Mass Incarceration and Racism
Having visited several prisons in my state over the last 12 years, bought books and bibles, talked with inmates and one in particular, chased a case up to SCOTUS, I believe I can talk on this topic rather well. One of the issues which bothers me is the amount of justice applied through plea bargaining. It is a fast and easy way to minimize court loads and maintain a flow of live ones into the system. It is efficient and at the same time applies the law with a minimum amount of Justice (if it ever sneaks through). There is more to this and I will talk about it if you are interested. Atlantic Monthly has a good read on this topic which I would recommend.
This may sound facetious but the rationale for the mass incarceration state was laid out in the 1920s in speeches and publications of the National Association of Manufacturers.
To make a long story short, there is too much crime because wages are too high and the hours of work are too short. These unnatural conditions undermine the requisite loyalty, obedience and humility of the working masses and thus serve as the seedbed of crime. John Emmett Edgerton explained all this in his annual addresses to the N.A.M.
“It should be remembered that there is quite as intimate relationship between leisure and crime as there is between leisure and culture. As a matter of fact as our wage standards have advanced in this country, and as hours have been shortened, crime has grown much faster than culture, until our nation stands out as the most criminal the world has ever known.”
Low wages were also necessary, Edgerton explained elsewhere, for preserving “racial purity.” Edgerton’s intellectual mentor, Vanderbilt professor Gustavus W. Dyer, provided details about the alleged fact, “conceded by all that the negro in any state is very much inferior as a worker to the American white man.” (“Democracy in the South Before the Civil War”) and especially about those un-American criminal activities of collective bargaining and strikes:
“You can hardly conceive of a more un-American, a more anti-American institution, than the closed shop. It is really very remarkable that it is allowed to exist by the sanction of law under the American flag. It tramples under foot the most sacred rights and privileges of the American citizen and sets itself openly and defiantly against that freedom for which the Anglo-Saxon has been struggling and fighting for centuries.”
Again, it may sound like I am being facetious. Or exaggerating. Not at all. These characters were the embodiment of a century long-crusade against labor unions. I use the term “crusade” advisedly — Edgerton led his textile mill-workers daily in morning prayer .
These bellowing Babbitts won. The explosion of mass incarceration of black men is the measure of their triumph as is the obverse implosion of union density. Their so-called “open shop” and “right-to-work” turns out to be a penitentiary.
Hard for me to respond to this. You certainly point out many significant issues stemming from this period of time. Thank you for responding.
John Oliver had an incredibly scary bit about the public defender system.
CROSS COMMENT: How Econ Got Crime and Punishment Wrong – Noah Smith
Crime does NOT pay:
Boys under 18 1/2 are in the emotionally dependent stage for practical purposes as much as if they were 12 (seems to run full speed to the end and turn off over one week). Crux of delinquency: if they perceive nobody cares about them (wrong about half the time) they literally won’t care about themselves — no punishment can deter them. Peculiar: kids merely out of control of loving parents or guardians can get just as, what I called, hysterically alienated.
Quick cure — 5-6 weeks of intensive attention — during which the crime will not slow down one iota — you are building a supportive relationship — the invasion of the body snatchers day comes; a “different person” wakes up. First week to ten days you have to kiss the kids toes and tell him everything he wants to hear or he will go running off — truly hysterical. This last peculiar thing may be at work in many fatherless ghetto households.
Over 18 1/2, after a childhood of no work or school they may have become I-don’t-want-to-work-aholics — unable even to force themselves to take a job for two weeks to show a sentencing judge they are doing something positive.
I used to say (back in the ’70s) that probation or parole officers should put their feet to the fire: work today or go to jail today — they value earned money more then the easy-come, easy-go kind. I used to. But the economy has gotten a lot more prosperous since then WHILE — as in at the same time — entry level/minimum wages have dropped several dollars below the 1968 level. So that no long really applies (see street gangs below).
There are some really crazy people in jail. One guy from my good, middle class Bronx neighborhood had 90 days left on five years — got a furlough; never went back; got in a lot of serious trouble.
Crime DOES pay after all:
Keep the minimum wage several dollars below what it was when per capita income was half today’s — de-unionize. Half of Chicago’s 200,000 (my guestimate) gang age,minority males are in drug dealing street gangs.
