How Prisons Amplify Poverty

The New York Times' house libertarian, John Tierney, has written a detailed story on the ways mass incarceration intensifies poverty and other social problems. Here's an excerpt:

Click the cover to read Reason's special issue on mass incarceration.The shift to tougher penal policies three decades ago was originally credited with helping people in poor neighborhoods by reducing crime. But now that America's incarceration rate has risen to be the world's highest, many social scientists find the social benefits to be far outweighed by the costs to those communities....

Epidemiologists have found that when the incarceration rate rises in a county, there tends to be a subsequent increase in the rates of sexually transmitted diseases and teenage pregnancy, possibly because women have less power to require their partners to practice protected sex or remain monogamous.

When researchers try to explain why AIDS is much more prevalent among blacks than whites, they point to the consequences of incarceration, which disrupts steady relationships and can lead to high-risk sexual behavior. When sociologists look for causes of child poverty and juvenile delinquency, they link these problems to the incarceration of parents and the resulting economic and emotional strains on families.

Some families, of course, benefit after an abusive parent or spouse is locked up. But Christopher Wildeman, a Yale sociologist, has found that children are generally more likely to suffer academically and socially after the incarceration of a parent. Boys left fatherless become more physically aggressive. Spouses of prisoners become more prone to depression and other mental and physical problems.

Tintin hates prisons."Education, income, housing, health — incarceration affects everyone and everything in the nation's low-income neighborhoods," said Megan Comfort, a sociologist at the nonprofit research organization RTI International who has analyzed what she calls the "secondary prisonization" of women with partners serving time in San Quentin State Prison.

The most interesting point in the piece may be the possibility that prison actually increases crime once the incarceration rate reaches a high enough level. "Robert DeFina and Lance Hannon, both at Villanova University, have found that while crime may initially decline in places that lock up more people, within a few years the rate rebounds and is even higher than before," Tierney writes. "New York City’s continuing drop in crime in the past two decades may have occurred partly because it reduced its prison population in the 1990s and thereby avoided a subsequent rebound effect."

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  • Ted S.||

    First!

    I thought the crime rate decreased generally, and not just in NYC.

  • Professional Target||

    Yep, it's a US-wide phenomenon. A few stark exceptions like Chicago have rebounded back up again.

  • SugarFree||

    I wonder why. What's so special about Chicago? Is it because they lost a great spiritual leader or something?

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Well, according to the great* Joshua S. Heller, ghettos don't exist, and anyone who posits their existence is a racist Islamophobe yokel.

    *By great, I refer to the profundity of his stupidity.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    And not to get all necrophiliac, but I love this heller quote:

    "Muslim No Go Zone" (Who came up with that term anyway? A 5 year old?).

    Well, Josh, that would be the Bishop of Rochester Michael Nazir-Ali, who obviously hates Brown people.

    Lord, what fools these mortals be!

  • ||

    Well, Josh, that would be the Bishop of Rochester Michael Nazir-Ali, who obviously hates Brown people.

    Or the Bishop just hates Muslims. Interesting how you ignore the guy's religion and jump straight to race, as if that has anything to do with what we're talking about.

  • ||

    The only place these European Muslim No-Go Zones exist is in the fevered minds of retarded nativists and the people gullible enough to believe them.

  • Cytotoxic||

    HM and others have presented evidence that they exist. You have spouted sophistry in response.

  • ||

    I've explained why what they have presented is not evidence of what they claim exists. If you wish to show why you think my explanation is wrong you are free to do so.

  • ||

    Can't read?

    heller| 2.19.13 @ 12:55AM

    Maybe you should visit a real ghetto since you don't seem to be able to accurately determine what resembles one.
  • ||

    This is hilariously simple, you made a claim you can't back up. The only "evidence" you've provided is a video of a bunch of idiots and the word of a guy who is concerned about the influx of "people of other faiths to these shores." Own up to your mistake and quit embarrassing yourself like a butthurt douche.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Joshua, your are obstinate as someone who believes in AGW. Even when presented with documented evidence you just lie and hurl insults. The only mistake I've made is speaking to you as if you were my intellectual equal, for in the words of my mother, Josh, you should only know what I've forgotten. So quit projecting; the only person who is "butthurt" is you, as the intellectual poverty of your beliefs have been exposed for all to see.

