October 29th, 2014
05:50 PM ET

What I'm reading: Why shrinking prisons is good crime-fighting and good government

By Fareed Zakaria

“The United States today has the highest documented incarceration rate in the world: 743 adults per 100,000 population, or nearly 2.3 million adults, nearly one-quarter of the world’s total prison population,” writes Eric Schnurer in The Atlantic. “More than twice that number are on probation or parole, with more than 70,000 juveniles in detention, as well – roughly one in every 30 Americans is under supervision of some sort, a seven-fold increase since 1980.”


“The singularity of Reagan and his lonely place in the conservative pantheon is put in stark relief by photographs of the 1964 Democratic National Convention, in Atlantic City, where massive portraits of Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, and Lyndon Johnson framed the stage,” writes Jeff Shesol in the New Yorker. “It is impossible to imagine a similar setup at the Republican Convention in 2016. Other than Reagan’s, whose image – among the past century’s Republican Presidents—would be put on display? Coolidge has a cult following (which included Reagan himself); Eisenhower has supporters, but also serious detractors in the Party’s right wing (today as in the nineteen-fifties); George H. W. Bush has garnered enough goodwill and retrospective credit in the years since his Presidency that he might merit inclusion; but none of these men really stir the blood. “Nixon’s the One,” proclaimed bumper stickers and buttons in 1968, but this was only wishful thinking. Reagan was already the one, even if America didn’t know it yet.”


“Tunisia also created its own luck. Nahda’s leaders are a moderate and pragmatic bunch, who have learned from the mistakes of Islamists elsewhere,” The Economist says. “In Egypt Muhammad Morsi alienated many of his compatriots by concentrating power in the Brotherhood’s hands and was toppled by the army. In Tunisia, when post-revolutionary politics appeared close to collapse last year after the murder of two opposition politicians, Nahda agreed to dissolve the three-party government it led and made way for a cabinet of technocrats.”



soundoff (56 Responses)
  1. newageoftruth

    Reblogged this on newageoftruth.

    October 29, 2014 at 6:44 pm | Reply
  2. Blue Saffron

    We still need more prisons. Too many thugs are off too easily.

    October 29, 2014 at 6:49 pm | Reply
    • Blue Saffron

      Here is your moment of sunshine. People know that you don't have the brain power to debate with me. You can pose as me but you won't get far. That is my challenge to you. Now put your tail between your legs and run.

      October 29, 2014 at 8:17 pm | Reply
  3. Ferhat Balkan

    One of the biggest problems with our prison systems is privatization. There's a rule (contract) that says a certain "inmate quota" must be met. What is "inmate quota"? Basically, it states that there must be a certain percentage occupancy. In most cases this quota must be met with 90-100% occupancy. What does that do? Well, when the quota drops, it tends to cause tougher crime legislation such as imprisoning non-violent drug offenders etc. There's also this big misconception that these private prisons save a state so much money. Actually, these prisons are still funded by taxpayer money. Let me give you an example... In Arizona contracts require 100% occupancy, so the state is obligated to keep the prisons full to capacity. Otherwise, if the quota drops below 100%, the state has to pay the private company for any unused beds... So we sit here thinking why is there such a high number of incarceration in the US?

    October 29, 2014 at 7:07 pm | Reply
    • Blue Saffron

      Please refrain from posting misinformation about the privatization program. You got it mostly wrong. You get an A for effort but an F for facts. But I applaud your attempting to delve in this issue.

      October 29, 2014 at 7:54 pm | Reply
      • Ferhat Balkan

        Perhaps if you point out the "misinformation" your accusation would make more sense?

        October 29, 2014 at 8:04 pm |
      • Blue Saffron

        For starters, your premise is wrong. Why blame prisons for crimes committed by human beings. Prisons came about as a result of laws being broken. Bottom of the totem pole.
        The chain of chicken and the egg syndrome is as follows:

        Law formulation by legislature
        Laws being broken
        Law Enforcement

        Once we clear up the premise we can debate the rest till the cows come home.

        October 29, 2014 at 8:13 pm |
      • Ferhat Balkan

        Well, if you read what I wrote, I did not blame the prisons. I blamed "privatization". There is a fundamental flaw with privatization that encourages aggressive law enforcement and imprisonment of non-violent drug offenders. In the long run, this creates overcrowded prisons due to unnecessary tough law legislation and enforcement of minor offences.

