Did the news used to be this confusing?

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Jaybird

Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to AskJaybird-at-gmail.com

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  1. Avatar dhex
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    says:

    talk about a smooth criminal.Report

  2. Avatar greginak
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    says:

    1 I love the phrase “fell pregnant.” Really “fell”?? Who talks like that?
    2 I’d say this kind thing used to happen we just hear about it now.
    3 Like pretty much every newspaper comments section, it is such a giant bucket of rancid pus, i feel like i need to fall into the shower after reading a few of the comments.Report

  3. Avatar Jeff No-Last-Name
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    says:

    “Like pretty much every comments section, it is such a giant bucket of rancid pus”

    Fixed that for you. [LoOG and Slacktivist excepted]Report

    • Avatar Barry in reply to Jeff No-Last-Name
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      says:

      Somebody put it beautifully: ‘If you want to commit suicide, and need to purge all faith in humanity to make sure that you will go through with it, go to a really heart-rending story on a newspaper website, and read the comments. That will blast away any remaining hope for humanity.’Report

      • Avatar Jonathan McLeod in reply to Barry
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        says:

        That’s one of the most depressingly accurate things I’ve read.Report

        • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Jonathan McLeod
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          says:

          God, I saw a comment section today on what was maybe a 100-word blurb about an ex-Victoria’s Secret model. She was quoted as saying she was glad to be out of the industry and pointed out to — among other things — being 5’8″, 115 pounds, and being told she needed to lose two inches off the hips and being called a cow by the guys running the shows.

          The comments were…godawful. People actually felt compelled to come badmouth her.

          (Of course, what the article made me thing about was the recent one I’d read about fashion agents being banned from a clinic devoted to treating eating disorders, because they were badgering patients).Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Morat20
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            says:

            Any given week, you can walk past those celebrity magazines at the grocery checkout with one picture showing an emaciated celebrity saying “So-and-so’s HEALTH IN DANGER!!!! Why are our young women killing themselves?” next to another picture showing a celebrity eating an ice cream cone and the caption is “S0-and-so BALLOONS UP!”

            Bonus points if they are on the same cover.Report

          • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Morat20
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            says:

            Oddly enough, I just saw that exact article and comments, and had exactly the same thought. Even more oddly, that was the first time I’ve ever looked at the comments on an MSN article. It took about two comments before I remembered: never, ever look at the comments at a major news site.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Barry
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        says:

        The question is whether this will get better as newer generations grow up with the Internet and develop a sense of etiquette and decorum around it; or will the Internet comment sections continue to be the unrestrained ID of humanity?Report

  4. Avatar Mike Schilling
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    says:

    I’m thinking of all the shows I’ve seen where the alpha prisoners both continue to run their organizations and also run their the prison: Goodfellas, The Wire, etc. But this goes even further. He was sleeping with at least four of the guards (surely some of his girlfriends didn’t get pregnant) and at lest two of those were in love with him. I guess the gifts of cars and jewelry didn’t hurt. It’s fascinating that all the prison guards under indictment are female. There must be something about this guy that women find irresistible. Maybe he’s exceptionally good-looking, or maybe it’s that being in prison didn’t change the fact that he’s rich and powerful.Report

    • Avatar Mopey Duns in reply to Mike Schilling
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      says:

      Is it in some way sexist of me that I think there are no circumstances under which having opposite gender prisoners and guards is a good idea?

      Because it seems like it is just an inherently terrible plan.Report

      • Avatar Fnord in reply to Mopey Duns
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        says:

        Yeah, seems like a problem waiting to happen to me, too. Not that I was thinking of exactly this circumstance when I first thought of that, though.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Mopey Duns
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        says:

        If you say that, then you have to screen for homosexuality as well.
        Just a thought.Report

      • Avatar Bob2 in reply to Mopey Duns
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        says:

        There’s always an abuse of power in these prison settings.
        From anecdotal evidence (yes I know), in womens prisons with women and male guards, the women guards are supposedly much crueler. Any system where you set up that sort of power relationship with high school level education and 4 months training is going to inherently have issues. Then there’s the issue of prison guard pay, required education level and training, and one of the cases where I think pensions are beyond absurd in some states like California.
        It pays very well for just being out of high school, but bleh…this is too depressing.

