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Don't Worry, The US Prisons Are In Good Hands....ha, ha, ha, ha!
#1
Private Prison Giant Hires Former Top Federal Official

The nation's largest private prison company has hired the former head of the Federal Bureau of Prisons to a top executive position. Harley Lappin retired as the director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons last month. On Friday, the Corrections Corporation of America named Lappin its executive vice president and chief corrections officer. Lappin had stepped down as federal prison chief following his arrest for driving under the influence. A $1.6 billion company, the CCA has faced widespread allegations of prisoner mistreatment and negligence in the deaths or injuries of prisoners in its prisons and immigrant jails. :rofl:
"Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
"Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn
"If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and never will" - Frederick Douglass
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#2
Peter, this is a subject I happen to know a bit about. As a former corrections officer who used to work for CCA, I can testify to the fact that the Peter Principle (sorry about that, Peter) is alive and well in the private prison system. It's not that the conditions are that bad, they're no better or worse than most other prisons. The problem is that the bigwigs who run CCA and other private prison companies intend to do everything on a shoestring if at all possible. And if that means screwing over good officers, prisoners or anyone else who gets in the way of that goal, such is life.
"Logic is all there is, and all there is must be logical."

"Truth is logic, and logic is truth."

"In a nation run by swine, all pigs are upward-mobile and the rest of us are fucked until we can put our acts together: not necessarily to win, but mainly to keep from losing completely." - Hunter S. Thompson

"A paranoid is someone who knows a little of what's going on. A psychotic is a guy who's just found out what's going on." - William S. Burroughs
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#3
James Lewis Wrote:As a former corrections officer who used to work for CCA, I can testify to the fact that the Peter Principle (sorry about that, Peter) is alive and well in the private prison system. It's not that the conditions are that bad, they're no better or worse than most other prisons. The problem is that the bigwigs who run CCA and other private prison companies intend to do everything on a shoestring if at all possible. And if that means screwing over good officers, prisoners or anyone else who gets in the way of that goal, such is life.

James - given your experience, I'd be very interested in your insider perspective on the US prison system.

As a documentary maker, I watch programmes such as NatGeo's "America's Hardest Prisons" and know both how they are made and their likely impact on viewers. How true to your own work experiences is the prison life described in such documentaries?
"It means this War was never political at all, the politics was all theatre, all just to keep the people distracted...."
"Proverbs for Paranoids 4: You hide, They seek."
"They are in Love. Fuck the War."

Gravity's Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon

"Ccollanan Pachacamac ricuy auccacunac yahuarniy hichascancuta."
The last words of the last Inka, Tupac Amaru, led to the gallows by men of god & dogs of war
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#4
Jan Klimkowski Wrote:
James Lewis Wrote:As a former corrections officer who used to work for CCA, I can testify to the fact that the Peter Principle (sorry about that, Peter) is alive and well in the private prison system. It's not that the conditions are that bad, they're no better or worse than most other prisons. The problem is that the bigwigs who run CCA and other private prison companies intend to do everything on a shoestring if at all possible. And if that means screwing over good officers, prisoners or anyone else who gets in the way of that goal, such is life.

James - given your experience, I'd be very interested in your insider perspective on the US prison system.

As a documentary maker, I watch programmes such as NatGeo's "America's Hardest Prisons" and know both how they are made and their likely impact on viewers. How true to your own work experiences is the prison life described in such documentaries?

Id be damn interested as well Jan.
"In the Kennedy assassination we must be careful of running off into the ether of our own imaginations." Carl Ogelsby circa 1992
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#5
Well, Jan, I can say that on the surface, what you see on NatGeo is pretty much on the mark as far as how things go on a day-to-day basis in most maximum security prisons. Rather dramatized, yes, but I understand that they have to have a "sizzle" factor for prime-time TV.

What they don't show is the staggering incompetence and corruption that takes place in most prisons. It doesn't show the:
Drug smuggling
Officers shacking up with inmates
Rampant incompetence among most high rank running prisons

What I mentioned happens in pretty much all prisons, the only thing that's different is the degree to which it happens from prison to prison. Trust me when I tell you that the only thing that's preventing another Texas Seven from happening is the fact that the great majority of offenders actually want to get out, if only to do more dirt on the outside. Don't get me wrong - I have nothing against prisons - goodness knows we need them. And most of the people that work in prisons are good, hardworking people who don't get paid nearly enough to deal with the daily stress in the average prison, much less a max security unit.

The major problem I have with prisons, is that there are too many of them. For that, we have the War On Drugs (which should be called The War on Some Drugs and Certain Types of Users), which isn't going away anytime soon, unfortunately. As long as we keep locking up 17-, 18-, and 19 year old's up for piddly drug offenses, and turning them into hardened criminals by the time they get out, our problem with this situation is only going to get worse. Just my two cents Wink
"Logic is all there is, and all there is must be logical."

