Really, Arizona?

This is from Fox 11 news:

Report: Most AZ prison inmates are violent
Posted on March 30, 2010 at 7:30 PM
Updated today at 7:30 PM

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — A new report says more than 94 percent of Arizona prison inmates are either violent or repeat felony offenders or both.
As of September 2009, more than 40,500 inmates were in the custody of the state Department of Corrections. The report found that more than 65 percent of those inmates could be classified as violent offenders and more than half were incarcerated for one or more violent offenses.
The 90-page report called "Prisoners in Arizona: A Profile of the Inmate Population" was released Tuesday by the Arizona Prosecuting Attorneys' Advisory Council.
APAAC was created by the state Legislature in 1977. The council coordinates and provides training, education and support to Arizona prosecutors.
Gee, prosecutors wouldn't be at all biased, would they?  Gotta love that headline.  Fear-mongering really is an art form with these guys.

Here is my own experience as a guest of the State.  A few years ago, I had a drug problem.  Socially unacceptable?  To be sure.  A threat to society?  I didn't think so.  I didn't commit any of the crimes usually associated with drug use, (burglary, fraud, domestic violence, etc.)  I am, in fact, a pacifist.   Hurting one's self is one thing.  It takes a whole other mindset to do harm to another.  I had the nasty habit of imagining myself in another's shoes.  That whole empathy thing.

It began one night when 30 armed, masked men invaded my home and terrorized my family.  The spared no expense.  Full body armor, assault rifles, concussion grenades, the works.

For $40.00 worth of dope. 

Why so much for so little?  It was a small town.  They knew me.  They knew that I kept no weapons, and posed no danger to them or anyone else.  I found out later in county lockup.  One of the Sheriff's Deputies who was involved in the raid let it slip.  (We had been coworkers in another job and another life.)  He said one word to me -- "Overtime".

You see, it really is all about money.  Budgets are dependent upon conviction rates, so here's what they do:  They charge you with something completely outrageous, something totally off the wall.  (They initially told me 8 to 12 years, though the presumptive sentence for my crime was only 2 1/2).  They do this in the hope that they can plead you down to what they should have charged you with in the first place.  It works, for the most part.  Even though you know that they are using deceit and intimidation, there is a part of your mind that tells you not to take the chance.  So I signed the plea agreement.

Most prison yards in the State of Arizona are minimum security yards.  And still there aren't enough of them to house those who qualify.  This fact alone negates the above "report".  I found that 85% of those I was incarcerated with were like me -- in for non-violent, non-repetitive crimes.  The other %15 were hard-core, career criminals.  The gang-bangers, the racist skinheads, the dregs.  Those were the guys who ran things.  This was encouraged by the staff (wink, wink).  As reprehensible as they were, they did one thing.  They kept the peace.  Those in authority will invariably take the path of least resistance, and they're not that great at imagining the long-term consequences of their acts.  Society is done no favors by sending young, impressionable men to prison, only to be recruited as "soldiers" by those who consider them to be inherently expendable.  Because they are eventually released at some point.  Usually with a whole new set of skills.

Since I was older, I didn't have to worry about that sort of thing.  All It took was convincing them that I wasn't afraid to die.

So, I had the luxury of using that time to better myself.  I read.  I worked as much as I was allowed.  And I observed.  I still find human nature fascinating. 

One of the things that I found was that, if someone does you harm, it is often for no other reason than that they can.  This applies to both criminals and cops. 

You say "Social Justice" like it's a bad thing...

Some of what I've watched and read today...

"How curious that a mob fond of likening President Obama to Hitler knows so little about history that it doesn’t recognize its own small-scale mimicry of Kristallnacht. The weapon of choice for vigilante violence at Congressional offices has been a brick hurled through a window. So far."
Read the rest here.

"A few months ago, Sarah Palin mockingly asked them (democrats), "How's that hopey-changey thing working out for ya?" Great, actually. Thanks for asking. And how's that whole Hooked on Phonics thing working out for you?"
 Read the rest here.

That's not so cool, Jesse James...

"Dear Jesse James,
Really, dude?  You’re cheating on an Oscar winner with “The Illustrated Skank”?  Seems like a bad choice, brah.  Look, we get it – mixing it up is what guys do.  On a base level, we totally understand.  Kinda…"
Read the rest here.

 Sarah Palin, flip-flopping at the speed of light:

Yesterday:  “Our vision for America is anchored in time-tested truths that the government that governs least governs best, that the Constitution provides the path to a more perfect union — it’s the Constitution,”
 Today: "In these volatile times when we are a nation at war, now more than ever is when we need a commander-in-chief, not a constitutional law professor lecturing us from a lectern."
Read the rest here.

Another Sign...

I had originally planned to write about the upcoming health care vote, but something else decided to sneak up on me from behind.  (Suffice to say that "compromise" means that no one's going to be happy.)

A few months ago, I read about the case of Peter Watts, a Canadian science fiction writer who had been stopped at the US/Canadian border, leaving the US after a business trip.  It was there that he was beaten and arrested by US border guards, charged with assaulting a federal officer.

At the time, I felt only irritation at the arrogance of the US border guards.  Like other occupations involving a badge, it attracts a certain type of individual.  In my naiveté, I thought that the charges would be dropped, or drastically lessened, and apologies made to Mr. Watts, and Canadians in general. 

It didn't work out that way.  Peter Watts was convicted of obstruction for getting out of his car at a US Border crossing and asking what was going on, then not complying fast enough when he was told to get back in the car. He faces up to two years in jail.  His lawyer did an excellent job, catching numerous falsehoods in the guards' testimony, and finally getting them to admit that Mr. Watts assaulted no one.  But this is America, and as recent events have shown us, truth doesn't really matter all that much here.  He was convicted because the law is written in such a way (as most are, now) as to make any action on your part a felony.  As Mr. Watts explains:
The press has frequently characterized the charge against me as “assaulting a federal officer”. The alleged (and discredited) “choking” episode has been repeated ad nauseum. Here at the Sarnia Best Western I don’t have the actual statute in front of me but it includes a lengthy grab-bag of actions, things like “assault”, “resist”, “impede”, “threaten”, “obstruct” — hell, “contradict” might be in there for all I know. And under “obstruct” is “failure to comply with a lawful order”, and it’s explicitly stated that violence on the part of the perp is not necessary for a conviction. Basically, everything from asking “Why?” right up to chain-saw attack falls under the same charge. And it’s all a felony.
As Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing noted:
That's apparently the statute: if you don't comply fast enough with a customs officer, he can beat you, gas you, jail you and then imprison you for two years.
This isn't about safety, it isn't about security, it isn't about the rule of law.
It's about obedience.
Authoritarianism is a disease of the mind. It criminalizes the act of asking "why?" It is the obedience-sickness that turns good people into perpetrators and victims of atrocities great and small.
Mr. Doctrorow is right.  It is a disease.  This incident is but one relatively small symptom.  In the weeks, months and even years after 9/11, we did some incredibly stupid things.  One of which is to give anyone with a badge carte blanche to do whatever they will, with whomever they will.  We did these things out of fear and rage.  I suppose we can be forgiven that to a degree.  

But, at some point, reason should return.

There are those, both here and abroad, that have a vested interest in keeping us afraid.  

As a nation, we have consistently failed to live up to ideals we set for ourselves in the beginning.  And if, in the end, we lose that nation and our liberty, it will be no more than we deserve.