Corrections query: why not hard labor?

Do any states still sentence convicts to prison time with “hard labor”? Wouldn’t a short stretch with hard labor be more effective punishment than a long stretch of sitting in one’s cell and looking at B&W TV? If Robert Downey Jr. knew that in a few months he would be busting rocks on a chain gang under the blazing Alabama sun–don’t you think he would have done a little more to straighten himself out?

Or am I CFOS here? (completely full of something.)

Although I’m not taking a specific stand on the issue, I do believe that the Chain Gang isn’t practiced anymore because the SCOTUS has decreed it to be “cruel and unusual punishment.”

Just a WAG.

Maybe it’s just too expensive. To make a chain gang work, you need vehicles to get them to and from the work site and extra guards to stand around with shotguns. It’s cheaper just to let 'em hang out in a cell all day.

I also see the potential for business complaints to the government. If the work they do has any value at all, there’s probably someone willing to do it for a fee.

In the last few years, when travelling, I’ve personally driven by road gangs on the side of Rt. 85 between the Airport and Peachtree City, doing clean up work. They were indeed guarded with guns. As far as I could tell, they were not chained together.

Here are some links:

[I fixed the links-- Chronos]

[Edited by Chronos on 01-28-2001 at 12:35 PM]

i think chain gangs and brutal beatings are an excellent idea. At a time when most of society is looking for retribution and not rehabilitation from our prison system, we need to rethink the way prisons operate. the rate of recividism shows us that rehabilitation isnt the answer to crime. can anyone offer any stats about the rate of re-offence for prisoners coming out of boot camps?

any studies? plenty, take your pick:

Unfortunately, your perception of how much “rehabilitation” prisons engage in is somewhat exaggerated. It would be more accurate to call them crime farms.

My wife’s PhD dissertation is about mental illness, medical treatment, and rate of recidivism. Believe me, your ideas of what actually goes on in prison are way off base. I know, you’re going off the limited information you’ve seen on the news and in other media, but I have never, ever, seen an accurate presentation of prison life presented on TV, in the newspaper, or wherever. And yes, as part of my wife’s work, I have spent time inside a maximum security facility.

My recommendation for you: Start a new GD thread, if you really think you have the “solution” for our crime problem.

We have a few chain gangs here, but the bleeding hearts seem to think they serve little use, the business interests gripe about the State taking jobs from ‘good, hard working folks’, the lawyers are, naturally, putting together cases concerning civil rights violations, cruel and inhumane punishment and the ACLU is watching real close to make sure that not one second of labor is used to maintain any predominate civil servants’ yard.

We’ve tried education and released criminals who were smarter and committed better crimes.

We’ve tried minimum sentences and developed a revolving door that pissed off the public by scooting the crooks back on the streets, even if on probation.

We’ve tried therapy and discovered that the cons, con the shrinks, get out and, having learned a bit, commit crimes then plead insanity.

We tried industrial education; teaching the cons skills, like stamping out license plates and pissed off small businesses who eventually got the jobs, turned out cheaply made, lower quality plates and the cons lost a vital supply of weapons to use on each other, which saved the State money by killing each other off.

We put them in boot camp and they learned how to act like distressed military personnel to con bucks off of folks and discipline to perform better crimes.

We heaped them all together in nasty jails and decided to let them sort each other out. We got cons running the jails, joining gangs, running crimes via phone, and tying up the judicial system with tons of frivolous and expensive lawsuits.

We gave them nourishing food, regulated every hour of their day, clean environments, respect, education, jobs, medical treatment, clean clothing, kept them safe from each other, even colorized the jails. When we let them loose, they were more thoughtful when they committed crimes.

We put them in solitary, with minimal human contact, the basics of entertainment, adequate food, clothing, medical and psychiatric care and educational programs available to them. So, they’ve been caught sending feces to people via mail, threatening lawyers, running con games via phone, blaming the system for their attitudes and filing suites.

We’ve treated them like normal folks, put them in minimum security, given them nicer guards, better food, computer access, better clothing, convict run encounter groups, convict run prison government, taken the guns away from the guards, sent them to special schools, given them work permits, brought in social workers, shrinks and educators. They’ve escaped or after release, went right back to beating the crap out of each other on the streets and pulling guns over a bag of chicken wings.

So, what would you have us do?

One guy in Texas runs a tent prison that the cons do not want to ever go back to. That sounds promising. Maybe if they don’t want to go back, they might keep straight.

