.dropdown { font-family: arial; font-size: 120%; color: #000000; width:130px; margin: 5px 0 0px 0px; background-color: #ffffff; } List NINE
Open links in secondary window

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Prisons offer free transfers to lock-down paradises out of state.

A new study predicts what I think we all knew: the US prison population is heading for more records in the future. In an age where the US consistently ranks down at the bottom of almost every positive social indicator, it's good to know we're still number one at something.

The study, reported in USA Today "[t]he number of inmates in U.S. prisons likely will rise nearly 13% during the next five years, costing states up to $27.5 billion in new operating and construction expenses[.]" The increase in population will be equivalent to the entire federal prison population already incarcerated. It projects a national prison population (excluding jails, which hold more than a million more) of over 1.7 million by 2011.

Aside from pointing out that the growth rate of female inmates will outpace their male counterparts, the study had this to say as well:
•By 2011, Florida's prison system is expected to become the third state system to surpass 100,000 inmates, joining California and Texas. California's projected inmate population for 2011 is 188,772; Texas' is 166,327.

•In Louisiana, which has the nation's highest rate of incarceration with 835 prisoners per 100,000 residents, the incarceration rate is projected to reach 859 by 2011.

•Nearly two-thirds of the more than 600,000 people admitted to prison each year have failed to satisfy terms of probation or parole.
Increasing jail sentences for meth and sex-offenses are cited as prime contributers to growth.

Meanwhile, California is grappling with its own problems of prison overcrowding. A Reuters piece reported that California is holding 172,000 prisoners in a system designed to lock up only (!) 100,000. The government proposes building new prisons and in the meantime has started housing inmates in previously general mixing areas like gyms, where prisoners share triple bunks. This has lead to an increase in violence and tensions. One inmate described it this way:
"This is not conducive to good mental health and rehabilitation," said Glenn Hanes, 35, one of the inmates housed on a triple bunk bed.

"A system that has over a 70 percent recidivism rate is a failure," said Hanes, an intense, well-spoken man who is serving a 15-year-to-life sentence for second-degree murder. "Building new prisons is like getting a fat man new pants."
And that's right. Building more prisons will just mean more incarceration. In particular, given the white supremacist nature of US prisons and the judicial system, more prisons can also means more imprisonment for people of color in particular. Secondly, the increase in capacity will surely be used to provide more room for the incarceration of immigrants, thus widening the capacity of the state to crack down on them in an effort to placate their white constituents.

So, rather than do something concrete about the racist and classist mass incarceration of a large chunk of the population, California has produced a video to be shown to inmates, enticing them with promises of better treatment if they will agree to transfer to prisons outside the state.
Tasty meals! A room with a view! Ping-Pong! Cable TV!

In one of the more unusual marketing campaigns undertaken by state government, California prison officials are asking inmates to bid adieu to their cellmates and transfer to lockups elsewhere in the country.

As part of the recruitment drive, wardens are screening a film extolling the virtues of out-of-state prisons and reminding convicts of the violent, overcrowded, racially charged conditions they face in California.

"You get 79 channels here — ESPN!" one tattooed California felon, now housed in Tennessee, says in the movie.

"They talk to us like humans," says another, "not like animals."
Initially, a government survey suggested that as many as 19,000 inmates would be interested in a transfer (read: better conditions), but so far only a few hundred have taken the state up on the offer. Inmates and officials cite a variety of reasons for the disparity, including relationships on the outside that prisoners have with family and friends. In addition,
[s]ome convicts have been disqualified to transfer because of medical or mental health problems or because they require a high level of security not offered in the out-of-state facilities that have agreed to take California prisoners.

But two other factors may be deflating interest, officials say.

Prison gangs, wary of losing troops and control behind bars, have reportedly warned inmates not to sign up.

And false but persistent rumors of possible early releases in California also may be deterring volunteers. Because of a pending lawsuit seeking to cap the inmate population, many convicts apparently believe that a judge may allow some to go free before the end of their terms — an opportunity they would miss if they were housed in another state.

"Most of these inmates have some family or girlfriend or pen pal or other connection here, so the idea of transferring a long ways away, to the unknown, is not that attractive," said Lance Corcoran, a lobbyist with the California Correctional Peace Officers Assn. "Not that the department hasn't tried. They've marketed these places like cruise ships."
No doubt, many prisoners also suspect that the reality of a transfer may not live up to the promises made, given the general condition of most American prisons.

The article goes on to describe the video, which is 20 minutes long and broadcast over the prison TV system.
The... movie depicts the entire relocation experience, including searches and shackling at the beginning, a charter flight and the arrival at a clean, quiet prison with polished floors.

Most compelling are testimonials from some of the 80 convicts who already have arrived at the West Tennessee Detention Facility in Mason, a private lockup run by Corrections Corp. of America.

In voluntary interviews, inmates praise their new surroundings, including the food, the staff, the recreation and the job and education opportunities.

Footage shows inmates lounging in roomy cells with views, playing basketball and chess, lining up for hot meals and chatting amiably with smiling officers.

Inmates of different races mingle — something unheard of on a California prison yard — and one convict marvels that "we've already had dental exams," which are hard to come by behind bars in the Golden State.

"It blew all of our minds," one inmate says of the Tennessee experience. "We didn't expect all this."
But Schwarzenegger ought to know better than that. After all, didn't he star in the classic 80's movie, "The Running Man," where supposed "winners" of previous battles to the death were revealed to have been murdered instead of delivered to the promised tropical paradises?

Undeterred by prisoners' lack of enthusiasm for the deal, the governor promises to forge ahead. He has rescinded an order forbidding out of state transfers without an inmate's consent. True to the formula, the new policy will find its first application against non-citizens. Citizens will surely follow close behind.



Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

Powered by Blogger