Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Crime & Punishment

A few weeks ago I got into a heated debate with some friends. It originally started as a conversation about the minimum wage and how impossible it would be to try and make it solely on that income. Someone commented that it seems unfair that prisoners have a better quality of life than people that work full time making minimum wage.
Some of the comments that were made were along these lines.

They should not have access to the outside world via television.
They should be fed bread and water or the bare minimum to survive.
They should be stacked 6 deep in a cell.
They should work on chain gangs.
There should be no access to medical care or psychological care.
If they are sentenced to death it should be carried out within 48 hours of the conviction.

I will be honest with you. Part of me agrees with some of these statements. It isn’t supposed to be easy. Another part of me vehemently disagrees with these statements and I will tell you why.

If everyone that went to prison was there for the rest of their life than providing the basic minimum for living conditions could be an option.
The fact is that only 1 in 11 prisoners serves a life sentence. The average amount of amount of time served is only 48 months. That means that a convicted felon is released out into society after only 4 years in prison.
What happens in that 4 years will affect how that person acts in society at large.

Here are 2 examples of people who would serve prison time.

James was an upstanding citizen. He owned his own business and was married with children. He had never been arrested but he had a secret. He molested his daughters for over 2 years before his wife found video tapes of the assaults.
He ran but was apprehended and sentenced to 35 years in prison. He lives in fear every day that someone will find out what he was convicted of and that he will be killed in prison. He works in the music room of the prison and makes 35¢ per hour and receives $8 per month to buy amenities as the rest goes to court costs, reparations and child support.

Bob was driving at night and accidentally fell asleep at the wheel, hitting and killing a pedestrian. He is sentenced to 7 years in prison for vehicular homicide. Before this he had never been arrested and had never been in any previous accidents. He is a retired iron worker and has been married for 30 years with 2 grown children and 4 grandchildren.
He works at the prison taking catalogue orders and makes 75¢ per hour. He shares a cell with James.

Obviously James deserves to be in prison. Most people would say that he should rot in prison and that to give him more than bread and water and a hole to crap in would be a travesty.
How do you think that Bob should be treated? He is a convicted felon along with James.

James & Bob will eventually be living in society along with the rest of us. Should we treat them poorly in prison and expect that they will miraculously be an asset to society when released?
Should be treat them as people, allow them to earn small privileges like paying $4 per month for cable in their cell and to purchase things like coffee from the prison store? Is it our burden as tax-payers to provide counseling and other mental health services so that the chance that they become repeat criminals is reduced?

I can honestly see both sides of the issue. I think that prison shouldn’t be a walk in the park. It should be difficult. But at what point do we have to realize that even though they are criminals, they are also people.
If someone goes to prison and is treated like an animal in a cage, what kind of person do you think will be released when he is done serving his sentence?
I have a strong feeling that it won’t be someone we would want to be around.


Anonymous said...

Bob would not be convicted because he was not under the influence or driving recklessly. FLAW IN STORY 1

Most people fall asleep at night, on uncrowded roads therefore no people would be walking around. Name the last time a person fell asleep and hit someone walking during rush hour traffic? Never.

So, why should I pay school taxes if you I don't have kids? Why should anyone pay any taxes?

You are asking a very stupid question.

Rachel said...

Anon1 ~ You completely missed the point.
It was a dialogue about how prisoners should be treated.

Falling asleep at the wheel is considered reckless driving.

I thought all republicans loved taxes. Oh wait... they just like to tax the low and middle income earners while providing big business tax breaks. Oops. My bad.

Rachel said...

Here is a link to an article where a nobel prize winner was sentenced to prison for vehicular homicide.
He fell asleep at the wheel.


Rachel said...

Another one. This one hit a pedestrian. Here is a snippet of the court docs.

So viewed, the evidence established that on May 11, 1997, at about 9:00 a.m., on Gayton Road in Henrico County, appellant fell asleep at the wheel of his automobile and drove off the road, striking and killing Judy Dahlkemper, who was jogging on the side of the road.

playtah said...