        Let’s just say it’s not really an issue of opposite sex guards/prisoners at play.Report

        • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Bob2
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          says:

          I have a friend who thinks that all prison guards and police officers should be licensed social workers as well.

          This probably will not lead to a complete end of corruption, abuse of power, etc but it might help a lot.Report

          • Avatar Bob2 in reply to NewDealer
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            says:

            There is so much wrong with the prison complex/prison guard pay and training structure that it’s hard for me to even know where to begin that would be effective.
            I’m not sure requiring social work experience would be even remotely effective given how large our prison system is and because of the interests of private for-profit prisons.
            There’s a pretty astounding amount of writing on the subject out there, and none of it has anything good to say about the system.Report

            • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Bob2
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              says:

              The first step to reforming our prison system is to elimiante the private-for-profit prisons in their entirety. They do not work particularly well and have all sorts of perverse incentives as demonstrated by the Pennsylvania juvenile detention fiasco. Prisons must be run by the government and funded out of tax dollars. Prison guards and everybody else who works in them must be government employees.

              I do not think that prison guards need to have a college education but they do need a lot of training. This training should last about a year or two before they are sent to work. It should be roughly similar to the training that the police get but also include skills necessary for working in a prison. The government should train the guards.Report

        • Avatar Fnord in reply to Bob2
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          says:

          Oh, there’s going to be abuse of power regardless. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t take steps to minimize it. Opposite gender staff sexual misconduct and abuse is several times more common than same-gender sexual misconduct, for both sexes of prisoner.Report

          • Avatar Bob2 in reply to Fnord
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            says:

            I’m not disagreeing with you so much as saying that it’s unclear to me that gender is the main problem here, or that it would really be an effective reform in minimizing forms of corruption by percentage. If it minimizes sexual misconduct, what about the high amount of nonsexual misconduct in general?
            I’d prefer options that actually aren’t reactions to news stories along the lines of winding down the for-profit incentive structures that exist, and better training/education requirements for guards.

            While anecdotal, the stories I’ve heard from a criminal justice major friend of mine is that all female guard women’s prisons are astonishingly brutal.Report

            • Avatar Fnord in reply to Bob2
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              says:

              better training/education requirements for guards.

              While guards account for the majority of sexual misconduct, they’re far from the only ones involved.

              Per the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 65% of staff sexual misconduct is committed by correction officers.

              McConnell Correctional Unit, which I picked because I had the information already available (in connection to another prison smuggling ring) is listed as having 432 “security employees” out of 578 total employees. Which is 74%.

              10% of sexual misconduct is by medical staff. McConnell has 45 medical staff, or 8% of total staff. 3% is committed by education staff. McConnell has 9 educational staff, or 1.5% of the total. I’m going to guess that many medical and education staff have a decent education. But a first approximation look seems to find a similar per-employee rate of misconduct.

              Now, maybe non-sexual misconduct is different, and it’s disproportionately likely to be committed by corrections officers themselves. I welcome any data you have. But it looks like corrections officers commit a majority of misconduct because a majority of prison staff are corrections officers, not because corrections officers are drawn from a pool low-education pool that’s particularly prone to misconduct.

              http://bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/svraca0708.pdf
              http://www.tdcj.state.tx.us/unit_directory/ml.html

              More later, maybe.Report

              • Avatar Bob2 in reply to Fnord
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                says:

                To be clearer, what I meant is that by solely targeting sexual misconduct instead of an overall change in training in ethics and oversight, you can lose sight of the money changing, the prison misconduct and beatings, and the myriad other ethics violations you get when placing people in a relation of power over others. Any overhaul of sexual misconduct policy needs to be part of an overall ethical shift.
                I believe California’s training period was something like four months for a correctional officer. This seems absurd to me.
                Gotta run for now, I’ll try to get back to this.Report

              • Avatar Fnord in reply to Bob2
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                says:

                I think it’s possible to make the perfect the enemy of the good here. Ideally, yes, we’d see a massive cultural shift in how prisons are run. But that’s an awfully big pill to get the political system to swallow.

