Thursday, December 27, 2007
Subprime Prisons: Pay Your Debt to Society and then Pay Some More
We need to hold offenders accountable! How many times have you heard that soundbite accompanying efforts to enhance prison sentences for one crime or another. Prison alone, it would seem, is capable of delivering on the law's promises and threats. And yet, the more you look at the prisons created by this fetish for imprisonment, the more you see that accountability is just another myth.
The latest example comes from California's distended prison system, which at roughly 173,000 inmates is approaching 200 percent of capacity and court-ordered population caps. As reported by Jordan Rau in the LATimes, the prison, which promises to hold wrongdoers accountable, cannot account for itself. With antiquated computer systems, inmate data has been unable to follow inmates through their frequent transfers among prisons. While crime has gone down for more than a decade, prison populations have continued to go up as sentences increased and inmates returned to prison from parole for technical violations often unrelated to crime rates. Perhaps the ultimate symbol of the system's basic lack of interest in accountability is its recent admission that more than 30 thousand inmates were held beyond their lawful sentence because administrators miscalculated their time served.