    I notice that you didn't deign to respond to my point about ultra-Orthodox tznuit patrols, as admit that would completely destroy the narrative you've worked so hard to construct.

    Having been to Brandeis many times, I know your type well. The upper middle class, usually Jewish, Liberal Arts/Social Sciences student who is so full of guilt for having the privledge to attend such an insitution that they allow themselves to be brownbeaten into self-hatred. So eager are you to please your Arabic or Urdu or Islamic Studies professor that you'll gleefuly submit to their ideological irrumatio and viciously leap on anyone with the audacity to suggest that all things Islamic aren't a utopia of sweetness and light.

    Wipe your chin, you're pathetic.

  • Cytotoxic||

    He's like Ken Schultz #2.

  • ||

    Joshua, your are obstinate as someone who believes in AGW. Even when presented with documented evidence you just lie and hurl insults.

    Except that you are the one presenting evidence while I'm the skeptic, so your comparison would be more apt if it were flipped around. Yes you have presented me with "documented evidence" of something, but not of a Muslim No-Go Zone as described by various nativist quacks. Surely you don't think this is sufficient to prove your claim, otherwise you would have attempted to connect the video to your claim or reject my analysis of the video. Instead you merely repeat "I have presented evidence" as if this is an argument.

    I notice that you didn't deign to respond to my point about ultra-Orthodox tznuit patrols, as admit that would completely destroy the narrative you've worked so hard to construct.

    I did respond to it. I said it is irrelevant to what we are discussing. So no it can't destroy any narrative that you believe I've constructed, at least one that is on topic. Just because this is not what you wanted to hear does not mean I didn't respond.

    Your posts would serve as a good lesson on how not to debate.

    1. You present evidence but refuse to connect it to the topic with anything approaching an argument.

    2. You ignore the counter-arguments of your opponent.

    3. You resort to ad-hominem attacks which are not only a sign of desperation but completely unprovable.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    but not of a Muslim No-Go Zone as described by various nativist quacks.

    The Pakistani-born Anglican Bishop of Rochester, the Right Reverend Nazir-Ali is a "nativist quack"? You expect people to accept such bullshit?

    Again, anything that does fit your narrative you immediately dismiss as quackery. And you expect us to believe in the superiority of your viewpoint...well, just because you're Joshua S. Heller! Indeed, I'd like to see your CV and your publication history in the discipline of modern European urban sociology, or post-Colonial studies, or something similar so that we can judge how fit you are to analyses and subsequently dismiss the claims of Londoners and Parisians who attest to their existance.

    [cont]

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Surely you don't think this is sufficient to prove your claim, otherwise you would have attempted to connect the video to your claim or reject my analysis of the video. Instead you merely repeat "I have presented evidence" as if this is an argument.

    You're either a lair, or you're too stuipd to understand my argument and my criticism of your analysis. On second thought, you're a lair and stupid.

    I notice that you didn't deign to respond to my point about ultra-Orthodox tznuit patrols, as admit that would completely destroy the narrative you've worked so hard to construct.
    I did respond to it. I said it is irrelevant to what we are discussing. So no it can't destroy any narrative that you believe I've constructed, at least one that is on topic.

    Goddamit, you're a moron. It is extremely germane, as you're the one who is arguing that to acknowledge the existence of inner-city cultural ghettoes that are hostile to the mores of outsiders is hysterical bigotry. Again, is pointing out that tzunit patrols exist necessarily claiming that Jews seek to control the world? No. Just as pointing out that in certain European cities, certain Muslim majority neighborhoods, through a combination of poverty and cultural mores, have become hostile to outsiders doesn't mean that you believe the goal of most Muslims is world-wide hegemony.

    [cont]

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Just because this is not what you wanted to hear does not mean I didn't respond.

    Do always you just take your own faults and project them on others..or is that just something you reserve for when you're frustrated by my superior argumentation?

