*The Puzzle of Prison Order*

That is the title of the new and excellent book by David Skarbek, and the subtitle is Why Life Behind Bars Varies Around the World.  Here is part of the Amazon summary of its contents:

Many people think prisons are all the same-rows of cells filled with violent men who officials rule with an iron fist. Yet, life behind bars varies in incredible ways. In some facilities, prison officials govern with care and attention to prisoners’ needs. In others, officials have remarkably little influence on the everyday life of prisoners, sometimes not even providing necessities like food and clean water. Why does prison social order around the world look so remarkably different?

Here is one excerpt:

…Nordic prisons have a much smaller proportion of prisoners to members of staff, about one prisoner for every staff member.  These jobs attract high-quality employees, and in Finland and Norway, it is common for there to be an excess supply of applicants.  Working in corrections is a more attractive career than it is in many other countries.  The fact that students sometimes work as prison officers suggests that the environment in Nordic prisons is more relaxed than that in many other prisons and the work is socially acceptable.  Many Nordic prison officers have university and vocational education.  For example, about 20 percent of staff in Swedish men’s prisons have university degrees and staff members participate in a 20-week in-service training program and take 10-week university courses on sociology and social psychology.  In Norway, prison officers receive two years of training at full salary and nearly all have tertiary educational qualifications.  By comparison, California correctional officer training lasts 12 weeks and requires only a high-school diploma.

The book is due out from Oxford University Press on August 3rd.


Yes, I am puzzled why the conditions and staff of the Louisiana State Penitentiary don't resemble a prison in Finland. Could it have something to do with the quality of inmates?

Finnish prisons are not filled with the Aryan Brotherhood, violent Blacks missing their frontal lobes, and Loco Mexicanos. The End.

What is it about the US that turns people into murderous lunatics? Could cop knees on peoples' necks have anything to do with it?

Perhaps it does. But that can work either way. Europe has been much more closely regulated for much longer than the Land of the Free. The original police states were in Europe.

So maybe Sweden is must benefiting from hundreds of years of feudal retainers living cheek-to-jowl with the peasants - and the habit of sterilizing the anti-social for almost 100 years. Perhaps it is not a result of their present laxness, but their present laxness is an indulgence bought about by centuries of knees on necks?

How is police brutality going to "help" anything? This isn't even like a question about whether the death penalty is/isn't net positive due to its possible deterrent effect -- we're talking about someone who hadn't even been convicted, i.e. who is presumed innocent and in my view was basically summarily executed. It's different if the police are genuinely in a shootout with someone, but I cannot see any circumstances in which kneeling on someone's neck for nine entire minutes could be a necessary part of an arrest.

I do not think that police brutality will help. Nor did I say it would. Although police brutality certainly can deter. My point is that crime needs close, intimate, ceaseless supervision. Especially of some minority communities. America, as the land of the free, does not do this well. The police leave you alone until you break the law. These days minor crime is hardly punished so that there is no incentive to stop until you do something major and then you get something harsh.

Europe's tradition is a police officer on each corner. A police spy in each cafe. Even today in many countries they will check what color you paint your door, how clean your front stoop is, even what time you go to bed at night.

A long tradition of that means that modern Europeans have been born and bred into obedience and compliance. Modern Sweden benefits from this.

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No, in Africa people are murderous lunatics too. It's something else. Something missing from countries like Finland and Japan.

Evidence for "people in Africa are murderous lunatics"?

There is none. None at all.

Especially if you don’t look.

Though it may be difficult to forget a child holding an AK. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Child_soldiers_in_Africa

So a war exists in which there are child soldiers, and your response is to make assumptions about an entire race of people? There were child soldiers in Europe in WWII.

"Evidence for "people in Africa are murderous lunatics"?"


Wait... you're telling me that... a bunch of countries with extreme rates of poverty, some of which are actually experiencing actual war situations, have higher than average rates of homicide? I'll also note that your beloved United States is right up there above Uganda and a bunch of other countries in Africa -- but I guess that's the fault of the <15% of the population that's black, right?

Careful there, the straw man you are making might accidentally tell the truth.

Yeah mate, any evidence for that one?

