1 percent of U.S. adults behind bars

For the first time in history, more than one in every 100 American adults is in jail or prison, according to a new report.

How the hell is this possible? I lived in Greek towns for over 20 years (where everyone knew everyone else), and I’ve met or knew from afar about 6,000 people overall. From all these people, I only heard of THREE people getting time in prison. One guy in the ’70s (drugs), one guy in the ’80s (the dumbass killed someone), and a guy in the ’90s (drugs). I mean, this new report shows that 1% of the Americans were in prison in the first month of 2008! I know only of 3 Greek folks from my town who went to prison spanning 3 decades!

I can only say that now that I live in USA, I am glad that I live in the the Silicon Valley area. Truth is, the west bay has very low criminality, as most people here are engineers with good salaries, people who don’t need to go steal or get violent. Elsewhere in the US though, things are not so rosy, indeed. I don’t think I could handle living in NY or LA, to be honest.

No wonder cop shows are so popular in this country. People need to feel some virtual re-assurance that the system works.

9 Comments »

Jim wrote on February 28th, 2008 at 7:36 PM PST:

well, maybe we should be looking at some of our laws and decriminalize some things. The problem is that other countries have drug programs for example that help addicts hold jobs and not steal, but then again, you have Amsterdam and their world famous needle park, but if we could get the drug addicts out of prison in a way that they would not steal that would be a solution. I wonder how many criminals could be responsible on the outside, for example white collar crime that maybe less expensive accommodation. Hard time for real crime maybe should be also looked at in light of the suffering of the tax payer as well.
I have worked with many people that just can’t seem to stay off booze or stay off drugs and so commit vehicle crimes as a result. One friend who recently passed away drove his car and killed someone, spent a year in jail to get out and overdose. Meeting him I would never had guessed he had a drug problem. Clean cut, well spoken no outward drug signs, but think if we want to attach the prison population than start with the drug population. I wonder if with white collar crime they could do alternative time such as teaching on a indian reservation or remote place like Alaska and not allowed off the reservation. Someplace that could take advantage of their education, but yet, might be punishment because of geography. Maybe electronic means and GPS to track their movements and monitor of their communications.
Anyway, who would we direct suggestions to anyway?


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Eugenia wrote on February 28th, 2008 at 8:01 PM PST:

In Greece drug laws are as harsh as in USA. The difference is, very few people do drugs outside of large cities. Families and teachers are making sure they educate the young about the drug dangers. Also, people know everyone else, not leaving much room for social missteps (family honor is still a big thing there). However, people there smoke a lot of cigarettes (I was one of the very few teenagers not smoking).


Ivan wrote on February 28th, 2008 at 10:25 PM PST:

My interpretation:
1) If you privatise prison, it becomes a ‘business’. Any business needs ‘customers’. It’s textbook that customers are created…
2) The percentage of prisoners in a society is a good indicator of the economic prosperity of that society. Looking at these numbers, you could say that the US is collapsing. The gap between the rich and the poor has never been wider. You live in the bay area and are willing to spend $4000 on a television… That says enough. There are millions of Americans who’ll never have that amount of money on there bank account. So in a way, you may not be at the root of all this, but you are certainly part of the problem!


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Eugenia wrote on February 28th, 2008 at 10:28 PM PST:

“I” am not part of the problem. If Google has the money to pay my husband as much as they pay him, then it’s not our problem, neither Google’s. There is a free market you know. JBQ can do things that few engineers can, and so he is paid accordingly.

Economy collapsing is something that happens everywhere anyway, not just in USA. You will have to see the grand scheme of things.


Ivan wrote on February 28th, 2008 at 11:00 PM PST:

Some will argue that the world wide economic recession has its root in Americans overspending… Only this week, the dollar reached a treshold level in the exchange rate against the euro (1.5).
The “I’m not part of the problem” attitude is exactly what I mean with the “gap between the rich and the poor” is getting wider. How much did you give to charity? In Europe, giving for charity is institutionalised, you could say. Up to 50% of MY income goes to taxes (the biggest part to social security, hence ‘charity’). Not so in the US.
(I’m off to work now, but I’ll be happy to continue this dispute tonight!)


