« Oh Danny Boy, the pipes, the pipes are frozen | Main | Yes, what should America do with its high-risk detainees? »

February 22, 2015

Comments

It's a moving piece.

TNC is writing on a high plane at the moment. The Malcolm X essay is great, too (and will doubtless spark a fierce debate):


http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/05/the-legacy-of-malcolm-x/308438/?single_page=true
I had spent the past two years in voracious reading about the Civil War. Repeatedly, I found myself confronting the kind of white Americans—Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses Grant, Adelbert Ames—that black consciousness, with some merit, would have dismissed. And yet I found myself admiring Lincoln, despite his diatribes against Negro equality; respecting Grant, despite his once owning a slave and his advocacy of shipping African Americans out of the country. If I could see the complexity in Grant or Lincoln, what could I see in Malcolm X?

As a proven, certified knucklehead, I wish I had found David Carr early in life and let him have at kicking my ass.

It reminds me of Carr's own words:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/20/magazine/20Carr-t.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

I think one of the things that I find remarkable about Carr (yes, many others have remarked on this), was how honest he was about his dishonesty, so to speak. In other words, he seemed incredibly self aware of how we all lie to ourselves:

If I said I was a fat thug who beat up women and sold bad coke, would you like my story? What if instead I wrote that I was a recovered addict who obtained sole custody of my twin girls, got us off welfare and raised them by myself, even though I had a little touch of cancer? Now we’re talking. Both are equally true, but as a member of a self-interpreting species, one that fights to keep disharmony at a remove, I’m inclined to mention my tenderhearted attentions as a single parent before I get around to the fact that I hit their mother when we were together. We tell ourselves that we lie to protect others, but the self usually comes out looking damn good in the process.

While I respect that greatly, I also come away his story with a sense of contrast to how Carr is treated any number of other people in society. Carr was someone who had 2nd, 3rd, and 4th chances. While he ultimately made good, he should serve as a reminder to us of the people we never extend 2nd chances to, but instead shun at best, or worst let rot in prison.

None of this should be construed as a criticism of Carr. Indeed, quite the opposite. I'm a firm believer in rehabilitation and redemption, and I think Carr is an excellent example of how that can not only benefit the individual, but society as a whole.

And one of the great flaws in our current society is how we have worked, hard, to prevent people from getting second chances, let alone more. What else can you say about very long minimum sentences for relatively trivial drug possession offenses? About three strikes laws which can count trivial as third strikes?

Not to mention prisons which offer nothing to help prisoners learn how to do something other than crime once they are released. But lots of opportunities to network with other, and worse, criminals.

Slowly, we seemm to be figuring out that the "tough on crime" approach has been counter-productive -- unless you are a prison guard, especially a prison guard union leader. But nowhere near fast enough.

And one of the great flaws in our current society is how we have worked, hard, to prevent people from getting second chances

I would say we've worked hard to make sure some people get 2nd chances, and others do not.

unless you are a prison guard, especially a prison guard union leader.

I've met a few prison guards. I can't say its productive for them, it actually seemed pretty damaging. Although they did have good compensation. I can't speak to their union leaders.

By "productive" for them I meant the guards get good wages, for a job which requires minimal skills. And no danger of getting RIFted, because we have focused on building prisons, not on rehabilitating prisoners so they won't end up spending their entire lives in the exapanding prison population.

wj:

Yes, I agree. I apologize if I came off brusque, I jotted off the post quickly.

While I think everything you say is correct, I just want to emphasize that often the "winners" of our policies are not always winners.

In the case of prison guards, I've only met a few, but they've all been damaged by the experience.

No worries.

That the guards are damaged is unsurprising. From all accounts, it is a work environment which does nobody any psychological good at all -- neither prisoners nor guards.

Corrections damages the people on both sides of the bars, yes. If there are "winners" with our prison policies, it's corporate jackals picking up contracts at the state and local level, not the grunt correctional officers who walk the tiers.

(I should point out that I've known some correctional officers who did not seem at all damaged by the experience, but they were very strong individuals, psychologically speaking, and they were operating in the comparatively tame military system - though that also included tours of duty in e.g. Gitmo and Bagram, so even if the "downtime" in stateside prisons wasn't as awful as it could be, it doesn't mean theirs was an easy experience. Also, even in that more civilized system, you could see plenty of damage being done none the less...)

wj: I agree with the thrust of your comment, but this rankled: ...especially a prison guard union leader.

I fail to see the relevance of "union" wrt the issue at all.

1. If you have more prisoners, you will have more guards, union or not.
2. More prisons helps the prison construction industry.
3. More prisons means more administrators, but you did not say "especially prison administrators". Why not?
4. Privatization (NV comment above).
5. The denigration of "high pay" with "low skills" is a dead giveaway of a lamentable form of bias when it comes to economics. Sure, one could launch a diatribe against "monopoly" or "barriers to entry", but the application of this principle by most is, let us say, rather uneven.

What a great piece, thanks LJ.

As a proven, certified knucklehead, I wish I had found David Carr early in life and let him have at kicking my ass.

I can't even tell you how many times I want to second this.

Blessed is the man who somehow dope-slaps the knucklehead into awareness.

Carr was, apparently, quite a guy.

Who will be our champion, now?

Look in the mirror, TNC.

As a proven, certified knucklehead, I wish I had found David Carr early in life and let him have at kicking my ass.

Coates was a lucky guy. So what do we take from this? We need more luck? Or more ass-kicking?

Knuckleheads unite.

bobby, maybe California just has particularly noxious prison guards union officials. But from what I have seen here, they are even more about ridiculously high pay for their members than of the other public sector unions. And do really well financially for themselves out of their positions.

And they are routinely in the forefront of demands for more and longer prison sentences, whenever the issue arises. Even though we have spent the huge amounts on the 33 prisons we already have, and are spending billions to build more. And we have almost 10,000 inmates currently in prisons in other states to relieve overcrowding. But we need longer sentences (to build up the prison population more)!

What is it in American culture that loves a repentant sinner, a reformed character more than anything else? Any pointers appreciated.

(I personally have a problem with guys like him)

Any pointers appreciated.

I note the preponderance of self-described former knuckleheads on this very thread as a possible pointer.

To a greater degree than we might like to acknowledge, we're a nation made up of and/or descended from people who felt the need, for whatever reason, to get out of town and go somewhere else.

The United States of second chances.

Novakant, do you mean Carr or Coates? Or both?

Coates was a lucky guy. So what do we take from this? We need more luck? Or more ass-kicking?

We need compassion for others. That seems more lacking today than anything else.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Blog powered by Typepad