Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! We only shake you down once a year, but when we do we really mean it. It costs a lot to keep the site afloat, and our growing audience, well over TWO million unique viewers a month, eats up a lot of bandwidth — and bandwidth isn’t free. We aren’t supported by corporate donors, advertisers or big foundations. We survive solely on your support.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Just Another Day in the Incarceration Society

by SHERWOOD ROSS

The Supreme Court’s recent decision ordering California to reduce its overcrowded prisons by 30,000 inmates is as welcome as a ray of sunlight streaming through prison bars. State officials have known for decades of the horrific, if not criminal, neglect of prisoners. Five years ago, then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger called their plight an “emergency.” Some “emergency!” Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority in a 5-to-4 ruling, may have been swayed by photographs of inmates jammed into “telephone booth-sized cages without toilets”—conditions so dreadful that a lower court that earlier heard the case found it to be “an uncontested fact” that “an inmate in one of California’s prisons needlessly dies every six or seven days due to constitutional deficiencies.” This, according to The New York Times, which supported the court’s ruling in an editorial.

It’s just another day in the Incarceration Society. In California alone, 33 adult jails warehouse 143,000 inmates. The U.S. has the dubious distinction of ranking first in prison population, ahead of all other nations with 2.3-million convicts behind bars. USA has more mentally ill in its jails where they are not getting proper treatment than in its asylums, where they might be restored to health. As in California, everywhere one sees States slashing funds for the rehabilitation of prisoners—whether it’s for their education, mental health, retraining, drug counseling, job search, or eventual readmission into society. Prisons make inmates worse by tossing ever more of them into isolation cells where, if they were not mentally distressed before incarceration, they almost surely will be driven mad during it. It was in this way that President Obama allowed Bradley Manning to be abused for nearly a year in solitary over the findings and advice of Army psychiatrists.

We have prisoners given stiff sentences mandated by laws. Judges often are not free to use their discretion. As the Los Angeles Times reported: “More than 40,000 prisoners, about one in four, are serving extended sentences for second and third offenses that are punished more severely under the three-strikes law than the crimes would warrant as a first offense, according to state corrections records.” The article also quotes professor Laurie Levenson, of Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, a former federal prosecutor and veteran criminal law scholar, who linked the high recidivism rate with past cuts in funding for prison rehabilitation and education programs. She said this is a formula for even worse crowding. “We have to stop the insanity of sending nonviolent drug offenders and low-level theft offenders to prison for life,” Levenson said. “Nobody is saying we should let murderers out…. We have to stop the revolving door of parolees being returned for minor violations.”

Unfortunately, what the Supreme Court found in California could also apply to many other states, including Illinois, Alabama and Massachusetts. Justice Kennedy, the Times said in an editorial, affirmed that “overcrowding is the ‘primary cause’ of severe and unlawful mistreatment of prisoners through grossly inadequate provision of medical and mental health care” leading to “needless suffering and death.” And that’s happening all over.

Let’s get is straight. Our criminal justice system overwhelmingly reflects the views of the privileged as against the poor. It is class war, pure and simple. The Los Angeles Times quotes Michael Romano of Stamford Law School as saying some inmates are serving life sentences for stealing a $2 pair of socks or $20 work gloves. Yet President George W. Bush who ordered illegal wars against Afghanistan and Iraq was photographed the other day enjoying a baseball game. The reason minority parents are so militant battling school superintendents is because they know without a decent education and a decent chance to earn their sons will wind up behind bars. The time I visited the New Jersey state prison at Rahway so many men were walking around with books under their arms I thought I was back in high school during class break. If only, one thought, these men had been properly educated before! On May 24th the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s cost-cutting was unconstitutional “and ordered lawmakers to raise spending for poor, urban schools by $500-million next year,” according to The Times. Justice Jaynee LaVecchia said the State “made a conscious and calculated decision” to renege on its pledge to do better for urban residents. So the system goes on recreating the conditions that will lead to poverty and crime.

