There are so Many People in Jail, They Literally Don’t fit

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The criminal justice system in California is rapidly approaching a breaking point:

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - A special panel of federal judges tentatively ruled Monday that California must release tens of thousands of inmates to relieve overcrowding.

The judges said no other solution will improve conditions so poor that inmates die regularly of suicides or lack of proper care.

"There are simply too many prisoners for the existing capacity," they wrote. "Evidence offered at trial was overwhelmingly to the effect that overcrowding is the primary cause of the unconstitutional conditions that have been found to exist in the California prisons." [AP]

Passing harsh laws, capturing offenders and convicting people of crimes is the easy part. What a lot of people don’t get is that the process doesn’t end there. You have to actually do something with the people you’ve decided to remove from society. Keeping massive populations behind bars for years at a time is phenomenally expensive, even if you do an appallingly poor job of it.

It’s utterly disgusting that our drug laws condemn these people to a living hell, all because drugs are supposedly bad for your physical and emotional health. The treatment of our prisoners is disgraceful and the legions of prison-state profiteers who lobby for more jails and tougher laws seldom receive the recognition they deserve in the hierarchy of scum-sucking subspecies destroying our society.

The prison industry will not stop. These people have already created an unbelievable mess and they will fight for more laws and funding no matter how much worse it gets. When human beings start getting sick and dying in our jails, someone outside the criminal justice industry has to intervene, otherwise nothing will be done about it. It shouldn’t even be necessary for judges to compel better prison conditions, but of course it is.

Fortunately, the one inevitable boundary that exists here is the fact that there is simply nothing left to spend on keeping more people in prison. The incarceration industry can’t print its own money. It’s a shame that we couldn’t stall the escalation of our massive prison population with appeals to logic and compassion, but if it takes bankruptcy to abate this then so be it.
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Nothing left to spend?

Prohibition can and does print it's own money. We have embraced crime as one of the primary engines of the economy. Our entire police system from cops on the beat to airport security to the CIA to border patrol, court systems, judges, lawyers, jail systems, prisons systems, support contractors at every level, weapons manufacturers, drug testing agencies, substance abuse programs, corporations relying on cheap labor, pharmaceutical companies pedalling legal alternatives, advertising agencies, TV shows and the damned evening news - they all feed at the trough.

Do not believe for a minute that letting some folks out of a few overcrowded facilities means anything.


Of course, many people profit from prohibition. That's the point of my post. But it's the taxpayer's money and there's not enough of it to sustain all of this reckless profiteering indefinitely. We're on a trajectory towards a point when these industries will have bled us for all we're worth. And when that happens, there will be no choice but to turn back.

Prohibition makes lots of money for lots of people. But it always wastes more resources than it generates.

The vast majority is sustainable. That's my point.

Although we are clearly off the deep end when it comes to imprisoning drug users, this is only the tip of the iceberg and is actually fairly meaningless in term of budgets.

The fines, court costs, and the taxes used to support the heart of heart of the industry - really aren't in much danger of drying up, ie. they are sustainable as we continue down the curve of the police state.

I think it is a mistake to pin the hope of reform on the realization that imprisonment specifically fails any cost/benefit analysis. But you may be right in that it's another chink in the armor.

Not Exactly

Prohibition can and does print it's own money.
Figuratively speaking.

However, it's different from the literal printing of money the govt. does.

Do not believe for a minute that letting some folks out of a few overcrowded facilities means anything.

While I agree with your general perspective and level of frustration, this does mean something. It provides yet another data set, hard numbers, to this problem.

Even though some may claim it's not significant in and of itself, it continues to expose a pattern of problems that is coming to a head.

Not only that but you better believe it means something to the folks being let out, and their families!

But I still wonder who they're planning on letting out, and what they are accused of.

I agree with you that it sure would be better if the policy makers/media/etc... owned up to the fact this "war" is a disaster and all they are doing is festering hatred towards the govt./society/authority by pummeling the "drug offenders" with draconian treatment.

Certainly the saying "crime doesn't pay" is in force here too! It's completely unsustainable to lock people up and invoice the rest of us for it! There is no real value in it at all! Nothing is gained, only perceived loss is averted.

