09 November 2010

the upside of destitution

[click image]


I think a bunch of pundits missed the punchline in this editorial:
... “Welfare as we know it’’ was replaced by punishment. States went prison-crazy.

But the current fiscal crisis has blown a hole through all that razor-wire. State budgets suddenly cannot afford prison systems, which universally choke off funds for education, transportation, and infrastructure. Some states, like California, consider simply releasing prisoners because jail time in mega-prisons costs too much. And, equally suddenly, the whole system has become morally dubious as well. While a famously over-exuberant economy was built on the lies of bankers tied to an artificially inflated housing sector, the prison boom depended on racist and class-biased “criminology’’ that was, in fact, steadily debunked by penal experts. Just as irrational assumptions of “risk assessment’’ prompted mortgage brokers to understate the risks of home ownership, they led prosecutors, in a parallel noted by Berkeley law professor Jonathan Simon, to grossly overstate the risks to society of huge numbers of defendants. The housing bubble, Simon shows, devastated neighborhoods by littering them with abandoned properties. The prison bubble devastated neighborhoods by depriving them of fathers and husbands.

The American double-binge has come to an end. In Simon’s image, the era of the “big house’’ is over, whether the McMansion in the suburbs or the mega-prison in a field....
Too busy gloating over the figures in the first half to notice.

love, 99

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