Yet American military prisons are much better run than American civilian ones. Though sure, the difference may be in the quality of the inmates - or the fact that a number of inmates in a military prison will return to duty after serving their sentence. From We are the mighty - The 8 biggest differences between military and civilian prison

8. Guards
Military prison guards are usually from a local military police/security forces unit. These are uniformed personnel who took on the same obligation as the inmates under their control. Their military specialty is their job and they want their lives and the lives of the prisoners to go as smoothly as possible – and in military prisons, life usually happens that way.

Federal prison guards come in two types, according to a former inmate who saw both systems while doing time for drug trafficking. The first is the kind that come in and do their jobs, preferring to hang out in offices and guard shacks, drinking coffee and taking home a check. The other kind is aggressive, trying to provoke the prisoners so he can assert authority (and sometimes a beating of sorts) on prisoners. This is not to imply that correctional officers are entirely terrible – every job has its best and worst.

7. Facilities
ust like in basic training, every one in a military prison is responsible for cleaning their areas of the facility, as well as its maintenance and upkeep. If a prisoner's area gets even slightly unkept or unsanitary, that prisoner will hear about it immediately and the strict code of military discipline will come down in a hurry. More than that, however, military prisons are incredibly clean and well-kept anyway, so keeping it looking that way is almost effortless. There might be something to the broken windows theory because it's very different in a federal penitentiary.

Federal prisons are run down, broken, unsanitary messes. Prisoners here are also responsible for cleaning the facilities but many leave much to be desired in this respect. Civilian prisoners tend not to care as much about cleanliness, doing the bare minimum amount of work or giving up after seeing how far gone certain areas are.

You seem to be reinforcing the point about quality of prisoners. Military prisoners and staff are used to taking orders and care more about cleanliness. The underlying issues of low human capital of both civilian guards and prisoners and totally different social dynamics can only amplify these distinctions in the US vs. other countries. Let's not forget that even in bad prisons that are supposedly "not well run," violent crime is said to be lower within the prisons in East Asia than the US, matching the lower overall crime rates in those countries relative to the US, and especially once we correct for income differences.

Yeah, a lot of prisoners and some of the guards could not get into the army, due to requirements for education, minimum IQ, physical and mental health, and background. A better class of inmate
and guard probably yields a better class of prison.

How many people does the army turn away?

Given their standards they would turn away ~ 25% of the general population.

However, the question would be what percentage of the standard prison population would be excluded from the military. Looking at some random google links, it looks like at least 50% would be excluded.


The IQ cutoff is 92, which would eliminate over half of US prisoners alone.

And these men made it through basic and AIT, which means they can follow instruction for 12-17 weeks, be entrusted with an automatic firearm, and not have any drug addictions (at the time) or obvious mental health problems.

It’s such a poor comparison it’s comical

The U.S. is perfectly capable of running a decent prison system. With higher quality guards and better maintained facilities, but in the end chooses not to.

Shame the link at www.wearethemighty.com/military-culture/military-prison-vs-federal-prison is missing, because this is number 6 -
The military offers a plethora of different ways a prisoner can rehabilitate him or herself before leaving the military prison system. Since most of the prisoners who leave the military with a sentence will be left with a dishonorable discharge, the ability to work in fields that are critically undermanned or a skilled trade will be important in their new lives. As such, the military prison system offers training in carpentry, certified auto repair, culinary arts and hospitality services, and more.

Preventing recidivism isn't as apparent in the civilian prison system. The Federal Bureau of Prisons offers offenders with sufficient time on their sentences the opportunity to get out nine months early in the Residential Drug Abuse Program. Federal prisons offer education for those without a high school education or for prisoners who don't speak English and some job training exists, but depends mostly on the labor needs of the prison system. College coursework is available, but prisoners must fund these themselves.

In general, military prisoners are focused on the long-term of life after prison while civilian prisoners are only focused on what's going to happen later that same day.

The military prison system is more interested in 'social work' than the civilian one too.

Why do you think quality of inmates is worse in the US than in other countries? The US has a very high incarceration rate: about ten times that of Finland. This means that, on the margin, when comparing prisoners between the two countries, you're comparing say the most criminal 1% of Americans versus the most criminal 0.1% of Finns. Even if Americans are on average more violent/criminal than Finns, which I will totally concede, that doesn't mean Americans at the 1% threshold are more violent/criminal than Finns at the 0.1% threshold.

