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A modest proposal?

How to reduce crime in two easy steps:

  1. Allow prison inmates to kill each other.
  2. Okay, there actually isn't a second step. The first one should really do it.
It might be a little harsh, but don't blame me -- it's not my idea. It's Jonathan Turley's proposal. Although, for some reason, he views it as social justice on par with Brown vs. Board of Education.
Modern prison policy is based on a concept of re-creating a microcosm of a healthy, albeit controlled, society in a prison. An inmate must be compelled to comply with the standards dictated by society if there is to be any hope of breaking the common cycle of recidivism.
Good idea! And if they don't, we'll just... put them in prison?
Segregation policies may reduce racial violence, but only by accommodating racist tastes -- a dangerous form of appeasement.

If it is true, as one California prison official testified, that you "cannot house a Japanese inmate with a Chinese inmate [because] they will kill each other," then it is time that they are forced to live according to a new code. It would certainly be better that they meet in a controlled prison environment than on a crowded street.


The solution is not easy, but we must regain control of the prisons and compel prisoners to live according to our core values.

Uh, not to point out the obvious, but if they were willing to do that, they wouldn't be in prison in the first place.
It is always tempting to avoid racial tension by yielding to racial separation. However, although there may be costs to desegregation, we have learned that the costs of embracing the conveniences of racial segregation are much higher.
I'd guess this was satire, only Turley is so earnest about this that I think he's really serious. Apparently he believes that people in prison would just learn not to be criminals if we had them hold hands in a circle and sing songs to each other. Maybe if we piped Rodney King's "Can't we all just get along?" line into their cells twenty-four hours a day, they'd all become Nobel peace laureates. (Or, they'd all kill themselves to stop the pain. Thus eliminating recidivism altogether.)

I hate to keep ripping off that Charles Krauthammer piece I referenced yesterday, but it's just so good, so go read it. Turley's column perfectly illustrates the naive stupidity Krauthammer describes. He has a vision of the perfect society, and he thinks he can achieve it if only he can engage in a little minor social engineering. He has no real idea how to accomplish this, but he thinks it should be done. No matter what the costs.


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Comments (2)


When I first read that article, I was sure that it had to be a joke. No responsible individual could seriously propose that we force integration on prisoners to the detriment of their safety. However, then I realized that he is a Liberal. Being Liberal means that you don't have to allow reality to interfere with your utopian dreams.

If Jonathan Turley was really so worried about segregation in institutions then he would demand that universities desegregate their dorms. Many of the universities, especially the elite ones, have separate "theme" dorms for Latin American, Black or gay students. Isn't it strange that Liberals demand that "diversity" be used as a criterion for admission to universities and then provide separate facilities for these students. What a bunch of hypocrites!


Will Desegregating Prisons Sow the Seeds of Racial Harmony?
By Coyote

In your report “Prisons Bars and Color Lines,” Feb. 25: the Times supports the United States Supreme Court decision to desegregate California prisons. What is very obvious is that not much thought was given to support the argument. Also the author has no knowledge of the inside conditions that would make desegregation a very inhumane and painful process.

The writer proposes the hypothetical situation where a dangerous gang member is placed in a cell with a nonviolent convict, based simply on sharing the same ethnicity. He calls this criterion: “unfairly endangering as many inmates as it protects.” There is no logic to this argument because the reverse is also true. Imagine the scenario where desegregation is implemented and a nonviolent person of a different race and culture is celled with a dangerous gang member. Now fights between cell partners are not isolated to that racial groups’ resolution, but now has the potential to escalate into drawing others of different races into the conflict. Almost all race riots have started over personal conflicts between two individuals of different races.

Segregation may have its universal appeal within the outer community, but in prison it complicates matters and exacerbates the danger already inherent in prison life. How much thought has really gone into supporting the idea of desegregating prisons? What are the benefits besides it being a lofty ideal to pursue in the name of equality? What will prison life be like under the banner of equality? Having knowledge of the inside and seeing for myself the great struggles taking place over smaller issues, this will be the year of many prison revolts if desegregation is enforced.

