A shameful first place for Wisconsin. More fine reporting from Urban Milwaukee’s Bruce Murphy:
No state comes close to Wisconsin in imprisoning black males. The study found that 12.8 percent, or 1 in 8 of African American working age men, were incarcerated. That rate is 32 percent higher than the second worst state, Oklahoma, and nearly double the national average of 6.7 percent (or 1 in 15).
Nearly a million prisoners are now making office furniture, working in call centers, fabricating body armor, taking hotel reservations, working in slaughterhouses, or manufacturing textiles, shoes, and clothing, while getting paid somewhere between 93 cents and $4.73 per day.
--Sweatshop labor is back with a vengeance. (via motherjones)
As a means of controlling crime, America’s prisons are notoriously inefficient and only minimally effective, often creating hardened criminals out of first-time offenders. The United States has 5 percent of the world’s population, yet 25 percent of the world’s prisoners. In the past generation, the imprisonment rate per capita in this country has multiplied by five. There are 2.3 million Americans in prisons and jails. Spending on prisons has reached $77 billion a year.
Even as the prison population has grown, less than half of the inmates are serving time for violent crimes. Far too often, prison has become a warehouse for people with drug or alcohol addiction. More than half of the population has some form of mental illness.
--The New York Times. Falling Crime, Teeming Prisons. Republican senators have sabotaged the National Criminal Justice Commission Act, which would be an essential step toward major criminal justice reform.
The medical and mental health care provided by California’s prisons falls below the standard of decency that inheres in the Eighth Amendment. This extensive and ongoing constitutional violation requires a remedy, and a remedy will not be achieved without a reduction in overcrowding … The State shall implement the order without further delay.
--Brown v. Plata. The Supreme Court ruled today that the conditions of California’s prisons are so bad that they violate the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment. California has been ordered to reduce its prison population by more than 30,000 prisoners in order to alleviate the overcrowding.
And then, guess what? Yesterday afternoon, none other than Eugene Victor Debs, organizer and leader of the first successful strike against a major American industry, the railroads, was waiting for me at the far end of the blue tunnel.
We hadn’t met before. This great American died in 1926 at the age of 71, when I was only four years old. I thanked him for words of his, which I quote again and again in lectures. “As long as there is a lower class, I am in it. As long as there is a criminal element, I am of it. As long as there is a soul in prison, I am not free.”
He asked me how those words were received here on Earth in America nowadays. I said they were ridiculed. People snicker and snort, I said. He asked what our fastest-growing industry was. The building of prisons, I said. What a shame, he said.
-Kurt Vonnegut. America lost a great one 4 years ago today.