        October 29, 2014 at 8:26 pm |
      • Blue Saffron

        Sorry for the delay but my straightforward non controversial posts are being chewed up by filters. Here goes again.
        The goal of privatization is to shift the burden of ownership, operations, financing, design and construction over to the private sector. The premise being that private sector can do it more efficiently and cost effectively.
        Promising 100% occupancy would not only be imprudent business practice, contrary to industry standards but would imply that judiciary is complicit. That would not be a plausible scenario.

        October 29, 2014 at 8:57 pm |
      • Ferhat Balkan

        Indeed, that "implausible" scenario is what's being practiced by our private prisons. Let me give you some examples: Arizona, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Virginia are some of the states who have "locked in" contracts with the highest occupancy guarantee requirements, with quotas requiring between 95% and 100% occupancy.

        October 29, 2014 at 9:24 pm |
      • Blue Saffron

        I doubt that agreements have been signed by govenment guaranteeing any kind of occupancy threshold. If so it would be the most irresponsible act. Obviously, subject to being challenged by public interest groups. These clauses should be rescinded due force majeure, where need be even if the demand is there at the onset. It is just bad business practice. Of course, the question then becomes what the penalty is in case of a default. The two go in tandem.

        October 29, 2014 at 9:47 pm |
      • Ferhat Balkan

        You would be surprised. Here's a Huffington Post news article on the issue if you wish to read up on it:


        October 29, 2014 at 10:04 pm |
      • Blue Saffron

        Thanks. A poorly written article. Occupancy % per se does not seem to the problem 70 – 100%. Let us assume even if some level of occupancy is guaranteed (bad move in my opinion) if the penalty is not defined then it is very difficult to financially analyze the pros and cons of guarantees.

        It costs upwards of $70,000 per bed to house prisoners. That is $7 million per 100 prisoners. Do the math. To operate a 3000 bed facility means $210,000,000 per year.

        October 29, 2014 at 10:22 pm |
      • Ferhat Balkan

        Whether the article is poorly written or not, it brings into light the problem with privatization and contracts that come with it. And guess who pays for the empty beds... You and me, the average citizen who pays the taxes.

        October 29, 2014 at 10:48 pm |
      • Blue Saffron

        Don't believe the article is persuasive or factual enough to bring into light anything. Privatization and contracts are two different elements and mutually exclusive.

        Privatization is a great example of public-private partnerships and the wave of the present and future in all industries. Less government is good and will save you and me and other citizens a ton of tax money. Empty beds does not automatically mean it is costing us money. To the contrary privatization is saving us money. Need to stop counting the tea leaves and look at the big picture.

        October 29, 2014 at 11:06 pm |
      • Ferhat Balkan

        Whether you believe it or not, that is your own preference. When it comes to facts, the article was as factual as facts come. The quota system exists and is a part of private prison systems throughout the country. Everything that was mentioned in the article come from facts. Private prison systems typically enter into contractual agreements. The two "elements" are part of the same system. In this case, quotas drive that system. Since you didn't like the Huffington Post article, let me give you two other articles:



        I can give you many more, but something tells me you only believe your own facts.

        October 29, 2014 at 11:51 pm |
      • Americana

        For the sake of argument let us assume the occupancy guarantee exists. You are fixated on occupancy without understanding what the penalty is if you don't meet that guarantee. Even with paying the penalty the privatization maybe cheaper.

        That is what you need to understand and what these articles don't address.

        The facts presented by these articles are incomplete and inadequate in reaching the conclusions that you have reached.
        You are trying to push a square peg in a round hole. Get it?

        October 30, 2014 at 6:30 am |
      • Blue Saffron


        October 30, 2014 at 6:50 am |
      • banasy©

        The penalty is a guarantee that taxpayer money will be used to ensure the company maintains their profit level for their shareholders. This I see as a problem.

        October 30, 2014 at 10:49 am |
    • Blue Saffron

      I am ready to debate this issue with you extempore. Not after gaps of time while you research my comments. That won't work for me or anybody else. I am ready to respond to you within seconds. I await your response.

      October 29, 2014 at 8:23 pm | Reply
  4. Blue Saffron

    I am not trying to be fastidious but I think soon these prisons will be filled with Indian diaspora. Rajat Gupta, Raj Rajaratnam, Khobragade, Anil Kumar, Amitabh Bachchan, Modi, Gandhi, Manmohan Singh and many others are either in or bound for US jails.

    Yes, I fully expect a push back from my well wishers. I welcome a debate.

    October 29, 2014 at 8:05 pm | Reply
  5. Blue Saffron

    Most of the juveniles in detention are blacks for drug offensives. Most states are now decriminalizing marijuana use.

