Jul 102011
 

U.S. Prison Population_2008

U.S. Prison Population in 2008. Louisiana has the highest incarceration rate.

The number of faces behind bars is increasing everywhere on the globe. Due to the collapsing penal system in the USA, the government is forced to enact laws that provide for the early release of elder, non-violent offenders. Yet, those released individuals remain on probation and, therefore, in the system. The higher the prison population rate (per 100,000 of national population), the more likely innocent inmates are confined. Louisiana alone is the prison “nation” number one.

When one compares the U.S. states with each other, and the USA with other countries (the poor and the rich), one realizes that the incarceration rate is not only the consequence of crime, politics and the lack of equalization of wealth, but it is also a matter of culture. The social focus in the USA is the South, once known for plantations and slavery. Nowadays, it is still the “Bible belt” that clings to the death penalty. Its “correctional” facilities on large grounds and the often brown and black people in prison clothes working the fields remind of old times.

Especially in rural areas where jobs are rare, each employee at local jails or the Department of Corrections, their families and friends enhance the lobby of the prison industry. They need convicted people to make a living and they cannot have an interest in a decrease of the prison population. Better basic education in the country and more alternative jobs would improve the chance for innocent prisoners to be heard and listened to by voters, and thus, by politicians as judges, district attorneys, sheriffs, legislators and governors.

The Innocent in Prison Project International (IIPPI) compiled information from the U.S. Census 2010, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, and the International Centre for Prison Studies. Today, on July 10, 2011, IIPPI provides and illustrates the data in graphics. Read on at http://www.iippi.org/pdf/population_poverty_prisoners_usa2011_statistics.pdf .

The U.S. Census of 2010 published a map on January 6, 2014, which shows how many prisoners are housed in each of the counties (Louisiana: parishes) throughout the USA. Go to http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/business/prisoners/index.html?template=iframe

The World Incarceration Rate graphic of 2014 by the Prison Policy might interest you as well. It does not necessarily mean that other countries or nations are more “human” than the USA (several are definitely not!), but this graphic by the Prison Policy gives a feeling of how many people are incarcerated by (U.S.) state compared to all other countries in the world. Go to the site, click on the graphic to enlarge, and see it all! Go to www.prisonpolicy.org/global/

Here is another data point: the incarceration of women in the USA and its global context. “Only 5% of the world’s female population lives in the U.S., but the U.S. accounts for nearly 30% of the world’s incarcerated women.”
http://www.prisonpolicy.org/global/women/

Update of February 2015:
Report by the VERA Institute of Justice: “Incarceration’s Front Door: The Missuse of Jails in America
Report by the Brennan Center for Justice: “Louisiana Fact Sheet-What Caused The Crime Decline?

Law Professor Bill Quigley at the Loyola University New Orleans names 40 reasons why minorities are mayorities in jails and prisons. (June 2, 2015)

How Germany does Prison – Americans on a mind-boggling incarceration road trip. (from June 16th through June 21st 2015)

This might interest you as well: Routine Character Assassination of Innocents

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May 092011
 

prison tower

Louisiana State Prison tower

As administrations of former Louisiana Governors, also incumbent Governor Jindal has made a growing economy in the rural state his priority number one. The Republican tries to create new jobs by attracting investors, i.e. companies, to Louisiana, and his promise to “veto any tax increase that comes to [his] desk” is his bait. Jindal explains that higher “taxes kill jobs and opportunities.”

Jindal’s intention aparently is to make Louisiana a tax haven for businesses hoping they will employ (more) people from Louisiana. Halliburton, headquartered in Houston, Texas, is his latest acquisition for his re-election campaign. (Governor Jindal’s term expires on January 9, 2012.) In the first week of April of this year, Jindal’s administration announced that Hulliburton would open a manufacturing facility in Lafayette, Louisiana. The company will produce “complex machined components for oilfield service operations” and create 150 direct and 350 indirect jobs, writes Governor Jindal on his blog.  Louisiana’s most profitable branche is the oil industry. Thus, Jindal presses for the permission of drilling from the federal government despite the oil spill one year ago.

At the same time, renewable energies, as e.g. wind power or solar energy, get momentum in Europe. The automobile industry works hard on improving new types of motors that are independent of fossil fuels. But the thinking in the oil state Louisiana has not changed yet.

