[p2p-research] Post-Depression first: Americans get more money from government than they give back | csmonitor.com

Paul D. Fernhout pdfernhout at kurtz-fernhout.com
Wed Nov 25 20:41:38 CET 2009

Ryan Lanham wrote:
> On 11/25/09, J. Andrew Rogers <reality.miner at gmail.com> wrote:
>> Yes, they are that powerful.  Who do you think created legislation and
>> lobbied for very long mandatory sentences for relatively minor crimes?
>> Every election season, the prison unions spend many millions of
>> dollars pushing legislation and initiatives that will put more people
>> in prison longer.
> Here's the facts from a Republican leaning newspaper:
> http://legacy.signonsandiego.com/uniontrib/20060228/news_1n28guards.html
> I just checked here, and the rates are about (a little lower than) what we
> pay in the Cayman Islands at average and starting levels.

Just to support Andrew's point, consider as an analogy New York, which 
recently reformed its drug laws after thirty years, only by overcoming 
opposition by Republicans representing districts with big prisons.

"N.Y. Governor, Lawmakers Agree To Soften Drug Sentencing Laws"
NEW YORK, March 27 -- Gov. David A. Paterson (D) and legislative leaders on 
Friday announced an agreement to roll back the state's strict, 36-year-old 
drug laws, including eliminating tough mandatory minimum sentences for 
first-time, nonviolent drug offenders.
Then in November, Democrats captured the state Senate for the first time in 
years. The State Assembly in the past had proposed repealing the drug laws, 
but the effort was always blocked by Senate Republicans, many of whom 
represent largely rural, Upstate districts where most of the state's prisons 
are located.

It may not be as simple as "prison unions", but clearly employment and 
profits are a big part of the dynamics of creating laws about crime and 
punishment in the USA.

And even more sadly, profit plays a role in the dynamic of just judging on 
existing laws to send children to private prisons:
"A disgraced former Pennsylvania judge began requiring detention for certain 
youth offenders just three days after the opening of a for-profit detention 
center whose owner was paying him kickbacks, according to testimony. ... 
Former probation official Sandra Brulo says the zero tolerance policy put 
into place by former Luzerne County Judge Mark Ciavarella Jr. swelled the 
number of kids sent to detention. Prosecutors say Ciavarella and another 
judge accepted millions of dollars in kickbacks to place juveniles in PA 
Child Care."

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed 
thousands of juvenile convictions issued by a judge charged in a corruption 
scandal, saying that none of the young offenders got a fair hearing.
   The high court on Thursday threw out more than five years’ worth of 
juvenile cases heard by disgraced former Luzerne County Judge Mark 
Ciavarella, who is charged with accepting millions of dollars in kickbacks 
to send youths to private detention centers.
   The Philadelphia-based Juvenile Law Center, which represents some of the 
youths, said the court’s order covers as many as 6,500 cases. The justices 
barred any possibility of retrial in all but a fraction of them.
   “This is exactly the relief these kids needed,” said Marsha Levick, the 
center’s legal director. “It’s the most serious judicial corruption scandal 
in our history and the court took an extraordinary step in addressing it.”

Now, if it is a "scandal" for those judges to make rulings for their 
personal profit, why is in not a similar scandal for lawmakers to make laws 
for their own political profit and for the financial benefit of those unions 
or other that support them (which indirectly create judicial rulings, 
especially when there is no room for judicial discretion with certain laws)? 
Making the laws for personal profit via campaign donations and so on is one 
level removed from direct kickbacks from the jails per person imprisoned by 
judges, but is it not essentially the same thing? If people are making laws 
about putting people in jail in ways that have no significant relation to 
preventing real harm to society, then is that not a much bigger problem than 
a couple of corrupt judges out of some large number of judges who try to be 
fair and balanced, but are prevented from being so by bad laws? But it is, 
evidently, a problem that has persisted for decades in the USA with little 
accountability, and US prison populations reflect it.

Of course, if we made all the improvements to society that people want, less 
prisons, less pollution, less war, and so on, then we would see much more 
unemployment. That would be a good thing for society, but a bad thing for 
individuals. These sorts of reforms may have to go hand-in-hand with 
something like a basic income, or substantial funding of the arts and 
sciences, or some other reform.

--Paul Fernhout

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