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  1. 07 Dec '09 17:29
    http://www.podval.org/~sds/jails.html

    Why are there so many people in the US jails?

    The US jail population as a proportion of the general national population is the largest in the developed world.

    Why?

    I can think of three explanations:

    Socialism
    US has too little socialism (welfare etc) to keep the underclass (i.e., the people who do not want to work) happy (as opposed to Europe where you can live on welfare your whole life), but it has too much socialism to force such people to really work. Thus we are at a bitter spot (worst case, as opposed to a sweet spot, the best case) on the socialist scale.
    Diversity
    In more homogeneous societies the share of people whose abilities place them outside the labor force is smaller (you have to know at least some probability and statistics to fully appreciate this theory).
    Failure of the legal system
    Most people cannot afford an attorney that would stay awake during the whole trial, and without a competent defence attorney a conviction is inevitable.
    Failure of the mental health care system
    A lot of people in jails should actually be institutionalized.
    Draconian sentencing guidelines
    US sentencing guidelines are much stricter than in other countries.

    ...
  2. Standard member sh76
    Civis Americanus Sum
    07 Dec '09 17:35 / 1 edit
    Originally posted by zeeblebot
    http://www.podval.org/~sds/jails.html

    Why are there so many people in the US jails?

    The US jail population as a proportion of the general national population is the largest in the developed world.

    Why?

    I can think of three explanations:

    Socialism
    US has too little socialism (welfare etc) to keep the underclass (i.e., the people who do n ...[text shortened]... cing guidelines
    US sentencing guidelines are much stricter than in other countries.

    ...
    Harsher sentencing rules and criminalization of narcotics trafficking and possession are far and away the dominant factors.

    Also, of course, our sentences are not harsh enough to be huge deterrents, like they have in Malaysia and Singapore but are harsh enough to keep people incarcerated for a long time.
  3. Subscriber AThousandYoung
    Poor Filipov :,(
    07 Dec '09 17:36
    Too many laws, many of which interfere with the Right to Pursue Happiness.
  4. Standard member sh76
    Civis Americanus Sum
    07 Dec '09 17:38
    Originally posted by AThousandYoung
    Too many laws, many of which interfere with the Right to Pursue Happiness.
    And, of course, by "happiness" you can only be referring to bong hits and the like. Correct?
  5. Standard member Seitse
    Doug Stanhope
    07 Dec '09 17:41
    Because there is something really wrong with the system as it is right now.
  6. Standard member Seitse
    Doug Stanhope
    07 Dec '09 17:42 / 3 edits
    * Really, really wrong.

    * The system as a whole, from its core.
  7. Standard member sh76
    Civis Americanus Sum
    07 Dec '09 18:47
    Originally posted by Seitse
    * Really, really wrong.

    * The system as a whole, from its core.
    Just so that I can understand your point, can you give me just, say, 12 specific problems with the system.

    You know... just so that we can learn how to tear down and reform our system.
  8. Standard member DrKF
    incipit parodia
    07 Dec '09 19:14
    It's an interesting question (not at all so I can indulge in primitive, populist yank-bashing: it's a genuinely interesting question, I hasten to add). I am unsure quite how accurate the figures are, but it is widely reported that the US has something like 5% of the world's population and a bit under 25% of the world's prisoners. I'm also well aware that, even if accurate, this may be overly simplistic for a number of reasons. The fact remains, though, that the USA jails an enormously disproportionate number of people - particularly with comparison to other first world countries. It's also interesting that harsh sentencing has not had the deterrent effect some might believe it would. As pointed out, these policies are not as draconian as, say, Singapore (where, technically at least, having traces of drugs in one's system count as possession!); nevertheless, the overall effect of harsh sentencing has been punishment rather than deterrence.

    I don't usually think much of the idea of 'American exceptionalism', but in this case...
  9. Standard member Seitse
    Doug Stanhope
    07 Dec '09 19:26 / 1 edit
    Originally posted by sh76
    Just so that I can understand your point, can you give me just, say, 12 specific problems with the system.

    You know... just so that we can learn how to tear down and reform our system.
    I would delightedly share with you, my friend, but I am afraid it would
    be wasted time since you hold no position* in which those changes can be
    even started. No offence meant.

    I'll just say that the pillars on which the U.S. society was built have turned
    against their own people and the institutions on which the American society
    has relied are no longer held by a government of the people, by the people,
    for the people.

    ---

    Hint: it's called plutocracy.

    * And I don't mean it in the literal way. All worthy changes would have to
    come from grassroots level.
  10. Standard member sh76
    Civis Americanus Sum
    07 Dec '09 19:55 / 1 edit
    Originally posted by DrKF
    It's an interesting question (not at all so I can indulge in primitive, populist yank-bashing: it's a genuinely interesting question, I hasten to add). I am unsure quite how accurate the figures are, but it is widely reported that the US has something like 5% of the world's population and a bit under 25% of the world's prisoners. I'm also well aware that, even don't usually think much of the idea of 'American exceptionalism', but in this case...
    Crime has been slashed in the US over the last 20 years. New York, for example, has gone from roughly 2200 murders per year in the early 1990s to under 500 in recent years; a reduction of almost 80%.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:NYC_murders.PNG

    Over-all, violent crime in the US is down more than 50% since the early 1990s.

    http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/glance/cv2.htm

    There are costs to draconian sentencing rules; but there is absolutely no doubt that it works, at least to some extent.

