Wasting One Life Away
A while back, I had written this: “One in 31 Adults”. As this was one of my first posts, Dan was kind enough then to post it on Angry Bear.
“One in 31 Adults” (~2.3 million) are under the control of the correctional system according to a March 2009 Pew Center Report of the same title. 1 in every one hundred adults are imprisoned in jail, state prison, or federal prison. 25 years ago, those under the control of the correctional system was 1 in 77 adults as compared to 1 in 31 adults. If you factor in the numbers on parole or probation (~5.1 million ), the numbers in jail, prison or on probation swell to ~ 7.3 million under some type of correctional/probationary control (2007).
What does the then growing prison and correctional population cost taxpayers? To support the then growing state prison population, costs ranged (it has only gone up) from ~$13,000 in Louisiana to ~$45,000 in Rhode Island annually (2005). The average was ~$23,000 annually, “US Imprisons 1 in every 100 Adults” NYT. The cost of imprisonment compares nicely to a state or private college education (another story which then I had not written about). As a whole the US imprisons a higher percentage of its population than any other nation in the world (and we still do such) from which the cost burden of housing prisoners has become an issue for states with a decreasing/stagnant economy and decreasing tax revenues. Paradoxically while costing the state more, jails and prisons for many communities are a stable and growing business employing people, services, and a fast growing part of the rural community economies.
If you want to see how prisons impact local communities, go visit Ionia, Muskegon, Kingsley, etc. Michigan; prisons/jails are the major employer in small communities and Michigan courts keep them full. Livingston County is building a $15 million extension to its jail to overcome crowding. Just like building a warehouse to house inventory, the county will fill it up. “If you build it, they will come.” Whack the prisons/jails and the towns dry up. The laws such as three strikes and drug possession for imprisoning nonviolent prisoners are antiquated. Fast forward to 2014 and this story of a man who was sentenced to prison and how they never came to get him while he was out on bond.
“Back in 1999, Anderson helped rob a Burger King assistant manager in St. Charles, Mo., with what turned out to be a BB gun. In May 2000 he was convicted of armed robbery and sentenced to 13 years in prison — but because of a clerical error, he never did the time.
While out on bail, he went on to become a law-abiding, happily married man with four children. After training as a carpenter, Anderson started a small businesses and built his own home from the ground up. On the weekends, he volunteered at his church, went fishing, fixed up old cars and helped his kids prepare for their spelling tests — ‘just normal, everyday, good stuff,’ he told Snow.
At first, Anderson lived every day wondering whether law enforcement might arrive and take him to prison.
‘For the first couple of years, yes,’ he said. ‘When I’m in the shower, I hear a noise, outside somebody closing the door, I’m thinking it’s them at the door every single day.’
Despite that anxiety, he did not turn himself in.
‘That was not me,” he said. “Prison is not me.’
Then, early one morning in July 2013, that day came, as law-enforcement officials descended on his home and hauled him away for failing to serve his sentence all those years ago. Anderson maintains that he was never a fugitive and he never hid his whereabouts from authorities.
‘We did everything we were supposed to do,’ Anderson told Snow. ‘We filed all the paperwork. My attorney (at the time) told them that I wasn’t incarcerated, that I was out on bond.’
Anderson told Snow that as the years passed, he registered his businesses with the state of Missouri, renewed his driver’s licenses, got married and even voted — all the while using his full name and his current mailing address.
‘A fugitive is someone that they’re looking for and that’s running,’ Anderson said. ‘I never ran, and they weren’t looking for me. … I used to think, ‘Maybe they just wiped the slate clean.’”
No, they did not wipe the slate clean, through clerical error they had lost Cornealious “Mike” Anderson in the state correctional system. If you ever want to see a low caliber operation, visit your prisons. I had to laugh when one guard was explaining to me how to secure a vehicle in a heavily patrolled area. In the early seventies, I chased prisoners for the USMC during the few months remaining of my enlistment. Existence in the state system for many workers is measured by how little you do.
Missouri caught up with Mike and they want their 13 years of prison-time-slice of his life. Mike is now sitting in prison today “It’s — it’s like my life is wasting away.” Considering what he has contributed to society over the last 13 years as a normal citizen making a living and paying taxes, Mike’s life is wasting away. Mike has gone from being a contributor in society by leading a normal life, raising a family, and paying taxes to a prisoner in a Missouri prisoner and the state and its citizens paying for his upkeep.
