable. But those are big "ifs."

  13. Let's go over your three point plan again.

    1. white collar guys are out.
    So people like Madoff who ruin hundreds of people's lives don't spend time in jail?

    How about people who are in the government, who are supposed to protect long as they commit white collar crimes it's not worth prison time?
    Espionage, invasion of privacy, suppression of free speech; all white collar crimes - No jail time?

    2. drug addicts and alcoholics get treatment.
    How many times do they get treatment? Is it for everyone who claims to be an addict or just drug and alcohol?
    People some people see pedophilia as a disease, something needing treatment; same with other sex they get treatment instead of jail time?

    How about the alcoholic who won't stop driving his car, does (s)he go to jail when they kill someone in a car crash?

    How about the criminals who break into people's homes as in this story from

    RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Larry Whitfield was on foot, his getaway car wrecked, his rookie attempt at robbing a bank thwarted by a set of locked doors, according to detectives. Looking for a place to hide, police say, he found himself inside the home of a frightened old woman.

    There's no evidence Whitfield ever touched 79-year-old Mary Parnell. Authorities say he even told the grandmother of five he didn't want to hurt her, directing her to sit in a chair in her bedroom. But investigators have no doubt he terrified her so much that she died of a heart attack.

    Now Whitfield, a 20-year-old with no prior criminal record, is charged with first-degree murder, a rare defendant accused of literally scaring a person to death.

    Should there not be a consequence for that action? Isn't a person's home supposed to be sacrosanct?
    Does it matter if he was breaking into the place to hide, to steal drugs --ala Lillo from previous posts? or money to get drugs?

    Isn't that person responsible for the death of someone?

    3. the least dangerous 25% that remain get out too.

    So the 25% least dangerous get out if someone only rapes a woman instead of beating her and raping's okay to let that person out?

    How about the people that rob houses, taking money out of the people's pockets, ruining lives, jeopardizing their retirement or future....if they do it without violence they should be allowed to get out of jail?

    3 point plan is great to start a debate but there needs to be something that is more...something that considers how other people are harmed. Just being non-violent isn't enough.

    As far as statistics, you are right. It is difficult to do right and be reliable.

    How ever, what does it say when study after study, when statistic after statistics say the same thing.

    Let's take the supposed dangers of allowing concealed carry as an example.

    If Texas reported a low number of CHL holders violating the law, it could be a fluke or other cultural issues related to the state.

    When year after year of statistic show a low percentage of CHL holders violating the law, isn't it harder to consider it a fluke?

    Now combine that with many states reporting the same results; not just one year but year after year.

    Doesn't that give confidence in the truth of the statistics?

    Doesn't the lack of counter evidence also provide that confidence in the results?

    That is but one example of the statistics presented supporting the pro-gun side of the argument.

    When does it become safe to say "Okay, maybe there is something about these numbers after all?"

  14. Big ifs that you never talk about or bring in support for your side.

    You say you're "more convinced than ever" and that's great.

    But all I've seen is smoke, mirrors and fantasy to convince me to give up my guns. (oh and compleatly ignoring civlian personal defense and the scope of it...which is the reason WHY I keep guns and defend my rights and the rights of others to do so)

    It seems whenever pointed questions come out on this issue, you avoid them.

    Hell you avoided this thread until I double-posted.
    This one went cold on you:

    And when I showed you this post:

    You answered a simple "Yes" without the required justification.

    I was once an enemy of the 2nd Amendment.....I relized I was wrong and changed my ways. Because of that you can't simply label me as "Stubborn" or "Paranoid"

    I found that the notion of gun control was deeply emotional and illogical and wherever it has been attempted it has been an abject failure.

    Hell you're a frequent commentor on my blog, but you never challenge the pro-gun points I make there....and when you do, and are rebuffed you simply retreat. I assume that means you find no fault in our responce.

    You've read enugh and seen enugh to KNOW this is true, Mike, but still you press on.


    And if you ARE on the right side of this issue, show me evedence, and I'll gladly sell off my guns and join you in your crusade to get the literally THOUSANDS of US gun owners I'm in contact with to also sell their guns.

    You present an intellegent argument, and defend it sucessfully from critisizm I PROMICE you availability of guns in this nation will deminish overnight.

  15. Bob, I admit my three-point plan needs a bit of tweaking. And you're just the man for the job.

    Weer'd, I've never suggested you "sell your guns." Stop being so grandiose, will ya? What I've always talked about is finding a way to diminish or restrict the guns in the hands of the bad guys. Sorry I can't prove the "flow" theory, but if there's any validity to it at all, then you gun guys are partly responsible for the problems and may have to pay for them in some ways. But I don't think it'll require your "selling" all your guns, and certainly not require dramatic shootouts with the feds, like some of you guys keep talking about. Now, who's living in a fantasy, I ask you?

  16. Mike,

    Think a minute about what you are saying here:

    Sorry I can't prove the "flow" theory, but if there's any validity to it at all, then you gun guys are partly responsible for the problems and may have to pay for them in some ways.

    If I own a product, I'm partly responsible if someone decides to steal that product for it's misuse by the criminal or others?

    If someone steals your car, are you partly responsible when they use that car as a get away vehicle in a robbery?

    You are blaming the VICTIM here.