                But I think there are some relatively simple procedural safeguards that can dramatically reduce the incidence of sexual misconduct.Report

              • Avatar Fnord in reply to Bob2
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                says:

                That’s not to say I’m opposed to attempts to push for a big cultural shift in how prisons work (or, for that matter, and simple procedural changes aimed at non-sexual misconduct). But I don’t think the fact that we’re not going to completely fix all the problems without a big cultural shift is a good reason not to make simple procedural changes that might reduce the severity of some of the problems.Report

        • Avatar Barry in reply to Bob2
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          says:

          “From anecdotal evidence (yes I know), in womens prisons with women and male guards, the women guards are supposedly much crueler. ”

          There was an interview I read with a woman who worked on projects related to rehabilitation of female prisoners, who had come to the conclusion that there should be no male guards in a women’s prison. The opportunities for abuse were too powerful, and the warden can’t run a prison except by taking the guards’ word over that of a prisoner.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Mopey Duns
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        says:

        One of the consequences of the Equal Protection Clause and gender discrimination prohibitions in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is that sometimes stuff like that might be common sense but is verboten.

        I don’t think the separation is necessary. This is an extreme example and hopefully very far from the norm.Report

      • Avatar Pinky in reply to Mopey Duns
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        says:

        Yeah, I just assumed we’d realized that as a society. I can’t imagine letting a male guard be alone unsupervised with a female prisoner.Report

    • Avatar Barry in reply to Mike Schilling
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      says:

      If this guy was not in prison, he’d basically own the female half of the human race.Report

    • Avatar Reformed Republican in reply to Mike Schilling
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      says:

      I read something recently about prisons. Inmates will do what they can to put the guards in a compromising position. Once they do that, and get their hooks in, they will extort the guard to get them to do even more for them, such as smuggling. The guard ends up in a situation where the only options are to consider working for the inmate or lose their job or possibly even be arrested for the actions.

      In other words, it is possible the guards were not sleeping with him out of attraction, but because he had them over a barrel.Report

  5. Avatar Michael Drew
    Ignored
    says:

    Two of the [four] women tattooed the inmate’s name on their bodies and he showered three(!) of them with expensive gifts including cars(!!) and jewelry.

    That entire sentence is just amazing, but I consider the bolded elements of it to be just mind-boggling. What did that poor fourth criminal prison guard do wrong not to at least get some jewelry out of the deal? And do you suppose she was one of the tattooed? I hope not!Report

  6. Avatar Will H.
    Ignored
    says:

    I believe it’s only notable due to the number of persons involved; which speaks a lot toward oversight in those quarters.
    In the more typical scenario, it’s a county sheriff or deputy who works at the jail, where prisoners are held on behalf of some other facility, who is subject to bribery.Report

  7. Avatar Kazzy
    Ignored
    says:

    I think this case will make for a fascinating study on sex/gender issues.

    My hunch is that if the sexes of the involved parties were reversed, if male prison guards were impregnating female prisoners, we’d be using the term rape a lot. Yet, it hasn’t appeared once here, and a lot of the remarks are tongue in cheek or humorous, rather than the sober tone I assume we’d take in my little alternate reality.

    I’m not saying that’s wrong, though I have a gut feeling that it is. But it is interesting. Very, very interesting.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Kazzy
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      says:

      I think it’s pretty clear that the inmate was the initiator in this ring and the prison guards were willing.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to LeeEsq
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        says:

        But assume EVERYTHING was the same, just the sexes reversed. Willing inmates… tattoos… the whole nine. But the person in the position of authority and power was a man.

        Is it possible that your assumption of who the initiator was is based on certain assumptions about men, women, and sex?Report

        • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Kazzy
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          says:

          If the woman was running a drug ring and showering largesse on the male guards, I’d assume she was in charge,Report

          • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Mike Schilling
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            says:

            So you don’t think people would cite the power differential between the two and call it rape?

