The US is #1 in putting people in jail. We’re #1!

Locked Up

The United States has the highest incarceration rates in the world. We’re a country that in some parts uses the test scores of third graders to figure out how many future prison beds we should be building.

So I guess that means if you’re not scoring high on test, you’re not going to get a job, since you live in America you have two choices: homelessness or crime.

Pull yourself up by your boot straps or we’ll lock you up.

In America that seems perfectly reasonable.

America is a perfectly reasonably barbaric country.

We beat our kids (and remind others who aren’t that they are bad parents.)
We imprison the poor.
The average American citizens in general seem to have a complete lack of empathy for their fellow human being and seem to get a great amount of joy in punishing and creating horrible ways to punish other people who live here.
And nothing makes an American more happy than their neighbor sufferering.

“Bill lost his job. Let’s celebrate his misfortune. He was an asshole anyway.”

What new laws can we create so that we send people away for their entire life?

Maybe we need a two strike law?
Maybe we can send 10 years olds to death row?

“You’re old enough to shoot a guy. You’re old enough to be murdered by our government, because the law says it’s OK. ”

Who cares if it was an accident? You’re poor and your third grade test scores weren’t that high, so why waste time with the niceties?

Unemployment is up. How can the American public help in making other people suffer? Maybe we can make people suffer somewhere else?

Maybe we need a good war?

Maybe in Pakistan?

Browne Molyneux


Interesting conversation going on at the Economist.

This entry was posted in Analysis, history, La Crisis, Politica and tagged , , , , , by Browne Molyneux. Bookmark the permalink.

About Browne Molyneux

My name is Browne Molyneux. I'm a lady. I'm a radical feminist. I'm black. I'm an Angeleno. I'm an artist. I'm carFREE. I'm a freelance writer. I'm a blogger. I'm a philosopher. I'm a humanist. I'm a journalist. I formerly wrote a column on transportation, Tracks for LA City Beat. The above are all of the things I have to work on being, got questions email me. My topics of interests include but are not limited to politics, transportation, dark green issues, economics, race relations, feminism, culture, working class urban life, media, art, Los Angeles and literature.

14 thoughts on “The US is #1 in putting people in jail. We’re #1!

  1. Good post. You add to all this the way that cities are slowly being transformed into open air prison/malls where there is constant surveillance almost everywhere, more and more places where you have to walk through metal detectives and/or find yourself under the eye of some uniformed thug (though fortunately there are still a fair number of security guards who are just poor devils trying to work an easy job–you can tell the difference because the thugs swagger like cops), and it becomes pretty clear just how “free” our “free society” really is. But in terms of turning every urban space into an outdoor prison of control and surveillance, the US is still behind places like Britain. Maybe because the British authorities prefer the more humane route of preventative,relatively unintrusive and invisible imprisonment to blatantly locking a couple million people up.
    I wonder how all these states with their economic woes are going to manage to make enough prisons to deal with the fact that currently 31% of US men over 20 years old are now either unemployed or “not seeking work” (i.e., jobless, but not considered officially unempoyed). (See the May Harper’s Index, based on statistics from the US Labor Bureau of Statistics.

  2. You need to go to the “New Downtown” in Los Angeles I noticed all kinds of cameras down there everywhere.

    I will go to Harper’s. I like how we like to pretend in this country in regards to what the true unemployment numbers are.

    It seems to me the only jobs that are open right now are low paying jobs in security. There are no jobs and there are no safety nets. I wonder when America is going to get angry about that.

    I can also see lots of jobs going away that are never going to come back even when the economy comes back.

    The saddest thing and new trend I see on public transit are high school kids with ASVAB books tucked under their arm. I also notice that military passing out flyers on the Blue Line.

    My boyfriend’s nephew is in the Southeast. He kept getting training. He got training as a welder. He was a welder. He did construction. He tried everything. He kept moving and looking for work. The man wants to work. He is a hard worker. He is in his 20s he is now joining the military, because that’s the only way he is going to continue to be able to eat.

    And women. I don’t know what is going to happen to them. Women come up to me all of the time asking me how they can get a job and I really don’t have an answer for them. I really don’t have an answer if they have kids.


