States Begin Coming to Their Senses on Private Prisons; Mississippi, Having No Senses to Come to, Switch Companies…

(In the past 30 days, I have worked a stretch of 23 straight days, had minor surgery, and had a co-worker die in a freak accident.  In case you were wondering where I’ve been.  I should mostly be back now.  Probably take me a few to get back in the swing of things.  Cheers….)

Private prisons are great at exposing the lie of incarceration as rehabilitation.  They use the outrageous incarceration rates in the United States to form a business model turning profits off of locking up mostly non-violent offenders, and with their contracts with states often insisting on a guaranteed occupancy rate of 90% they form yet another obstacle to reforming the justice system away from “lock ’em up and throw away the key” towards something a bit more humane and evidence based.

Apparently some states are starting to realize some of the problems contracting their justice system out to for profit companies can cause, and distancing themselves from Corrections Corporation of America, the largest private prison corporation in America.  From my favorite blog, Dispatches from the Culture Wars:

Here’s a bit of good news that I hope becomes a major trend. Four states in the last few weeks have voided contracts with the Corrections Corporation of America, the largest private prison company in the country, over substandard conditions and safety concerns.

Idaho cut ties with the corporation on Wednesday, which turned the state’s largest prison into a violent hellhole inmates called “Gladiator School.” Earlier this year, CCA was caught understaffing the prison and using prison gangs to control the population. The company admitted to falsifying nearly 4,800 hours of staffing records to squeeze more money out of the state for nonexistent security work. Shift logs at the prison showed the same security guards working for 2 to 3 days at a time without breaks.

Last week, Texas closed two CCA prisons, including one with a history of suspicious prisoner deaths. One lawsuit alleges prison staff ignored an inmate’s cries for medical assistance, forcing her to give birth in a prison toilet to a baby that died four days later.

CCA was also booted from Mississippi earlier this month after multipledeadly riots over poor food and sanitation, lack of medical care, and mistreatment by guards. Mississippi is hiring another private prison company, MTC, to take over CCA’s contract — even though MTC runs another prison with the highest inmate assault rate in the state. Mississippi already terminated contracts with the other major private prison company, GEO Group, after it was found guilty of turning a juvenile facility into “a cesspool of unconstitutional and inhuman acts.” Despite this record, the state is apparently not ready to give up on private prisons.

Private control of prisons should be outlawed nationwide. Let’s hope this begins the process of making that happen.

 

 

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Election Day….

Today was election day and residents of my county are electing a new judge, and let me just say that making judge an elected, political position is one of the most asinine ideas ever hatched in our democracy.  Wade Kagarise, the Blair County assistant DA is one of the three candidates, and while I have absolutely zero respect for the man himself, I have to give him a great deal of credit for the campaign he is running.  Unfortunately, I fully expect him to be Judge Kagarise by the end of the day.

During the beginning of the campaign season, Kagarise came to my door looking for votes and I had a chance to look at his flyers.  Highlighted on his material was the fact that he was pro-life and that he was a supporter of the NRA.  In fact, if you check the Kagarise for Judge site, that information is still featured:

 

On the Second Amendment

Wade Kagarise is a NRA member and firearms owner. He remembers fondly his time hunting in central Pennsylvania with his family and friends. He believes that the second amendment guarantees a right of private ownership of firearms.

On the Right to Life

Wade Kagarise is and has always been Pro-Life. As a past candidate for election to positions in the Republican Party, he has been recognized and endorsed as a Pro-Life candidate.

Now he has every right to belong to whatever organization he wants to, and is free to feel he has the right to decide what a woman can do with her own body.  But he is running for Judge in the county court of common pleas.  Not State supreme court.  Not state superior court.  Court of common pleas.

Who the flying fuck gives a shit if he is pro-life?  Why is it relevant in any way that he is a member of the NRA?

Is he expecting the chance to overturn Roe V. Wade?  Counting on any future assault weapons ban coming through his court room?  Hell, even if there was a chance in hell of either of these issues popping up at the Blair county courthouse, it isn’t like any ruling he made on the issue wouldn’t immediately be taken out of his hands by a higher court.

But Kagarise definitely knows the electorate.  Blair country is overwhelmingly Republican, and more than Republican, it is overwhelmingly far right Tea Party conservative.  Even though his views on abortion and gun ownership has absolutely no bearing on his ability to be a Common pleas Judge, his stance on those issues will cause a lot of people to pull the lever for him once they get in that polling booth.

So congrats Wade, on a well run campaign.  You shouldn’t even be able to be elected to it, but I am sure by tomorrow you will be Judge Kagarise.

Stossel Hits the Proverbial Nail on the Proverbial Head

As a progressive with socialistic tendencies, I disagree with libertarians on many things.  I have no problem pointing out where I think they are heartless or just flat out insane, as I did here with a previous column by John Stossel.  But as much as I disagree with much of their philosophy, I couldn’t agree more with parts as well, and I feel I should give credit where it is due.  Stossel’s column this week is brilliant.

I like to bet on sports. Having a stake in the game, even if it’s just five bucks, makes it more exciting. I also like playing poker. “Unacceptable!” say politicians in much of America. “Gambling sometimes leads to ‘addiction,’ destitute families!”

Well, it can.

So politicians ban it. It’s why we no longer see a poker game in the back of bars. Half the states even ban poker between friends — though they rarely enforce that.

