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posted by LaminatorX on Sunday October 19 2014, @03:52PM   Printer-friendly
from the supply-and-demand dept.

After rising rapidly for decades, the number of people behind bars peaked at 1.62 Million in 2009, has been mostly falling ever since down, and many justice experts believe the incarceration rate will continue on a downward trajectory for many years. New York, for example, saw an 8.8% decline in federal and state inmates, and California, saw a 20.6% drop. Now the WSJ reports on an awkward byproduct of the declining U.S. inmate population: empty or under-utilized prisons and jails that must be cared for but can’t be easily sold or repurposed. New York state has closed 17 prisons and juvenile-justice facilities since 2011, following the rollback of the 1970s-era Rockefeller drug laws, which mandated lengthy sentences for low-level offenders. So far, the state has found buyers for 10 of them, at prices that range from less than $250,000 to about $8 million for a facility in Staten Island, often a fraction of what they cost to build. “There’s a prisoner shortage,” says Mike Arismendez, city manager for Littlefield, Texas, home of an empty five-building complex that sleeps 383 inmates and comes with a gym, maintenence shed, armory, and parking lot . “Everybody finds it hard to believe.”

The incarceration rate is declining largely because crime has fallen significantly in the past generation. In addition, many states have relaxed harsh sentencing laws passed during the tough-on-crime 1980s and 1990s, and have backed rehabilitation programs, resulting in fewer low-level offenders being locked up. States from Michigan to New Jersey have changed parole processes, leading more prisoners to leave earlier. On a federal level, the Justice Department under Attorney General Eric Holder has pushed to reduce sentences for nonviolent drug offenders. Before 2010, the U.S. prison population increased every year for 30 years, from 307,276 in 1978 to a high of 1,615,487 in 2009. “This is the beginning of the end of mass incarceration,” says Natasha Frost. "People don’t care so much about crime, and it’s less of a political focus."

 
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  • (Score: 4, Informative) by bram on Sunday October 19 2014, @05:29PM

    by bram (3770) on Sunday October 19 2014, @05:29PM (#107584)

    Cosmos, by Neil deGrasse Tyson, has an excellent episode about lead.
    The crime drop happened in all countries, in sync with when they stopped putting it in gasoline.

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  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by sjames on Sunday October 19 2014, @05:48PM

    by sjames (2882) on Sunday October 19 2014, @05:48PM (#107590) Journal

    I find it interesting how much attention is NOT being paid to that.

    The ethyl corporation can't claim they didn't know of any dangers considering how many deaths and injuries there were from contact with ethyl fluid including Midgley himself. It seems unfair to poison someone from birth and then blame them for showing the symptoms of that poisoning. Surely the poisoner bears some blame. Surely the poisoner has a liability for and to the people they poisoned. But instead, that all goes under the rug.

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by frojack on Sunday October 19 2014, @06:49PM

      by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Sunday October 19 2014, @06:49PM (#107596) Journal

      With street gang crime leading to daily shootings and stabbings in every large city, its hard to feel too smug a about the fact that the statistics APPEAR to be going down.

      You have to remember that FBI crime statistics are made up of Voluntary crime reporting from local police departments, many of which have been getting pressure not to report things that they take care of locally. They also tend to lag by over a year. Indeed there are other sources that are considered more accurate [thecrimereport.org] than FBI statistics. Nobody up the political chain from Community Organizer up to the President has any interest in publishing accurate crime statistics.

      --
      No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
      • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 19 2014, @08:03PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 19 2014, @08:03PM (#107613)

        From your link:
        Still, the overall trends in the last two decades are consistent in both reports: crime around the nation generally has declined sharply.

        With street gang crime leading to daily shootings and stabbings in every large city, its hard to feel too smug a about the fact that the statistics APPEAR to be going down.

        So what is your point? That anecdotes which confirm your bias are true but none of the statistical analysis is true?

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 19 2014, @09:18PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 19 2014, @09:18PM (#107621)

          That anecdotes which confirm your bias are true but none of the statistical analysis is true?

          Yes, that seems to be his point. And that is not even to get into the political manipulations stalling the opening of Yucca Mountain, what really happened to JFK, and the government secret program to dose us all with chemicals by means of jet trails. And we haven't even got into ISIS and ebola, (and, of course, systemd), yet!

          • (Score: 2) by velex on Monday October 20 2014, @03:05AM

            by velex (2068) on Monday October 20 2014, @03:05AM (#107690) Journal

            (and, of course, systemd)

            Ah good. I was worried systemd wouldn't get dragged in. Of course the JFK assasination, the faked moon landings, and Area 51 are all dependencies of systemd now. Oh, I almost forgot about the swamp gas, which is a new dependency in upstream!