    In order to steal my firearms, a thief has to walk onto my property uninvited (trespass - Crime #1), break into my house (Crime #2), search my house, find and take my firearms (Crime #3).

    Let's assume the CRIMINAL isn't a collector planning on keeping the firearms on a shelf, but using them but using them in a robbery for example

    In order to use them in a crime, the CRIMINAL usually plans a robbery (Crime #4), then commits the robbery (Crime #5).

    Yet, in all this; it is the gun owners fault for allowing a "flow" of easily 'available' firearms.

    How insane is that Mike.

    And as for as the plan to reduce crime, you'll notice that my plan doesn't eliminate anyone's rights because of the actions of others.

    It keeps the penalties appropriate to the crime. For example, I was reading in today's paper about Bernie Madoff - $50,000,000 rip off. Here is a white collar criminal, does it deserve jail time (which might deter others from trying the same thing) or some other consequence?

  17. I'm not being dramatic, Mike, I'm pointing out that the REASON I have my guns is for personal protection. Now I have some collector's peices and some family heirlooms, but those are just side items, I'd sell all of them if somehow we needed money to pay for an emergency.

    I'd sell ALL of them BUT a few choice personal defense guns, because my support for gun rights and the 2nd Amendment, and my rational for abandoning the gun control mentality is that those guns are worth FAR more than the cash they'd bring to my coffers.

    I see it as similar to selling the seatbelts in my car, or the fire extinguishers in my house, or selling perscription medication a person needs to survive.

    But as I've said before owning guns is a HUGE responciblity (hence why I'd NEVER support any sort of mandatory gun ownership) there are risks to owning guns, and having guns in society. I origonally thought as you do that the risks they encrue far outweigh any benifit that they might give.

    Then I looked at numbers, and thought the problem over in my head. I met real-deal gun owners who kept arms for self-defense, not just for hunting deer (another practice I'm opposed to, as keeping sporting arms in your home without having any personal protection arms *such is the law in the UK, and much of Europe* is inviting all the risks of gun ownership, and none of the benifits)

    I relized I was wrong, and guns were VERY worthwhile to keep around, given that you subscribe to some very simple safety rules and consideration.

    You seem to have great confidence that I am wrong, and while you offer no proof of any sort to support your claims, you are indeed a good man and a person who I respect.

    But I won't take your word alone. But if you can supply me proof that guns are NOT worthwhile as defensive tools kept in the home, then I'm doing nothing but inviting great risk on my loved ones and myself...which is EXACTLY the reason why I keep and bear arms. So if this is proven to be a fallacy, I SHOULD sell off ALL my guns.

    So no drama at all, just pointing out I have a large amount of cash sequestered away in guns and gun supplies, I keep them under the impression I'm better off with them than without them. If you can prove me wrong, I must be worse of with them than without them, and the cash would be much better spent on other things.

    So in all seriousness and sobriety, set me free Mike.

  18. Yeah, still reading.

    The drama I'm referring to is your continual exaggerating of what I say. I've assured you a few times already that I'm convinced you and the other guys who comment here are not at fault. I believe you're responsible men. I never said you should "sell all your guns," or that there should be a total ban, except maybe in jest or by way of making an example.

    When I talk about the problem it's not about you personally. It's about the possibility that you don't secure your guns properly (not you - I'm talking generally), the possibility that you might have substance abuse or emotional problems, that somehow as an individual gun owner you might contribute to the "flow."

  19. Mike,

    You can't have it both ways.

    You can't claim that we, your readers, are responsible gun owners and you don't have a problem with us then turn around and claim that we, the gun owners are part of the problem because we may fail to secure our firearms.

    Let's boil it down to the basics here.

    Are there any people in the world that are completely and totally able to control their possessions as to prevent them from being stolen?

    If you don't hold everyone to the same standard as you are trying to hold gun owners, you are a hypocrite.

    That is what you are arguing. That gun owners should have perfect security and control over their possessions as to prevent some criminal from stealing them.

    Anything less then that, you claim is part of the problem by adding to the "flow" of firearms.

    Since criminals use firearms, gun owners are responsible-partly.

    Am I getting the gist of your argument correct?
    (Don't want to be accused of putting words in your mouth again).

    So, tell me O Guru of the law and safety. What in your definition are adequate security measures?

    Let me know so I can spread the gospel according to Mike and get all my fellow gun owners on board.

    Of course, it might be a hard sell for some of the gun owners. You know the people who live in inner cities...barely making it. The ones who barely scrapped up the money to buy the firearm in the first place to protect themselves against the drug dealers, the gangs, the robbers. But no matter, tell us and we'll pass a law requiring every gun owner to be a responsible persona and meet your definition of securing their firearms against criminals.

    Enlighten us O Guru of Safety.

  20. +1 to Bob. I love how you Ignore what Bob, I and other propose...but then say "We're the men for the job" to propose your brand of gun-control.

    Why do you keep saying that?

    Also I find it very strange that now you're proposing some bizarre form of amnesty from your "flow" gun control for us personally...meanwhile you make no attempts to define what makes us different than the millions of gun owners you vilify in your anti-gun posts.

    Again, you may think I'm totally fine with guns...but if legally owning guns results in your unproven "Flow", and my desire to own guns for personal defense is based on personal paranoia and arrogance I should get rid of my guns.

    So what do I have to do to get you to take this issue seriously?