    It's also interesting that harsh sentencing has not had the deterrent effect some might believe it would.

    This is a tired cliche that the left keeps repeating until it takes on the aura of fact; when in fact, it is untrue. I don't mean to pick on you specifically. But it drives me nuts when people just blandly assert that harsh sentencing doesn't reduce crime. It does. This is one of those cases where common sense is true.
  11. Standard member DrKF
    incipit parodia
    07 Dec '09 20:39 / 1 edit
    I take your point, but there is no necessary causal link between stiffer sentencing and reduced offending rates. Between 1991 and 1998, those states that increased incarceration at rates that were less than the national average experienced a larger decline in crime rates than those states that increased incarceration at rates higher than the national average. An overview of changes in incarceration and crime in all 50 states reveals no consistent relationship between the rate at which incarceration increased and the rate at which crime decreased.

    To what extent did average sentences for convicted murderers in New York actually rise across time? We need that fact before we can even consider whether harsher sentencing for murder could possibly have had an effect on murder rates. In the absence of that, other factors can be suggested: New York, of course, saw the introduction of 'zero-tolerance' policing - widely, and probably rightly, credited with turning the city around, crime-wise. The period in question also saw various advances in policing in general, both in terms of technology and innovative policing methods. It seems perfectly possible that the deterrence effect of being caught is considerably higher than the deterrence effect of sentencing when caught.

    You're quite right - I displayed a prejudice against harsher sentencing, but I'm not sure there's good reason to abandon that prejudice just yet.

    EDIT: I do apologise, as I gave no source for the figures above. It's from this, which is actually pretty interesting. It suggests that as little as 25% of the reduction in crime can be attributed to harsher sentencing, and goes in to useful detail behind that headline figure. We could maybe both do with reading it!

    http://www.sentencingproject.org/doc/publications/inc_iandc_complex.pdf
  12. Standard member sh76
    Civis Americanus Sum
    07 Dec '09 21:03
    Originally posted by DrKF
    I take your point, but there is no necessary causal link between stiffer sentencing and reduced offending rates. Between 1991 and 1998, those states that increased incarceration at rates that were less than the national average experienced a larger decline in crime rates than those states that increased incarceration at rates higher than the national average. A ...[text shortened]... ith reading it!

    http://www.sentencingproject.org/doc/publications/inc_iandc_complex.pdf
    Between 1991 and 1998, those states that increased incarceration at rates that were less than the national average experienced a larger decline in crime rates than those states that increased incarceration at rates higher than the national average.

    Okay, contest: Who was able to read that sentence and understand it the first time through? Whoever was wins a virtual Snapple.
  13. Standard member sh76
    Civis Americanus Sum
    07 Dec '09 21:05
    Originally posted by DrKF
    I take your point, but there is no necessary causal link between stiffer sentencing and reduced offending rates. Between 1991 and 1998, those states that increased incarceration at rates that were less than the national average experienced a larger decline in crime rates than those states that increased incarceration at rates higher than the national average. A ...[text shortened]... ith reading it!

    http://www.sentencingproject.org/doc/publications/inc_iandc_complex.pdf
    That's an interesting article; I'll read it later.

    But just as a matter of common sense, how could keeping the criminals in prison for longer NOT reduce crime?
  14. Standard member DrKF
    incipit parodia
    07 Dec '09 21:17 / 2 edits
    Originally posted by sh76
    That's an interesting article; I'll read it later.

    But just as a matter of common sense, how could keeping the criminals in prison for longer NOT reduce crime?
    Ah, but I didn't say that. As you pointed out, in bold, I said that "It's also interesting that harsh sentencing has not had the deterrent effect some might believe it would."

    It is of course common sense to say that incarcerating criminals may well reduce crime rates: those people are then unable to commit further crimes. Levitt (quoted in the article) has suggested that each incarcerated person results in the prevention of around 15 crimes - and that fully 80% of those would be property crimes. Removing habitual criminals, particularly with regards property crime, may reduce crime against property - but it seems likely it is the act of removal, and not a deterrence factor, that accounts for that reduction.
  15. Standard member DrKF
    incipit parodia
    07 Dec '09 21:19
    Originally posted by sh76
    [b]Between 1991 and 1998, those states that increased incarceration at rates that were less than the national average experienced a larger decline in crime rates than those states that increased incarceration at rates higher than the national average.

    Okay, contest: Who was able to read that sentence and understand it the first time through? Whoever was wins a virtual Snapple. [/b]


    I cut'n'pasted it from the article: I tried putting it in to my own words, but came up with nothing clearer! There's a graph in the article that illustrates it, though, if your still having trouble