Prisoners plot strike action over mobile phones
Fag-deprived Georgia lags pull labour, refuse to shop
Prisoners in Georgia (the US one) are striking for better conditions and pay, in an action coordinated across institutions thanks to the wonders of modern technology and poor contraband enforcement.
The prisoners, some of who were interviewed by the New York Times, reckon that about one in ten local lags is mobile-equipped, and after their
fag cigarette ration was withdrawn around September they decided to take advantage of that fact to organise a protest.
Knowing that other prisons are equally well equipped, as well as knowing the value of collective action, they used numbers obtained through prisoner transfers and outside contacts to coordinate the action across institutions and demographics:
"We have to come together and set aside all differences, whites, blacks, those of us that are affiliated in gangs," said "Mike", who declined to give his full name but is apparently incarcerated in Smith State Prison. Mike went on to explain that one representative for each dormitory at each jail is keeping the various groups informed, while trying to keep the prisoners patient and discourage them from resorting to violence.
The prisoners want to be paid for the work they do, and have more access to educational resources - they probably want their cigarettes back too, though that's not on the list of formal demands. Until that happens they're refusing to shop in the prison shop, and refusing to work.
The prisons and state prison service haven't acknowledged the strike, though several of the institutions concerned are apparently "locked down", so something is going on inside. Whether the protest is genuinely a mass movement facilitated through mobile communications, or a dozen dispersed lags with an eye for good publicity, is hard to judge; but it does demonstrate how pervasive communications are and how difficult it is to control an individual's access to them. ®
it costs between $60 and $120 a day to incarcerate a prisoner in the USA depending on the prison, location, and type of incarceration.
If they want to be paid for their labor, we'll deduct it from that cost first (counting weekends and holidays too). We'll give them the fair wage a free man would get for the same job, deduct what taxes would come out of that wage, then apply the rest to their weekly incarceration costs. After that, if there's anything left, we'll move to covering the state or federal court costs of putting them there, and if a monetary award was given to a victim that remains unpaid, the rest goes there. Only after covering ALL of that can they have a single red cent for their time.
They committed a crime, and society as well as their victims incurred a cost for it. They're lucky we give them anything at all, and if i had my way, they'd ALL work as a condition of their sentence, or serve a longer one...
I can easily understand providing education to undereducated criminals, to enable them to re-enter the world standing on better footing. Simple skills, reading, math, economics, basic high school classes and basic trade school skills. Giving them access to college courses? television beyond news and educational TV? other perks? Some of these criminals live better lives than free people, and it has to stop. They're entitled to NOTHING, other than a roof, a mattress and pillow, heat in the winter months, food, water, and basic rehabilitation services during their stay. They should lead a quality of life about the same or lower than a new recruit in basic training. Strict hours, strict oversight, hard labor, and access to nothing that does not improve them as a person. Entertainment? that's right out.
There’s a wider argument. It is now largely accepted that there are a certain category of individuals who simply cannot be rehabilitated. Individuals with mental disorders who simply cannot be reacclimatized. These disorders can be genetic in origin, or they can be environmental. (Brain lesions in the amygdalae or the temporal lobes would be excellent examples of non-genetic environmental effects which could cause untreatable mental illness.)
No matter how hard we try, if the individual is actually incapable of feeling sympathy for their victims – or in some cases capable of feeling any emotions at all – then we as a society are left with an ethical dilemma. How we deal with it is really a hugely philosophical choice. I can’t tell you what the “best” path is. I cannot tell you what the “most acceptable” path is. I can tell you what I personally think is the best way to deal with this, given the technology we have available to us.
I believe the most important element is that of determining who are “those individual who simply cannot be saved.” Sociological triage. Modern imaging techniques should be able to tell us if the individuals have serious brain lesions and modern psycho-analytic techniques are often good enough to pick out the dangerous genetic psychopaths and sociopaths. These folks should go to a special prison; one from which there really isn’t any return. Here, they should be provided as much support as we can possibly provide them whilst asking them to contribute (through their labours) back to the society which is housing them. To be clear, this isn’t to rehabilitate them. It is to protect us from them and nothing more. To minimize the risk of wrongly (permanently) imprisoning individuals who actually are salvageable in this system, they should be reassessed on a regular basis. (Every five years?)
The rest of the prison population, (read: the vast majority,) should be in a completely separate penal system. These are individuals who are biologically and physiologically capable of making the choice to rehabilitate and become productive members of society. Here we should be providing education, social services and discipline training. If these people are affiliated with (or beholden to) criminal organizations then we should do what we can to “cut the cord,” and return a productive individual back to society.
While I know that it goes against some people’s belief systems, I don’t believe that the dividing line between which prison system you end up in should be the crime you commit. I believe it should be based entirely on science: are you physiologically and biologically capable of being rehabilitated, or not? If yes…we as a society do everything possible to rehabilitate you. If not…we lock you away forever.
I am interested to hear alternative views on the matter, and recognize that my viewpoint is not one that will be accepted by all.
prison is not just there to punish, but to rehabilitate. I agree therefore that they should get more access to educational resources. As for the wage thing... I disagree with slave labour, but if it MUST be used, I say they need to be paid an amount that when added up at the end of their sentence will be sufficient to tide them over a little, or at least pay a deposit for somewhere to live. Essentially reducing the likelyhood of their poverty sending them back into the spiral of crime.