And yet here we are...

Pretty much exactly.

"9/10 of American prisoners *must* be people who would be fine on the loose, because Europe imprisons fewer people, and populations are the same" tends to meet it's immovable object in that 9/10 American prisoners are not in fact people who would be fine out in society... (How many would be? 2 in 10?).

Something like 1 in 20 Americans will be imprisoned in their lifetime. That is easily 15 million Americans, and it is hard to argue that only 3 million are in fact people who would be fine out in society, especially considering the very long terms that murderers and major drug dealers are sentenced to in the U.S., Many such prisoners will never leave an American correctional facility until they die.

Again, you would have to look at what they are in for and did to actually understand what the consequences of release would be (Sure had made this point before; that people who propose these things are weak on the specifics of who should go free).

It is not enough to simply conclude that because there are large numbers of people involved, it must be safe, because it simply can't be the case that larger numbers of Americans do present a criminal danger. Unfortunately. You have actual data about what they did and what their chances of reoffending are...

(If this is prior, are you feeling OK? Arguing, implicitly, that Americans are not actually way more criminal than Germans and are simply over-incarcerated, seems out of character...)

With a nod to Milton, I'll note the incarceration rate of Finns in the US is lower than the incarceration rate of Finns in Finland.

Go figure.

Finns in the US mainly live in the UP of Michigan and rural MN and WI where law enforcement is extremely sparse. It's funny...but basically true.

I just posted a comment (sourced with a link) below about Asian Americans and incarceration rate.. Asian-Americans are incarcerated at a rate far below any EU country's general population.

It's almost like the group matters or something.

You're right, of course. But see above for racist comments about the incarcerated. That is the disgusting mindset among many here in the US.

Realism is not racism. And yet oddly enough racial minorities are also grossly disproportionately jailed in Europe. It is just that most of them are too recent to make a big impact on social awareness.

The future of Finland's prisons is Minnesota's.

There are certainly some trends (and those that suggest it's just poverty, racism etc are headbangers).

But the US is obviously different, and it's not just demographics.

If you take rates, homicide and incarceration, by ethnic group from England+Wales, for example, and then map to a virtual country using US demographics and English rates, crime would be way lower in the virtual country.

E.g. Finland's future is *not* Minnesota's. America's situation is not basically the same as Finland's once demographics are adjusted out.

(On the reverse, we'd also see that mapping Asian Am crime rates to Asian countries would suggest far lower crime rates than actually obtain in those countries... Selection.).

When I was in law school my criminal law professor took a bunch of us on a field trip. To the state prisons. Cells built for four occupied by eight. The conditions were atrocious. It was winter, and the heat, provided by radiators, made it suffocating. The scent of violence was in the pungent air. The shame of it was lost on the state's legislature. Little has changed in 44 years. https://www.miamiherald.com/news/special-reports/florida-prisons/article235623292.html

It's the business of the legislature to make sure prisons are orderly. That means sequestering prisoners from each other and supervising them carefully when they're around each other. It's not the business of the legislature to make prisons comfortable. It's punishment. Fine, improve the climate control, but no entertainment, no conjugal visits, and feed 'em bulgar wheat.

Which is why you have so violent inmates. You treat people like shit, and they will act shitty. Your comments is simply the evidence of a small minded arrogant person.

Being in prison IS punishment in and of itself, being deprived of your freedom of mobility is pretty as harsh a punishment as one can get. No need to adD dehumanization to the sentence.

You treat people like shit, and they will act shitty.

No, people act sh!tty because they harbor aggression and power drives that need to be suppressed by force majeure. And you need to continue suppressing them until they get tired of it and give up.

And, no, putting people on a bland diet and keeping them away from each other is not 'treating them like sh!t'. It is treating them properly. Acts have consequences.

One thing that will improve the quality of life in this country is when people like you are spat on and ignored.

Arts-and-Crafts, just go away. Your comments range from cruel to stupid.

They are neither, of course. Pretentious and destructive people (who don't pay the price for what they advocate) can't bear plain talk.

Don’t be silly. Arts makes a perfectly valid point. If you’d had dealings with the psycho underclass, you’d know what depravities they’re capable of.

