The Criminal Justice war on poor people

Our criminal justice system’s war on poor people is just so completely out of control.  It has to stop.  And yet, I imagine the vast majority of Americans have not the slightest clue how bad this is.  That too, needs to change.  The problem is there’s no great video moment of a poor person literally financially harassed into prison time.  Peter Coy in Bloomberg:

When you’re convicted of a crime in America, it’s not just prison time you may face—there are fines, fees, and other cash penalties, too. And when you get out, they’ll be waiting. Plus interest.

The plight of “Kathie” symbolizes everything that’s wrong with this system, one that heaps a debt burden onto ex-convicts who don’t have the means to pay. Kathie (a pseudonym) was a 49-year-old ex-convict at the time University of Washington sociologist Alexes Harris interviewed her in 2009. She was sharing a three-bedroom home with three of her four children, her estranged husband, and his father.

Kathie left prison owing $11,000, but the sum had grown to $20,000 because of collection surcharges, private collection fees, and a 12 percent interest rate. She had a low-paying job that didn’t leave her a prayer of paying off the whole sum. “It seems like one of those challenges that are insurmountable,” she told Harris. “It’s like a paraplegic trying to climb Mount Everest.”

Harris writes about Kathie and other hard-luck cases in Pound of Flesh: Monetary Sanctions as Punishment for the Poor, a book set to be published next month by the Russell Sage Foundation. Legal debt, Harris writes, “represents the difference between being housed or unstably housed, taking daily AIDS medication or going untreated, accessing or failing to access a public shower if homeless, and being free to move forward someday into a healthier relationship or remaining in an abusive one.”

“The story of my research—the story that must be told—is that our 21st century criminal justice system stains people’s lives forever,” she writes. “The permanent stain results not just from a criminal conviction and the related societal stigma but also from the financial debt, constant surveillance, and related punishment incurred by monetary sanctions.”
So wrong.  So much change is needed.  Maybe after we get the police brutality problem licked?
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Quick hits (part II)

Criminal justice heavy version, but that happens when I’m teaching a course on something.

1) Pretty awesome smackdown of right-wing Christian hypocrisy from Samantha Bee.

2) John Cole with an angry take on angry Bernie supporters:

I’ll just repeat what I said this morning- Bernie voters are like college students who want their current grade changed because they didn’t read the syllabus, or because their GPA is important, or because they thought they did better, or they don’t think the rubric on an assignment is fair, or because they worked really hard and are convinced they deserve a better grade.

I’d also point out that all of this is in contrast to the 2016 Clinton campaign, which is the photo-negative of the 2008 shitshow fail parade that we all endured. The Clinton team has been on point the entire time. There haven’t been stupid misstatements, her surrogates haven’t been running around saying stupid things about Guam or that black votes don’t count, there hasn’t been anything that reminds me of 2008 from them. They’ve run an serious, sober, meticulous 50 state campaign, and this as much as anything is why they are winning. They haven’t been flawless, but compared to the Bernie Sanders butthurt amateur hour, it’s been the best campaign this century. She is a much better candidate this time around.

I am so sick and tired of the Bernie or bust crowd and their bullshit. You don’t get points for introducing new voters when you spend the entire campaign telling them their vote doesn’t count and they got screwed and the system is corrupt just because you aren’t getting your way.

3) Megyn Kelly completely caves to Trump.

4) Man, is Venezuela totally screwed.  I feel so bad for the people there.

5) Yes, Opioid addiction is a real problem.  But it’s not quite what everybody thinks.  A nice post exploding some myths

The risk of addiction also has been exaggerated. According to NSDUH, those 259 million painkiller prescriptions in 2012 resulted in about 2 million cases of “dependence or abuse,” or one for every 130 prescriptions. A recent study by Castlight Health estimated that 4.5 percent of people who have received opioid prescriptions qualify as “abusers,” and its definition, based on the amount prescribed and the number of prescribers, probably captures some legitimate patients as well.

According to NSDUH, only a quarter of people who take opioids for nonmedical reasons get them by obtaining a doctor’s prescription. Hence the sequence that many people imagine—a patient takes narcotics for pain, gets hooked, and eventually dies of an overdose—is far from typical of opioid-related deaths.

6) I’ve really loved this series on how to improve college teaching.  Definitely going to have to buy this guy’s book.  This one, which applies well beyond the college classroom, is about repeated learning over time to obtain long-term mastery.

7) Due to Constitutionally inhumane overcrowding in its prisons, California reduced it’s prison population 17%.  All the law and order types predicted a horrible crime wave.  Nope, crime is basically no worse.  Over-incarceration anybody?

8) And while we’re at it, the naysayers predicted all sorts of doom for Colorado legalizing marijuana.  Again, not so much bad stuff.

9) Speaking of marijuana, those working most strongly against it’s legalization in California?  Police and prison guard interest groups.  Are they that concerned about the scourge of legal marijuana users?  Of course not.  They are concerned about a huge cash cow drying up.

10) Fascinating research on how men versus women are judged and rewarded for their appearance.  Maybe I’ll top showering :-).

They found that a substantial amount of attractiveness was the result of grooming, and here’s where they found gender differences, Wong says. “For women, most of the attractiveness advantage comes from being well groomed. For men, only about half of the effect of attractiveness is due to grooming.”

In other words, the study suggests that grooming is important for both men and women in the workplace, but particularly for women. Changes in grooming have a substantial effect on whether women are perceived as attractive, and their salaries. In fact, as the charts below show, less attractive but more well-groomed women earned significantly more, on average, than attractive or very attractive women who weren’t considered well-groomed.

11) Oh, man, way back in the day, Print Shop was about the coolest software there was.

12) Josh Marshall on the ease of getting under Trump’s skin:

Today is quite a good day for the Democrats. Why? Because it shows how easy it was for Priorities USA, the pro-Hillary SuperPac (originally a pro-Obama SuperPac), to hurt Trump with a very focused strike on his immense vulnerability with women. But more than that, they clearly got under his skin. Trump’s been on Twitter raging non-stop all morning about how he was “misquoted” in the Priorities attack ad. I discussed whether he was ‘misquoted’ here. Basically he wasn’t. But, Good Lord buddy, good luck with whining about a SuperPac being mean.

Trump and Trump’s campaign know that he’s toxic to women for numerous reasons. Getting hit on this gets him mad – mad and undisciplined. No one likes a whiner.

I suspect that SuperPacs in Hillary’s orbit, seeing this, will run more ads which are a bit unfair, which push the margins, just to get inside Donald’s head like this.

 

13) Great piece from Vox’s Dara Lind on the relationship between Ferguson and related protests and the possibly-related increase in crime.

14) Open tab for too long– why are highly educated Americans getting more liberal?

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