Social Legacy Systems: How They Block Change and Prevent Progress: Part 2- The Legal Correctional System

Responsible_Prison_Reform-e1373996928213No set of institutions in America are more in need of reform than our legal correctional systems. No systems in America cost the taxpayer more money with less return or value to the taxpayer than our prisons and correctional related systems. No institutions in American cause more misery and heartache than our courts, legal system and correctional institutions. Together, our courts, legal systems and correctional systems cost the American taxpayer well over $100 billion dollars a year. The Economics of the American Prison System”  (Listen to Wake Up Dead Man) as you read my blog today. 

And what do we get for this “investment?”

  • Within three years of being released, 67% of ex-prisoners re-offend.
  • Within three years of being released 52% are re-incarcerated
  • The rate of recidivism is so high in the United States that most inmates who enter the system are likely to reenter within a year of their release.
  • In 2008, one of every 48 working-age men (2.1 percent of all working-age men) was in prison or jail.
  • In 2008, the U.S. correctional system held over 2.3 million inmates, about two-thirds in prison and about one-third in jail. 450px-Incarceration_rates_worldwide
  • Non-violent offenders make up over 60 percent of the prison and jail population. Non-violent drug offenders now account for about one-fourth of all offenders behind bars, up from less than 10 percent in 1980.
  • The total number of violent crimes was only about three percent higher in 2008 than it was in 1980, while the total number of property crimes was about 20 percent lower. Over the same period, the U.S. population increased about 33 percent and the prison and jail population increased by more than 350 percent.
  • Crime can explain only a small portion of the rise in incarceration between 1980 and the early 1990s, and none of the increase in incarceration since then. If incarceration rates had tracked violent crime rates, for example, the incarceration rate would have peaked at 317 per 100,000 in 1992, and fallen to 227 per 100,000 by 2008 – less than one third of the actual 2008 level and about the same level as in 1980.

These facts are from “The High Budgetary Cost of Incarceration” by Schmidt, Warner and Gupta, 2010

US_criminal_justice_cost_timeline

These facts have not gone unnoticed by state legislatures and politicians.

“In 2013, 35 states passed at least 85 bills to change some aspect of how their criminal justice systems address sentencing and corrections. In reviewing this legislative activity, the Vera Institute of Justice found that policy changes have focused mainly on the following five areas: reducing prison populations and costs; expanding or strengthening community-based corrections; implementing risk and needs assessments; supporting offender reentry into the community; and making better informed criminal justice policy through data-driven research and analysis. By providing concise summaries of representative legislation in each area, this report aims to be a practical guide for policymakers in other states and the federal government looking to enact similar changes in criminal justice policy.” Vera Institute of Justice     US_incarceration_timeline-clean.svg

I have written about this problem before. See my blogs (The Law Enforcement Legal-Judicial Correctional Complex and Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds or “How did our drug laws get so crazy?” It is not a new problem and in the years since I published my first article on it, it has only gotten worse. I published my first article on this issue back in 1995. In it, I applied the concepts of process and quality improvement to the criminal justice System. My article was published in a journal of pro’s and con’s on the justice system. Subsequently, I was asked to speak at a correctional conference in Minnesota and to explain the concepts that I had outlined in my paper.

The conference was attended by hard Right and hard Left people: Correctional Officers, Wardens, Prison Reform Advocates, and Relatives of both victims and prisoners. The Right wanted stronger sentencing guidelines and tougher police policies. The Left wanted more humane treatment for prisoners and more focus on rehabilitation. Each group had read my paper and each group thought I was “on their side.” The fact of the matter was, each side was wrong. I was not on either side. Tougher sentencing (which seems to have won out) has only resulted in prison reasonshigher levels of incarceration, less feeling of safety in society, higher costs and no appreciable decrease in drug usage or correctional costs. The Left may have lost in terms of policy but their solutions would not have fixed the system either. You do not get a better system by fixing defects after they are created. Process improvement focuses on going upstream and preventing defects, not warehousing and reworking them. It became clear as I tried to explain concepts of process control, six sigma system capability, rework, redesign and systems analysis, that I was speaking Greek to the participants, both Left and Right. Neither side had a clue as to what I was talking about. I suspect each side was disappointed that they had not found a new advocate.

“A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.” ― Max Planck,

People in the old paradigm cannot see the new paradigm. Both sides might as well have been deaf and mute while I was speaking since the concepts I introduced were so foreign to them. I noted that the Correctional System needs reform. This was an understatement. The Correctional and Legal systems in America need nothing less than a major paradigm shift. Or to put it another way, we need a revolution in thinking about crime, incarceration and justice. Einstein noted that: “We cannot solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” We need new thinking and new ideas. We need creative inspired leaders who are willing to break with conventions and boldly go “Where no one has gone before.” This kind of courage is sadly lacking in our political leaders today.