After banning things, politicians’ second favorite activity is granting special privileges to a few people who do those same things — so big casinos flourish, and most states run their own lotteries. Running lotteries is one of the more horrible things our governments do. The poor buy the most tickets, and states offer them terrible odds. The government entered the lottery business promising to end the “criminal numbers racket.” Now states do what the “criminals” did but offer much worse odds. Adding insult to their scam, politicians also spend our tax money promoting lotteries with disgusting commercials that trash hard work, implying that happiness comes from hedonism.

Hypocrisy.

I joke sometimes that “lottery” is an ancient Greek word that means “tax on people who sucks at math.”  You can not find a game in a casino that gives odds as bad as the lottery.  Seriously.  As bad of a bet as slot machines are, they still pay off at a much better rate than any state run lottery.  Stossel’s column is worth a read this week; it deals with more than just gambling, and is spot on through out.

As heartless as I find many libertarian ideas,  I also understand that they are on our side on many issues, and have no problem putting aside disagreements to work on the issues we both care about.  Perhaps there is a lesson here.  Care less about labels, and more about specific ideas?  *shrug*  Drug policy reform is perhaps the most important issue right now for me; I don’t want anyone else to go through what I went through, and I know that libertarians are going to be a big part of any significant reform.  Whether they are on the left or the right, if they have good ideas, point them out for other to see.

 

 

Two Important 4th Amendment Cases Upcoming for the Supreme Court

Two cases involving drug dogs are on the Supreme Court docket which could either further shred the 4th Amendment or help in reestablishing some of its safeguards to American citizens.  The 4th Amendment protects citizens against unreasonable search and seizure.  Mainly thanks to the war on drugs, the 4th Amendment has been shredded beyond recognition by the courts.  The police basically act as if it no longer exists.

Florida V. Jardines concerns the police bringing a drug dog up to the front door of a single family private residence to check for illegal activity, without a warrant.  This is basically a pretty cut and dry case.  Either you see it as the police being free to go wherever the public can go, or you see it as the police using the dog to conduct an illegal search of the private residence.  Precedent is mixed in this case and the court could go either way.

Florida V. Harris is probably the more important case, concerning whether an alert by a trained drug dog is sufficient probable cause to search a vehicle.  Recent studies have raised serious question into the accuracy of drug dogs. If 7 of 8 drug dogs give false positives during a double blind trial, is it reasonable to claim their alerts are always probable cause?

Ed Brayton over at Dispatches from the Culture War has a post looking at these cases, and there is a preview of both over at The Volokh Conspiracy.  Just a few cases to keep your eye on.

And yes, Obama is a joke on 4th Amendment issues.

Scott Adams Proves Once Again That You Can Draw a Funny Comic and Still Be a Moron.

Scott Adams is the creator of Dilbert.  Full disclosure:  I like Dilbert.  In fact, when looked at in comparison to the other comic strips my newspaper provides, I’d be willing to say it is my 3rd favorite strip.  (Once again, out of the limited choices my paper provides.  And that isn’t counting Doonesbury, since my newspaper spares the feelings of God fearing conservative kids by putting Doonesbury on the opinion page instead of the comics page.  Of course, they also run rightwing propaganda comic Mallard Fillmore on the Sunday Comics page.  Which I guess is my newspapers way of saying that ducks spouting rightwing talking points is acceptable children’s fodder while humans with progressive views are strictly adults only.  But I digress….)

Much more after the jump…..

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Let’s Do a “Tales of a Junkie,” Shall We?

Tales of a Junkie, Part 8?:  Intro to Law Enforcement.  (And yes, I reserve the right to re-number these at a future date.)

Apologies for writing these out of order.  Eventually, they will be fleshed out and collected, to be read with continuity.  For now, I will deal with subjects as I wish.  Once again, if you’re only here for the snark, feel free to skip away.

I also want to make this disclaimer.  I study memory (on the level of a layperson at the least).  It fascinates me.  It also makes me question many of my own memories, now that I understand how our brain works to a certain extent.  None of this is intended to be fictional.  Every single thing I write about in these Tales of a Junkie come from my memories.  I will not take stories from other people I know and weave them in as my own for dramatic effect.  I will not lie, or fictionalize accounts.  But,(and there always is a but, isn’t there?) I used drugs in some form from the time I was 12.  I have many memories that I am honestly not sure if they ever happened.  Some memories that the details are hazy, and others that I am certain of, and even those could be suspect.  So if you know who I actually am and possibly know of a situation I write of that I get wrong, remember that memory is fluid.  This is not A Million Little Pieces; anything I get wrong is not intentional.  Other than fictionalizing names and locations to protect the guilty, I will always try to be as accurate as possible.

We begin after the jump:

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More Listening Pleasure! Ed Brayton’s Interview with Peter Christ from Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Squee!

Somehow, I missed Ed Brayton’s new radio show, Culture Wars Radio when it first came on the scene, but now that I’m catching up on the old episodes, I have to highlight this episode featuring Peter Christ from Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.  When you have an hour or so to spare, give it a listen, it is definitely worth it.

The War on Drugs is a failure that does much more harm than good.  More and more intelligent people are realizing we need to get away from criminalization and move on to harm reduction.  In their own words,  Leap is:

an international organization of criminal justice professionals who bear personal witness to the wasteful futility and harms of our current drug policies. Our experience on the front lines of the “war on drugs” has led us to call for a repeal of prohibition and its replacement with a tight system of legalized regulation, which will effectively cripple the violent cartels and street dealers who control the current illegal market.

Enjoy!