When people complain that prisoners have a better quality of life, it seems like they are refering largely to material things.

But they don't think about the intangibles like the concept of freedom. Is it really a better quality of life to have cable if you know you have to spend your life having someone else dictate when you eat and crap? Even if you make minimum wage, you can come and go as you please. You may be poor, but your life can still have adventure and friends and excitement. Inside a prison, you miss out on true affection (no, giving satisfaction to Spike for 2 cigarrettes doesn't count as affection) and the network of relationships you could have if you were free. You give up life's variety and the ability to make decisions for yourself.

Life is hard, and it should rightfully be harder for those who commit crimes. But I think sometimes we judge the "hardness" of life by things. Basic human-ness necessitates the need for recreation, food, etc. Do I think prisoners should be waited on and have plasma tvs? Of course not. But if we don't give them certain outlets, who knows what kind of bitter, hateful people they may re-emerge as. Prison is for punishment. But it can also be a turning point that pushes them toward a better life.

Anonymous said...

You missed my point. People are not walking around at night on desolate roads.

These people were hit during the day. So your example is nothing like reality. And my point was that I don't mind paying taxes; it's you that keeps bitching about how the money is spent.

Maybe ask your baby's daddy about prison. Ooopps!

Rachel said...

Playtah ~ We live in a materialistic society. I don't think that anyone can contemplate how prison really is unless they have been incarcerated.
I haven't ever been arrested so I have no idea how it really is.

Anon1 ~ I didn't say it was on a desolate road. People are out at night too. Joggers to name one.

I wasn't bitching about how my taxes are spent. Why are you focusing on that rather than the point of the entire post which is treatment in prison?

My son's father has never been arrested nor imprisoned. I wouldn't still live in West Michigan facilitating a relationship between them if that was the case. I would have moved back to Seattle to be closer to my family.
(and before you try and insult me again, making sure that my son has a relationship with his father was the ONLY reason that I stayed in West Michigan).

re said...

Great post Rachel. Very interesting..... I don't think they have a better quality of life. I agree with some of those statements also, but I don't believe they need to be treated nasty. However, I believe in things like... you moleste a kid - you lose your "manhood".

reformattingmybrain said...

Ooops sorry Rachel I hit enter and din't mean to - that last comment was me.

Anonymous said...

Most joggers run on well lit roads or busy streets. Once again, it is hard to fall asleep driving on a busy road.

When was the last time a jogger was hit in the country at night?

You still have not explained why you had a child with a man who you did not have a solid,committed relationship with?

Playtah said...

ANON1 has become the morals police apparently. Maybe he should get the ball rolling by explaining his racism, and unnatural preoccupation for bragging about how much money he has.

Anonymous said...

How is bragging about money is immoral?

And as far as being racialist that's way off.

Playtah said...

Racialist? See, I've got you so flustered, you've had a lapse in literacy. :)

Anonymous said...

I was copying ALI G. If you knew anything about comedy funny girl you would know about him...

Rachel said...

Playtah ~ I thought he was channeling his idol ~ GWB

Anonymous said...

Least I have positive role models. I won't end up a broke, single parent.

Playtah said...

Uh-huh. Sure...that's a convenient excuse. And Sacha Baron Cohen is very popular right now...way to copy him....very original.

playtah said...

Hey, Rach!

I'm boosting your comment count. Very easy to get ANON1 riled up. And entertaining.

Anonymous said...

I was watching Borat, ALI G, Frnakie Bruno when he was first out on HBO.

Funny girl get a grip on reality.

Playtah said...

Good for you. I'm sure watching lots of TV is a rewarding experience.

Anonymous said...

Plus dummy Borat does not use "racialist"...Only ALI G says it when he is ALI G...


ElRanito said...

I find it VERY difficult to have any pity for someone making minimum wage who complains about how someone in jail is better off than them.