Good thing I am not from your country, then. I am from a place where we actually treats prisoners decently and hence don’t have the same problems the US does.
Things is, I have lived in the US, and used to love your beautiful country, these days. Which is why comments like yours saddens me so much.

Not interested in what you love or don't love. Convicts don't go away when you want to stop thinking about them and they don't lose their horrid impulses because you feed them more interesting food. The life cycle may cure them. Regrets may cure them. Anxiety may cure them. You and your kind will do them no good.

Stay home.

"I am from a place where we actually treats prisoners decently and hence don’t have the same problems the US does."

Proof not in evidence.

As noted in previous comments, the quality of US prisons hasn't changed much in the past 50 years (and has surely improved in the past 100 years, compared to life on the chain gang). If you loved America once, it was because you didn't think about the prisons.

>> "I am from a place where we actually treats prisoners decently and hence don’t have the same problems the US does."

My guess is that the US incarcerates people from your country that are living in the US at a lower rate than you incarcerate your own people.

Asian americans are incarcerated in the US at a rate of 23 per 100K. Blacks are 1408.

France is around 100. Finland is around 60.

Thus, for Asian Americans, the incarceration rate is lower than any country in the EU.


Nope. Read any rigorous study of this and Sig is obviously right. You think black people are inherently murderous pests and that is your right, but your view is deeply misinformed and unfortunately shared by a substantial share of good ol boy morons who are working to preserve culture rather than make the world better.

Nope. Read any rigorous study of this and Sig is obviously right. Yo

In your imagination only.

You think black people are inherently murderous pests

I think prisons are full of people who need strong government. In Introduction to Reading Comprehension, you will learn how to understand and interpret brief black-letter statements. When you've mastered that, you can try to give me moral instruction. You'd be more successful at that if you showed some signs of having decent sentiments. You do not, of course, your pretensions to the contrary.

"unfortunately shared by a substantial share of good ol boy morons who are working to preserve culture rather than make the world better."

Quite the slip. Smashing the Patriarchy, decolonizing maths and deconstructing Western Civ will solve our problems and make things much better!

Sure ..... 8 in a 4 cell is sequestering them.

Put them in small, individual cells, like monks. Cot, basins, toilet, TP, change of linens, toothpaste, flexible toothbrush. And keep them there 18 hours a day.

Do you fancy rayward's complaint about the space is more than a hook for discussion? Get your bridges here!

To quote the oft alluded-to Leo Strauss:
As regards capital punishment, Hobbes was consistent enough to grant that, by being justly and legally condemned to death, a man does not lose the right to defend his life by resisting "those that assault him": a justly condemned murderer retains―nay, he acquires―the right to kill his guards and everyone else who stands in his way to escape, in order to save dear life. (Natural Right and History p. 197)

Who gives a rip?

He's tied to a poll in front of a firing squad. That's it for any exercise of natural rights.

"[T]ied to a poll"? Like a populist politician's political hopes?

For all of the big contrasts, it's a little bit interesting that the basic minimum requirements to be prison staff in Sweden seem to be not that much higher than in the US. University degrees are clearly not required in Sweden as 80% do not have them. 20 weeks of training vs 12 weeks.

But presumably other aspects of the market for prison staff differ greatly affecting both the quality of the guards and the nature of the inmates.

This one is so blindingly obvious, not sure what the Straussian reading is. It'd be like a post about how apparently restaurants are different in the deep South of the U.S. vs Manhattan. I wonder if we can figure out the reasons why?


Not much of a difference. Particularly when adjusted for the state cost of living.

Lowest: North Carolina $34K
Highest: New York $47

Median: $40K

Yes, and all low.

Well below the rates for college diplomas.

Weird that the top post would talk about differences in culture and education, and not even mention differences in wages. This is an economics blog, right?

Ads for prison guard positions tout them as great jobs. It's obvious that in a country that incarcerates as many as the US, instruction in that vocation should be a part of the high school curriculum, like auto mechanics.

"Yes, and all low.

Well below the rates for college diplomas."

Well yes, but most jobs that don't require a college diploma, pay less than jobs that do. So what?

"Salary" may not equal "total compensation." Don't most guards have defined benefit pensions? With relatively low years-of-service requirements??

Fair question.

From a comparability standpoint, it's a fair guess that Norway and Sweden's bennies are better than ours.

