“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Monday, April 15, 2013

A federal jury has awarded a New Mexico man $15.5 million in damages for his treatment behind bars. Stephen Slevin was arrested for drunk driving in 2005 and was held in solitary confinement in the Dona Ana County detention center for 22 months without a trial or access to health care. Solitary confinement is a form of torture.


  1. What happens to society when these people are released from these prisons?

    Who benefits from this?

    1970 : 280,000 prisoners | 2000 : 2,000,000 prisoners

    In the late 1960's, the US began to expand the powers of law enforcement agencies around the country, generating by the 1970's an unprecedented reliance on incarceration to treat its social, political, economic and mental health problems.

    By calling new acts crimes, and by increasing the severity of sentencing for other acts, US citizens witnessed a "prison boom." Soon, prison overcrowding surpassed prison construction budgets, and politicians that had promised to build new prisons could no longer build them.

    So in 1984, a number of Tennessee investors with close friends in the legislature recognized a business opportunity and formed CORRECTIONS CORPORATION OF AMERICA (CCA). Their plan was to use venture capital to build a new prison and -- like a hotel -- lease their beds to the state in a profit-making endeavor.

    Today, nearly ten percent of US prisons and jails (meaning 200,000 prisoners) have been privatized, the three largest firms being CCA, WACKENHUT CORRECTIONS CORPORATION and CORNELL CORRECTIONS, INC. The federal government also contracts with them to house a growing number of undocumented immigrants and resident aliens, while some of the companies have facilities in countries outside the USA.

    Correctional Corporations have amassed large political influence through government ties, lobbying power and campaign contributions, while attempting to convert the discourse of justice into the language of the marketplace. In this way, they accuse government agencies as having a monopoly on corrections, espouse the need to downsize and cut through red tape. They claim that they can run prisons more efficiently and cheaper, doing a better job and saving the taxpayers money.

    There are also different ways that those who make the laws profit from the laws they make through prison privatization.

    The most direct are those who own stock in private prisons, such as former Tennessee Governor and his wife, Lamar and Honey Alexander, who owned stock in the early Corrections Corporation of America. There are also those officials who are on the actual payroll of these corporations, such as Manny Aragon, the New Mexico legislator who Wackenhut hired as a lobbyist for New Mexico when they were trying to begin privatization in that state.

    A third way comes from campaign contributions and political action committee moneys, through which the corporations financially reward those officials that allow private prisons in their states or jurisdictions, or who pass laws that will continue prison expansion -- public or private -- thus expanding the resource base of the privatization industry. (These are often the same law makers who are handsomely rewarded by public sector groups such as correctional officers' unions and other law enforcement groups, who also profit from criminalization and mass imprisonment).

    Less directly, the privatization of prisons contributes to and buoys the overall "culture" of law enforcement and criminal justice, one that levels our common sense understanding of the causes of our social problems and puts as their solution responses of violence, force and containment. By expanding the criminal justice system beyond the grasp of elected officials and civil servants, private prisons grow this culture in ways that are both ideological and practice-related.

    The private sector also serves as a "career alternative" for many, hiring bureaucrats and officials from the public sector who are either looking for a raise and stock options, or are looking to come out of retirement. These include people from the FBI, CIA, various state and federal departments of corrections, sheriffs, and even former attorney generals.

    And most importantly, public officials profit from prison privatization as it allows them to act with less accountability to the public, allowing prisons to be built without passing prison bonds for the public to vote on, and not having to worry how one will budget their inflammatory and expensive tough-on-crime rhetoric.

  4. Solitary confinement was developed as a humane alternative
    Another thing you didn't know about solitary confinement is just who came up with the idea: Renowned as social activists and pacifists, the Quakers stayed busy into the 19th century fighting the spread of the slave trade. It was around the time of the turn of the 19th century when Quakers would turn their conscientious eye on the imprisoned. Before then, prisons were rotten, overcrowded joints, poorly administered and indifferent to the fate of the prisoners. In 1790, the Quakers built Walnut Street Jail in Philadelphia with a revolutionary -- and to many, humane -- purpose: punish and reform. Walnut Street, cited as the "birthplace of the modern prison system," isolated the prisoner in an effort to reform him. It was regarded as a type of atonement or penitence; in fact, Walnut featured a "penitentiary wing" in which prisoners were kept in solitary confinement for years on end, literally never leaving their cells.

    Quakers would fully realize their concept in 1829 with the founding of Eastern State Penitentiary, the first prison in history' to be made up of nothing but cells for solitary confinement.

    Read more:

  5. There are 80,000 Americans currently held in solitary confinement

    According to facts published at the National Geographic Explorer website on the subject, America continues to lead the way in utilizing the concept in its penitentiaries, resulting in over 80,000 Americans currently being held in solitary confinement.

  6. The first prison with solitary confinement was in Rome

    As noted before, Walnut Street Jail's "humane," penitent approach gave birth to the modern prison, but the first known jail to isolate prisoners from one another appears to have preceded this example by almost a century.

    In 1890, the U.S. Supreme Court delivered its opinion in the case of Colorado resident James Medley, who had been convicted of killing his wife and sentenced to be held in solitary confinement until his execution. However, when Medley killed his wife, state law only proscribed the death penalty, not solitary confinement. Medley took this case to the high court, which agreed that the state had violated his constitutional rights in keeping him in solitary confinement and consequently voided his sentence. Medley was a free man. The court, meanwhile, took the opportunity to slam solitary confinement for being harmful to prisoners, noting that the first historical instance of deliberate solitary confinement was, "the solitary prison connected to the Hospital San Michele at Rome in 1703."

    Read more:

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  8. Can You Imagine the Coverage If It Were Dogs?

    Last night on twitter, Dave Weigel of Slate noted he was just hearing from twitterers about the gruesome trial of Kermit Gosnell. Those who care about the story owe a tremendous debt to Kirsten Powers taking to the pages of USA Today to write about it.

    It is fascinating how much of a bubble the media lives in with that bubble so DC-NYC centric. It is again one of the problems for news organizations like CNN as it tries to rebuild. With the exception of Fox News, the American news networks focus on the things people along the coast are interested in and not what people along the American river valleys are talking about.

    In churches, local restaurants, and small town hair salons a lot of people across the country are talking about the terrible trial of Kermit Gosnell in Pennsylvania. It’s just not the people who interact with those who produce the news in New York City.

    In fairness to CNN, unlike many other mainstream media outlets, it covered the Gosnell arrest back in 2011, but moved on. Only Fox, which is the number one news network largely because it actually cares what people outside the DC-NYC bubble care about, has stayed with the story.

    Gosnell is now on trial two years after his arrest. The stories coming from the trial via the few outlets willing to pay attention are horrific and gruesome. But what’s more, similar stories are trickling out from other abortion clinics. The uncommon barbarism of Kermit Gosnell’s clinic turns out to be more common than most might imagine.

    But they won’t imagine it. Like with Dave Weigel from Slate, most reporters have never paid attention...

  9. California received 23% of its electricity from Non-Hydro Renewables, yesterday.


  10. The 420 megawatt Macarthur wind farm was opened in the state of Victoria on Friday. It is the largest wind farm in the southern hemisphere and its 3 megawatt Vestas turbines are the largest in Australia. The Mcarthur Wind Farm is actually the first project to use Vestas’ V112-3.0 MW wind turbines. The project’s expected operating capacity is 35% and its cost was almost exactly one billion dollars

    Stupid Spawn of Convicts

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