Economic cure: criminalize union busting — RICO auto-invoked. Organizing laws and rules already in place — issues presumably settled — time to install install dentures.
(All other populist issues and better bargaining issues — no replacement workers — will resolve themselves).
Start in progressive states: WA, OR, CA, NV, MN, IL, NY? And watch folks in nearby states get jealous that they cannot simply establish a collective bargaining unit if they feel like (like in every other modern economy — even China!).
AND don’t forget that American supermarket workers and airline workers would kill for centralized bargaining (the Teamsters already have it) IF someone, somewhere would simply make it a campaign issue.
The fad today is to place parolees in tethers at $13/day which can not be escaped. This is about 2 hours per day (pay) at minimum wage counting Saturday and Sunday. The parolee also has to go to classes as put on by Catholic Charities which also charges them for their services. Just because they get out of prison the state still burdens them with fees which are inescapable. There are also the expenses of food and rent to go along with this. Transportation if they do not have a car. being out of prison is financially hard if they do not have a support system.
Well, we can start with the fact that the median IQ of Blacks in the United States is fifteen points (about one standard deviation) below that of Whites. (The causes are irrelevant to the following discussion, but obviously environmental factors can have a huge impact. We can do things that might narrow that gap going forward, but we need to deal with the results of that fact now.) This fact results in more young Blacks whose labor is simply not worth the current Minimum Wage. That will only get worse if the Minimum Wage is increased.
So this puts the bottom rung of the job ladder out of their reach. So how do they make a living? Crime. We have millions of young Blacks in jail for selling (or possessing) a few ounces of pot or a few grams of crack. Their women won’t marry them, because they have no jobs and the government would cut benefits to their children. So more kids grow up without fathers.
So now we come back to WHY the Black population has a lower median IQ. Dad is selling or doing drugs, and mom is probably trying to work. Who’s reading to the kids? Who’s teaching them in those early years? People who never learned to read themselves, if they are even home. So they start school behind the White children.
And who wants to teach in crime- and drug-ridden ghettos? You don’t get the best quality teachers there either. And so the Black children in the ghettos are raised by people who were not educated themselves, and taught by people who would rather teach somewhere else if they could. And so the cycle starts over again.
First, decriminalize the drugs and get those people out of prisons.
Second, let people them work for whatever they can earn.
Third, do not reduce child welfare benefits when a woman marries the father of her children.
Fourth, raise the pay of teachers so that they compete to get into those inner-city schools.
Fifth, make justice truly blind (yes, there is still racism in our judicial system) — the jury should NEVER see the defendant or know his name (or even that he is a HE).
Sixth, give our public defenders the same resources as the prosecutors have.
Seventh, ban deal offers by prosecutors. (Public defenders often encourage their clients to take these deals, because they have no incentive to actually WORK for their clients. So the defendant gets a criminal record for something the prosecutors probably couldn’t prove, which is why they made the offer. If you have the evidence, prosecute; if you don’t, drop the charges.)
Why are you starting out with this comment: “the median IQ of Blacks in the United States is fifteen points (about one standard deviation) below that of Whites.”?
As an educator familiar with IQ studies, I take exception to Warren’s comment as both profoundly offensive and utterly without foundation. (As an aside, I attended Lewis M. Terman Junior High School in the seventh grade)
The prosaic “15 point difference” refers to a MEAN not a MEDIAN and that distinction is indeed relevant to Warren’s comment because the major finding of IQ research is that differences BETWEEN groups are modest compared to differences WITHIN groups. Thus the “15 point difference” in group means is essentially meaningless because the groups are not comparable. In short, intelligence of groups is a category mistake.
It was understood a century ago that “Race norms [of IQ testing] which do not take the social status factor into account are apt to be to that extent invalid.” (Arlitt, 1921, “On the Need for Caution in Establishing Race Norms”). Furthermore, differences in IQ scores of individuals are primarily attributable to factors “independent of their racial or socioeconomic background” (Brody, 1992).
It also needs to be understood that the “intelligence” measured by IQ testing is a composite of various performances, the weighting of which in the final score has been subjectively determined by the test designer. An individual who scores below another individual in total score may nevertheless score above that other individual in several component scores. For purposes of individual assessment, it is the component scores that are most salient.
