Prison statistics: Is the increase due to drug offenses or something else?

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I’m fascinated with prison. I couldn’t tell you why, but I like to watch documentaries, television shows, and movies about it, and I’m currently reading “Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing (2001, Vintage),” about a correction officer’s one year on the job at Sing Sing prison in Ossining, New York. It’s a dark read. That job doesn’t sound fun AT ALL.

At Fordham University, we have a professor who researches elderly prisoners (of which there are a lot of these days), and it’s very interesting. Here’s an excerpt from a piece she wrote for The Huffington Post:

When 69-year-old Betty Smithey was released from Arizona State Prison last week after serving 49 years for murdering a 15-month-old child, walking with a cane, she gave a face to a population that often goes unnoticed — the aging men and women in our prison system.

With some 246,000 men and women over 50 in America’s overly stretched prison system, should we as a society consider releasing the fragile, the ill, and the dying among these prisoners?

Read the rest here.

Earlier this month, the National Research Council (NRC) released a report about the unprecedented growth in U.S. prisons.

It found that from 1973 to 2009, the prison population grew from about 200,000 to approximately 2.2 million. With this spike, the U.S. now holds close to a quarter of the world’s prisoners, even though it accounts for just 5 percent of the global population.

The report found that “although incarceration rates have risen, crime rates have followed no clear path. Violent crime rose, then fell, rose again and then declined over the 30-plus years tracked in the study.

“The best single proximate explanation of the rise in incarceration is not rising crime rates, but the policy choices made by legislators to greatly increase the use of imprisonment as a response to crime,” the authors note. Since the 1970s, these policies have come to include the war on drugs, mandatory minimums for drug crimes and violent offenses, three-strikes laws and “truth-in-sentencing” mandates that require inmates to serve at least 85 percent of their sentences. [source]

But analysis by a professor at Fordham Law finds fault with the NRC’s report. He says they shouldn’t be counting drug offenses and violent offenses separately, as the increase in “incarceration rates have always been a story about violence,” not drugs.

“Between 1980 and 2009, over 50% of prison growth is due to increases in violent inmates, and only about 22% due to increases in drug offenders,” he writes, adding:

Between 1980 and 1990, state prisons grew by 387,400 inmates, and 36% of those additional inmates were incarcerated for violent crimes. (The math is below if anyone wants to see it.*) Two things stand out here:

The NRC is right that drugs mattered more during the 1980s than after, and that violent crimes played the dominant role in the 1990s and beyond.
But even in the 1980s violent crimes mattered more. Drugs were important, but (by a slight edge) violent crimes even more so. US incarceration rates have always been a story about violence.

Interesting. Read his whole post about this over at PrawfsBlawg.

 

This futurist hit it on the nose!

This seems to be from a German newspaper of some sort circa 1930s (it originally appeared in black and white from what I can find online, yet this Flickr version is in color). All I can say is the artist (a futurist, obviously!) guessed right; we really ARE living in a time when we can see the person we’re having a ‘phone’ conversation with on a small screen … [source] See more by the same futurist artist here. (h/t to Darren Wershler for tipping me off to this via his Twitter feed.)

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Joel Osteen Ministries Teams up With Hundreds of Teens in Bronx, NY for Generation Hope Project®

The NYC area 'Night of Hope' is on Sat. June 7.
The NYC area ‘Night of Hope’ is on Sat. June 7.

I am NOT the type to post inspirational quotes on social media by the Dalai Lama, Joel Osteen, or even Bill Gates. (Ha.) But I will share this cool news (the part about 250 underprivileged kids) coming out of the Osteen camp because this is what it’s all about, in my opinion — spreading love by helping out! That, in itself, is inspiring; no quotes needed. Thanks to the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Press Office for sharing this bit of news.

❤ –Gina

BRONX, N.Y. — On Thursday June 5, Victoria Osteen along with volunteers from The Generation Hope Project®, will take 250 underprivileged children to the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo as a part of the activities surrounding this year’s “America’s Night of Hope,” at Yankee Stadium.

The third annual Generation Hope Project® will focus on mentoring—developing one-to-one relationships with young people who need strong role models. Volunteers will have an opportunity to share time with middle school children who might not normally get the chance to join in on the full zoo experience.

Generation Hope Project® will also work with organizations around the Bronx community on service projects including.

  • WCS’s Bronx Zoo – Volunteers will mentor and take 250 underserved middle-school age children to the zoo.
  • NYC Food Bank in Hunts Point – Packing food boxes to distribute in the community.
  • Community Kitchen & Food Pantry in Harlem – Stocking pantry shelves and food prep.
  • Green Pastures Baptist Church – Major cleanup of Hurricane Sandy damage, organization and rehabilitation of facility.
  • Bronx Christian Fellowship Church – Major cleanup and organization of warehouse, sorting donations, cleaning outside bays and church repair.
  • Latino Pastoral Action Center – Major cleanup of classrooms, painting, donation sorting, participating in children’s school activities.
  • Yankee Stadium Mentoring Baseball Game – Volunteers will accompany mentees and mentors to the game to highlight them and the programs in pre-game activities.

Generation Hope Project® is an outreach of Joel Osteen Ministries that engages young adults from around the country and around the world in service to communities in need. Through partnerships with local leaders, organizations, and other churches, GenHope has provided close to 3,000 hours of volunteer service, reaching thousands through its social media messages and bringing supplies and support to those in need. Learn more at www.generationhopeproject.com.

America’s Night of Hope will be held at Yankee Stadium on June 7, 2014 at 7pm. The event, which coincides with the volunteer projects, will draw more than 55,000 from across the nation for an evening of hope and celebration. This year marks the 6th annual event. The first was held at Yankee Stadium in 2009, then Dodger Stadium, US Cellular Field, Nationals Park, and Marlins Stadium in 2013.  For more information, go to www.joelosteen.com.

Joel and Victoria Osteen are the pastors of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas-America’s largest church with more than 52,000 weekly attendees and one of the nation’s most racially and socioeconomically diverse. Joel’s weekly television program reaches more than 10 million households each week in the US and is seen by millions more in over 100 nations across the globe.

 

Amazing illustrations by Colombian artist, Paola Escobar

Paola Escobar
Paola Escobar

 

Paola Escobar is a graphic artist who lives and works at an advertising agency in Bogotá, Colombia.

My friends over at Colombian art and culture site, Bacánika, turned me onto Escobar and conducted a Q & A with the young artist. When asked about her style, she gave a non-answer that made perfect sense:

How would you describe your style?

“I do not know, I could not describe it, I can hardly do it because in general those who are dedicated to this we are in a constant struggle to find the style, and you will probably never find it. But I always try to leave my essence in all illustrations, through details, as both my childhood and my life were always marked by them. I like to communicate a story and always try to fill my artwork with them. My style has no name.”

See more of Escobar’s work over at Bacánika and at Behance.

Paola Escobar
Paola Escobar

Pablo Escobar, Alf, and E.T., on the Argentine peso

Drawings on the Argentine peso by El Fafero.
Drawings on the Argentine peso by El Fafero.

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Don’t worry, the country isn’t officially paying homage to the likes of Alf. It’s a guerilla (but not viral, considering he’s not using technology) art campaign by Argentine artist, El Fafero.

Other bills feature Diego Maradona, Robocop, and Marlon Brando. Check out El Fafero’s Twitter page here, and the full story (in Spanish) via Mundo Fox.