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Politics: Punishment Versus Rehabilitation - Body by Henson, brain by Seuss. [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Kelly J. Cooper

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Politics: Punishment Versus Rehabilitation [Dec. 17th, 2008|03:02 am]
Kelly J. Cooper
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If you talk to me for more than... oh... 30 seconds, you can probably figure out that I'm a bleeding heart liberal. My favorite causes are helping the homeless, human rights, alleviating poverty (as well as its wretched side effects), and protecting the environment (which includes rare slugs and specialized insects in addition to baby bunnies and mountain lions, even ones that tend to be human-attacking sorts... in fact, if I may rant for a moment, ranchers who seek out and poison or shoot wolves, especially re-introduced wolves, before they've even attacked a herd, are pricks and USA society is far too dependent on friggin' cows; on top of that, if any one of them ever calls me an LL Bean Environmentalist, I will stomp his nuts flat with my boots, which were actually purchased in Ireland for reasons too labyrinthine to go into here).

I don't like our current crime & punishment system. I'm a big believer in rehabilitation and AT THE SAME TIME, I'm for serious, rotating, panel-based evaluations of progress. I don't think a criminal's crappy childhood excuses anything. I don't like people who game the system. I am not a doe-eyed idealist. I think people have civil obligations and we, as a society, do a shitty job of ingraining those into our children (without indoctrinating them into a military, or at least nationalist mindset). I believe in monetary penalties for certain crimes (especially drug-related), rather than jail time. I believe many laws (including many of those governing drugs and many others governing sexual activity and gender issues) are just plain wrong. BUT, I also believe that the base urges of human nature can never be underestimated. (I haven't even started to plumb the depths of punishment versus justice.)

Yet I also believe that people change. If nothing else (e.g., given no other influences), we are chemically different people at the age of 14 than at the age of 21. Choices made in our late teens and early twenties can seem alien and distant to us when we reach our late 30s. I believe that given a purpose, a skill, an opportunity, and/or a decent support system, people can change their lives for the better, whether they are dealing with rehabilitation from drugs or crime or handling the long-term effects of impoverishment.

If you'd like to discuss any of these topics, I'm open to it. But I don't have much in the way of statistics or trend data to back up any of my opinions. Mostly they've been formed through empirical observation and reading, some through data review of materials I can no longer put my hands on, some in light of advances in science, psychology, and spirituality.

(Actually, there's a question in there - when you are developing or revising an opinion on something, do you consider how you might defend that opinion in an argument? I mean, do other people's brains work THAT differently from mine that they can just call up those numbers and facts at will? I can't even keep track of the titles of all the different magazines I've read over the years, much less quote studies.)

Anyway, all of this was an elaborate introduction to an interesting article about one guy, stuck in a Texas prison, written by another guy who corresponds with him on occasion. (Ganked from BoingBoing, which I never used to read, but am now addicted to via its Twitter feed.)

"Charles Platt on life in prison"
http://www.boingboing.net/2008/12/16/charles-platt-on-lif.html
linkReply

Comments:
[User Picture]From: rmd
2008-12-17 01:23 pm (UTC)
a member of my extended family is a guard out in the western part of the state. he describes it as being substantially like wrangling high schoolers. a lot of "he's picking on me!"

Edited at 2008-12-17 01:23 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: kjc
2008-12-18 09:42 am (UTC)
Given the absence of maturity in the decision to perform a criminal act, this doesn't really surprise me all that much.
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[User Picture]From: rmd
2008-12-17 01:26 pm (UTC)
also, speaking of mountain lions:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/cairpaverl/2562899151/in/pool-52241664802@N01

check the notes on the picture. they're the best part.
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[User Picture]From: kjc
2008-12-18 09:42 am (UTC)
Ha! That's some funny shit right there.
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[User Picture]From: kjc
2008-12-18 09:45 am (UTC)
On the surface, it costs a lot more to rehabilitate someone.

I've seen a lot of statistics that, in essence, it costs the most to feed and house prisoners above almost any other program we might name.

The problem is that the costs of feeding and housing prisoners are spread out over time, whereas programs generally require money up front and some amount of infrastructure to support them. So it LOOKS bigger.

Also, rehab doesn't play into the fantasy of justice (versus punishment). E.g., he did a bad thing, he must suffer and rehab interferes with his suffering; therefore it interferes with the victim's justice.
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[User Picture]From: kjc
2008-12-18 10:16 am (UTC)
don't tease me. i wanna hear the story behind the boots. :p

*snort*

It's kind of a stupid story. This was back in July.