        • (Score: 2) by frojack on Sunday October 19 2014, @10:30PM

          by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Sunday October 19 2014, @10:30PM (#107637) Journal

          Last year's drop in violent crime was mostly the result of a slight decline in one category, simple assault, which is violence that does not involve a weapon or serious injury. There were no statistically significant changes in most other crime types.

          Most simple assault is not even reported. People get punched out, and know damn well the police will not do anything about it, because they didn't see it happen. (you'd be amazed how often you see variations of this theme reported in the news).

          I don't doubt that crime is in fact going down. I never said it wasn't.
          I just pointed out that we don't have consistent numbers on the issue.
          Also, crime statistics do not include crime against prisoners in jails.

          --
          No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 19 2014, @11:02PM

            by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 19 2014, @11:02PM (#107639)

            I don't doubt that crime is in fact going down. I never said it wasn't.
            I just pointed out that we don't have consistent numbers on the issue.

            Ah, that is much clearer! You are not saying that crime is increasing, but just that even though it is decreasing we don't really know that, because statistical analysis is, um, inconsistent? Wait, isn't this the exact same thing you said about the walruses? Why would the numbers not be consistent? If they were not, we would expect some different, consistent numbers proving that instead of an argumentum ad ignorantiam. Instead the FBI and the current Federal administration have "political" reasons to falsify crime statistics? Nah, this is still conspiracy theory territory. I hear that if you spray vinegar around your house, it neutralizes the con-trail chemicals. Before it's too late.

      • (Score: 2) by sjames on Sunday October 19 2014, @10:00PM

        by sjames (2882) on Sunday October 19 2014, @10:00PM (#107630) Journal

        Beyond what the AC said, if the Ethyl corporation's dangerous product is a contributor to that (and the evidence says yes), why isn't it being held responsible. Why is the entire responsibility heaped on the mostly poor victims it poisoned?

        It could be argued that it is a shared responsibility since the correlation isn't 100% but shared doesn't mean 100% to you and none to me.

  • (Score: 2) by Thexalon on Sunday October 19 2014, @10:37PM

    by Thexalon (636) on Sunday October 19 2014, @10:37PM (#107638)

    You also can't ignore some major changes in the culture of the ghetto.

    By which I mean this: In the late 1980's and early 1990's, black leaders and community organizers decided that enough was enough and they needed to undo the damage that crack cocaine and other serious drug problems were having in their neighborhoods. A lot of the older adults in those neighborhoods made a stand, and as a result 20 years later the vast majority in those neighborhoods have their social life centered around their school and their church. The message that black adults have been sending their kids for now a couple of decades is "Your best chance of a better life than I had is to stay in school and stay away from trouble." That effort has by and large worked: Not only is crime down, but so is teenage pregnancy, drug use, and abuse of alcohol and tobacco. And on the flip side, high school graduation rates and college enrollment rates are up. And a recent study showed that among those fathers who were not incarcerated, black fathers were most likely to be heavily involved in raising their children. The statistics strongly suggest that responsibility in all forms is extremely popular.

    The statistics match my anecdotal experiences working in some of the rough neighborhoods teaching technical skills to youth. These kids were, with the heavy encouragement of their parents, trying to learn the skills that would get them into college or allow them to join the military.

    This isn't to say there are no problems in the ghetto, but the idea that it's a cesspool that will never get any better is a complete myth.

    --
    The inverse of "I told you so" is "Nobody could have predicted"
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 19 2014, @11:49PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 19 2014, @11:49PM (#107649)

      One of the big problems is that "ghetto culture" carries stigmas on self improvement, calling people who want to improve themselves "race traitors" and similar nonsense. I'm glad to hear that its not like that everywhere, but like with racists and denialists and people who brag about their willful ignorance, there will always be some that are impossible to reach. They must become an unseen minority and not what immediately comes to mind when people think about dark-skinned Americans.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 20 2014, @06:56AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 20 2014, @06:56AM (#107727)

        One of the big problems is that "ghetto culture" carries stigmas on self improvement, calling people who want to improve themselves "race traitors" and similar nonsense. . . . people who brag about their willful ignorance, there will always be some that are impossible to reach. They must become an unseen minority and not what immediately comes to mind when people think about

        Republicans.

        Yep, that's what it was like when I was growing up in the trailer park! Anybody who'd even talk about education or voting democrat, or going to college or joining a union got beat down hard and fast. We used to actually like watching Fox News and listening to Bill O'Reilly!! Boy, were we dumb, but we liked it! And nobody had better say nothing otherwise, because that was just libtards trying to keep us down.

        And lordy knows we kept our crime rate up! Sheeeit! Liquor store got hit just about every weekend that wasn't a payday, and we had more shooting and whatnot over property, sex, vehicles, honor, and bad words.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 20 2014, @07:53AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 20 2014, @07:53AM (#107733)

    Post hoc, ergo propter hoc.