TALK: “Why We Should Abolish Prisons”

text "prisons are for burning" with a lit match under a guard tower

Transcript of talk originally given Feb. 24, 2019

Hi. So, the name of my talk is “Why We Should Abolish Prisons”. I am going to—I didn’t put warning on the announcement, and I should have. There’s going to be some discussion of sexual assault and violence. So, hopefully it’s not gratuitous, but it is kind of necessary to what we’re talking about.

So, as I started doing the research for this, I actually discovered new information—things coming up in the news—and I ended up changing what this subject was going to be about. With your indulgence, I’m actually going to talk about something completely different, which is that, in the People’s Republic of China, they have the largest prison population in the world, and out of every 100,000 adults and children there, about 650 of them are going to be held in some sort of coercive custody. Currently, about double that are going to be monitored by various organs of the nation’s state security apparatus.

While this is something that affects all groups, to some extent, among ethnic Uighurs— among the Muslim Turkic ethnic minority—this is something where they’re going to be about six times more likely to be in a mass re-education camp than, say, a Mandarin, the dominant group. There is about a one-in-three chance that a Uighur man will be seized, confined in a cage, and monitored, sometimes for years. Especially when they’re between the ages of 18 and 29, which is pretty terrible.

Although there are no official sources that keep track of this, private human rights organizations determined that about 465,000 of those that are being forcibly held in the People’s Republic of China have not even had a show trial to justify why their freedom was being restricted. About 350,000 of those that are being held without a trial are not even accused of any violent, antisocial behavior. Primarily, this consists of those who are too poor to bribe a judge with a contribution to an immediate province or locality.

And although this is a pretty massive police state, among OECD nations, only Mexico, Turkey, and Estonia have a higher violent crime rate than the People’s Republic of China, and this is despite the PRC not counting any of the violence that routinely happens within their mass re-education camps. Any statistics, particularly sexual assault, it’s just—it doesn’t exist.

That’s why I think it’s very important for China to reform its mass re-education camps. It needs to do a better job of making sure that they are a little nicer when they seize ethnic Turkic minorities from their homes, and just make it so it’s a little more pleasant for people when they’re forced to be held there, particularly women and children.

Hopefully, all that sounded ridiculous to you; that was the point.

All of those statistics that I just gave were for the United States.

If you map it over, instead of Turkic ethnic minorities, you get Black Americans. Instead of the dominant Mandarins, it’s the whites. It should sound ridiculous to say that “we are going to reform mass re-education camps in China,” but that’s what we often say about prison in the United States. Yet we don’t really think about it that way.

It is my contention that saying “we need to reform prison in the United States” is like saying, “we need to reform the Soviet gulag system”. It’s like saying “we need to reform the Japanese internment camps during WW2”.

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Until prisons can be guaranteed to be free of cruel and unusual punishment, we must abolish them

Yeah, fuck prisons how dare they lock up murderers and rapists. It’s not their fault that they commit crimes. Let them do what they want. Honestly it’s 2018 you should be HONORED if someone steals your wallet out of all the people in the world they chose you.

Are we attempting to rehabilitate criminals or punish them? Because punishing people doesn’t seem to be working.

Neither as I said just let them do whatever they want clearly they wouldn’t be murdering people if it wasn’t the right thing to do. Human nature is inherently good and therefore no one can do anything wrong. Why punish or rehabilitate people just trying to be themselves?

I’m not convinced we’re locking up many rapists right now, and only some of the murders.

Continue reading “Until prisons can be guaranteed to be free of cruel and unusual punishment, we must abolish them”

‘Crime Isn’t Caused By Race. It’s Caused By Lead Levels in the Air’

TL;DR: Lead levels and violent crime are incredibly strongly correlated. This is much higher than traditional correlations between violent crime based on demographic stats (living in a city, being black, or being a Southerner all increase your chances of both committing or being a victim of violent crime).

This holds true at the country level, the state level, the city level, and the neighborhood level, and the evidence is extremely strong.

So people don’t cause crime; lead causes crime.

It’s sort of like the idea of replacement level in major sports. The quality of play may go up or down over time, but we mostly judge people in relation to their peers and what we expect the average person would do.

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‘ “Teaching women to be safe” Why don’t you just teach men not to rape?’

The issue with teaching women how to protect themselves from rape is not that it isn’t a practical concern worth considering & acting accordingly.