Thirteen years of making ~$40,000 annually or ~$520,000 in economic activity to 13 years @ $22,350 annually or $290,550 in cost to the state plus the loss of his salary for a total 0f $810,550 over the next 13 years plus welfare for his wife and 4 children. All just to get even with a person who made a normal life for himself.
“I gave my life to the Lord and he changed my mindset, gave me a new heart — changed my mind about the way I was living, the way I thought about things. And I just — I became a man.” This fits in with the religious culture one would see in this part of the state. It is also not unusual to see this reaction in prison where the prisoners become religious, especially when they are cut off from family, as they have no one else to turn to while there and they cling to anything. We have bought a few Bibles and teaching Bibles for prisoners from time to time and have probably stocked a library or two with our purchases of other books. Mike did this outside of prison when he really did not have to do so and he proved his worth. Maybe if he were white the reaction might have been different as back when the Pew Report was written, 1 in 11 adult African-Americans were imprisoned as compared to a lesser rate for Caucasians. The US imprisons more African-Americans then Caucasians.
We as a society really do some dumb things.
Here is an equally mind numbing story about Jerry Hartfield, who has spent over 3 decades in the Texas prison system WITHOUT a valid conviction:
When I get a chance, I will read it. Thanks for showing it.
Our country’s addiction to just is such a terrible waste of human potential. I’d bet the majority of people imprisoned would have similar stories if a clerical error were to happen. Given similar crime rates in otherwise similar societies, not to mention the terrible human cost of imprisonment on the individual, the burden of proof should really be on those who support mass incarceration, rather than the other way around.
Think of it this way. For the money we spend in prisons, we could up the ante for education and forestall much of this.
The U.S. is the best in the world catching criminals. There are many countries where there are lots of criminals running amok.
Who wants to live in a country, like Syria or Sweden, where the police are too incompetent to catch criminals?:
Sweden’s unsolved violent crime rate at 95 percent
15 November 2008
“Robberies and violent crimes made up 75 percent of all reported crimes in Sweden last year, which added up to around 900,000. Police managed to solve 5.8 percent of them.
Bengt Svenson, the national police chief, defended his department saying: “There is often very little of value to work with. When it comes to theft, there are no witnesses, and victims often don’t know when the crime occurred. There’s really not much to go on and that obviously makes it hard to solve crimes.”
Justice Minister Beatrice Ask feels the figures are an unwelcome truth for a government that ran on a platform on crime reduction. When elected, the government promised to have 20,000 police on Sweden’s streets by 2010.
Ask feels that part of the problem lies with Sweden’s culture. “I think it has to do with the culture, the idea that there is simply nothing that can be done.” At any rate, Ask says she feels the statistics are rather disturbing and that the Swedish police could do more to clear up these cases.”
You are off topic on my thread Peak. Your comment is what I would call a non sequitur. This is what some bloggers would call hijacking a thread.
In case any readers are thinking to take seriously what the troll has to say about crime in Sweden be aware that his entire comment is based upon a five year old newspaper investigation and subsequent story. The article tells us, “Research carried out by TV4’s Kalla Fakta (‘Cold Facts’) investigative news programme also revealed that violent crimes and robberies make up about 75 percent of all crimes reported in Sweden.” There are no reference to data that supports that claim or any of the claims made in the article, http://www.thelocal.se/20081103/15412.
The article may be accurate. Who knows? But here is the latest report from the US State Dept. on criminality in Sweden, https://www.osac.gov/Pages/ContentReportDetails.aspx?cid=15353. No, it doesn’t suggest that Sweden is crime free, but it does describe a country with varying degrees of crime depending on time and place. And it makes reasonably clear that Sweden is not over run by criminals who practice their trade unmolested by the police. In fact the nonsense reported by Peak T. above is unsupported by any report on the issue.
I note this about another straw comment by PT because I for one am getting tired of his bullshit appearing on Angry Bear. It makes the blog seem like a haven for an idiot, especially given the volumes of crap that he’s been posting lately.
Here is a site which depicts crime in each country. http://www.numbeo.com/crime/rankings_by_country.jsp As compared to every European country with the exception of Russia and Ireland, The US has them all beat as far as having higher crime. US crime rate is 50.15 with a safety index of 49.85. Ireland and Russia are slightly higher in crime. Sweden’s crime rate is 38.28 with a safety index of 61.72.
“Crime Index is an estimation of overall level of crime in a given city or a country. Crime Levels up to 50 are reasonable, and crime index levels more than 100 are too high. Safety index is, on the other way, quite opposite of crime index. If the city has a high safety index, it is considered very safe.”