People aren't sentenced to make minimum wage for the rest of their life. (Unless it is a self-imposed sentence)

If they feel that someone in jail has a better life for them, I guess that leaves two options:

1. Get thrown in jail. I mean, they think it is an upgrade right?

2. Stop bitching and actually show up to work, don't get fired, work hard, get a raise, get promoted.

I strongly believe ANYONE who really wants to can advance their place in life. It just requires a little self-motivation. Generally speaking, no one is going to hand you anything.

Here is what you do if you want a better life than the person in jail:

Stop bitching... stop trying to paint yourself a martyr... stop whining about how low minimum wage is... just get out there and work for a better life. There is a reason that people try to break into our country. There is opportunity out there for people who really want it. Anyone who says otherwise needs to take the blinders off.

It really is that simple.

Playtah said...

Hey Rach! You're up to 22 comments! This is my new favorite sport.

Anon1 - How embarassing! While I was doing fun, productive things with my life, I forgot to memorize lines from a fictional character on a TV series, and then regurgitate them onto someone else's blog. My bad!

Anonymous said...


Well said. Although they did a study where I live and found that unless you are making at least $20.00/hr, you can't afford an apartment. I can't imagine making $5.05/hr.

I made more when I was 14 years old.

It's not a simple problem to fix. You can advance in America but it's more about WHO you know not WHAT you know.


Playtah said...

elranito--great point--you hit it on the head.

Anonymous said...


So because I follow, watch and enjoy a show I don't lead a productive life? That makes no sense. What are you doing that is so great?

Working at a dead end job with dreams of making to big in the entertainment business? You are not funny, not good looking and you live in Michigan and you are 26 not 16.

Grow up Smurfette and face reality. I would be looking for a decent guy to marry in 2007; you will need him to support you.

Playtah said...

Anon1, what's wrong with following a TV show? Nothing. We're just bantering. I just enjoy seeing your responses. It's entertaining. The way you hate on people and try to insult me (which doesn't work)...it's all just entertainment. For all I know, you could be a really nice person in real life, and this is just your "online" personality. It's all just fun. I don't hate you, I just enjoy getting you riled up. Maybe it's wrong to enjoy that. But you seem to enjoy it too, that's why you keep doing it. It's like a game. When you actually do make points instead of throwing around insults, you do a decent job, you just don't do it that much. So don't be offended. It's all entertainment.

What am I doing with my life that's so great? I'm enjoying it.

Anonymous said...

Glad to see someone is enjoying life.


Playtah said...

Serious question--are you enjoying life? If everything you've said is true, you seem to have a pretty good one. It sounds kind of stressful, too, with the business. What do you do for fun?

Anonymous said...

I work for fun. I am putting in 15 hours today and put in 13 on Monday. Building a business is tough and the problem we are facing is stiff competition. However, we are bringing on a partner who you may not believe me but this guy is a politician. He is leaving his primary career to focus on politics however his C-level connections will open doors. People who matter want to be this guy's friend.

So, I work, exercise and sleep. Not fun but if I can retire a rich man, it's worth it.


playtah said...

Just make sure to have a little fun now and then, so you don't burn out. Those are some long days. I admire your work ethic.

Rachel said...

Anon1 and Playtah ~ I am not going to comment to you guys since you are having so much fun bashing each other. I will just watch and enjoy the tennis match.

Elranito ~ Just to clarify. Not one person who was in the discussion made minimum wage. All are professionals who are able to support themselves without any government assistance.
It was a discussion that started prior to the elections when the ads and accusations were flying all over the place.
The conversation was an offshoot of a political conversation. It was originally a discussion about minimum wage increases vs. the impact on business owners.
One person went off on a tangent and that is how the debate got started.
I absolutely agree that anyone who wants to sit and whine about not being able to support themselves and how hard it is to make it on minimum wage has every opportunity to better themselves and their life.
My first job when I was 16 was for minimum wage. I didn't mind it because I worked for a bit of spending money. If I had to support myself on that, I don't know if I could have done it withouth sharing a 1 bedroom apartment with 4 or 5 other people.