"Truth is logic, and logic is truth."

"In a nation run by swine, all pigs are upward-mobile and the rest of us are fucked until we can put our acts together: not necessarily to win, but mainly to keep from losing completely." - Hunter S. Thompson

"A paranoid is someone who knows a little of what's going on. A psychotic is a guy who's just found out what's going on." - William S. Burroughs
Reply
#6
James - thank you.

Your answer is worth way more than "two cents". :thumbsup:

You are of course correct that documentaries condense and heighten action for the "sizzle" factor. Or in TV grammar terms, to heighten the tension and sense of conflict.

There's one NatGeo "Hardest Prisons" programme where the prison SWAT team is stomping down corridors and the camera catches the lead prison officer in the corner of frame several times, sipping his huge mug of coffee despite the supposed emergency situation.

I can almost see the documentary director shouting: "Guys guys - back to your starting positions, we need to do that one more time. Really STOMP YOUR BOOTS AND BANG YOUR SHIELDS when you storm down the corridor!"

One clear consequence of the "America's Hardest Prisons" type programmes is that they scare the law-abiding population shitless. Particularly with respect to ethnic gangs - there are several films which focus almost entirely on hispanic gangs.

Equally it is abundantly clear - both from incidents in the documentaries such as prison officers and prisoners being slashed with home made shanks, and from your comments - that prisons are violent and dangerous places. Also that there are some individuals whose behaviour is so inherently violent - both to men and women - that they should not be walking the streets.

James Lewis Wrote:What they don't show is the staggering incompetence and corruption that takes place in most prisons. It doesn't show the:
Drug smuggling
Officers shacking up with inmates
Rampant incompetence among most high rank running prisons

I'm sure this is true.

In England, many prison officers live in neighbourhoods near the prisons that they work in. They may even have gone to school with some of the inmates or their family. So it's relatively easy either to bribe or scare some officers to smuggle contrabrand in and messages out.

Plus, as you say, "most of the people that work in prisons are good, hardworking people who don't get paid nearly enough to deal with the daily stress in the average prison, much less a max security unit."

I can only imagine the stress involved in hearing those doors slam locked behind you as you enter the limbo, the purgatory, of a maximum security prison, knowing that many of the inmates will injure or even kill you given a chance, and prison economics mean that there may be half a dozen officers guarding a hundred or more potentially violent prisoners. Poor pay for an incredibly stressful job.

Equally, talking to a couple of friends who've filmed in English prisons, the management appeared to both incompetent and shambolic - reinforcing your comments above.

James Lewis Wrote:The major problem I have with prisons, is that there are too many of them. For that, we have the War On Drugs (which should be called The War on Some Drugs and Certain Types of Users), which isn't going away anytime soon, unfortunately. As long as we keep locking up 17-, 18-, and 19 year old's up for piddly drug offenses, and turning them into hardened criminals by the time they get out, our problem with this situation is only going to get worse. Just my two cents Wink

Absolutely.

My strong sense is that young minor offenders ("scallywags") learn their place in the criminal food chain in their first visit to prison. The weakest are broken. The next weakest become footsoldiers - doing the bidding of stronger criminals. These "footsoldiers" spend their lives in and out of prison because they're continually rearrested for street level criminality and, unless they become career police informers (in which case they usually avoid jail time), they won't give up the names of their bosses because they're physically scared of the consequences.

The stronger-minded young scallies are identified early in their prison time by the criminal fraternity and become hardened inside and groomed for progression in criminal organisations.

So, yes, I agree that the consequences of jailing young men (primarily) for relatively minor drug offences are catastrophic - both for their lives and for the wider community.
"It means this War was never political at all, the politics was all theatre, all just to keep the people distracted...."
"Proverbs for Paranoids 4: You hide, They seek."
"They are in Love. Fuck the War."

Gravity's Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon

"Ccollanan Pachacamac ricuy auccacunac yahuarniy hichascancuta."
The last words of the last Inka, Tupac Amaru, led to the gallows by men of god & dogs of war
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#7
Then there is the Finnish prison sytem http://www.nytimes.com/2003/01/02/intern...2FINL.html
Quote: Finnish Prisons: No Gates or Armed Guards

By WARREN HOGE

Published: January 2, 2003

[Image: 120x60_anotherEarth_002.gif]




