News


I write about prisons and prisoners a lot, so you might never know that it’s a really hard subject for me to write about, but it is. It’s not just numbers and statistics and information; it’s family. My mom is in prison, on drug charges, and would be much better off in a drug treatment program or in a psych hospital. But, like more than 1% of the adult population in the United States, she is in prison.

It’s even worse here in Texas, which leads the nation in inmate population. This is from Channel 10 in Amarillo:

Tougher state and federal sentencing is one of the main reason for the ballooning prison population. Legal experts say new laws will increase that population because punishment ranges are being extended every year. So people will get longer sentences. But some say it’s a problem that is much more deeply rooted in Texas history. For instance 1 in 9 inmates are of black males. With hispanics being a close second.

“Our system in Texas is absolutely broken that’s why all these people are coming out of prison now on DNA results. In 50 years we’ll look back and we’ll see our system incarcerated lots of innocent people. Former Texas Prison Board Chair Selden Hale said. Hale says he believes the numbers are more like 3 in one hundred blacks that are locked up and 4 and 100 hispanic.

I wonder if anyone really does want to change the current system.  Prisons are big business in the U.S. There is a private corrections industry in addition to the large number of federal, state and local jobs that revolve around guarding, feeding and monitoring prisoners. Someone suggested to me that prisons are our society’s way of NOT dealing with the poor and “stupid” among us.

In California,  

As the costs for fixing the state’s troubled corrections system rocket higher, California is headed for a dubious milestone — for the first time the state will spend more on incarcerating inmates than on educating students in its public universities.

Based on current spending trends, California’s prison budget will overtake spending on the state’s universities in five years. No other big state in the country spends close to as much on its prisons compared with universities.

And that does not take into account how many people are involved in each system. It’s even worse in other states:

Those states are (in order of spending the most proportionally on prisons in 2007): Vermont, Michigan, Oregon, Connecticut and Delaware. The state spending the least on prisons relative to higher education was Minnesota, where for every dollar spent on higher education only 17 cents was spent on corrections. The average for all states was 60 cents, nearly double the 32 cents spent 20 years earlier. Only three states saw gains in spending on higher education, relative to corrections: Alabama, Nevada and Virginia

This link allows you to

Click on a state to see how much its incarceration rate has grown, how its spending on prisons and higher education has changed, what proportion of its prisoners are drug offenders, and the racial disparity between its general and prison populations.

What does all this say about our society?  Nothing good.  Time for us to start thinking about people instead of prisoners, inmates or offenders.  Time to start thinking about helping people with drug problems instead of throwing them in jail for decades.  Time to start treating mental health problems instead of waiting until those problems lead people towards crime.  Time to start acting like a society instead of acting like prison wardens.

So far, Barack Obama has already won Washington State and Nebraska caucuses this weekend, as well as Louisiana and the Virgin Islands. Maine’s caucus results are not yet complete, but this is what MSNBC has so far:

NBC projects Obama will win Maine caucuses

With 59 percent of votes counted, he had 57 percent to Clinton’s 42 percent

NBC News and news services

AUGUSTA, Maine – NBC News projected that Barack Obama has defeated Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Democratic Party’s Maine caucuses on Sunday, a day after sweeping three other states.

Democrats in 420 Maine towns and cities decided how the state’s 24 delegates would be allotted at the party’s national presidential convention in August. Despite the weather, turnout was “incredible,” party executive director Arden Manning said.

With 59 percent of precints reporting, Obama had 57 percent to Clinton’s 42 percent.

And this is from his campaign website:

Image of Barack's profileObama sweeps three states

Sen. Barack Obama swept the Louisiana primary and caucuses in Nebraska and Washington state Saturday night… The Illinois senator also won caucuses in the Virgin Islands, completing his best night of the campaign.

So, if my parents or guardians made me sleep in a room like this

or spend all of my time lying on the floor face down like this …

they would probably get arrested, right?  Either for child abuse or neglect.

But what about if parents outsourced abusing their kids?  What if they sent thm to places where things like THIS take place?

Many who have been there describe a life of pain and fear. They say they spent 13 hours a day, for weeks or months on end, lying on their stomachs in an isolation room, their arms repeatedly twisted to the breaking point.

….

 “You could hear kids screaming when they were getting restrained,” Mr. Bucolo said. “It was horrible. They would do it behind closed doors. And say the kids were lying if they complained.”

What would you say about parents who spent $30,000 to send their kids to this place?  Or what about this one?

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Update below!

Would someone please tell me why the story about Huckabee wanting to change the Constitution and start a theocracy here is NOT in regular newspapers? I am not allowed to use AlterNet or TPM or the blogs as sources for weekly “current events in politics” assignments. And if it isn’t even news for a high school history class, then it’s really not news for the American public!

Here’s what Google News Search had for the search terms huckabee “god’s standards” constitution:

Huckabee Advocates Changing the Constitution to Live By “God’s
AOL News Newsbloggers, VA – 1 hour ago
means what he says, he wants the turn the US into a Christian Taliban state, where we would be ruled by what Mike Huckabee believes is “God’s standards. .