I think the US regime would be difficult to compare easily. State vs Fed vs private might have a wide range. And age of entry also has a huge impact. Those caricature generous pensions of yore are sure as hell not being offered to anyone joining in the last decade or so.

They were not a caricature, and California's pensions are still quite generous even after the 2013 reform.

> it's a fair guess that Norway and Sweden's bennies are better than ours.

In CA if a teachers wait until age 60 they'll see a pension around $45K/year. If they live to 85, that's a retirement package that's worth north of $1M. For an average school teacher--they retire a millionaire.

Humble indeed.

I'm pretty sure California state employees do not receive Social Security benefits. Considering that their private-sector equivalents who retire at age 62 can receive about $27,000 per year from SS, the scenario you describe is generous but hardly extreme.

They don't PAY SS benefits. SS pays far below market rates on return. That is, if you put in a lifetime of earnings and take out 35 years of benefits, you'll see a net return of around 2-3% per year--far below market rates.

Teachers saw that and said "Hell no" and went for a pension system that paid them 6.5% return on investments.

Making them all millionaires upon retirement. For you to purchase an annuity that pays what they're paid AND gives a killer discount on health insurance AND has survivor benefits would cost north of $2M.

In other words, every teacher in CA retires a multimillionaire.

But all we ever hear about is how poorly they are paid. The federal gov tracks all this, and considering benefits, the hourly wage of teachers is slightly higher than programmers, architects and engineers.

Doesn't sound too bad at all.

"every teacher in CA retires a multimillionaire. "

man the bar has really sunk low around here. Thanks for the laugh

What don't you believe about the statement? I'm not talking about someone that taught a few years. But if you spent a lifetime teaching and then retiring at the age they allow you retire, you will retire with an annual benefit that would cost you $2M to purchase as an annuity. In other words, you retire a multimillionaire.

Why do you find that hard to believe?

"In other words, every teacher in CA retires a multimillionaire."

Not every teacher, because many teachers don't work a full career. However for those with 40 years in, yes certainly.

"For a true full-career employee, CalSTRS benefits are plenty generous. According to CalSTRS data, employees who worked a full career – from age 23 to age 65 – received an average annual benefit of $110,364, equal to 105% of the employee’s final salary. "


"the CalPERS retiree with a pensionable compensation of at least $117,000 received a pension benefit nearly 5 times greater than a comparable private sector employee can expect to receive from Social Security. Those in the $87,750-$117,000 bracket received a benefit nearly 4 times greater than the comparable Social Security amount, while those with a final salary of less than $87,750 were receiving benefits over 3 times the comparable Social Security benefit."


If we had brief determinate sentences, prisoners had tiny individual cells, and prisoners were allowed out of their cells (in shifts) for only a few hours a day, we might get along with fewer field staff. A lot of the expense is found in the multiplication of prison amenities, in the supervision required when prisoners are allowed to move about, and in social work programs in prisons. Why not save the social work-and-education for parolees?

What you are describing is one of the earliest models of prison in the U.S. -- see Eastern State Penitentiary in Pennsylvania, for instance. The problems are, first, people tend to become mentally unstable while kept isolated for any significant period of time and, second, the pressure to save money and increase the prison population becomes greater over time and so then bunk beds get introduced into cells originally designed for one person. Then, when there is still not enough space to house everyone, prisons start creating dormitories to maximize the number of people they can cram into a given space.

IOW, we cannot do this because you fancy legislators and prison administrators won't do this. Oh, and psychiatry something-or-other. Been and education.

Why would the starting assumption be that differences need to be explained rather than similarities?

So Nordic countries, which left-wing academicians in the West believe are History's universal and homogeneous state, medicalize crime and not surprisingly staff their prisons with credentialed social workers.

>Many people think prisons are all the same

Yes. We all thought North Korea, Sweden, and the Bronx had prisons that were completely indistinguishable.

A few years ago distant relatives of mine retired early from their careers in British prisons. They had become too dangerous.

Making them dangerous is current policy, insisted upon by boobs for whom their fatuity costs them nothing.

I was on a tour of two units in Huntsville, Texas back in February. That system was built on convict leasing, then convict labor, and only really started to consider reducing recidivism and fostering rehabilitation as goals in the last 20 odd years.