How is all this relevant to the minimum wage, then? How can one deduce from a meaningless (and presumably quite dated) comparison of mean group IQ scores that there are “more young Blacks whose labor is simply not worth the current Minimum Wage”?
To answer this question, it helps to understand that Lewis Terman, who developed and popularized IQ testing was a proponent of the eugenics movement. Notions of racial superiority/inferiority are baked into the very concept of IQ testing. One of the reasons the methodology was so widely and quickly adopted by schools was because it confirmed and legitimized such prejudices. Meanwhile the fine folks who developed the tests could not agree on what intelligence is other than it is “what IQ test measures.”
In other words, irrelevant group means on IQ tests justify low wages because the need to justify low wages has elevated IQ testing to the status of a presumptive objective measurement of a determinant factor of economic worth, which it is not.
“profoundly offensive and utterly without foundation.”
I agree with you and I paused for explanation from Warren as to the direction he had went with his first sentence. It caused me to wait as such a stance is rarely seen except in the most extreme cases. I am hoping he is mistaken by what he has written and it can be clarified.
My background is having attended City Public Schools. For high school, I landed in a the magnet high school which accepted boys or ~5,000 of us. It was of mixed races, cultures, and religions. This high school is known for having graduated the most young men who went on to secure their doctorates.
I wonder what people think when they say what they say and how painful those words can be in condemning others. I appreciate your words and for making a comment to Warren’s post
Is racism all you people can see. If you could see past your own preconceptions are read the rest of my comment, you would have seen the cycle of environmental and institutional issues I cited as the reason for that IQ gap, and my suggestions for how to break that cycle.
The entire point was that that gap DOES matter to employability, educability, and incarceration rates. Those, in turn, feed back into lowered IQ’s of the next generation.
Stop seeing racism where it is not and start dealing with the causes for the disparities.
Sandwichman: “It was understood a century ago that ‘Race norms [of IQ testing] which do not take the social status factor into account are apt to be to that extent invalid.’ (Arlitt, 1921, ‘On the Need for Caution in Establishing Race Norms’). Furthermore, differences in IQ scores of individuals are primarily attributable to factors ‘independent of their racial or socioeconomic background’ (Brody, 1992).”
Thank you. That is EXACTLY what I was trying to get at.
I gave a list of ways that I think we can break this socioeconomic cycle. Can we please get past the “That’s RACIST!!” mantra and address the proposals I have made?
What stuck in my craw was not “racism!” but your use of a pseudo statistic whose aetiology is indeed imbued with racism (without the scare quotes and exclamation point). Nothing personal.
Actually, I am grateful you brought the issue of IQ testing into this. I am reading James Prothro’s “The Dollar Decade: Business Ideas in the 1920s” with my special interest being the relationship of those ideas to collective bargaining and ultimately to the “right to work” anti-union legislation.
The conclusion that I am coming to is that the business idea of human nature played a prominent role in anti-union arguments. By the early 20th century it was no longer credible to argue that employers and employees entered into individual employment contracts on equal terms. The business ideology, which glorified the “big men” of business essentially argued that the contractual inequality was a good thing because the employers were inherently superior people.
Eugenics and the IQ testing that developed from it was a pseudo-scientific effort to “democratically” identify and elevate the “gifted” individuals that would then go on to be the leaders of a democratic meritocracy.
If Warren hadn’t brought up IQ, I wouldn’t have made that connection. But now that I notice it, it explains a lot in terms of circular justification of inequality.
Ignoring the IQ difference (and measured IQ does translate into outcomes, which is why the average IQ of those in four-year colleges is 110, vs. 100 for the general population) just perpetuates the problem.
So let’s get past the “That’s racist” bollocks. Saying that the median IQ for Blacks is 15 points (about one standard deviation) below that of Whites is not racist, it is simply a statement of fact. If I did not think the difference were environmental, then I would not have made the proposals for specific environmental changes.
So let’s see if we can discuss what I have proposed to close that gap.
As I pointed out in my first reply, a 15 point differential in median IQ is NOT a fact. Do you know the difference between mean and median? This is an entirely separate issue from whether IQ testing is inherently racist or not.