Homicide Rates: http://chartsbin.com/view/1454 2008
US: 5.22/100,000. Sweden: .89/100,000 I doubt this has changed much since 2008.
Jack, you continue to prove you’re the “troll” here.
What does crime rates have to do with competence in solving crimes?
It’s not easy to catch and convict a criminal, even if he committed dozens of crimes over many years.
We should praise the professional work of U.S. law enforcement, in general, for reducing serious crime rates to 1963 levels.
I noticed, some people here often attack government when it does a good job and praise it when it does a lousy job.
And, in case someone brings up racism (which wouldn’t be surprising), I suspect, most of the police in Los Angeles, for example, are minorities, and perhaps in the criminal justice system too, while most of the criminals in jail are also minorities.
run75441, I thought the topic was about more people in jail, and indirectly, the cost of crime. Well, criminals are expensive.
run75441, your crime rankings don’t explain anything.
For example, perhaps, countries with more liberty have more crime, or countries with younger populations have more crime, etc.?
Peak a word to the wise
Angry Bear has been historically open to opponents. We just ask that they add value and/or provide enough rigor that it is worth while debating with them, if only to educate our readership about the issues at play.
That is we luv us our libertarians and Neo-classicists and Freshwater Economists almost as much as we like cross-posting stuff from say Saltwater and Heterodox friends. Because ‘substance’.
But pure contrarians and thread hijackers with no apparent agenda other than that of Ackroyd responding to Curtin in the first season of SNL with “Jane you ignorant slut” wear out their welcome. From where I am sitting your biggest and strongest argument on everything and anything adds up to “As I said before” with its implicit claim to authority that you have not earned.
The decision to allow you to continue commenting is not mine to make. Not in toto. There is the equivalent of an Editorial Board that advises our version of a Publisher whether it is worth continuing to offer space to any given writer of LTTEs. And that advice in large part depends on the evaluation of the “value added” equation.
I can say this for certain: any named economist with an established web presence is more than welcome at AB. No matter what their views, at least if they are willing to entertain questions. Because in the final analysis the reputation of AB depends less on “at-a-boys” then in responses from the opposition. We want to be taken, and if necessary pushed back on, by the serious. Which doesn’t automatically include pseudonym bearing purveyors of lame talking points.
It is a fine line and many people did, have, and will ride it for a long, long time. In part because FrontPagers need convenient foils and in some cases trolls work fine. Tiresome trolls? Not so much.
So sharpen your focus, narrow your scope and up your linkage and data game and you will be useful and even welcome here. But throwing feces in to every comment thread like you are Head Monkey at the Zoo and so “Must Not Be Ignored” is not a good move. It is not like you are making your side look good here. That is you are not even Adding Value to those who reject ABs general take on politics and economics. Just say’in.
(Signed Moderator and ‘Member of the Editorial Board’)
I am in Chicago, just getting here, but enough for PT. No more warnings…I hope he/she can learn…
I wonder how many of those were convicted of simple possession? The drug laws in this country need rethinking.
If you click on the link for my original post (not trying to be snide) http://angrybearblog.strategydemo.com/2010/08/one-in-31-adults.html, it will take you to a post (one of my first on AB) I wrote in 2010. On there you will find a simple excel spreadsheet breaking down crime by violent, nonviolent, drugs, etc. This was taken from “The High Budgetary Cost of Incarceration” a report I picked up as published on Real World Economics Review and reproduced here: http://www.cepr.net/documents/publications/incarceration-2010-06.pdf. In 2008 it was estimated 1,424,238 people imprisoned of 2,304,115 were nonviolent; 561,526 of the same ~2.3 million were imprisoned due to drug offenses of any type. We could shrink the prison population rather easily if we had different sentencing guidelines.
What would the impact be using the same numbers? Table 4 suggests a modification of sentencing guidelines of ~50% in sentencing guidelines at the federal, state, and local level would result in reductions in cost of ~$17B with the greatest impact being felt at both a state and local level, the governments restricted by budgeting mandates. The changing of minimum sentencing, truth in sentencing, and three strikes guidelines for non-violent crimes would contribute significantly to increases in prison population.
The stats do not favor former drug addicts and they do tend to slip the same as what alcoholics would after a period of time. 80% of former drug addicts have relapses one year later. In any case, they can be treated and the cost would be cheaper than imprisoning them. Your points are good ones.
