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What'll You Have-Health Care or Lots of Prisons
Old 08-20-2009, 04:43 PM   #1
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What'll You Have-Health Care or Lots of Prisons

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/20/op...ristof.html?em

Reading this I can't help but feel that the US must be the world's stupidest country.

Ha
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Old 08-20-2009, 05:26 PM   #2
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Reading this I can't help but feel that the US must be the world's stupidest country.

Ha
Have to agree with you, sigh...
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Old 08-20-2009, 05:26 PM   #3
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The article says,

Quote:
Mr. Wilkerson is serving a life sentence in California — for stealing a $2.50 pair of socks. As The Economist noted recently, he already had two offenses on his record (both for abetting robbery at age 19), and so the “three strikes” law resulted in a life sentence.

This is unjust, of course. But considering that California spends almost $49,000 annually per prison inmate, it’s also an extraordinary waste of money.
In Louisiana, we don't even have the money to keep some our worst criminals locked up. We also don't have money for health care. But laissez les bons temps rouler...
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Old 08-20-2009, 05:41 PM   #4
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Also note: part of that $49,000 spent per inmate includes free government health care. Prisoners: another segment of the population that receives government healthcare paid for by the rest of us.
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Old 08-20-2009, 06:49 PM   #5
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From here, I don't see that I know enough to understand why a petty theft misdemeanor was prosecuted as a felony. Assuming that the prosecutor had a reason and that the defense (who knew about the 3 strikes issue) wasn't able to convince them otherwise, then it's hard to second guess without any more facts.

OTOH, knowing he has TWO prior convictions, this guy still decided to steal something, even if it was only socks. There likely is more story about him as well.
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Old 08-20-2009, 07:54 PM   #6
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From here, I don't see that I know enough to understand why a petty theft misdemeanor was prosecuted as a felony. Assuming that the prosecutor had a reason and that the defense (who knew about the 3 strikes issue) wasn't able to convince them otherwise, then it's hard to second guess without any more facts.
Under California law, even petty theft can be a felony if the perp had a prior conviction for an offense involving some form of theft. But in reality, this particular scenario is a poster child for why the "three strikes" law needs to be amended.
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Old 08-20-2009, 11:47 PM   #7
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I still want to say I'm not so sure. Having been the victim of several crimes for which the perpetrator was never caught, I'm sure there are many cases where someone with 3 convictions has actually committed more crimes, perhaps many more. It doesn't seem unreasonable to have a limit - anyone who cannot keep to some basic rules of society (do not steal, do not assault other people, do not rape or kill people) and demonstrates that by being caught and convicted multiple times - can be segregated from society by life imprisonment.

I'm not suggesting in this case there are other crimes. I have too little information to know what really happened. As it's being spun (life in prison for stealing a $3 item) it seems ridiculous. But the basic concept that people who repeatedly inflict criminal behavior on others should not be allowed to continue to do so, seems like a good idea to me.
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Old 08-23-2009, 10:57 AM   #8
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I think a dollar spent on prisons is a good deal. Nobody commits just one crime. They're only doing time for the ones they got caught for. And if they're in prison they're not stealing from the rest of us.

I'm quite certain there is more to the story than a $3 pair of socks. It sounds like a plea deal to me.
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Old 08-23-2009, 11:04 AM   #9
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I wonder how health care in prison compares with being on the streets and no health insurance. If you have a serious health problem might it be worth turning into a petty criminal to get some prison time and get your condition treated.

PS - I'm not really serious
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Old 08-23-2009, 11:09 AM   #10
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I wonder how health care in prison compares with being on the streets and no health insurance.
Here is a photo essay to provide some insight...

Photos: A Hospice Program for Prison Inmates | Newsweek National News | Newsweek.com
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Old 08-23-2009, 11:23 AM   #11
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Fascinating - thanks.
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Old 08-23-2009, 01:59 PM   #12
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Three strikes is ridiculous. Sentencing a human being to life imprisonment for some stupid crime like stealing a car might be appropriate under some circumstances, but certainly not in all circumstances. I really like the way 3 strikes takes human capriciousness out of the loop, but a human's life fate is too big a decision to make mechanically, based on a subset of the facts. There needs to be a human being involved, who can weigh factors other than how many strike buckets are filled. Call it a death panel or whatever you want, there needs to be good judgement involved.
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Old 08-23-2009, 03:48 PM   #13
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there needs to be good judgment involved.
Some discretion allowed makes sense. Too much discretion allowed moves us away from the rule of law into the capricious whim of whoever happens to be in power at the time. Are you suggesting replacing three strikes with an inverse parole panel, who gets to decide who stays in jail for life? I can imagine how such a process might avoid setting overly harsh sentences for minor crimes, but I can also imagine crazy plea bargains to hide or downgrade crimes, as well as huge backlash against the panel if people they didn't incarcerate commit additional crimes.

Do you have a concrete proposal for replacing three strikes?
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Old 08-23-2009, 04:41 PM   #14
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Are you suggesting replacing three strikes with an inverse parole panel, who gets to decide who stays in jail for life?
Do you have a concrete proposal for replacing three strikes?
My concrete proposal is the three strikes is repealed, and that judges and juries continue sentencing people as their conscience and the law allows.

I'm about as strong a "rule of law" advocate as they come, but I recognize that the law is not a bright line, and I prefer to err on the side of letting people go free rather than locking them up at taxpayer's expense, when it's not clear.