For once Anon1, Playtah and I agree. Shocking!!!

I also agree with Anon1 that many times you have to know people to get ahead.

Anonymous said...

That is why I kiss ass and politic 24/7.


And I am burnt out. Feel like a walking zombie.

Playtah said...

"That is why I kiss ass and politic 24/7."

That's a necessity with business. And it's kind of an art form. You seem to be well connected and able to network well.

I think you said before that your dad was the head of a business. Was he ever in politics too? Just curious.

Rachel said...

I can't imagine working 13-15 hours per day. I would go postal and probably have no hair.

This isn't work related but I remember after having D that I was a walking zombie. Just trying to get through the day (and night) and stay coherent was a feat in itself.

I can't imagine self-imposing that kind of schedule.

I noticed that you commented around 4:30 this morning. I haven't gotten up at 4:30 since the day after Thanksgiving last year to shop.

I hope that the sacrifices that you are making now pay off big time for you in the future. :)

ElRanito said...

I assumed no one in the conversation was making minimum wage.

However, I suppose I was getting at the fact that the two things should not be compared and the living standard of someone in prison should not be the measuring stick when judging whether minimum wage should be raised.

Anyone who spends their life making minimum wage likely has no one to blame but themself.

It would be ludicrous to punish a business because some people refuse to give the owners of said business a reason to pay someone beyond the minimum required.

It will hurt business, which will hurt our economy, which will hurt our country in general. We will all suffer because of the political agenda of those who want to get the votes from people who refuse to work to better their lives.

Just seems like a bad idea to me.

Anonymous said...

I plan on going out like Ken Lay! Not.

Stress is a killer though.

Anonymous said...

Not so fast my friend. People who are dirt poor sometimes don't have an option.

Imagine being forced to dropp out of school in 8th grade to support your family. No way you can build a life for yourself.

Now my grandfather barely graduated highschool but he was a millionaire because he got stock options in the big pharma company he worked for even though the chemicals he worked around caused an agressive form of cancer that killed him at age 53.

Look at Patricia Russo, CEO of Lucent. If i am not mistaken she started there as am assistant in 1987.


Rachel said...

Elranito ~ I don't think that comparing them (minimum wage vs. prison conditions) is fair either.

The breakdown of the discussion (which was between some staunch republicans and some staunch democrats) went something like this:

Election blah blah blah... I'm voting the straight republican ticket blah blah blah...I am voting for the democrats because blah blah blah. Did you see the political ad for Senator X? I am not voting for him because he missed over 500 votes and voted against rasing minimum wage blah blah blah.
Who cares if they increase the minimum wage? No one earns min wage anymore anyway blah, blah, blah..
Why would you say that? Too many people are on government assitance because the minimum wage is too low..blah blah blah.
They should take some of the money that is given to prisons and give it to minimum wage workers (I rolled my eyes at that comment) Do you know how much money is used to fund prisons? blah blah blah.

Of course this is all paraphrased and coming from some people who have VERY differing views.

It got pretty heated and I acutally got a bit pissed off at one person who was making comments without having any information to back up their opinions.

It just got me thinking about the entire situation and voila! A post was born.

ElRanito said...

There might not always be an option to become a millionaire.

However, there is always a chance for at least some advancement beyond your current place.

Maybe making $7.50 an hour isn't a lot, but if you are making $5.15 an hour it is a pretty substantial increase.

Almost anyone who has a job and really works hard will advance. People CAN advance their place in life through hard work.

Handing people raises through no work of their own is the wrong way to teach someone to advance in life.

Maybe there are some of us started in a better position than others, but the reason for that is generally the hard work of the people before us.

Our country rewards people for hard work. That is why people want to come here. Bottom line. Anyone who says otherwise is just trying to convince themself they are justified in their self-pity.

Anonymous said...

SO you are saying Paris Hilton's parents worked hard? NO!