    October 29, 2014 at 10:04 pm | Reply
  6. Blue Saffron

    I believe that no discussion on the prison system will be complete without a debate on mental health issues both on the prevention side as well as curative aspects. That is the root cause of criminal offenses.

    The mental health program has been seriously degraded in USA for various funding, awareness and medical insurance policy grounds.

    October 29, 2014 at 10:08 pm | Reply
  7. Rosita

    Their are many people out thst should be in jail

    October 29, 2014 at 10:16 pm | Reply
  8. Blue Saffron

    Beyond the discussion on the prison system per se, let us take a step back and peel the onion back upstream of this value added criminal prosecution process (for all except defendants).

    This is my theory. The legal system (legislation, enforcement, judiciary) are big business whether in criminal or civil courts. They feed an industry that caters to the rich. Laws are deliberately framed loosely to leave room for attorneys and law enforcement and judges to milk the system and squeeze money out of the involved parties. The plaintiffs and defendants are kept in a holding pattern to maximize returns to the attorneys/system.

    Once they are done in the court system then the prison system (or probation system) takes over. It is a feeding frenzy bigtime and supports a large industry of parasites ( for lack of a better term).

    October 29, 2014 at 10:30 pm | Reply
  9. Hannah

    Look out. Blue Saffron sukks big long fat indian hindoo dikks

    October 29, 2014 at 10:34 pm | Reply
  10. Cristobol

    Oh yea. Blue Saffron gives good blow..jo.bs in india.
    Such a pro

    October 29, 2014 at 10:36 pm | Reply
  11. Blue Saffron

    As this forum is a witness, we must increase awareness of and funding to mental and substance abuse programs in this USA. Only by doing that will we be able to decrease prison occupancy, encourage good government and jurisprudence.

    October 29, 2014 at 11:14 pm | Reply
  12. Americana

    @Blue Saffron @ Ferhat here is my two cents.

    Yes, America has a good jurisprudence system. Recall how Khobragade the Indian diplomat was arrested and strip searched and India's famous son Rajat Gupta fined and jailed for criminal activities. You break law you get thrown the book at ya. Ya gotta pay your dues. That is the American way. Glad you like America. Enjoy your stay. Rest assured you will be safe here.

    October 29, 2014 at 11:32 pm | Reply
  13. banasy©

    "Arizona, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Virginia are locked in contracts with the highest occupancy guarantee requirements, with all quotas requiring between 95% and 100% occupancy."


    October 29, 2014 at 11:50 pm | Reply
    • Ferhat Balkan

      Thank you

      October 29, 2014 at 11:53 pm | Reply
    • Americana

      The Huffington Post article contradicts this occupancy % requirement. Even if true it is irrelevant without considering what the penalty would be if you don't deliver this occupancy.

      October 30, 2014 at 6:36 am | Reply
      • banasy©

        The penalty is that there is a guarantee that the private company would maintain their level of profit whether or not there are people occupying the beds; this is at taxpayer's expense.

        October 30, 2014 at 11:24 am |
    • Americana

      Keep on peeling the onion back to get to the right answer. You have not even reached first base yet. Assuming that your statement is true (which I don't think it is) why do you think that is the case?

      Btw India has a raipe every 2 seconds. Highest in the world!

      October 30, 2014 at 6:46 am | Reply
      • Americana

        My post is in response to @Joseph's assertion of 12:40

        October 30, 2014 at 6:48 am |
    • banasy©

      http://www.inthepublicinterest.org/sites/default/files/Criminal-Lockup Quota-Report.pdf

      October 30, 2014 at 10:50 am | Reply
  14. Joseph McCarthy

    The reason we have the highest incarceration rate in the world is because we have the highest crime rate in the world. It's as simple as that!

    October 30, 2014 at 12:40 am | Reply
    • Americana

      Refer to my 6:46 post for enlightenment.

      October 30, 2014 at 6:47 am | Reply
  15. Blue Saffron

    I think messrs Ferhat/banasy/Joseph et al (assuming they are different for the sake of argument) should read up on Ex Congressman Patrick Kennedy's position on this matter re; mental health issues and legalization of drugs both causes of crimes and incarceration in this country. It adds to a good debate.

    Therefore it is my thesis that to address prisons in this country you need to address mental health issues in America. Right now prisons are being used to treat people with mental health issues that lead to crime.

    October 30, 2014 at 7:01 am | Reply
    • Blue Saffron

      The mental health issues are caused by use of drugs in majority of cases.