Huck, the Constitution and ‘God’s standards’
MSNBC – Jan 15, 2008
WARREN, Mich. — Huckabee’s closing argument to voters here this evening featured a few new stories and two prolonged sections on illegal immigration and
Huckabee trades God for jobs in Michigan
Guardian Unlimited, UK – Jan 14, 2008
The former Baptist minister Mike Huckabee today discarded the emphasis on conservative social values that propelled him to victory in the Iowa caucuses
Huckabee, 3rd In Michigan, Looks Ahead To So. Carolina
WCPO, OH – Jan 15, 2008
By LIBBY QUAID, AP Writer LEXINGTON, SC (AP) — Mike Huckabee, nursing a second third-place finish in northern states, looked ahead to the South where he

Mike Huckabee Doesn’t Believe in Constitution
Stop the ACLU, PA – Jan 15, 2008
by Jay @ 9:42 pm on January 15, 2008. If I may quote a famouse liberal…”You say you wanna change the Constitution, well you know…we all wanna change your

Why not the New York Times or the Chicago Tribune or a newspaper my teacher accepts as real?!?!? Here’s what Huckabee ACTUALLY said:

“I have opponents in this race who do not want to change the Constitution,” Huckabee told a Michigan audience on Monday. “But I believe it’s a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living god. And that’s what we need to do — to amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards rather than try to change God’s standards so it lines up with some contemporary view.”

He’s a FFFFing candidate for President who has already won a state! Tell me why that this shouldn’t be front page news on all the newspapers this week.

Update: It IS in a real newspaper! Just not in the United States. The UK Guardian has the story.

In tonight’s New Hampshire primary, Hillary Clinton has just been named the winner, but she is only a little bit ahead of Barack Obama. Here are the results as of now:

ELECTION RESULTS

New Hampshire

Democrats Vote %
Clinton 67,828 39%
Obama 62,736 36
Edwards 29,126 17
Richardson 8,212 5
Kucinich 2,478 1
Gravel 240 0
66% reporting

There are 30 delegates from New Hampshire, 22 of which are pledged to specific candidates. So Clinton gets 39% of 22 votes, or 8.58 delegates. Obama’s share is 7.92 delegates and Edwards gets 3.74 delegates. Richardson would receive 1.1 delegates and Gravel and Kucinich none. If all are rounded, then Clinton gets 9, Obama 8, Edwards 4 and Richardson 1.

For Hillary it is great because she was third (by a tiny percentage) in Iowa and because she was not predicted to have this many votes or to win in New Hampshire. But it is not a blow-out. And the race is very far away from being over.

Vaccine  I wrote about this issue once before. I am very glad that I got the vaccine and I hope that other states will do what Texas has done. Health care is more important than scaring girls into being celibate.

Here’s the update:

After controversy, more HPV vaccinations, doctors say

Some pediatricians say last year’s controversy over whether the state should mandate Texas schoolgirls to be vaccinated against the human papillomavirus has translated into more individuals getting the vaccine.

“It’s really kind of an interesting thing – the controversy has really helped us get the word out,” said Chris Turley, vice chair for clinical services at the University of Texas Medical Branch’s Pediatrics Department.

“We really do have moms coming and asking for it. … People forget about the tetanus shot because it’s been around forever, but they come in knowing about this and wanting it for their daughters.”

Since July, Galveston-based UTMB pediatric clinics have been administering about 60 doses a month, Turley said.

Gov. Rick Perry set off a political furor last year by ordering that girls get the vaccine, which protects against a handful of HPV strains that cause cervical cancer. His action irritated conservatives and the Republican-controlled Legislature later undid his executive order.

Texas would have been the first state to require the immunizations.

Since then, the Virginia and New Jersey legislatures passed a school vaccine requirement, according to the National Conference on State Legislatures.

HPV infects about 20 million people in the United States with 6.2 million new cases each year, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Perry’s office said he is pleased his actions have prompted Texas families to talk about the vaccine.

“As the numbers are showing, many girls are being vaccinated, and the governor views that as a positive result of generating this debate in Texas and throughout the nation,” Krista Piferrer said.

Though Perry can’t legally order the HPV vaccine for schoolgirls for at least three more years, Piferrer said he hasn’t given up the fight.

“The governor still believes this is a valuable tool to protect young girls against cancer,” she said.

UTMB pediatrics professor Dr. Martin Myers said there are still some unanswered questions – such as who would pay for the cost of the vaccine and what sort of demand would it create on its manufacturer – that still make the idea of mandating the vaccine premature.

There was a “considerable interest in the vaccine” in 2007, said Jack Sims, immunization branch manager of the Texas Department of State Health Services.

He did not have information about how many Texans were vaccinated last year, but he said the state was collecting that information for the first time in a survey to be released this spring.

 

Victoria Jaramillo, 40, holding her 3-month-old daughter, Frida, at Santa Martha Acatitla, a women’s prison in Mexico City. (Adriana Zehbrauskas for The New York Times)

My mom is in prison and has been for more than years. I have thought a lot about what it would be like if she had never been arrested and how different my life would be if she was out and if she was still my guardian. (My life is WAY WAY better now! I wish she could be in a hospital or a drug rehab, but not here in my house.)

But until I read the article below, I never thought of what it would be like to be in prison with her. (I don’t even like going for an hour to visit.)  The kids in the article are a lot younger than I was when my mom was arrested, and the prison they’re talking about is in Mexico and not in the U.S., but still it has me thinking.

Behind prison bars, toddlers serve time with mom

By James C. Mckinley Jr. MEXICO CITY:
Beyond the high concrete walls and menacing guard towers of the Santa Martha Acatitla prison, past the barbed wire, past the iron gates, past the armed guards in black commando garb, sits a nursery school with brightly painted walls, piles of toys and a jungle gym.

Fifty-three children under the age of 6 live inside the prison with their mothers, who are serving sentences for crimes from drug dealing to kidnapping to homicide. Mothers dressed in prison blue, many with tattoos, carry babies on their hips around the exercise yard. Others lead toddlers and kindergartners by the hand, play with them in the dust or bounce them on their knees on prison benches.

On the one hand, maybe these moms learn to be better parents than my mother was, and maybe there’s less abuse when there are guards and other people around. Also, I am glad the children there have toys to play with and a nursery school. On the other hand, they don’t have any freedom. What an experience!

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