I like wearing boots. I like the ankle support and warmth. They can't be too high or they hit the bottom of my calf and give me bruises. Too low and my ankles feel weird and naked - also, I have prominent ankle bones that tend to hit the tops of shoes, giving me blisters and pain.

Thus I prefer boots, especially for the winter in New England, because I walk a LOT. I walk to my various jobs, I usually walk to some of my friends' houses, I walk more than half my errands. I like high-top sneakers for warmer weather, but it's tough to find any these days that aren't cheap crap or carved whole from giant, heavy hunks of rubber.

I've worn many different kinds of boots over the years. A variety of hiking boots as well as work boots. My last boots, which claimed to be some sort of snow-walking boot, I bought from one of the local fitness stores and they didn't last a full year. Nor were they particularly water resistant, which was really fuckin' annoying, and they blew out in an especially leaky way. So I needed some decent shoes in general, and in particular because we were going to tramp all over Ireland, which is notoriously damp.

I'm broke, so I was unwilling to pay for another pair of cheap boots only to have to replace them before I'd walked my money's worth out of them. So I planned to go to The Walking Store and try on boots. I'd previously bought some of my favorite boots there. Except I was working two jobs right up until we were getting ready to leave, so I was pretty busy, and finally managed to make time to shop just before we were supposed to leave. I managed to swing by a mall where The Walking Store has a store only to find that the pigfuckers DON'T CARRY BOOTS YEAR ROUND. Is that not stupid? That seems stupid to me, especially for a place that caters to hikers.

Well, turns out The Walking Store had gone upscale since the last time I bought boots from them, and they're now pretty much just another shoe shop without anything to really differentiate them from any other shoe shop. (They used to have all sorts of day-hike gear, socks, clothes, walking sticks, and boots year-round - it was an awesome store.)

Anyway, I zoomed over to the various shoe & sports stores, looking for any one of them to have some fucking boots or at least cheap sneakers. First few stores - nothing. Then finally I found Champs Sports, which had some boots! And the clerk didn't ignore me or treat me like a freak. BUT, though I tried on 6 or 7 pairs of what they had, they all sucked. However, they did have some awesome Chuck Taylor All Stars that actually had black canvas with black rubber instead of white rubber AND they were super cheap - so I bought those and a bunch of on-sale t-shirts and shorts. I figured, the Chuck's will get me around Ireland and hopefully I can avoid any really traumatic puddles.

I wash the clothes, I wore the Chucks, I get to Ireland and encounter the one thing I hadn't really considered: cobblestones.

Chuck Taylors SUCK for walking on cobblestones.

So then I did the equivalent of running around the mall looking for boots, but instead I did it running around Dublin, asking people where the fuck I could find hiking boots. (Well, actually, I started at a Marks & Spencer in Tallaght, which was painful AND pointless.) It took three tries before I ended up in their equivalent of an EMS/REI (a place called The Great Outdoors on Chatham Street). When I was finally helped (they were busy and most of the clerks were quite talented at avoiding work), they measured me in European style and we started trying on boots. Unfortunately, with my picky feet, I tried on 7 or so pairs of boots/sizes before settling on the ones I bought. Which are AWESOME by the way. And so much better for walking on cobblestones; it was quite the relief.
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[User Picture]From: drwex
2008-12-17 04:44 pm (UTC)
Platt can be a raving arsehole when he chooses. Also, he can be very thoughtful and interesting. I've just started reading the linked story. Thanks for the pointer!
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[User Picture]From: kjc
2008-12-18 10:20 am (UTC)
I think this is the first Platt story I've read, at least that I can recall. I liked it.
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[User Picture]From: hammercock
2008-12-17 05:17 pm (UTC)
That was a really interesting piece. Thanks for the link!
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[User Picture]From: kjc
2008-12-18 10:20 am (UTC)
You're welcome!
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[User Picture]From: madbodger
2008-12-19 08:00 pm (UTC)
While I'm with you on the cows, I'm more annoyed about the stupid CORN! Worse, how much petrochemicals are used to fertilize that corn, the runoff of nitrogen then poisoning rivers, the corn going to feed the poor cows, which makes them sick, then the manure also thrown in the rivers (instead of on the cornfields), adding even more nitrogen where it's not needed. Then the corn (mostly inedible dent corn) being subjected to energy-intensive "wet milling" to produce all manner of cheap and unhealthy substances. Broken all around.

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[User Picture]From: kjc
2008-12-20 04:09 am (UTC)
I'm pretty annoyed about corn too, it just wasn't relevant to my topic.

I'm especially irritated at the corn -> fuel people increasing the price of corn for poor people. Ridiculous shit.
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