      October 30, 2014 at 7:03 am | Reply
  16. Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©

    If privatization results in abuses of quota systems, it is those abuses that should be addressed, not the existence of prisons or laws.
    Complaints that some felons are imprisoned "just for drugs" should not lead to condonation of crimes related to drugs.
    Also, youthful criminals' illegal actions are not rendered condonable by youth.

    October 30, 2014 at 8:20 am | Reply
    • banasy©

      The problem is the quota system itself. Taxpayers should not have to guarantee any private company make a profit for their shareholders.

      October 30, 2014 at 10:53 am | Reply
      • Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©

        How clever of you, banasy, to adjust the focus to taxpayers.
        To me, taxpayers are the only ones who can support prisons, as prisons are not popular with criminals. In a referendum, criminals would vote for eliminating most prisons.
        I differ from my fellow citizens who rush to see issues from the POV of the poor, oppressed crooks.

        October 31, 2014 at 7:02 am |
      • Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©

        Of course, privatization of prisons does not help me. The government's building of enough prisons to hold our impressive group of felons is fine with me.
        We hear constant calls for "jjobs, jobs," and making work by building more prisons would make jobs for folks who can push wheelbarrows or even lay bricks.
        We do need a lot of good, strong prisons, because we have a lot of terrible criminals who need incarceration.

        October 31, 2014 at 9:21 am |
  17. Todd

    Yes, Fareed we Americans are bad and throw everyone in prison. Obviously we don't let raypists go scott free as you people do in India! Is that part of your religion? Karma, eh?
    If you don't like it here move back.

    October 30, 2014 at 9:10 am | Reply
  18. Todd

    FYI, Fareed. Should have been put in prison.
    WASHINGTON: An Indian-American priest who admitted to fondling a girl while attending dinner at her grandmother's home in Minnesota has been sentenced to 25 years of supervised probation, according to media reports.

    October 30, 2014 at 9:30 am | Reply
  19. Blue Saffron


    "More than half of prisoners in the United States have a mental health problem, according to a 2006 Justice Department study. Among female inmates, almost three-quarters have a mental disorder.

    In the jail here, some prisoners sit on their beds all day long, lost in their delusions, oblivious to their surroundings, hearing voices, sometimes talking back to them. The first person to say that this system is barbaric is their jailer.

    “It’s criminalizing mental illness,” the Cook County sheriff, Thomas Dart, told me as he showed me the jail, on a day when 60 percent of the jail’s intake reported that they had been diagnosed with mental illness. Dart says the system is abhorrent and senseless, as well as an astronomically expensive way to treat mental illness — but that he has no choice but to accept schizophrenic, bipolar, depressive and psychotic prisoners delivered by local police forces."

    Nichas Kristof: NYTimes

    October 30, 2014 at 9:48 am | Reply
    • Blue Saffron

      We are criminalizing mental illness.

      October 30, 2014 at 9:50 am | Reply
    • banasy©

      Although I agree, privatization of our prisons do nothing to address this, either.

      October 30, 2014 at 10:55 am | Reply
    • banasy©

      Here is the article Blue Saffron is referencing:

      It is important to note that since the closing of many mental health facilities as a cost-cutting measure by Reagan in the 80's, the treatment options has significantly became scarcer for the patients in the article.
      It is also important to note that Cook County is a jail, not a prison; I find it outrageous that CCJ is willing to address these concerns whereas our inadequate mental health systems are not.

      It is a disgrace.

      October 30, 2014 at 11:19 am | Reply
      • Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©

        Don't blame Reagan.
        When mental health facilities were being closed, I had arguments with social workers who advocated for the mentally ill, insisting that the ill needed to live in the community, not in facilities.

        October 31, 2014 at 7:12 am |
  20. Wisdom Tooth

    Modi wants to broom clean India. Shouldn't he be flushing himself down the toilet first? Cleanliness is next to Godliness. LOL. Get the picture?

    October 30, 2014 at 6:29 pm | Reply
  21. Rendezvous With Destiny

    Just landed in Liberia from India !!!!! THANK GOD !!!! Kissed the ground in Monrovia. Checking into a hospital for Ebola.
    Never again will I go to India ever again. EVER!!!

    It is absolutely terrible there beyond words. People are beyond belief neanderthals and sooooo many of them. Raiping everything that moves including but not limited to water buffaloes and camels,

    October 30, 2014 at 6:54 pm | Reply
  22. chri§§y

    I am in total agreement with @ banasys 10:53 post yesterday! As for the mental health issue, we can all read many of the posts on these blogs to see that the change was a resounding failure!!!

    October 31, 2014 at 12:49 pm | Reply
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