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Eugenia wrote on February 28th, 2008 at 11:23 PM PST:

Ivan, we pay taxes just fine, thank you very much. And we are not “rich”. When we got married we were in debt. But JBQ got promotion after promotion, being the amazing individual that he is, and so our financial situation got stabler. The decision to spend $4000 for a TV was not easy, we tried to get a cheaper TV, but being the technical people we are, we decided to spend the extra money to get the best for that is our MAIN entertainment. We debated the matter for 3 months.

And besides, don’t give me that crap about “poor people”. Yes, people are poor. And yes, being poor is ONE of the reasons that can land you eventually in a prison.

But read again carefully my blog post.

I lived in a Greek town where a lot of people were and ARE POOR. In fact, 21% of Greeks today are poor (data released a few days ago, it was on the greek news), and that’s already BETTER than what it used be when I was living there. At a time where we would see the chocolate bar at the shop’s shelf and just imagine how it would taste, not how it actually tastes. And yet, NONE of us stole anything (“us” = my generation). NONE of us started a gang. NONE of us killed or even beat anyone else. NONE of us sold or even used drugs (maybe the most adventurous males might have tried a joint). NONE of us did ANYTHING illegal.

So, trying to say that there is this schism in economy between rich and poor and that’s the only reason why people are in prison in US, is just stupid. There are many other reasons, and culture is one of them. Economy is another. The state of how things are in some neighborhoods is another. The poor education in USA is for me the most important reason. The poor health programmes is another. The problem is not single-dimensional, but it seems to be coming out of badly taught behavior/education if you ask me. In Greece, even the poorest person will work hard to ensure family honor. There is no room for social missteps and so everyone is careful to not fuck it up. But in US, where family values are pretty low in many areas (not everywhere, Utah is a good example of having family values), individuals don’t give a shit if they are unlawful or not. They don’t have the culture to be concerned.

If you want to pick your finger to someone, pick it to Steve Jobs, or to Bill Gates who earn billions (and in fact, Gates does give something back, haven’t heard much about Jobs though). But certainly don’t pick it in the middle-class.


l3v1 wrote on February 29th, 2008 at 2:43 AM PST:

And besides, don’t give me that crap about “poor people”. Yes, people are poor. And yes, being poor is ONE of the reasons that can land you eventually in a prison.

I don’t agree. It’s not being poor that has the most negative effect, it’s the attitude of the gvmnt, of the society overall, and of the people towards those being in the lower half of the economy, and towards wanting to find a solution and close the gap [and as a result those people not being able to see any way out of their situation]. Of course “rich” care less about the situation, they just don’t want to be cut more and more in taxes, they have the possibility to arrange their lives in sorroundings where the problems can reach them harder, and most of them don’t really care about the economical gap between the extremities. Some years spent [not for you, for average americans] in the “good” old socialist-communist countries and the following post-communist economies could lighten up some issues about what such gaps can cause in the long term.

And remember, these issues in themselves won’t make anyone commit anything illegal, but there shouldn’t be no argument about how years of living in such circumstances, daily struggles and the need of constantly dealing with “pityful” financial problems can cause real psychological damage to lots of people who can’t bear to live in those shoes forever. I’d say it isn’t a cause per se, but it can be a contributor.


Stefan wrote on February 29th, 2008 at 9:15 AM PST:

Poor people are everywhere. I grew up behind the iron curtain. The food was rationalized. You had to wait in line for hours for meat or milk, oranges or bananas made a statement when you had them?! But, we had a GOOD education at home and school. And by that I don’t mean math, but common sense and living norms that only parents are able to pass on to their children; these are severely missing in the US. Hence the criminality rate. It’s not the poverty gap, but parenting.


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Eugenia wrote on February 29th, 2008 at 1:35 PM PST:

Stefan: exactly.


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