Imagine you have lots of oil and nobody needs it! Jobs seem to be a free ticket for nearly everything in politics. As long as something creates jobs, progressive changes are not made, and chances are that it is subsidized by the state, i.e. the tax payers. Another example is the prison industry.

One chapter in the book “Louisiana v. Vincent Simmons: Frame-up in Avoyelles Parish” is entitled “Local Prison Industry.” A new discussion about this issue began when Governor Bobby Jindal formally submitted his Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 Executive Budget to the Legislative on March 11, 2011. 

There is a US$1.6 billion gap in the Pelican State’s household next fiscal year (2011-2012, beginning on July 1, 2011), unless the government increases taxes or cuts spending. Jindal opposes higher taxes. The consequence is that there must be some savings somewhere. But where? Jindal’s proposal is, among others, to sell three state prisons

1.      the Avoyelles Correctional Center in Cottonport, Louisiana

2.      the Allen Correctional Center in Kinder, Louisiana (already privately run)

3.      the Winn Correctional Center in Atlanta, Louisiana (already privately run),

and to downsize the J. Levy Dabadie Correctional Center in Pineville, Louisiana, from a 580-bed state facility to a privately run 300-bed prison.

Corrections workers of Avoyelles Parish in particular, spearheaded by former Representative Raymond Laborde (he spoke up for a state prison in his home parish in the 1980s to decrease the locally high unemployment rate), current State Representative Robert Johnson (his term expires on January 9, 2012) and Avoyelles Parish District Attorney Charles A. Riddle, III, have answered with a protest movement. They rallied and attended a hearing at the State Capitol in Baton Rouge. Their slogan is “Save our prison, save our parish.”

The current discussion is “state prisons versa private prisons.”

Arguments pro private prisons:

·         Private prison operators run prisons at a lower daily rate per offender than the state.

·         The sale of the state prisons would help bridge the US$1.6 billion-gap in the household’s budget in the fiscal year 2011-2012.

Arguments contra private prisons:

·         Jindal’s plan does not make any sense to Raymond Laborde who rhetorically asked the Associated Press, “Sell my house today and rent it tomorrow?”

·         Private corporations make profit and can generate huge amounts to contribute to political campaigns. Sponsored, elected officials then can return the favor with policies that benefit the donors.

·         Prison staff is reduced and replaced by high-tech cameras.

·         Telemedicine increases to save transportation costs for ill inmates.

·         Reduced pay and benefits for employees.

·         There are fewer programs to prepare prisoners for life after their release.

·         Private corporations invest less than the state to train their corrections workers.

·         Cuts in state jobs would have a snowball effect in rural Louisiana. It would increase unemployment, have a negative effect on the financial stability of families, and limit their buying power in the community.

However, I believe the State of Louisiana could save much tax money and would not need to privatize state facilities if the actual roots of the problem were solved. The USA, often dubbed the “Land of the Free,” has the highest incarceration rate worldwide, and Louisiana is the number one prison state nationwide. Go figure: Louisiana alone is the number one worldwide! Why is that?

·         Too many things are criminalized in Louisiana.

·         Too many non-violent offenders occupy prison bunks.

·         The penalties often are too long and do not have a rehabilitative effect.

·         The existing penal system is too expensive and eats away funds for social services, basic education, and health care.

·         There is something seriously wrong when politicians use fear of crime and unemployment to incarcerate masses of people at the tax payers’ expense.

There are several facilities in Avoyelles Parish. The collection consists of the Avoyelles Correctional Center in Cottonport, the Avoyelles Bunkie Detention Center, the Avoyelles Women’s Center in Simmesport, the Avoyelles Simmesport Correctional Center and the main Avoyelles Parish Jail at the Sheriff’s Office in Marksville. Only a juvenile correctional facility and a federal prison are missing yet. But this may change soon. According to an article by The Advertiser, the Lafayette Regional Office of Juvenile Justice announced last Friday that Avoyelles Parish now is one of five interested parishes that would welcome a new facility for troubled Acadiana youth in its area.

The forum of the Innocent in Prison Project International provides much info on the issue Prison Industry here.

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