If I had to give my talk over again today, I would not talk about process control or process improvement. I would simply talk about the need for a paradigm shift. I would try with all my might to get the fish to see the water, to get the birds to smell the air and to get the people there to see the failure of the present paradigm. I do not need to recite the facts again. They have been repeated ad nausea. The problem is getting people to open their eyes. More prisons do not mean more safety. Longer sentences do not mean less crime. Tougher policing does not mean less violence on the streets. Witness the wave of protests rocking America today following the Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Akai Gurley, Tamir Rice and John Crawford III shootings by police. Every one of these names represents a killing by a police officer of an unarmed Black man or Black child. To date, not one killing has resulted in the indictment of a single police officer. The apparent message this sends is that: “Black men are guilty until proven innocent and that that they are so dangerous that they need to be shot first and asked questions of later.”

Bill James in his book “Popular Crime” provides the following observation:

“What we are doing, in a sense, is making ourselves constantly more aware of the threats and dangers around us, and then erecting security walls as if these threats were closing in on us, when in reality, we are pushing them further and further away.” P-96

James consistently provides evidence that we are safer and crime is lower than it has ever been in the history of this country. A point I made in my blog Are We Living in More Dangerous Times?  , see Part 1 and Part 2 with numerous statistics from the FBI and other agencies. Nevertheless, as the media treats us to a steady crescendo of violence and terror on the news, radio and TV, it is hard for anyone to feel like they are really safer or that they are less likely to be murdered in their sleep. Gun sales, concealed carry weapons and ammunitions sales have increased dramatically in the US in the past ten years. Smith and Wesson’s stock price has gone from 1.65 per share in 2004 to over $9 per share in 2014.

“The “Concealed Carry Permit Holders Across the United States” report from the Crime Prevention Research Center released Wednesday (July 10, 2014) analyzed parallels between a 22 percent drop in the overall violent crime rate in the same time period in which the percentage of the adult population with concealed carry permits soared by 130 percent.

The report finds that 11.1 million Americans now have permits to carry concealed weapons, which are up from 4.5 million in 2007. This 146 percent increase parallels a nearly one-quarter (22 percent) drop in both murder and violent crime rates during the same time period.” —  Number of Permits Surges as Crime Rate Drops

Citizens, police, homeowners, retired people, elderly, minorities and even children are walking the streets with their weapons in Condition O. That is cocked and ready to fire. Only the slightest provocation is needed to shoot. A dark figure lurking in a hallway, a man running towards us down the street, someone knocking on our front door late at night and the response is “shoot, shoot and shoot.” The reaction is even more rapid when the “allegorical” assailant is a minority or a stranger.

We need a paradigm shift. We are going in the wrong direction. We are safer and more secure than ever before, but we are walling everyone away who pose even the most minimal threat to our security. We are walling ourselves away behind security fences, gated communities, threat detection systems, private police forces, concealed weapons and reduction of liberty and spontaneity. We don’t feel safer and we are more suspicious of outsiders and strangers. We resent immigrants and foreigners and anyone who is different from us. Send them all back. The hell with sanctuary or diversity! America for people that look like me, act like me and think like me.

Build more prisons!  Invoke the three strike rule!  Make it a two strike rule!  Get tough on crime!  Platitudes like these get voters on the side of security and restraint. No new taxes does not apply to building new prisons. The contradiction between liberty and safety is ignored. Fear drives irrational behavior. Everyone develops blinders as the police go about harassing would be criminals or even suspected criminals or anyone who even looks suspicious.  “Thank God, once we lock them away, we can throw away the key and not have to deal with them anymore!  If only we could put all the “suspects” away, we good people could go about our lives feeling safe and free from the possibility of crime and violence.”

“By age 23, almost a third of Americans have been arrested for a crime, according to a new study that researchers say is a measure of growing exposure to the criminal justice system in everyday life.” — http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/19/us/nearly-a-third-of-americans-are-arrested-by-23-study-says.html?_r=0

Time for Questions:

How safe do you feel: On the street, in your home, late at night, at a movie concert? What makes you feel safe? Have you ever been arrested? Do you know anyone in jail? Can you think of a way that prisons could be eliminated? Do you know how many people are in prison for non-violent crimes? What if they were doing public service instead? What can you do to help bring about prison reform? Are you happy with the present system?

Life is just beginning.

“A moment’s beginning ends in a moment” ― Munia Khan

 

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Hillary versus Bernie:  Why I Don’t Feel the Bern! | Aging Capriciously

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