Heaven forbid the self-righteous go even more crazy and start the notion of prison factories to "put them to work to pay for their incarceration."

kjs420's picture

more into the future

When China has finally had enough "western BS", and they want their money, and all we got is more paper with green ink on it, or "labor" you know, "slaves", we have prisons full of them, it's either that or land, which do you think our compassionate government will go for? Especially, now they they have those new laws on "rendition" and other "snatch n trade" options at their disposal. How's your Chinese?
It's probably going on right now, anyone can be snatched up on "suspicion", which is a pretty broad term, and whisked away, to be held in a foreign country, and without even having to be charged with anything. Let freedom ring.

california prison industry

this is what happens to states who spend more on incarceration than education. ebay ceo, meg whitman announced this week that she is running for governor of cali in 2012. she was on the glenn beck show yesterday [fix news]. glenn said we should build more prisons in cali and meg responded with the word "exactly." she agreed with the idea of more prisons right after saying that she would cut failing programs. jerry brown will probably win it in 2010 luckily. consfearacy

meg in 2010



The drug war is such a rotten edifice this must be our time to kick out the flying buttresses. Could an enterprising person please find out the names of these people who get rich by herding unfortunate youths into their prohibition plantations? Should not they be shamed in public?

kjs420's picture

They should be publicly

They should be publicly flogged.

Profit from Prisons.

Guess Who in particular gets some Profits. None other than ex-vice Prez Dick Cheney. He has investments in Geo corp and was indicted late last year for profitteering in South Texas federal detention centers in Willacy county. Of course the D.A. who pursued the charges was vilified and considered a nut. Yet a Grand jury had determined there was sufficent evidence to return indicments against Cheney and even Alberto Gonzalez for refusing to look into abuse, mistreatment and deaths in the Willacy county Federal detention centers. Of course a puppet judge threw out the indicments and the D.A. was forced to move on. From investments in Defense contracting, Halliburton, and pivately run prisons, corruption and the money to be made are a driving force. In his capacity as vice Prez Cheney could dictate the amount of money the feds would pay private prisons to house it's prisoners. J. Velasco BrownsvilleTx

I can't tell you how many

I can't tell you how many puns/homophones I've come up with for "Dick Cheney." Nearly all of them are unsuitable for this public forum.

And to see him dig in his heels when interviewed by Jim Lehrer, and act like those belligerent CEOs who have gone before Congress these past 5 years, that they're worth every penny, and should have received ten times the bonuses they gave themselves... takes away any remorse I may feel when they face Judgement Day.

Here's a bit of history that I think will repeat itself... the story of Haman in the book of Esther (Bible). "Now it's your turn to live in those prisons you made!"

They Profit

I was just doing some reading about geo corp and heres a good reads about those who are profiting

As long as police and prison guard unions

give more money to the Democrats and Republicans than do the poor people who are victimized by the police state laws the Democrats and Republicans will continue to write laws that give police and prison guards their authoritarian welfare.

"you better believe it means something to folks being let out"

NewOldSalt- if you didn't say it, I was going to. And in the case of California, it's not a few people- subject to appeal, the courts have ordered them to release about 50,000 people!

Well said about the police and prison guards unions, aahpat.

Our entire prison system is fucked up

Our society puts non-violent people in the same facilities as the violent ones, allowing the violent ones to prey upon the non-violent. Rapes, assaults and worse happen every day in every prison in the nation. No one convicted of a non-violent crime deserves the death penalty from AIDS due to being raped by a violent criminal in prison. The guards are often guilty of unprovoked violence against prisoners and of turning a blind eye to prisoner on prisoner violence. There is little to no effort made to rehabilitate violent people or those who think they have every right to help themselves to the property of others without permission.

Non-violent prisoners come out of these facilites filled with hate for the society that allowed those atrocities to happen to them while they were "paying their debt to society". Petty criminals come out with skills to make them into serious criminals and no skills that would allow them to become productive members of society. Until we stop putting drug users, manufacturers, and distributors in prison, until we begin to separate the violent criminals from all the non-violent ones in our prisons, until we begin to try to rehabilitate violent criminals, and those who do not respect the right to property, we will be making all the problems with crime in our society worse.

I'm pro-choice on EVERYTHING!

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