Friday, February 29, 2008

let freedom ring 

New incarceration stats out! We're still climbing and breaking records!

For the first time in the nation’s history, more than one in 100 American adults is behind bars, according to a new report.

Nationwide, the prison population grew by 25,000 last year, bringing it to almost 1.6 million. Another 723,000 people are in local jails. The number of American adults is about 230 million, meaning that one in every 99.1 adults is behind bars.

Sounds grim...but wait! There's a justification for all this human warehousing. It works!

But Paul Cassell, a law professor at the University of Utah and a former federal judge, said the Pew report considered only half of the cost-benefit equation and overlooked the “very tangible benefits — lower crime rates.”

In the past 20 years, according the Federal Bureau of Investigation, violent crime rates fell by 25 percent, to 464 for every 100,000 people in 2007 from 612.5 in 1987.

Alas and alack. You know all those studies about high schoolers who can't even find the US on a map? The studies they like to publish in the Times on the regular in order to scare the professional class into gripping their holdings just a little tighter in fear of the coming uncartological hordes? What's happening to our country! Standards are plummeting! Who can devote time to giving a shit about anyone else when you've got to get your kid into a good school so he doesn't end up flipping burgers?!

Well, never fear. Lacking basic thinking skills and knowledge sets is clearly no bar to attaining social status. Those very same high-schoolers pulling down the averages actually grow up to become judges and professors who get called by similarly brain-pinched journalists for pull-quotes.

Even taking into account the benefit side of the above equation, one can only feel good about these numbers by ignoring the rest of the cost side. Armenia, for example, has a shade lower murder rate, and managed to achieve this with one tenth of our incarceration rate. Whatever dubious benefits we garner with our superawesome freedom machine they are being gained in the most costly way yet devised by modern human society.

Even according to his own morally myopic criteria he's defending the indefensible. So fuck you Cassell, you mandarin twit.


Radley Balko finds an alternate way to get past the thin layer of stupid to a better view of the situation. It must have taken a whole two-minutes of Googling:

As the Washington Post explains, a state like Florida, which has been giddily locking people up for two decades, has experienced only a slight drop in crime over that period. New York, on the other hand, has experienced a substantial drop in crime since the early 1990s, but the state’s prison population is the lowest its been in 15 years.


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