In America today, “justice” doesn’t exist for those at the top. President Obama has refused to exercise his obligation to bring charges against his predecessor president, vice-president and scores of other ranking Bush officials who broke the law. Nor has Mr. Obama, a former CIA payroller and exponent of the CIA’s imperialist philosophy, moved against CIA officials who kidnapped, tortured and murdered innocent prisoners and who then destroyed the evidence of their crimes. If you want a glimpse into the soul of a nation, visit one of its prisons. California is no exception. It’s typical. If you want to see who really runs a country, look for those who are above prosecution. #

Sherwood Ross is a Coral Gables, Fla.-based public relations consultant who also writes on political affairs. Reach him at sherwoodross10@gmail.com.

 

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

September 29, 2016
Robert Fisk
The Butcher of Qana: Shimon Peres Was No Peacemaker
James Rose
Politics in the Echo Chamber: How Trump Becomes President
Russell Mokhiber
The Corporate Vice Grip on the Presidential Debates
Daniel Kato
Rethinking the Race over Race: What Clinton Should do Now About ‘Super-Predators’
Peter Certo
Clinton’s Awkward Stumbles on Trade
Fran Shor
Demonizing the Green Party Vote
Rev. William Alberts
Trump’s Road Rage to the White House
Luke O'Brien
Because We Couldn’t Have Sanders, You’ll Get Trump
Michael J. Sainato
How the Payday Loan Industry is Obstructing Reform
Robert Fantina
You Can’t Have War Without Racism
Gregory Barrett
Bad Theater at the United Nations (Starring Kerry, Power, and Obama
James A Haught
The Long, Long Journey to Female Equality
Thomas Knapp
US Military Aid: Thai-ed to Torture
Jack Smith
Must They be Enemies? Russia, Putin and the US
Gilbert Mercier
Clinton vs Trump: Lesser of Two Evils or the Devil You Know
Tom H. Hastings
Manifesting the Worst Old Norms
George Ella Lyons
This Just in From Rancho Politico
September 28, 2016
Eric Draitser
Stop Trump! Stop Clinton!! Stop the Madness (and Let Me Get Off)!
Ted Rall
The Thrilla at Hofstra: How Trump Won the Debate
Robert Fisk
Cliché and Banality at the Debates: Trump and Clinton on the Middle East
Patrick Cockburn
Cracks in the Kingdom: Saudi Arabia Rocked by Financial Strains
Lowell Flanders
Donald Trump, Islamophobia and Immigrants
Shane Burley
Defining the Alt Right and the New American Fascism
Jan Oberg
Ukraine as the Border of NATO Expansion
Ramzy Baroud
Ban Ki-Moon’s Legacy in Palestine: Failure in Words and Deeds
Gareth Porter
How We Could End the Permanent War State
Sam Husseini
Debate Night’s Biggest Lie Was Told by Lester Holt
Laura Carlsen
Ayotzinapa’s Message to the World: Organize!
Binoy Kampmark
The Triumph of Momentum: Re-Electing Jeremy Corbyn
David Macaray
When the Saints Go Marching In
Seth Oelbaum
All Black Lives Will Never Matter for Clinton and Trump
Adam Parsons
Standing in Solidarity for a Humanity Without Borders
Cesar Chelala
The Trump Bubble
September 27, 2016
Louisa Willcox
The Tribal Fight for Nature: From the Grizzly to the Black Snake of the Dakota Pipeline
Paul Street
The Roots are in the System: Charlotte and Beyond
Jeffrey St. Clair
Idiot Winds at Hofstra: Notes on the Not-So-Great Debate
Mark Harris
Clinton, Trump, and the Death of Idealism
Mike Whitney
Putin Ups the Ante: Ceasefire Sabotage Triggers Major Offensive in Aleppo
Anthony DiMaggio
The Debates as Democratic Façade: Voter “Rationality” in American Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Punishing the Punished: the Torments of Chelsea Manning
Paul Buhle
Why “Snowden” is Important (or How Kafka Foresaw the Juggernaut State)
Jack Rasmus
Hillary’s Ghosts
Brian Cloughley
Billions Down the Afghan Drain
Lawrence Davidson
True Believers and the U.S. Election
Matt Peppe
Taking a Knee: Resisting Enforced Patriotism
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail
[i]
[i]
[i]
[i]