The problem is that by doing so, it frames rape as a force of nature no one in particular is responsible for committing but people are responsible for protecting themselves from, and in fact they are the ones to blame if they don’t protect themselves properly.

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Racism in /my/ death penalty? It’s more complicated than you think

Ron Paul says death penalty trial fueled Texas county’s tax hike – “It is hard to find a more wasteful and inefficient government program than the death penalty.”

I’m not even going to dance around it and try to say there’s some other reason.

I think if you kill somebody with the intent of doing so, you deserve to die.

And I’m not the only one who thinks this way, obviously.

The 4 percent of people executed being innocent is misquoted and here is the study it is misquoted from. Another misquoted number is 1.6% of people on death row since 1973 have been executed and later exonerated. This is not true: 1.6% of people on death row since 1973 have been exonerated, not executed and later exonerated.

Everything I have said is my opinion, you don’t have to agree with it, I don’t expect anybody to, but damn, calm down.

And to address some very thoughtful concerns on who kills the executioner, we don’t need to be smart asses, obviously nobody kills the executioner. I think that about covers it.

As the death penalty is applied in the United States, it’s more likely to be used if you’re a minority and poor than white and rich, regardless of other facts of the case.

In addition, whatever abstract sense of justice you may have about it, the utilitarian effect doesn’t seem to exist. Texas is not a less violent state than all others for executing more people than all others. In fact, nations that execute their citizens don’t tend to be more safe, or have a better quality of life, than those who’ve abolished it.

Finally, and to utilitarianism, if you remember the ‘crime of the century’ by Leopold and Loeb, the two of them murdered a young boy as nothing more than a game and to prove they could. But Clarence Darrow successfully spared them the death penalty. Loeb got killed in prison, but Leopold was paroled after 30 years and went on to have a peaceful, productive life in Puerto Rico until his own death.

My point is that rather than wasting energy & resources killing someone to attempt retribution and probably not getting it, it is possible to make someone capable of rejoining society and increasing its happiness.

The numbers don’t look much different from what I would expect given more general crime statistics (FBI table 43 for example). Would you like to elaborate?

I admit, I didn’t realize the homicide statistics skewed that heavily demographically, so thanks for pointing my way to it.

However, the Uniform Crime Reporting table 43 you’re talking about is only somewhat related to the death penalty, because only very rarely does a homicide arrest lead to a death penalty case.

The time range of the Death Penalty Info page linked above doesn’t match up exactly with this Justice Bureau report that stops in 2005, but check out the race section starting with page 58. While 47 percent of homicide victims from 1976-2005 were black, only 15.2 percent of those executed killed black people.

It’s simultaneously fair to say that black Americans are underrepresented on death row by their proportion of homicides but still overrepresented based on the types of homicides that end up on death row.

White people show up as much as they do because, in practice, killing white people is considered by the criminal justice system a more heinous act than killing a black person, and 86 percent of white homicides and 94 percent of black homicides were intra-racial (page 66 ). Maybe, fundamentally, that’s a racial empathy thing going on.

In spite of the Jasper case referenced in the above Politfact article and Ron Paul quote, it is extraordinarily rare for a white person killing a black person to end up on death row, compared with a black person killing a white person. See page 6 for a more detailed breakdown.

I won’t promise to have read this research paper in its entirety, but the parts that were within my understanding were interesting and arrived at a similar place in a more methodical way.

Page 72: “Overall, the primary racial difference in capital charging is the difference across racial lines in intra-race cases. Homicides with white defendants and white victims are treated significantly more harshly than homicides with black defendants and black victims.”

Even assuming race were no factor at all, and you shouldn’t, prosecutorial discretion is extremely arbitrary even depending which part of a state you’re in, and whether an individual district attorney likes to seek the death penalty, just use it as leverage, or take it off the table entirely, is a disparity that has a real effect on people otherwise accused of the same level of heinous crime.

Great post with some interesting points.

Drugs are bad, but they’re good enough

There’s an interesting debate going on now about the nature of our drug laws.

If you look on the Odessa American’s website and read some of the comments to the Kopbusters sting and related articles, between the specifics of the Yolanda Madden case and the hoax itself, and ignoring a lot of abusive language, there’s a conversation about illegal drugs, law enforcement and the criminal justice system, and what should be done about it.

Maybe we’re at a place where we can talk about the issue without shrillness or hyperbole, because everyone can admit something definitely isn’t right.

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