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Workable Prisons


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Wherein we shall discuss the morality of concentrated offenders being placed under the supervision of bodies dedicated to the pursuit of capital gain at the taxpayer's expense without regard to rehabilitation.

Really, and I'm actually serious here, I contend that it would be infinitely more justifiable to force hard labor in service of the state than to hold the taxpayer hostage against individual gain for the 'service' of housing supposedly dangerous entities.

Setting aside entirely the abhorrent practices of incarceration in this supposed 'republic' for the opening post, but I don't see why discussion of one of the principal drivers towards the 'need' for such things as prison profiteering would be out of bounds.

@DMC 's thread idea.

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I mean the 8th amendment doesn't even seem to prevent people from being put in situations where it is very likely they will be raped and assaulted to begin with.  Jail, as a concept and a practice going back thousands of years just doesn't really seem to work very well.  Not sure there's much to say here but for profit prisons pretty much check all the boxes of the worst things about the criminal justice system in this country.

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Foucault and Discipline and Punish is eventually going to be mentioned, so let's dispense with it now.  Here's the Sparknotes.  Foucault's larger point, or at least how I always took it, is that the beginning of mass incarceration epitomized the centralization - and domination - of government.  Now, with private companies doing it?  Honestly, it wouldn't be out of line to call that classist warfare.

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4 minutes ago, DMC said:

Foucault and Discipline and Punish is eventually going to be mentioned, so let's dispense with it now.  Here's the Sparknotes.  Foucault's larger point, or at least how I always took it, is that the beginning of mass incarceration epitomized the centralization - and domination - of government.  Now, with private companies doing it?  Honestly, it wouldn't be out of line to call that classist warfare.

I don't find that sentiment disagreeable at all. Especially when considering the facilities wealthy people get to go to by default. I'm not joking when I say I've fantasized about how nice some of those things look. They get three meals a day they don't have to cook, no booze to tempt, and tennis? Holy shit, I have to pay money for that kind of experience. 

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Oh, yeah, I get your point.  My point is what Foucault was ultimately trying to depict in his research is this was a demonstration of how centralized, elite government could and would control all of us.  That's his underlying theme.  And, considering our intelligence agencies, he was exactly right.  My point about it becoming classist warfare is it's now just not the government elitists - which is at least comprised of elected officials and career bureaucrats - but private companies that are incarcerating and subjugating the poor, and particularly young minority males.  THAT is classist warfare.

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10 minutes ago, DMC said:

Oh, yeah, I get your point.  My point is what Foucault was ultimately trying to depict in his research is this was a demonstration of how centralized, elite government could and would control all of us.  That's his underlying theme.  And, considering our intelligence agencies, he was exactly right.  My point about it becoming classist warfare is it's now just not the government elitists - which is at least comprised of elected officials and career bureaucrats - but private companies that are incarcerating and subjugating the poor, and particularly young minority males.  THAT is classist warfare.

I feel ya, sorry. I was just being glib. Didn't mean to derail the young thread or undermine your post. It's a personal weakness. I agree wholeheartedly and have nothing but idle humor and apologies to offer.

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On 7/9/2019 at 6:38 PM, DMC said:

Foucault and Discipline and Punish is eventually going to be mentioned, so let's dispense with it now.  Here's the Sparknotes.  Foucault's larger point, or at least how I always took it, is that the beginning of mass incarceration epitomized the centralization - and domination - of government.  Now, with private companies doing it?  Honestly, it wouldn't be out of line to call that classist warfare.

oh yeah, absolutely. i’m sure it’s a great surprise to hear me say this, but i’d even say a bit of an understatement. and not sure if it was intentional, but this thread title is pretty good if not grimly sick joke, as one of the especially gross aspects to this is the use of prisoners as slave labor 

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29 minutes ago, a good and nice guy said:

oh yeah, absolutely.

Oh, I think the grim joke was intentional.  Anyway, this thread died rather instantly.  Talk about something no one wants to talk about.

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2 minutes ago, Jace, Basilissa said:

Most things I touch end up dying. Why they still let me see patients is beyond me.

Until Chief breaks that window and escapes, you've done a great job handling the institution.

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what strikes me about the panopticon section of discipline and punish is less the state control and prison conditions than the argument that the mechanisms of domination circulate in an allegedly 'free' society. this part of the analysis applies irrespective of ownership patterns--and becomes more salient as the circulation manifests in private life or civil society.  keystroke and web browser monitoring at private employer work-stations, for instance, is within the ambit of betham's political dream, as foucault designates it (the combination of the political dream of the plague and the political dream of the leper).