Prisoners on local chain gang have complained about how bad it makes them feel to be out in public with people jeering at them, wearing leg irons, being forced to work in the hot, hot sun, being fed cold sandwiches and water for lunch, having to get up early to work and not being able to go back until late. It cuts into their hangin’ wit’ da homiez in the big house, sportin’ it up in da yard, actin’ cool before da brothaz, gamblin,’ watchin TV, and smokin’ some weed.

No matter what we do with convicts, someone is going to raise a fuss about it. I figure chain gangs are cool for the repeat pain in the butts, prison industries fine for long timers, education, therapy, various privileges for the short timers, isolation for the incorrigibles, and absolutely no gang activity allowed. Break up the gangs by any means necessary. No Internet access unless under major restriction and their Internet history checked afterwards. No websites. For people like Manson, limited fan mail, if any. For serial killers, limited contact with anyone wanting to make movies about them or write books other than psychological evaluations.

But, make prison uncomfortable and the 3 strikes law and mandatory minimum sentencing needs to be abolished.

It doesn’t matter if you’re talking “The Rock” or “Club Fed”, nobody wants to go to prison. The fences aren’t there to keep people from breaking in.

Prisons serve four possible needs; they can serve as a punishment (and there’s no concensus about what level of punishment is justified), as a means of rehabilitation (and there’s definitely no consensus about what works there), as a deterrant (and the above paragraph covers that), and as a place of segregation. In my opinion, and based on some knowledge of the subject, segregation is the only need that prisons can be said to reliably fulfill. Criminals in prison are not committing crimes in society.

When people get out of the joint, they usually have no way to support themselves. How wants to hire a rapist, murderer or robber? Given the choice, most employers would rather not. I don’t think there are any laws prohibiting discrimination against ex-cons. Therefore, people lie about their past and when they are exposed, they get fired. I’m not surprised that so many go back to crime. Why do I never hear about this?

'cause you haven’t been talking to me.
My job is to help folks coming out of prison/jail, find jobs.

Yes, they have a harder time than average folk. Yes, it is perfectly legal to discriminate based on a felony conviction (different than ‘arrest record’). Yes, some times they lie (not if I talk to them first), and then get fired.

I’m not sure what the point of your post is, galen. You included rapists among your lists of criminals who return to crime because of limited job opportunities. Obviously, most rapists aren’t in it for the money. And the same applies to most murderers and a lot of other criminals as well.

Let me help you out, then. I believe that galen is worrying about the effect of non hiring practices have on the released felon’s ability to support themselves, not necessarily saying “gee, the rapist commits a new rape 'cause he can’t find a job”. I believe the concern expressed is a real one.

My position is that nearly all of the folks we have currently locked up will come out again some day. I don’t think there’s a lot of support for having them continue to be supported by the goverment (pause, listen for folks saying 'yea, let’s give them rent/food for life after release, hearing none, proceeds). So, therefore, they need to support themselves.

We don’t want them to support themselves illegally, right? (Pause, listens for sounds of dissent, hearing none, proceeds). So, we want them to work for a living. If no one will hire them because of their felony history, exactly what result should we expect? (yes, the criminal is responsible for their crime, however, we cannot logically expect that some one without legal means to support themselves will simply curl up and die vs. commit another crime)

Truth is, most will find work eventually. It may not be enough to support themselves, however, and some (especially child molesters, rapists, murderers, arsonists, and embezzlers - this is anectdotal from my 20+ years working in the industry) have a more difficult time, at times needing up to 6 months to find work. Basic needs such as housing and food can become an issue quickly, and I have seen some (not necessarily a lot, but some), simply give up and do another crime so they don’t have to worry about where they’ll sleep for the next 10 - 20.

I don’t want to get into the rehabilitation vs. retribution debate, I just wanted to add that it does my heart good every morning when I see the prison work crew picking up trash alongside I-275. Especially in the summer.

For every prisoner there is a differant set of circumstances from the offence, famiy background, mental state, level of education, confidence and charactor.

To make a general sweeping statement about what should be done with prisoners as a group is about as useful as generalising about the members of the SDMB.

About the only thing that prisoners have in common is their conviction and incarceration.

I’ve met plenty who should not be released for decades, not because their crimes are particularly serious but because of their persistant low-level offending.Such prisoners are simply never ever going to hold down gainful employment and will carry on preying on society until they are physically unable to do so.

OTOH I would say that the majority have an academic education level that ended around 11 or 12 years of age.I’ve found that prison education is geared at too low a level.We could do with long term re-education/work facilities where employment is guarunteed, with realistic wages.