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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: 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.

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  • (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.