They do recruit students from Sam Houston State's criminology program but pay is on par with entry-level food service. The Senior Warden showing us around said the only time they aren't strapped for labor was when the oil fields in West Texas are quiet.

only really started to consider reducing recidivism and fostering rehabilitation as goals in the last 20 odd years.

The purpose to what your are referring to is to provide employment to people in the social work and mental health trade.

You want to 'reduce recidivism' and 'rehabilitate' your prisoners, increase the chances they get sent back if they commit crimes through assiduous policing and inflexible sentencing rules. Send them back again and again until they reach middle age and get tired of it. Age rehabilitates. Social workers do nothing.

At the Wynne Unit, which houses about 2,400 offenders , I think there were two social workers. There was a prison chaplain with one paid assistant, volunteers from various faith-based organizations/non-profits, and a handful of Field Ministers that are long-term inmates with pastoral training. The same Senior Warden felt that the emphasis on connecting the offenders with some form of self-worth via religion was how they (Texas DCJ) had achieved recent improvements. Each offender that returns to them is also a new victim out in the world, and he seemed to take that seriously. I wasn't entirely comfortable with the religious aspect, but there didn't appear to be anyone else stepping up, certainly not state-paid social workers or mental health professionals in any meaningful numbers. I'd imagine other states operate differently.

If you do ever have a chance to see someplace like that in person, I highly recommend it.

They don't need a 'sense of self-worth'. They need self control which inhibits them from trying to dominate others by doing them injury. The way you get that is to get older and fear consequences.

The purpose of the chaplain should be to hear confessions and distribute the sacraments. His job is to lead the prisoner to heaven. That can be a long and winding road.

Yes, everyone in prison should be Catholic.

Nah, cruel and unusual punishment.

The same Senior Warden felt that the emphasis on connecting the offenders with some form of self-worth via religion was how they (Texas DCJ) had achieved recent improvements. Each offender that returns to them is also a new victim out in the world, and he seemed to take that seriously.

Anyone who has spent ten minutes around criminals will notice they do not lack self-worth. On the contrary, if they have any problem it is that they are over-dosing on self-esteem and so think they are entitled to break any rule they like.

So each offender is treated afresh is he? That is nice. What if he is covered in gang tattoos and has a history of sexually assaulting smaller weaker prisoners?

As al-Ghazali almost said, a single day of disorder is worse than a life time of oppressive rule.

And, by the way, rehabilitation is a myth. It does not work. We have tried it, we have tried everything that looks like it, and it does not work. We cannot, perhaps should not, rehabilitate prisoners. We can only punish and isolate.

No, rehabilitation via the ministrations of the social work and mental health trade is a myth. Lots of convicts walk out of prison and never return, because they decide they have other things to do with their lives.

I do not like to disagree with you, especially when you are on a roll, but that is not really relevant to what I said. Yes, most criminals "grow out" of crime. By the time they are 40 or 50 they realize they are wasting their lives and there are better things to do with their tome. So they give it up. Sometimes this can even happen earlier. It is even possible for prisoners to find God and decide to stop.

But none of that is rehabilitation. That is a personal change. We cannot make them do it. Training them in job skills, psychological counseling, all that garbage only makes prisoners worse, if it makes any difference at all. Rehabilitation is a waste of time. We need to incapacitate until they realize they are wasting their lives.

I'm not even sure we can rehabilitate all the girls who get tatted up in slavish imitation of convicts and gang members.

the ifr is .26 and there are currently 40 million u.s. unemployed
solve for the equiblrium!

In his book Down and Out in Paris and London toward the end where Orwell is summing up his experiences he comments on the fact that at homeless shelters he regularly saw a hundred or more homeless being easily managed by only two or three staff with never any real difficulty. I understand the rare banishment of one of the homeless for unacceptable behavior generally keeps most of those who would otherwise generate problems to get along better.

Not really comparable populations. Voluntary for starters - free to leave any time, and free to roam every day, and seeking a roof and a meal.

Pretty much just need to follow the basic rules, get there before closing, and don't make a scene.

What are they doing to do in prison, kick you out? (What they actually do is stick you in a even more extreme prison i.e. solitary).

Not to mention homeless shelters are increasingly passe.

