"Confronting Confinement”: Bi-Partisan Commission Criticizes Size, Conditions and Racial Make-Up of U.S. Prison System
From democracy now
"MICHAEL JACOBSON: [The US has the] Largest prison population in the world, and we incarcerate the greatest percentage of our population of any country in the world, and as you said, it's still growing. One of the central findings of the report is that it's simply too big. Too many people in prison. Too many people with mental illness who shouldn't be there. And those that are there are not getting the treatment they need. There are correctional leaders in this country who are trying to do a great job under incredibly difficult circumstances. They don't have the resources they should have. The correction officers aren't paid as well as they should be. It's a very tough, demanding job. And their legislatures keep passing tough on crime laws that keep filling up their prisons, and there's a disconnect between the resources these administrators have to do their jobs, and the number of people that they have to supervise. [...]
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about specifically California and Louisiana?
MICHAEL JACOBSON: Sure, well, California is by far – well, not by far, California and Texas are the two biggest prison systems in the country. California's prison system now houses about 165,000 people, at an annual cost of $8 billion a year. It's the -- it has the budget of a small country. A federal court recently took over the California health care system in their prisons, and one of the allegations that the judge found was true was that one prisoner each week was dying as a result of medical malpractice. That's a huge issue, obviously. And going be a very big challenge for the federal courts to handle. Health care is a gigantic issue in the California prison system. It's not been handled well for years.
Louisiana is a much smaller system, and one of the issues in Louisiana is good news and bad news. Angola, which is a very well known prison and used to be probably one of the country’s most violent. It’s far less so now. There’s been very good management in the institution and it’s a lot better than it used to be. But Louisiana, like a lot of states, pays their officers incredibly low wages. So they have very high turnover. People come in and out. I believe Louisiana is one of the states where one of the drawing cards for being a correctional officer is that your salary is so low, you're still eligible to collect public benefits. And the commission tries to address issues of training, and pay, and leadership in this report, because you simply can't run these facilities, which are amazingly difficult to run -- running these places and working in them is probably one of the toughest jobs in America. And you can't do that if your staff is underpaid and under-trained. (read more)