 

without regard to rehabilitation

the US kinda rejected menningerian ideas on punishment, opting instead for an incoherent mix of kantian and benthamite justifications for the practice of locking away for years and years political offenders such as petty thieves and marihuana smokers and those who step over arbitrary lines on a map, inter alia.

 

 8th amendment doesn't even seem

and the 13th amendment very specifically permits involuntary servitude for convicted criminals. this means that slave labor camps for private industry, like auschwitz, are constitutional. beware anyone therefore who recommends the US constitution as a refuge.

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In Chile we have the US prison model, lots of private "institutions" and a very high prison population in horrible conditions (we had a tragedy, where there was a fire in one of our prisons and 81 people died, and most of them where serving time over nothing, like drug posession and such.). And its supper clear that prisons are inevitably affected by class. For example, people who have been convicted for crimes agains humanity (very few people have being convicted), have their own jail, with benefits that "normal" prisoners only dream off, and this people killed and tortured "el pueblo". People who where convicted of white collared crime also had their own prison until recently.

It is very clearly a method of class control. 

Here is a link with some information on chile's prison system (in english). https://www.insightcrime.org/news/brief/report-details-prison-woes-in-chile/

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On 7/9/2019 at 7:38 PM, DMC said:

Foucault and Discipline and Punish is eventually going to be mentioned, so let's dispense with it now.  Here's the Sparknotes.  Foucault's larger point, or at least how I always took it, is that the beginning of mass incarceration epitomized the centralization - and domination - of government.  Now, with private companies doing it?  Honestly, it wouldn't be out of line to call that classist warfare.

Nope, this is not right at all. Foucault's point was always about power being diffuse, not centralized. Power is used broadly through policies and cultural shifts in belief. The power viewed in prisons is replicated throughout society in the design of hospitals, schools, etc., but this is not the government's centralized doing. Multiple groups, factions, institutions converged to create this system of power which is diffuse because it has no centrality in origin or in how it continues to shift and grow.

This may not be something you personally agree with (not that this isn't Foucault's argument, it is his argument, but you might not agree with his argument), but Foucault definitely shifted away from arguments about centralized power, and Discipline and Punish came during this latter era of his work. I'd recommend reading the work, not Sparknotes. Foucault is difficult enough without the misreadings of Sparknotes authors further obfuscating the point. The panopticon itself is illustrated as how diffuse power actually is. How people behave when they believe they're being watched.

An honest discussion about U.S. prisons has to start by looking at how horribly ineffective they are, at how effective other countries are (Norway), and why (capitalism and profit) we refuse to change.

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5 hours ago, sologdin said:

for the practice of locking away for years and years political offenders such as petty thieves and marihuana smokers and those who step over arbitrary lines on a map, inter alia.

And thus the adoption of mandatory minimums for non-violent offenders.

3 hours ago, Simon Steele said:

I'd recommend reading the work, not Sparknotes.

LOL, like I said, that was my interpretation - and the interpretation of both professors running the two grad seminars I read it in, one of which was one of the smartest people I've ever met (he passed away shortly after I took the class) and the other is now a full professor and a leading voice on modern political theory.  Not to mention it was the consensus of both classes in terms of my cohorts.  Anyone's free to interpret it differently of course, but I guess we all just read the Sparknotes and weren't aware of your ultimate authority on the subject.

You could read it either way in terms of "centralization" though, I agree there.  For instance:

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It was not so much, or not only, the privileges of justice, its arbitrariness, its archaic arrogance, its uncontrolled rights that were criticized; but rather the mixture of its weaknesses and excesses, its exaggerations and its loopholes, and above all the very principle of this mixture, the 'super-power' of the monarch. The true objective of the reform movement, even in its most general formulations, was not so much to establish a new right to punish based on more equitable principles, as to set up a new 'economy' of the power to punish, to assure its better distribution, so that it should be neither too concentrated at certain privileged points, nor too divided between opposing authorities; so that it should be distributed in homogeneous circuits capable of operating everywhere, in a continuous way, down to the finest grain of the social body.a The reform of criminal law must be read as a strategy for the rearrangement of the power to punish, according to modalities that,render it more regular, more effective, more constant and more detailed in its effects; in short, which increase its effects while diminishing its economic cost (that is to say, by dissociating it from the system of property, of buying and selling, of corruption in obtaining not only offices, but the decisions themselves) and its political cost (by dissociating it from the arbitrariness of monarchical power). [80-81]