It was a vagrant population at a time when (1) people in general had real incomes about 1/6 th of what they do know and (2) relief programs were modest and (3) the most troublesome people were locked away in insane asylums in an environment that was (4) fairly homogenous. Note, in Europe at that time, the culture most challenging to common-and-garden social order would be that of the Gypsy and traveler populations. They are not very numerous compared to the lumpen element among the descendants-of-slaves population here.

Do you know where he was born?

I think it was India or Burma. His book was (he said) a memoir of time in Paris and London.

bought by Indies speaking the colonial language but domiciled in China?

From an ex security advisor of the Indies. Guyot Réchard.

You mean Menon, Yang or Sen whose father was another Sen.

I only contribute to Oxford journals, FT or for my Canadian friend in China - Bell - Les Amis de Chine

Tyler, you a candidate? Aghion, would he run past you?

Also of note: It's going to be funny how quickly Tyler forgets all about COVID-19 and pretends it was never a thing.... and pivots to every Dem's favorite election year topic.... police killings!

You do understand that they're sort of in the news right now. Even on Fox I presume

I spent (survived) 2 years as a state prison guard back in the late 70's. At that time, it was on of the only decent(?) paying jobs available in the small town where I lived.

Friends & family would ask what it is was like, and I would answer "I work around some of the worst people on earth. And the inmates are pretty bad too."

Bottom line: The quality of the corrections system isn't determined by the quality of the inmates, but the quality of the people who run the the corrections system.

You know, I would normally object to the usual Left wing self-loathing but I don't. Because there is a truth to that. Somewhere I have a study that compared the Texan prison system, with its Trustees and very low number of guards, with that of Minnesota. Minnesota had a lot more violence even though the inmate were, I assume, a nicer class of people.

Because one of the things that determines whether a prison is a half way decent place or not, is the determination of the administration to control the lives of the prisoners. Even if they are brutal about it. The hands-off liberal approach leads to prisoners brutalizing each other much worse than the guards could.

The logical outcome of that are the Latin American prisons where the guards never enter and the senior prisoners administer the prison. Not good places.

You would assume that the people in MN prisons are nicer than the people in TX prisons? Show your work. I own rental property near a prison in WA I will not, ever, rent to a prison guard.

Alex, Tyler, IPA - plus I'm not 'paid' by anyone. Who even talks of CCP?

The moment you start pushing the keys on your keyboard

One thing that I noticed in Europe is how well jobs were performed, especially jobs that would be considered menial in the US - hotel clerks, waiters, and the like.

I eventually concluded that the labor pool wasn't any more talented - Europeans just had fewer opportunities for high-skill jobs, so a person born in the US who might become a schoolteacher would instead be working the front desk of a hotel in Europe.

Or perhaps they had a secure retirement, the assurance of health care, and were treated with dignity,

No, they cannot find anything better. I worked for some retail companies in Italy and Switzerland. These professional jobs were few & far between. I was amazed at how many employees turned their lives upside down in order to work for these companies. They had no choice though - there weren't any real alternatives if they wanted to work in the field.

It was very common to see employees who lived in the area during the week, then drove 4 hours or more during the weekend to live with their families.

You can make hiring very selective if you're willing to inflict high unemployment, as Europeans are.

This is general why AI to kill high skill jobs should be a really good thing.

Get the smart and conscientious back into serving us in low skilled jobs. Have them done well. AI replacing physicians, lawyers, coders means you get more high quality artisans and store clerks and whatnot making life more civilized.

They do seem to be more professional, but you're screwed if you're in a hurry. I think wait staff in the US has an edge in production, Europe in over all competency. Likely because in Europe the person holding the job has been there for years.

And their pay for those lower-level jobs generally doesn't need to be topped up by tips: it is a living wage on its own.

One thing that got me thinking one day is the, I think fact, that 99% of inmates eventually get out of prison and end up back in society, with that in mind how should we think of prisons? It changed my perspective a bit from punishment to actual rehabilitation but then the sticky point is how do you dissuade people from doing things that should land them in prison in the first place if prison is too good of a place to be. I haven't really come to any conclusions but the MR posters seem like a passionate bunch so you might be of some help.