I agree to an extent but a janitor can bust his ass and at the end of his life he will still be at $10.00/hr.

Some people just don't have the brains, ambition or financial resources to make it.


ElRanito said...

I agree with you there also.

So wait... everyone seems to be in agreement? This has all become way too cordial. I am confused.

*wanders off*

Rachel said...

Should I poke a stick at someone to get the diabtribe rolling again? LOL

Anonymous said...

I don't usually post anything unless I have strong view about something. So anyway, I would just like to say that Anon 1 actually seems to have a personality today. Anon 1, I am a very conservative Republican and I'm intrigued by you. So I hope you have a great day and I hope you don't work to hard. Remember work is good but you need to play too. Kay

dennis said...

Talk about getting off topic. Min wage as compared to prison conditions. How did this get to a pissing match about saying since rachel is a single mother she is the root of all problems and blaming everyone's short falls on her.

Elranito, sometimes min wage is the only option a person has. Some people do not apply themselves and that is their own fault but for the ones that being a whopper flopper is their only out, then I respect them for working. I know people that are struggling at working fast food.

Anon1, from the number of posts that you have it looks like your 13-15 hr days are not all that taxing. If you have to kiss ass politically to succeed then is it really worth it? Money is not the end all of everything. You can't take it with you. Have some fun with the rest of your life.

Rachel, I think that first of all if they crime is done there needs to be some sort of repayment. Take responsiblity for one's own actions. This is not to say that we should be treating convicts like animals but I think that working for the state is one way to start. Bring back some form of a chain gain. If an inmate wants a privaledge then they either need to pay for it, work for it or give up another privaledge.

playtah, sorry nothing to say, don't feel left out.

dennis said...

Forgive the spelling mistakes.

Anonymous said...

It doesn't take that long to post a comment and it is a good break from the grind. We are in a slow period right now.


Rachel said...

Dennis ~ Surprisingly the majority of inmates do work a job. Some are part time and some are full time. Inmates prepare and serve meals, are on cleaning details, work in the library, music room, infirmary and in many other areas to keep the prison running smoothly.
There are also some prisoners who go on cleaning details outside of the prison. Of course only ones that are minimum security and are trustees would get that priviledge.

Anon1 ~ I really appreciate when you contribute to the dialogue the way that you are right now. It is nice to see that we can have a discussion without flinging insults.

Anonymous said...

Well insults and drama tend to attract people. No need to take things personally though. This is the Internet.

I am going home; been up since 1:30 AM. Only slept two hours.

Enjoy your evening people.

Erica said...

Whoa Rachel!! 49 comments!! This has got to be a record! I am not sure what to say anymore, I have read all the comments and enjoy the debate and the banter. I must participate!
I agree that criminals should be punished and that prison should not be a walk in the park, but I also agree that if we treat them like beasts, they will come out like beasts. I also believe that rarely prison will change anybody for the best and they will be reformed and repentant. More often is the case that you will be even more of a criminal, but then one can't generalize. Regarding the minimum wage, there are lots of people that do two/three jobs a day just to pay the rent and never see their kids, or have any fun. What can they do to improve themselves? They do not even have the time to find another job, all they can do is sleep and work, sleep and work. That's not life for any human being. It's also true that if you are a honest hard worker, you can improve your job and get promoted, but sometimes, the ass-kisser get promoted, not the honest hardworking ones.

Eric said...

I read something the other day that said if the minimum wage from the 60's or 70's were extrapolated into todays dollars it would be over $10/hour. It seems to make sense to me that minimum wage should at least put someone above the poverty line, which is doesn't even come close to doing now.

Freckle Face Girl said...

I was also surprised by the # of comments. You must have hit a cord. For the most part, I don't believe that prisoners have it better. You are definitely right about not classifying all prisoners in the same category though. My husband has a friend that made the WORST mistake of his life when he got behind the wheel & drove drunk. He ended up killing a mother & a daughter. There is NOTHING he can do to make up for what he did, but he has 15 years in prison to think about that.