Tuesday, October 22, 2013

when the crime rate drops

Hal Pepinsky, pepinsky@indiana.edu, “peacemaking” at pepinsky.blogspot.com
October 23, 2013

                That was a featured story throughout the day from the statehouse news bureau of the local NPR station.  Midday, NPR’s “On Point” had featured a report on a private for-profit Ohio youth detention center.  Prisoners there had long since learned how to slip locks on each other’s doors with their id.  Rapes and beatings were routine.
                I think here’s what’s going on:  As the report on life inside the private detention center points out, their records are not subject to public inspection.  That includes employee records.
                The state has in all probability guaranteed that the beds be full.  Since Philip Zimbardo’s famously failed student role play by dividing (and videotaping) students into guards and prisoners, it has become common sense that absolutely private power of guards over prisoners breeds corruption.  And that unless it is called off, it gets bigger.
                The last thing a private government contractor wants to do is to embarrass those in government who helped them get their contract.  You bury problems if you can.
                As a result, violence is probably really out of control among prisoners and those whose livelihoods depend on keeping them in the present and increasingly privatized prisons for young and old.  This has nothing to do with the inherent violence of prisoners sent there.  On the contrary, it is prisoners less likely to make trouble, as much cream as negotiable, the private owner negotiates, most efficiently of all for those locally classified for “medium security.”  It is privatization of the cells and cell blocks that unleashes fear, corruption, and brutality.  It is privatization.
                I keep repeating that reported drops in crime, like those in New York City, are political artifacts, not literal truths.  I keep hoping that among my fellow criminologists and the news media, we will stop assuming that life has gotten better when the crime rate drops.  Love and peace--hal

No comments:

Post a Comment