One thing I did with my Early Retirement is to spend some time at the courthouse watching whatever court cases I could find, to get a sense of how justice works in this country.

The overall conclusion I found was that it's already a pretty arbitrary system; the disposition of most criminal cases doesn't involve jury trials. By far the most common means these cases get settled is plea bargains between a public defender and a DA, neither of which has spent more than a few minutes examining the details of the case. It is very clear to me that justice has very little to do with outcomes; once you are arrested basically you end up either going to jail or getting out on a random technicality based on chance. Out of many dozens of cases I observed, only once did I see someone who actually convinced a judge of their innocence. It seems very common that people get locked up for years based on just a few minutes review by the justice system, which just doesn't seem right to me. I believe it's always better to err on the side of freedom than justice.
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Old 08-23-2009, 05:08 PM   #15
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I kind of like the Texas comedian "Ron Whites" view on the criminal justice system. We have the death penalty and WE use it.
We need more States with that express lane he talks about, if you know what I mean?
That would really save our tax dollars.
I'm mostly joking folks but I really enjoy listening to Ron White, a super funny guy.
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PS. I have given some thought to visiting the Court house and observing cases when I retire.
I've always been big on doing my jury duty.
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Old 08-23-2009, 05:33 PM   #16
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I think a dollar spent on prisons is a good deal. Nobody commits just one crime. They're only doing time for the ones they got caught for. And if they're in prison they're not stealing from the rest of us.
I'm quite certain there is more to the story than a $3 pair of socks. It sounds like a plea deal to me.
Well said.
From the other side of the fence, pun intended, there are 3 prisons within several or more miles of here. 1 is max security for the criminally insane, and 2 are medium security. Full to the brim.
I know some folks who have taken jobs there and commute: some as guards, some as food service, some as office staff, some medical staff, etc.
What little they can say about their place of w*rk and the inmates makes me feel very good that I am on this side of that fence.
Everybody's innocent, right?
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Old 08-23-2009, 07:46 PM   #17
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I think a dollar spent on prisons is a good deal. Nobody commits just one crime. They're only doing time for the ones they got caught for. And if they're in prison they're not stealing from the rest of us.

I'm quite certain there is more to the story than a $3 pair of socks. It sounds like a plea deal to me.
Nah its better to just get up in arms and say how stupid this country is. More shocking and alarming
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Old 08-23-2009, 08:47 PM   #18
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Three strikes is ridiculous. .... There needs to be a human being involved, who can weigh factors other than how many strike buckets are filled.
There is a human involved - the human that decided that they would commit (at least) three crimes in a jurisdiction with a three strikes law.

I never like to think of the government, judge, jury, or society as "sentencing" anyone. The criminals sentenced themselves by committing the crime.

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Old 08-23-2009, 09:25 PM   #19
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The costs (to victims) of leaving career criminals on the street are about four times as much as locking them up.

Locking these people up is a bargain to society in a single case, and incarcerating these people also provides a disincentive to others who might want to follow in their footsteps. Link.

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But we did find a study by Professor Mark Cohen at Vanderbilt University that breaks down the lifetime costs imposed by a career criminal. In a 1998 article, he looked at a target population of chronic juvenile offenders who are assumed to continue a life of crime as an adult. The assumptions used in this study include that a typical adult crime career is six years and the criminal spends nearly eight years in prison. Using 1997 dollars, he concluded that the total external costs of a life of crime range from $ 1. 5 to $ 1. 8 million (Cohen, “The Monetary Value of Saving a High-Risk Youth,” Journal of Quantitative Criminology, Vol. 14, No. 1, 1998).
Using 1997 dollars, Cohen estimated:
1. $ 165,000 in victim costs per year of a criminal's career (about 35% attributable to tangible costs such as lost wages and medical bills and 65% attributable to the value of lost quality of life to victims);
2. the average career criminal annually adds $ 40,000 to the cost of the criminal justice system (including investigation, defense, incarceration, parole, and probation); and
3. the prisoner is not a productive member of society while incarcerated and, based on an average of eight years in prison, the total foregone earnings for a career criminal is $ 60,000 or $ 52,000 in present value terms.
Cohen concluded that juvenile delinquency between age 14 and 17 imposes $ 83,000 to $ 335,000 while an adult career criminal adds $ 1. 4 million. He concluded that the total external costs of a life of crime range from $ 1. 5 to $ 1. 8 million. Of this amount, about 25% is tangible victim costs, 50% lost quality of life, 20% criminal justice costs, and 5% offender productivity losses (Cohen, “The Monetary Value of Saving a High-Risk Youth,” Journal of Quantitative Criminology, Vol. 14, No. 1, 1998).
Now, better still would be preventing these people from getting into trouble in the first place. But, once they've gone down that path (and demonstrated their intent to stay on that path by committing three felonies), it's time for society to take appropriate defensive action. "Three strikes" is relatively new--a reaction to the failure of a system with too much judicial discretion.
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Old 08-23-2009, 09:29 PM   #20
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There needs to be a human being involved, who can weigh factors other than how many strike buckets are filled. Call it a death panel or whatever you want, there needs to be good judgement involved.
Yes, we need humans involved to collect bribes and payola, bring discrimination or reverse discrimination into the process, void any possibility of consistency and allow emotion to rule the day.
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