Your argument is predicated on something you erroneously believe to be fact and you refuse to acknowledge the flaw that I have clearly pointed out.
Instead of addressing a fundamental mistake in your premise, you have chosen to change the subject to one of you being unfairly accused of racism. That is where the bollocks is. No one accused you of being racist. I pointed out the error in your alleged fact and went on to sketch the ideologically racist underpinnings of IQ testing itself, which disqualifies it as an “objective measure” of differences between groups.
If you can’t deal with the errors in your premise, it doesn’t really offer a lot of hope for a productive discussion of your proposals.
In this instance, the difference between a median (the center of a “normal” (Gaussian) distribution) and a mean (the average of a bunch of data points that generally resemble a Gaussian distribution), is entirely irrelevant.
If you want me to say that the AVERAGE of Black IQ scores is lower that the AVERAGE of White IQ scores by 15, then that’s fine with me.
The point remains that there IS a correlation between race and IQ scores, and there IS a correlation between one’s IQ and one’s likelihood of going to college, and an inverse correlation between one’s IQ and one’s likelihood of going to jail.
We cannot reduce that difference if we just pretend there is no difference.
Gonna call BS on your jail pronouncement. You are more likely to go to jail if you do not fit the social norm or are poor. If you fit the social norm you will get a lighter sentence or if you have money you can hire a better attorney. It has little to do if you have a lower IQ. The rest of your argument has no basis and you are deflecting when you are call on some of the things you have said. Your whole initial statement hinged on one issue to which you never laid a foundation for making the statement. Ok, Jason Richwine?
So where does this proverbial “15 I.Q. points” come from, anyway?
Arthur Jensen, in his 1969 Harvard Educational Review article, “How Much Can We Boost I.Q. and Scholastic Achievement?” cited a 1966 (first edition, 1958) book by Audrey Shuey, “The Testing of Negro Intelligence.”
“Negroes test about 1 standard deviation (15 I.Q. points) below the average of the white population in I.Q. and this finding is fairly uniform across the 81 tests of intellectual ability used in the studies reviewed by Shuey.”
So who was Shuey? She was a PhD. student of segregationist Columbia University psychologist Henry Garrett. Her book was promoted by Wickliffe Draper and the Pioneer Fund of which Garrett was a director. The Pioneer Fund also supported work by William Shockley, J. Philippe Rushton and [surprise! surprise!] Arthur Jensen.
A review of Audrey M. Shuey, The Testing of Negro Intelligence.(Foreword by Henry E. Garrett) can be found in The Journal of Negro Education, Vol. 27, No. 4 (Autumn, 1958), pp. 519-525.
“NEVER BEFORE HAS THE LITERATURE OF PSYCHOLOGY witnessed so determined an effort to establish, as a fact, the proposition that there are ‘native differences between Negroes and whites as determined by intelligence tests.'”
OK — let’s clear things up a little. Research shows that parental income is correlated with the size of a child’s brain, and brain size does correlate with IQ. http://www.nature.com/neuro/journal/v18/n5/full/nn.3983.html (Ref 1)
Note that that very same article says that there is no significant correlation between ancestry (race) and IQ in the multiple-regression models.
Now, the fact is that a higher percentage of Blacks than Whites have low income. Low income and low IQ are correlated — low income results in lower IQ children, who in turn end up with low income. And low income is also correlated with higher crime rates. Again, the primary reason race is a factor is that a higher percentage of Blacks are poor.
This cycle has nothing to do with race. We see the same cycle in poor Whites from Appalachia to London.
The reason race comes into it is from the original post, which clearly lays the problem of mass incarceration at the feet of racism. I do not deny that racism is a factor. That is why I propose a truly blind jury system — the jury should neither see the accused, nor know his name, nor even know that he is a he. If we cannot get that, then maybe we can start getting a true “jury of one’s peers”.
We also need serious studies (similar to the one I just referenced) which account for both earned income alone and earned income plus subsidies (housing, food stamps, etc.). We need to know whether such subsidies help break the cycle. If they do, we need to increase them. If they don’t, we need to find other options, such as those I outlined earlier.