KERAVA, Finland Going by the numbers, Antti Syvajarvi is a loser. He is a prison inmate in Finland the country that jails fewer of its citizens than any other in the European Union.
Still, he counts himself fortunate.
"If I have to be a prisoner," he said, "I'm happy I'm one in Finland because I trust the Finnish system."
So, evidently, do law-abiding Finns, even though their system is Europe's most lenient and would probably be the object of soft-on-criminals derision in many societies outside of the Nordic countries.
In polls measuring what national institutions they admire the most, Finns put their criminal-coddling police in the No. 1 position.
The force is the smallest in per capita terms in Europe, but it has a corruption-free reputation and it solves 90 percent of its serious crimes.
"I know this system sounds like a curiosity," said Markku Salminen, a former beat patrolman and homicide detective who is now the director general of the prison service in charge of punishments. "But if you visit our prisons and walk our streets, you will see that this very mild version of law enforcement works. I don't blame other countries for having harsher systems because they have different histories and politics, but this model works for us."
Finland, a relatively classless culture with a Scandinavian belief in the benevolence of the state and a trust in its civic institutions, is something of a laboratory for gentle justice. The kinds of economic and social disparities that can produce violence don't exist in Finland's welfare state society, street crime is low, and law enforcement officials can count on support from an uncynical public.
Look in on Finland's penal institutions, whether those the system categorizes as "open" or "closed," and it is hard to tell when you've entered the world of custody. "This is a closed prison," Esko Aaltonen, warden of the Hameenlinna penitentiary, said in welcoming a visitor. "But you may have noticed you just drove in, and there was no gate blocking you."
Walls and fences have been removed in favor of unobtrusive camera surveillance and electronic alert networks. Instead of clanging iron gates, metal passageways and grim cells, there are linoleum-floored hallways lined with living spaces for inmates that resemble dormitory rooms more than lockups in a slammer.
Guards are unarmed and wear either civilian clothes or uniforms free of emblems like chevrons and epaulettes. "There are 10 guns in this prison, and they are all in my safe," Mr. Aaltonen said.
"The only time I take them out is for transfer of prisoners."
At the "open" prisons, inmates and guards address each other by first name. Prison superintendents go by nonmilitary titles like manager or governor, and prisoners are sometimes referred to as "clients" or, if they are youths, "pupils."
"We are parents, that's what we are," said Kirsti Njeminen, governor of the Kerava prison that specializes in rehabilitating young offenders like Mr. Syvajarvi.
Generous home leaves are available, particularly as the end of a sentence nears, and for midterm inmates, there are houses on the grounds, with privacy assured, where they can spend up to four days at a time with visiting spouses and children.
"We believe that the loss of freedom is the major punishment, so we try to make it as nice inside as possible," said Merja Toivonen, a supervisor at Hameenlinna.
Natalia Leppamaki, 39, a Russian immigrant convicted of drunken driving, switched off a sewing machine she was using to make prison clothing and picked up on Ms. Toivonen's point. "Here you have work, you can eat and you can do sports, but home is home, and I don't think you'll see me in here again," she said.
Thirty years ago, Finland had a rigid model, inherited from neighboring Russia, and one of the highest rates of imprisonment in Europe. But then academics provoked a thoroughgoing rethinking of penal policy, with their argument that it ought to reflect the region's liberal theories of social organization.

"Finnish criminal policy is exceptionally expert-oriented," said Tapio Lappi-Seppala, director of the National Research Institute of Legal Policy. "We believe in the moral-creating and value-shaping effect of punishment instead of punishment as retribution."
He asserted that over the last two decades, more than 40,000 Finns had been spared prison, $20 million in costs had been saved, and the crime rate had gone down to relatively low Scandinavian levels.
Mr. Salminen, the prison service director, pulled out a piece of paper and drew three horizontal lines. "This first level is self-control, the second is social control and the third is officer control. In Finland," he explained, "we try to intervene at this first level so people won't get to the other two."
The men and women who work in the prisons also back the softer approach. "There are officers who were here 20 and 30 years ago, and they say it was much tougher to work then, with more people trying to escape and more prison violence," said Kaisa Tammi-Moilanen, 32, governor of the open ward at Hameenlinna.
She conceded that there were people who took advantage of the leniency. Risto Nikunen, 41, a grizzled drifter who has never held a job and has been in prison 11 times, was asked outside his drug rehabilitation unit if he might be one of them. "Well," he shrugged, "many people do come to prison to take a break and try to get better again."
Prison officials can give up to 20 days solitary confinement to inmates as punishment for infractions like fighting or possessing drugs, though the usual term is from three to five days. Mr. Aaltonen said he tried to avoid even that by first talking out the problem with the offending inmate.
Finnish courts mete out four general punishments a fine, a conditional sentence, which amounts to probation, community service and an unconditional sentence. Even this last category is made less harsh by a practice of letting prisoners out after only half their term is served. Like the rest of the countries of the European Union, Finland has no death penalty.
According to the Ministry of Justice in Helsinki, there are a little more than 2,700 prisoners in Finland, a country of 5.2 million people, or 52 for every 100,000 inhabitants. Ministry figures show the comparable rate is 702 per 100,000 in the United States, 664 in Russia and 131 in Portugal, the highest in the European Union.
Finland's chief worry now is the rise in drug-related crimes that do result in prison sentences and the growing number of Russians and Estonians, who Mr. Lappi-Seppala said were introducing organized-crime activities into Finland.
Finns credit their press and their politicians with keeping the law-and- order debate civil and not strident. "Our newspapers are not full of sex and crime," Mr. Salminen said. "And there is no pressure on me to get tough on criminals from populist-issue politicians like there would be in a lot of other countries."
One reason why the Finnish public may tolerate their policy of limited punishment is that victims receive compensation payments from the government. Mrs. Tammi-Moilanen was asked if this was enough to keep them from getting angry over the system of gentle justice.
"My feeling is that victims wouldn't feel that justice is better done by giving very severe punishment," she said. "We don't believe in an eye for an eye, we are a bit more civilized than that, I hope."
Mr. Syvajarvi, a muscular 21-year-old with close-cropped hair who become a heroin addict at age 14, received a six-year sentence for drug selling and assaults. As a young offender, he will serve only a third of that time, and he is expected to be out in a year.
He is now the appointed "big brother" peer counselor to other youths in the jail, must submit to random drug checks to make sure he remains off the habit and has undergone training with anger management specialists that he says has prepared him to rejoin society with a new outlook.
"Before, I wanted to be like those drug dealers in the States," he said, adding in English, "I was a gangster wannabe." He went into a boxer's crouch and popped punches in the air. "I used to think the most important thing was to stand up for yourself.
"Now I've learned that it takes more courage to run away."