Emphasis mine.  So, regardless of how you take that in terms of centralization, it's certainly about efficiency.  And generally, governments, institutions, and firms at least believe the most efficient distribution of power is centralization.  Then there's this:

Quote

It must be possible to hold the prisoner under permanent observation; every report that can be made about him must be recorded and computed. The theme of the Panopticon - at once surveillance and observation, security and knowledge, individualization and totalization, isolation and transparency - found in the prison its privileged locus of realization. Although the panoptic procedures, as concrete forms of the exercise of power, have become extremely widespread, at least in their less concentrated forms, it was really only in the penitentiary institutions that Bentham's utopia could be fully expressed in a material form. In the 1830s, the Panopticon became the architectural programme of most prison projects. It was the most direct way of expressing 'the intelligence of discipline in stone' (Lucas, I, 69); of making architecture transparent to the administration of power12 of making it possible to substitute for force or other violent constraints the gentle efficiency of total surveillance of ordering space according to the recent humanization of the codes and the new penitentiary theory: 'The authorities, on the one hand, and the architect, on the other, must know, therefore, whether the prisons are to be based on the principle of milder penalties or on a system of reforming convicts, in accordance with legislation which, by getting to the root cause of the people's vices, becomes a principle that will regenerate the virtues that they must practice' (Baltard, 4-5). In short, its task was to constitute a prison-machine with a cell of visibility in which the inmate will find himself caught as 'in the glass house of the Greek philosopher' (Harou-Romain, 8) and a central point from which a permanent gaze may control prisoners and staff. [249-250]

Again, emphasis mine.  So, clearly, Foucault is employing Bentham's panopticon as a metaphor for constant surveillance and totalitarianism of knowledge on behalf of the government.  If you don't want to call that centralization, fine, but if you don't think it's a clear symbol and warning for the state of the current conduct of our intelligence agencies and general methodology of national governments, I recommend you stop reading any work because you have no comprehension whatsoever.

ETA:  Here's a link to a PDF of the book, which is how I was able to c+p those quotes so quickly.

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1 hour ago, DMC said:

And thus the adoption of mandatory minimums for non-violent offenders.

LOL, like I said, that was my interpretation - and the interpretation of both professors running the two grad seminars I read it in, one of which was one of the smartest people I've ever met (he passed away shortly after I took the class) and the other is now a full professor and a leading voice on modern political theory.  Not to mention it was the consensus of both classes in terms of my cohorts.  Anyone's free to interpret it differently of course, but I guess we all just read the Sparknotes and weren't aware of your ultimate authority on the subject.

You could read it either way in terms of "centralization" though, I agree there.  For instance:

Emphasis mine.  So, regardless of how you take that in terms of centralization, it's certainly about efficiency.  And generally, governments, institutions, and firms at least believe the most efficient distribution of power is centralization.  Then there's this:

Again, emphasis mine.  So, clearly, Foucault is employing Bentham's panopticon as a metaphor for constant surveillance and totalitarianism of knowledge on behalf of the government.  If you don't want to call that centralization, fine, but if you don't think it's a clear symbol and warning for the state of the current conduct of our intelligence agencies and general methodology of national governments, I recommend you stop reading any work because you have no comprehension whatsoever.

ETA:  Here's a link to a PDF of the book, which is how I was able to c+p those quotes so quickly.

Then your professors had a fundamental misunderstanding of what's in the actual text and what Foucauldian scholars understand. It's not on behalf of the government, it's (power) a diffuse concept that he never fully defined and a hundred percent never committed it to a centralized force in his works after he moved to genealogy. In fact, this text is a genealogy about the shift in how punishment works (as opposed to how it used to work: physical punishment) and the things that led to this. It is not a treatise on centralization of power through government. By arguing that power is centralized, you undermine his entire point that power is not bad. No centralized force sits there and makes these determinations. Multiple institutions private and federal and state (and even local) have conflicting and aligning methods of control, but there is no centralization. 

My guess is you misunderstood your lecture. Again, sorry you get so angry when you get corrected. Foucault is tough. Reading him is truly difficult. I've spent time with his texts, and even then, much of his content is deliberately difficult to parse. I say do the work yourself, dig into the text, do a deep reading, and you might come away with something interesting to say on that subject!

Edit: And because this isn't a pissing contest for me, and I recognize how difficult Foucault is to grapple with, I'm linking a great interview with Hans Sluga from Entitled Opinions. When I was struggling with the details of doing a Foucauldian Discourse Analysis in a qualitative study, this is one of things that helped me a ton. 

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