  3. Every time I run into someone I haven’t seen in sometime, either they themselves or someone they know is looking to get a job in corrections. I don’t know what the criteria is for a nation to be considered a police state, but I’m certain that a job market where the only available middle class jobs are in law enforcement would have to be on the list. These are people that had no intention of ever being in law enforcement. They’re doing it solely for the money and benefits, and no other reason. No matter how liberal their views may be regarding respect for civil rights and the constitution (which is the supreme law of the land), they will obviously have to check them in at the gate when it slams. You take each one of these people, then add their entire extended family who will more than likely support them and their new found, right wing veneer on law and order. Before you know it, you’ve got the majority of society watching the May Day LAPD beat downs and saying, “hey, they told them to disperse”. Where as 15 years ago only right wing ideologues would have championed such a blatant disregard for due process, the rest of society would have called for the heads of every cop that swung a baton, and a flood of firings and resignations would have followed. As it stands, nobody was fired as a result of that MacArther park incident. We’re here, folks. The cameras are just one example of it. It’s mainstream America marching to the police state’s drummer that’s more disturbing. It’s the swamp that spawned the excessive surveillance.

  4. It’s depressing.

    One reason why there’s support for prisons is because incarcerated people are a cheap labor force. They’re also a captive market.

    I try to look at America as a democratic society with remnants of a well defined class society, and remnants of a caste society.

    The caste society was a huge part of the American economy. We had a caste of people of African descent, who lived under different laws, and radically different law enforcement, with a different court system, and differential access to employment. This system persisted until the 1960s.

    Though castes, which were not even acknowledged as castes, were abolished by the late 60s, the economic need for a perpetually exploited caste did not go away.

    That’s why, by the 1980s, we had constant flow of “illegal immigrants”. They were only “illegal” on paper – in practice, they formed a caste of people with different rights, suffering under different laws and law enforcement, etc. They were welcomed, for the most part, if they existed as if they were a lower caste of people.

    It’s also why “free trade”, which is anything but “free”, became so popular. Why treat labor as even deserving of basic human rights, much less equality, when there were masses of people to exploit around the globe?

    The prison-industrial complex is a variation on this theme. However, more than the other types of caste-like exploitation, the incarcerated and the ex-convicts really are a separate caste. They live under very different laws, have fewer rights, and have a hard time finding work.

    To call this a return to slavery-days wouldn’t be accurate, but, there are defintely some aspects that are similar, almost identical.

  5. Nothing will kill an American’s delusions of a free country faster than a glance at the prison industry, alienation. No doubt.

  6. We know who is in jail in the states, well the populations with the highest percentage of people in jail in states. I’d like to know in the countries with the higher per 100k people in jail what the ethnic or religious group of the people in jail: Russia
    Brazil, Thailand, South Africa, Mexico, and Poland.

    There was an interesting conversation on the Economist where someone said that the countries that seem to have the harshest laws and spend the least on education seemed to be populations with higher mix of ethnic groups.

    That in countries where everyone looked the same and worshipped the same the laws are less harsh because people view people who are like them in those ways as human and people looked at people who were not like them in those ways as not human, so not deserving of the same kinds of considerations. I thought that was very interesting.

    I would make a bet what the people look like who are in jail in South Africa and in Brazil, no need to say because we all know. I think Brazil is interesting because it plays this we’re a multicultural society line, but at the same time you look at the incarceration rates and you think, well maybe not.

    I also saw watched this TV show out of there called City of Men and it seemed the poor people oddly all seemed to be of African descent or just in general the people who didn’t look white now I don’t know if that’s real or what but I know what the deal is in the States.

    —-For fun the ethnic break down of prisoners
    (831 per 100k for African-American)
    (274 per 100k for Latinos)
    (167 per 100k for White)

    Also I know as of 2004 African-Americans were the biggest group of people in prison at 44%, looking at the current per 100k numbers I’m thinking that has held pretty steady.—

    I also wonder about Thailand. I wonder which group of people is going to jail, is it a mix or is it a particular group of people.

    But America by far and Russia is so far above everyone else in locking people up and I think it’s kind of funny because America is the symbol for democracy and Russia for so long was the symbol of communism and its just ironic that the two countries that were viewed as “The Super Powers” of the world and seemed to be so different seem to be so much more similar in regards to heinousness.


  7. Could be the only way to deal with the surveillance is for the people to use their own technology to legally watch the police. After all, they do work for us. Imagine hiring someone to work for you, and they install a camera in your office, to watch you. That’s what unwarranted police surveillance basically is.

  8. My boyfriend used to watch the Sheriff at Pershing Square and then they arrested him, but of course that didn’t stop him from continuing to watch them.