Has the United States Supreme Court gone too far with its decision? What will desegregation in prison accomplish? Do the same factors operate on the inside as the outside? As far as rights are concerned the courts have said emphatically no, prisoners do not have the same rights. How can we deny rights to prisoners and at the same time expect them to be held to the same societal principles and ideals? Forcing prisoners of different races to live together in cramp quarters will not inspire racial harmony and brotherhood. There still exists a lot of racism in prison, as well as in greater society. However, in prison you cannot escape it and for this reason it is more constructive to separate the races for the safety and security of all.

We over extend our principles and later find something is amiss. May be these lofty ideals are not universal. Prison is not free society. Prison is not controlled completely by government. As much as we would like to think that it is, prisons are controlled a lot by prisoners. If desegregation is enforced, how will it be implemented? Anybody familiar with the recent history of racial violence in California prisons knows it has been pandemic. Race riots have occurred in California prisons (and jails) with hundreds of deaths in the last twenty years. This includes prisoners shot by guards to stop the violence. It would take a whole new generation of prisoners not conditioned by racial violence for desegregation to work. We have to ask realistically whether starting desegregation now will sow the seeds of racial harmony for the future of California prisons.

No scientific studies have been conducted. Forced desegregation in prison is but an experiment, a social experiment to test the racial tolerance of people who have been hardened by racial prejudice. How irresponsible can government be? We have government officials like Romero who advocate immediate implementation of desegregation, without any knowledge of the possible consequences. They stand by the letter of the law and without having any knowledge of its inhumane extent. Such irresponsible advocation reveals how misinformed and ignorant our leaders are. I suggest that Romero do her own study and look at the facts. Look at the statistics of racial violence in and out of prisons. How deep does racial disharmony run? Before she runs to defend lofty principles, she should do her homework. Racial harmony and respect may exist (superficially?) at the higher echelons of government, but at the lower strata of society racial disharmony exists in many institutions, including schools, jails, recreational areas, etc.

Are desegregating schools the same as desegregating prisons? It isn’t the same for some very obvious reasons. Forcing school children to sit next to someone of a different race is far different than forcing an adult to live in a cell with someone of a different race and culture. Cultural differences in prison are magnified and in open areas on the prison yard certain groups and races control certain areas. Wherever prisoners are free to group together they will naturally tend to congregate in numbers by race. It can generally be said that whether it’s for protection or sociability, prisoners will separate themselves to be with their own kind. What do we do next, forced prisoners of the same race not to group together on the yard? Where does it end? Where do we separate the lofty ideals from forced principles that bring no benefit to society?

Lofty principles are inherently good when they are generated from the heart and come naturally. On the other hand, when we attempt to impose these principles from the outside without any change of heart from those affected—we set ourselves on a disastrous path. Forced busing is one instance where it changed many hearts and minds over time. Can the same be said in desegregating prisons? Will forced housing have a positive or negative impact on society? My guess is that it will have a negative impact because things don’t change over night. Thousands of seasoned prisoners have been conditioned to be distrustful and even hateful of other races. There may be a growing conflict ahead between the races if desegregation is implemented in California prisons. Society cannot afford to sit idlely by, not thinking it affects greater society. Greater society will be affected by the growing racial violence within its prisons. Nothing happens in isolation.

We can turn our backs on the prisoners when the violence begins and gleefully say to them, “you must get along to be part of society again. So it’s your problem, not ours.” This type of attitude will only make prisoners more resentful of society for creating a larger problem and then turning a deaf ear to them. Many people in society don’t realize how determined prisoners can be in resisting unpopular policies implemented by correction officials. Mass prison insurrection may be the beginning of a long hard struggle against forced housing. Every prison should record every incident of violence against forced housing and keep a daily video log. After years of noncompliance, correction officials should send these records and videos to the Supreme Court justices. Let them see for their own eyes the results of their decision. Then ask them if it was a sound decision. Prison experience has shown that the separation of races with regard to housing is beneficial to the safety and security of prisoners and staff alike.


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