            Because I’m sure as hell sure they would. Whether they’d be right to or not is another conversation, I suppose. But I think it is telling that it appears our responses would be different.Report

            • Avatar Reformed Republican in reply to Kazzy
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              says:

              In this case, it seems like the guards were not the ones in power. In other articles I read, the FBI claims Tavon and the Black Guerilla Family were running things in there. http://nation.time.com/2013/04/24/sex-with-guards-in-baltimore-prison-scandal/Report

            • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Kazzy
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              says:

              For a woman to violently rape a man, it pretty much takes something like a knife at his throat, or something else other guards are likely to notice and do something about.

              I’m not saying this couldn’t be an acquaintance rape situation, but…Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kimmi
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                says:

                Not all rape is violent.Report

              • Avatar Mopey Duns in reply to Kazzy
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                says:

                I was going to be sarcastic about this, but I just can’t put my heart into it. I agree, and I think we would be having a very different conversation if the genders were reversed. This case hardly seems normal, but there are obvious ways in which a female prison guard could use her authority to coerce a male prisoner into sex which he would not otherwise want.

                At the same time, there are ways in which a male prisoner could take advantage of the female guards affections, so it is difficult to say that the power dynamic is clearcut.

                Which is true for relationships in general, really.Report

            • Avatar Mark Thompson in reply to Kazzy
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              says:

              I think the point is that if the hypothetical female prisoner was running a sizable drug ring from inside the prison, the power differential would not be what we would ordinarily assume.Report

            • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Kazzy
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              says:

              The differential was that he was far richer and more powerful, and the guards were obeying him instead of the law. They s had abandoned the nominal power their position gave them.Report

            • Avatar Fnord in reply to Kazzy
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              says:

              I’ve been critical in the past of a gendered double standard regarding sexual abuse. Including in the prison system, where rules designed to protect female inmates from assault by male staff are frequently more extensive than those designed to protect male inmates from female staff. There is something to what you say.

              But I do think that you’re overstating it. Although the proportion of female staff-on-male inmate sexual misconduct that’s classified as “apparently willing” as opposed to “unwilling” is significantly higher than for male staff-on-female inmate, plenty of male staff-on-female inmate misconduct (indeed, a slim majority of such conduct) is reported as “apparently willing”. And, for both men and women, most “apparently willing” contact is usually accompanied by granting special privileges, some sort of payment, etc. Which is one way to look at what happened in this case, although the extent of what these guards did for this prisoner seems to be atypical.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Fnord
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                says:

                Thanks for that perspective, Fnord. I may indeed be overstating it. I was just surprised that when I jumped in (after about 20 or so comments) the word “rape” hadn’t even come up.

                My point is not, “Look at all you misogynists/sexists!” It’s, “It seems curious to me that the tone, tenor, and language is what it is, given that I assume it’d be markedly different if things were reversed.” But my assumption may be a bunch of baloney!Report

              • Avatar Fnord in reply to Kazzy
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                says:

                Note that I do think even “apparently willing” sexual contact between prison staff and inmates has plenty of room for implicit coercion (as well as other problems). So it is something to watch out for, you’re right about that.

                I just think that in this particular instance, at least based on what’s been reported so far (which is, admittedly, one-sided and itself tainted with this sort of bias), there’s enough evidence that it looks like White isn’t a victim, here, and I don’t count the fact that White is male and the involved staff female as “evidence” for that purpose.

                And I agree that the widely reported narrative accepted narrative might be somewhat different if the genders were somewhat different. I do wonder though, how much of that might be the itself sexism in saying “no way a female inmate ran a drug ring that powerful. She must have had help. From a man”, as you put it.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Fnord
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                says:

                It is really hard to figure out if/when/how/where gender and gender bias is complicating things.

                For instance, if the headline read, “Four prison guards are being investigated for sexual misconduct with prisoners after becoming pregnant,” I don’t know if people would necessarily balk at that; they’d probably accept the framing, at least somewhat. The piece itself sets a particular tone, so it is not surprising that it follows through to our discussion here. Etc, etc, etc. Many layers to this onion.

                And it certainly appears that this is a systemic issue, both in this prison and our broader prison industrial complex. It seems to me that one possible remedy is make sure that everything is filmed. This would serve as protection for both inmates and guards.Report

              • Avatar Fnord in reply to Kazzy
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                says:

                It is really hard to figure out if/when/how/where gender and gender bias is complicating things.