This particular post is about Cornealious “Mike” Anderson who lived 13 good years making a life for himself. The justice system is a funny place and I could tell you many stories based upon my own experience. Lawyers do not typically like me as I have learned in courts and from talking to my own attorneys. “Mike” deserves a chance to continue his life on the outside. He already served his time living in fear of losing all he gained during that time period.
There are probably better stats now and maybe it is time I revisit the stats and update my original post.
I must be atypical, run; I like you. Your points on drug convictions and consequent imprisonment are on the money as are the comments about the political side of prisons, governmental and private, as employers in employment deserts.
I wonder why?
I must have been hanging around too many prisons and the small towns they hold hostage, talking to too many attorneys, and sitting quietly in court rooms listening to the black robes sitting at pulpits looking down at us. The points were taken from an economics study I wrote about in 2010. They are “still” on the money.
Peak, it’s not a matter of labelling, but of recognizing. If you want to continue to participate here, your contributions have to be thoughtful and based on something besides the party line. When this thread began I knew, just knew, you would jump in with an argument either saying the US has more criminals, because hey! lazy liberal black people, or else that the US has better cops. With proof for neither one.
Let’s look at the first world incarceration rates. They range from about 60 to 140 per hundred thousand. In that group are Australia, Canada, Switzerland, Germany, and the Nordic states.
America? Not so much. They imprison over 700 per 100,000.
Who is in the ballpark with Uncle Sam? Cuba, Rwanda, Russia, El Salvador, and Azerbaijan. But they are in the 400s. Only little Saint Kitts and the Seychelles hit the 700s.
So, either America is seven times more criminal than the rest of the developed world, or the rest of the world’s police forces are missing 85% of their criminals. Or else, you know, for-profit prisons have something to do with it.
Do try to pay attention.
Nah, run. You’ve just been hanging around ME too much. And vice versa.
PT, you are not good company. You are intrusive, poorly informed about many matters discussed here, and have little to contribute to the conversation. You know, you could learn something by listening to Run, Jack, Bev, DDrew and Noni, among others. Word. NancyO
Hmmm. Yeah I guess the revision of existing sentencing laws would be the easiest way to relieve the drug possession incarceration problem given our current political climate but I am talking about something completely different. State supported maintenance clinics with mandatory treatment when beds become available. Wouldn’t it be just as easy for the for-profit jail companies to morph into for-profit rehab clinics?
I think you guys should encourage more Peak Traders. What’s the harm? You can only sharpen your argument when you have people taking shots at you. No offense but this place is already pretty insular.
Thank you Bruce. Thank you Dan.
An excellent post about an all too depressing situation. How civil is our society if incarceration has become a major growth industry?
Peak Trader certainly provided us with an example of idiocy, but I am not so sure he was “off topic.” It depends on what the topic is. If it’s the “cost of incarceration” as I think could be fairly inferred from the author’s arguments, then Peak is “reasonably” close with his opinion that we spend a lot on putting people in jail because we are so good at catching criminals.
On the other hand if the topic is “the waste of human life”… as I think run meant it to be… then Peak merely provides us with an example of the kind of thinking that leads to a culture… justice system… in which human life is routinely wasted… in fact has no value whatsoever.
I personally believe that the justice system is run by people who might as well be devils. They derive pleasure from hurting people. We have no interest in “rehabilitation.” We don’t even have any interest in “retribution,” because we frankly don’t give a damn if the prisoner is innocent, much less has rehabilitated himself. What we relish is the opportunity the crime and the alleged criminal… at least the arrested person… gives us to cause real misery to a human being.
And we would pay… are paying… big bucks for our pleasure… because it’s what we want.
As for Peak Trader’s idiocy, the question is “what kind of an idiot?” I speculate that he is the new days version of the “idiot savant”, someone with a freakish talent… in this case for finding “support” on the computer for things he wants us to believe… but no ability to deal with ordinary human problems. He certainly seems to have no soul, nor the smallest interest in reality beyond that constructed by his own internal “logic.”
But is he so different from the rest of us… who appear to be perfectly willing to talk about torturing a human being, and then, after expressing our disapproval of such things, change the channel.
As I am doing now.
In re: the last line of your post maybe a future one could overlay local/state/federal funding for prison construction with expenditures for schools, clinics, libraries, parks and recreation facilities, etc. Maybe include the price tag on that gorgeously effective law enforcement some people keep going on about. Besides stupid we are doing unaffordable things with critical human resources. As Jesse Jackson observed when you consider the problems we face as a planet there’s nobody to spare.
“So we starve all the teachers – and recruit more marines – how come we don’t even know what that means? – It’s obvious…” – Joe Jackson, Obvious Song