"The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it." Karl Marx

"He would, wouldn't he?" Mandy Rice-Davies. When asked in court whether she knew that Lord Astor had denied having sex with her.

“I think it would be a good idea” Ghandi, when asked about Western Civilisation.
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#8
Ah, Magda...if only. Our prison system is so deeply based on a certain Puritan ethic of punishment, that only a miracle from God would change it. Plus, that ethic combined with some of our ridiculous drug laws serves another purpose. It cleanses the voting rolls of a large group of people (mainly young Black and Hispanic males) who otherwise wouldn't wouldn't vote for the conservative ruling class that we have in power now. It's not Jim Crow, but it's damn close, and a whole lot more insidious.
"Logic is all there is, and all there is must be logical."

"Truth is logic, and logic is truth."

"In a nation run by swine, all pigs are upward-mobile and the rest of us are fucked until we can put our acts together: not necessarily to win, but mainly to keep from losing completely." - Hunter S. Thompson

"A paranoid is someone who knows a little of what's going on. A psychotic is a guy who's just found out what's going on." - William S. Burroughs
Reply
#9
Jan, a big part of the problem that I forgot to mention is what I refer to as the dreaded "uniform disease". It happens when people who aren't used to having power over other people are suddenly granted a uniform and turn into God...or something like that. I partially attribute the spread of this disease to the TV show "Oz", wherby many new officers come into the system thinking that that's what prisons are really like. And then when it isn't, they tend to try to make it that way, usually resulting in unnecessary uses of force and the eventual loss of their jobs.

And lest I forget, the disease tends to make some of the weaker-minded people who get it show a total lack of respect for anyone, especially an offender, who doesn't wear that exact same uniform, and even some who do. What they tend to forget is: There but for the grace of God go I, especially in this society.
"Logic is all there is, and all there is must be logical."

"Truth is logic, and logic is truth."

"In a nation run by swine, all pigs are upward-mobile and the rest of us are fucked until we can put our acts together: not necessarily to win, but mainly to keep from losing completely." - Hunter S. Thompson

"A paranoid is someone who knows a little of what's going on. A psychotic is a guy who's just found out what's going on." - William S. Burroughs
Reply
#10
James Lewis Wrote:Ah, Magda...if only. Our prison system is so deeply based on a certain Puritan ethic of punishment, that only a miracle from God would change it. Plus, that ethic combined with some of our ridiculous drug laws serves another purpose. It cleanses the voting rolls of a large group of people (mainly young Black and Hispanic males) who otherwise wouldn't wouldn't vote for the conservative ruling class that we have in power now. It's not Jim Crow, but it's damn close, and a whole lot more insidious.
Yes, insidious. Odd but the Scandanavian states have also had a very austere Lutheran history not unlike Puritan England/US. Such different outcomes though.

I think the key section is this:
Quote:Finland, a relatively classless culture with a Scandinavian belief in the benevolence of the state and a trust in its civic institutions, is something of a laboratory for gentle justice. The kinds of economic and social disparities that can produce violence don't exist in Finland's welfare state society, street crime is low, and law enforcement officials can count on support from an uncynical public.
"The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it." Karl Marx

"He would, wouldn't he?" Mandy Rice-Davies. When asked in court whether she knew that Lord Astor had denied having sex with her.

“I think it would be a good idea” Ghandi, when asked about Western Civilisation.
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