                For instance, if the headline read, “Four prison guards are being investigated for sexual misconduct with prisoners after becoming pregnant,” I don’t know if people would necessarily balk at that; they’d probably accept the framing, at least somewhat. The piece itself sets a particular tone, so it is not surprising that it follows through to our discussion here. Etc, etc, etc. Many layers to this onion.

                True enough.

                I will however, note that I’d still call the behavior of the (at least) four guards sexual misconduct, even if White isn’t a victim. Any sexual contact between staff and inmate is misconduct.

                And it certainly appears that this is a systemic issue, both in this prison and our broader prison industrial complex. It seems to me that one possible remedy is make sure that everything is filmed. This would serve as protection for both inmates and guards.

                There’s definitely a systematic problem in our prison system. Maybe taping everything will fix things, or at least help. But I’m really not sure there are easy solutions.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy
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                says:

                Yea, for me, the question is what form of sexual misconduct this is, not whether or not it was.

                And I agree that my proposal would be but one of many, many solutions. It’d help, I think, but it wouldn’t “solve” anything. And I do recognize that there are issues with prisoners’ privacy, which I realize is necessarily curtailed as either a feature or a bug of their imprisonment, but which should not be completely abandoned as a general rule. One of the broader issues I have with our approach to imprisonment is the routine lack of respect with which we treat the imprisoned. It does not shock me that their response tends to be a lack of response the other way, be it towards guards, each other, or the public if/when released.

                Through the course of their actions, they have sacrificed certain privileges, rights, and a degree of respect. But they are still humans, which ought to engender them with a certain base level of respect. Instead, we tend to treat them like animals and then act shocked, SHOCKED!, when they act like animals.Report

  8. Avatar Reformed Republican
    Ignored
    says:

    I had that thought at first. However, the tattoos make me more inclined to think the inmate was the one in control here.Report

  9. Avatar NewDealer
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    says:

    Too seriously answer your question, the newspapers and media used to think they had a role in keeping some knowledge from leaking the public because it would undermine our faith or trust or something like that.

    The most famous examples I can think of are the media refusing to report on FDR’s polio/paralysis and JFK’s numerous affairs/indiscretions.

    This all changed around the late 1960s like most things change. There is also the fact that female prison guards in male prisons is probably a fairly recent phenomenon.

    So in short, I am sure stuff like this has happened before but it was not reported on for various reasons and justifications. However, this story is so outlandish (four prison guards pregnant!) that it had to come out especially because it is essentially all in public court documents.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to NewDealer
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      says:

      OTOH, this is a bit different. This isn’t high politics, its crime reporting. These sort of lurid prison stories were one of the meats of journalism, especially local journalism, back in the hey day of the metropolitan papers. Stories like this sold copy and papers reported them with glee.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to NewDealer
      Ignored
      says:

      OTOH, this is a bit different. This isn’t high politics, its crime reporting. These sort of lurid prison stories were one of the meats of journalism, especially local journalism, back in the hey day of the metropolitan papers. Stories like this sold copy and papers reported them with glee.Report

  10. Avatar NewDealer
    Ignored
    says:

    Through from what I have seen elsewhere this kind of stuff happens in various Latin American prisons all the time. The prisoners basically rule the roost (especially the drug cartels) and bring in their wives, girlfriends, children, prostitutes. There was a video of one Venezeualen Prison that made it look like a pool party:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/04/world/americas/04venez.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

    Watch the video, it is illuminating.Report

    • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to NewDealer
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      says:

      This prison is a giant pool party. Prisons like this are probably not riot prone but at the same time the prisoners aren’t being rehabilitated towards reintering society. The best prisons in the world in terms of both maintaining order within and rehabilitation are probaly located in the Nordic coutries. At the time of Brivik’s rampage in Norway, there were a lot of articles about conditions in Norweigian prisons and the steps taken to rehabilitate and reform the prisoners. This approach isn’t really applicable elsewhere in the world. It requires the citizenship to give up any desire for vengence and pay the high taxes necessary to run a proper rehabilitation program.Report

  11. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    If they want to be doing this, it’s none of my business. I just don’t want my tax dollars subsidizing it.Report

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