Tuesday, September 20, 2022

This LA Times Story Tells us Prisons Are A Criminal Justice Joke

[The point here is the excerpt below from an LA Times story.  But I ended up putting a lot of context before the excerpt.  You an skip down to the quote if you think you know all the introductory thoughts already.  And, of course, you don't need my permission to do that, or whatever you want.]

I've watched enough prison movies and read enough books and articles to know that the US prison system doesn't work very well*.  First of all we top the world in prisoners per 100,000 population:

The countries on this list are not among the most enlightened and prosperous.  But we're on top.  By a lot.  

Our justice system massively discriminates against people of color.

"Nationwide, Black people are locked up in state prison at a rate of 1,240 per 100,000 residents, as compared with 261 whites. That’s 4.8 times greater incarceration of Black than white people, based on 2019 data from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. On average, one of every 81 Black Americans is in a state prison.

In California, it’s worse. One of 62 Black Californians is in state prison."

The editorial goes on to counter the traditional response that it's because people of color commit more crimes, but rather it's discrimination throughout the justice system.

When people make lascivious remarks about what evil things might happen to a young defendant when he reaches prison, do you smile or do think that something is wrong with prisons? If you smile or if you're the one who makes the joke, you're part of the problem.  

What about people who are wrongly convicted?  The Innocence Projects around the US have gotten 399 prisoners exonerated.  Those are just the people who were able to get enough evidence to prove their innocence, even though it's guilt that is supposed to be proven in court. 

The 13th Amendment to the Constitution abolished slavery, EXCEPT for prisoners.

"Thirteenth Amendment

Section 1

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."

  Prisons and companies who get prisoners to work for them take advantage of this exception.  

So all that was preface to this excerpt from an  LA Times story that appeared last week about the Mexican Mafia (their term) that has operated in San Bernardino for decades (again, according to the story). 

This excerpt truly tells us of how truly corrupt and failing these prisons are.  (Yes, I know they depict this in tv shows and movies regularly, but still it's shocking.)

Moreno was Rodriguez’s “secretary” — a role once typically filled by women who were not in prison, who used visits and letters to pass messages from Mexican Mafia members to their underlings. But the proliferation of contraband cell phones in the state prison system has proved a “game changer,” testified Lt. Eddie Flores of the San Bernardino Police Department. Prisoners can now communicate directly with one another to arrange drug deals, order assaults and organize collection rackets, Flores testified.

Phones are smuggled in by correctional officers and “free staff” — plumbers, electricians, food preparers, Goo Goo testified. “I’ve seen nurses bring ‘em in, I’ve seen ‘em flown in on drones.”

A phone costs about $1,200 in prison, he said. “You kind of learn how these things work, the economics. If you’re bringing in too many cell phones, flooding the yard, the price drops.”

Goo Goo described his daily routine as Rodriguez’s man on the street: “I’d get up in the morning — it’s like going to work, having a job,” he told the jury. First he would call someone in the prison system, usually Moreno.

From his cell at the state prison in Calipatria, where he was serving 10 years for possessing an assault rifle, Moreno would tell Goo Goo what needed to be handled that day. “Patch this up here, that there,” he recalled. Deliver drugs. Pick up money.

That's from LA Times,  but if you can't get in, it's also on Wildlandfire News.

*Whether the prison system 'works well' or not, of course, depends on whose objectives you measure it by.  The official objectives to get dangerous criminals off the streets so they can't keep committing crimes, to mete out justices, to rehabilitate offenders, or the objectives of other players like the prisoners who are well connected, the owners of the private prisons, or the various people who work in the prison who can double and triple their salaries by smuggling in contraband.  

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