One thing that got me thinking one day is the, I think fact, that 99% of inmates eventually get out of prison and end up back in society,

And there is your mistake. There is no reason why 99% of prisoners should be released. Ever. The problem is not prison. Locking people up works. It is letting them go that is not working. So we ought to stop that. I suggest a universal three felonies and you're out policy.

It changed my perspective a bit from punishment to actual rehabilitation but then the sticky point is how do you dissuade people from doing things that should land them in prison in the first place if prison is too good of a place to be.

There is no such thing as rehabilitation. It is a myth to make Christians and now Leftists happier about prison. We cannot change people. Nor should we try really. So the solution is simple - we remove the unacceptable for as long as possible, we keep them at minimum cost and we try to stop them brutalizing each other while in prison. Better yet, we execute more.

They are certainly solutions that would work but I’m probably not comfortable with them. Do you think people are just born bad or become that way and of the later how do you reduce the amount that go bad. Is there some way of describing why there are more prisoners in certain countries than others?

But you are comfortable with high rates of prison rape and re-offending even when that means thousands of innocent victims of crime every month?

I do not know if people are born bad. Crime is associated with people born into certain situations. I suggest it is good government policy to actively discourage children being raised in such circumstances.

Good point, I am not comfortable with that either. So it comes down to do you protect the innocent and weak or the guilty (or at least incarcerated) and I guess you have to lean towards the former group to a large degree. But in doing this is there a way that you can help the guilty, your argument would be no they are not reformable except with age but I'd like to think there is a better solution, maybe there is maybe there isn't. Thanks for pointing out the flaws in my thinking though it was useful to think of the potential consequences of being too soft on crime or criminals.

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man.” Heraclitus, 500 BC

The Puritan/Protestant concept of predestination survives in its warped form even today. The two most important principles of Christianity are forgiveness and redemption, two alien ideas in Yankee land. No man is capable of change, he remains the same at 60 as he was at 12.

That is amazingly incoherent. If you think that Christians both insist on and yet reject forgiveness, there is something wrong with your knowledge of Christianity.

The evidence says that criminals are pretty much a waste of time. Sorry, but the Christians are wrong. People may be capable of change. Maybe not. We can't make them do it though. It is almost as if, I don't know, they needed God's grace or something. But that would be a Christian concept and we don't do those here.

Instead I will take a straight Freudian approach - whatever damage has been done, has been done in childhood and that trauma is long lasting and hard to change. Cure? Not a chance.

Again, half the people who leave prison never return. They have other things to do with their lives. It isn't that 'prisoners are a waste of time', it's that people peddling manipulative exercises accomplish little or nothing with any population.

> Again, half the people who leave prison never return

This isn't true in general. Wiki reports that of those that commit property crime, 70-80% are re-arrested. But of those that commit violent crime, just 1-3% are re-arrested.

The DoJ reported that of 272K offenders discharged in 1994, they had been arrested 4.1M times before their most recent imprisonment and had another 744K charges within 3 years. For things like property crime, the catch rate is generally 10%. That is, for every person you catch stealing a car, there are 9 you do not. So, if there were 744K charges, there's likely 7.4M crimes committed.

A updated study from the BoJ shows 83% of prisoners released by states are re-arrested within 9 years of release. 44% within the first year, 68% within 3 years and 79% within six years.

In short, our prison system isn't really new people every time. It's the same group doing the same crimes over and over.

If a person with no skills doesn't want to acquire new skills AND isn't happy working 40 hours/week for $30K, what other choices are there for that person aside from a life of crime?

Based on the data above, violent criminals probably can be rehabilitated. Thieves cannot. If you release someone from jail, and they aren't holding a steady job, the data says they are probably committing more crimes.


In Norway ... nearly all have tertiary educational qualifications. By comparison, California ... requires only a high-school diploma.

Are you deliberately trolling with this quote?

How do I delete a comment? My blue collar pride got the better of me.

Wrong place, wrong audience, just an all around wrong comment to make here.

Of course it takes 2 years of post-graduate training to be a prison guard capable of focusing on the rehabilitation of inmates and their re-entry to society.

That's what makes it a relaxed and socially desirable occupation.

Just ask any university professor, they'll tell you.

Interesting article on prisoner hierarchies in Russian prisons: Activists (trustees), Authorities (gangs), the Men (just doing their time), and Degraded.


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