  9. lol at the big lokote post. As I seriously doubt that’s big lokote, the rapper. Someone is obviously trying to draw the ridiculous parallel that people who complain about abusive police are no different than cholos like lokote, and I think we know who it is, considering you’ve pulled this rouse a thousand times on other blogs. LOL. You must know that whole video by heart now. Deep down inside, you wish you’d been invited to parties like that growing up, don’t you? What else could explain you obviously having the video bookmarked? Anyhow, things must be getting lonely over there at the ‘barf’, or the several blogs you’ve designed to obsess over and stalk the people who’ve thoroughly debunked your “white people and the police are always right and everyone else is wrong” drivel. Just tired. Buy a dog, or something. Join a gym. Whatever you do, take your ethernet chord and toss it in the trash. Cyberspace has not been good to you.

    Not a fan of lokote, btw. Too much direct banging in his lyrics, plus he has no flow. Sounds like he’s taking a dump. But I will say this about him, it’s obvious, albeit sad, yet obvious that big lokote knows more about how this world works than our sad little friend trolling under his name. A hard headed, active cholo being able to beat you on Jeopardy is nothing to brag about.

  10. It’s lame when a member of a criminal organization complains about police harassment.

    In fact, it’s comical to even proclaim a dislike for the police, because, really – isn’t that a given? You’d have to be an idiot to break a lot of laws, and then profess to like the police. That’s totally illogical.

    Too bad they don’t just say, “oh, I fear and dislike the cops, because, well, I sell pot, and buy stolen goods, and occasionally visit prostitutes. So, ultimately, calling them may raise a red flag that leads to my own arrest.”

    The real complaints could be reserved for the thousands of people who really do get robbed, beat, harassed, and intimidated by cops. Hell, the real complaints could be restated for the millions of people who get lousy police service because they’re poor, or happen to live near poor people.

    Did I tell you all about the time I called 911 and got a busy signal? Never mind. I won’t. I ratted out some people who I saw running from the scene of a crime. That’s all there is to say about that.

  11. For California

    Population: 36,756,000

    Men: 18,378,000

    Men between 18 and 65: 11,634,000

    Male prisoners in California State Prisons (mostly between 18 and 65): 144,000

    Thus, about 1 in 80 Californian men is in state prison. This doesn’t count the short-timers in local jails and the ~8,000 Californians in the federal system.

  12. “The real complaints could be reserved for the thousands of people who really do get robbed, beat, harassed, and intimidated by cops,” Alienation

    Exactly. I mean one time I was having a conversation that sort of morphed into discourse and we were talking about the cops and people would give stories. I noticed by and large the people who were white (not saying that this isn’t just as bad, because it is) mainly had problem with cops for being in a particular scene or being counter culture and I was trying to explain that while this is not right, not at all (and I’m not trying to compare it to a straight up criminal) that people of color don’t have to be young or counter culture to get messed with by the police.

    You can be a man of color, with a suit, with a job, a Rebublican and STILL get messed with by the police for nothing and I don’t know if some people get that. I don’t know if some people get how horrible that is, how embarrassing that is, how degrading that is for a person who isn’t part of any revolutionary movement or counter culture thing to be just trying to walk around and looking as “normal” as possible and get bothered by the or questioned by the police.

    And then its like this too I always compare the Red Line to the Blue Line. If you’re a white guy who is an artist and down on his luck you can hop on the Red Line, no cops are going to bother you at least not that often. You can be that same guy, but be black and on the Blue Line and you will get busted.

    The cops are so harsh on black and brown (men in particular) that there is no breathing room to fuck up. Normal stuff that people do as a kid and if you’re white you get a pass on it you don’t get that pass as a person of color. You can’t fuck around with stuff. You can’t get drunk and get in your car. You can’t not pay your fare every once in awhile. You can’t drive with expired tags ever.

    It’s that kind of stuff which gets people in the hole and that’s what really bothers me about the cops. Not that if you’re one race you get a pass, because in general I think that’s good. I think everyone should get some breathing room, but the fact that if you are another race you just don’t get one. You just can’t ever mess up or be late or do anything even a little wrong without them coming down you.

    My cousins and friends who are people of color are pretty much perfect. They are in general pretty much moderate. Great students, great guys, real upstanding guys, they think I’m crazy, so keep that in mind. They don’t do anything that should get the cops attention and yet if they are walking around at night they do. My male cousins will not walk around at night, even though they live in “good” neighborhoods, because they don’t want to be involved in a case of mistaken identity and I don’t think white guys who are moderate, nicely dressed, graduates of professional schools ever have to worry about that and that’s good, but men of color shouldn’t have to worry about it either. If you play the game and you do it well they should leave you alone, but they don’t.


  13. Scary thing is, Mike, the people in the prison racket think those numbers are way too low.

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