    Your posts would serve as a good lesson on how not to debate.

    1. You present evidence but refuse to connect it to the topic with anything approaching an argument.

    2. You ignore the counter-arguments of your opponent.

    3. You resort to ad-hominem attacks which are not only a sign of desperation but completely unprovable.

    Interesting that you take everything that you did and claim that it was me. I bet you also blame vicitms of rape for "dressing too sexy."

    I am confident that a unbiased observer would opine that I made my case passionately, but clearly; whereas, you stomped your feet and whined like a spoiled child.

  • ||

    Interesting that you take everything that you did and claim that it was me. I bet you also blame vicitms of rape for "dressing too sexy."

    Except that you did all of those things in a single post. And I pointed them out. See the difference between your claim and mine? Apparently not.

    I am confident that a unbiased observer would opine that I made my case passionately, but clearly; whereas, you stomped your feet and whined like a spoiled child.

    Yes, the delusions do seem real don't they.

  • ||

    Sorry to spoil your idol's perfect image but Nazir-Ali is a nativist quack:

    The Bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali, told the Sunday Times some had a "dual psychology" in which they sought "victimhood and domination".[...]

    Mr Nazir-Ali argued it would never be possible to satisfy all of the demands made by Muslims because "their complaint often boils down to the position that it is always right to intervene when Muslims are victims... and always wrong when Muslims are the oppressors or terrorists".[...]

    He added: "Given the world view that has given rise to such grievances, there can never be sufficient appeasement and new demands will continue to be made."

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/6117912.stm

    In the June 2008 issue of Standpoint magazine, Nazir-Ali called for the church to regain a prominent position in public life and blamed the "newfangled and insecurely founded doctrine of multiculturalism" for entrenching the segregation of communities. He claimed that the decline of Christianity and the rise of liberal values in the UK during the 1960s had created a moral vacuum with radical Islam filling the gap. He wrote that "We have argued that it is necessary to understand where we have come from, to guide us to where we are going, and to bring us back when we wander too far from the path of national destiny."

    http://www.standpointmag.co.uk.....itain-june

  • ||

    This all sounds very familiar, the idea that Muslims are dirtying the Christian character of the nation with their calls to prayer (church bells are the correct way to do it) and weird culture. Who else loves to engage in KULTUR WAR bullshit and worries about foreign hordes taking over their white Christian utopia? Nah must be a coincidence that the bishop sounds exactly like a nativist quack.

  • ||

    Indeed, I'd like to see your CV and your publication history in the discipline of modern European urban sociology, or post-Colonial studies, or something similar so that we can judge how fit you are to analyses and subsequently dismiss the claims of Londoners and Parisians who attest to their existance.

    Sorry to burst your preconceived ad hominem bubble, but my degrees are only in the sciences of Biology and Neuroscience. If you want to read my research you can google it.

    You're either a lair, or you're too stuipd to understand my argument and my criticism of your analysis. On second thought, you're a lair and stupid.

    Oh so you wouldn't mind linking to this argument? It doesn't exist.

    Goddamit, you're a moron. It is extremely germane, as you're the one who is arguing that to acknowledge the existence of inner-city cultural ghettoes that are hostile to the mores of outsiders is hysterical bigotry.

    Or you just don't know what I'm arguing. I'm saying there are no European Muslim No-Go Zones. The concept was completely fabricated by nativists for the sole purpose of supplementing their Islamic caliphate paranoia. Did I ever deny the existence of inner-city cultural ghettos in general? No, you're just being as delusional and paranoid as any nativist quack. Constantly attempting to misrepresent my argument and the topic of discussion is making a fool of no one, except yourself.

  • Cytotoxic||

    There are numerous accounts of gays being harassed or worse in the Netherlands where there are Muslims.

  • ||

    So?

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    So...combined with poor police presence, wouldn't those neighboorhood be "no-go zones" for them?

  • ||

    So wherever there is a crime and Muslims, ghetto? Derp.

  • Kodachrome||

    Chicago's crime rate went up last year, but it was a tiny increase most have attributed to the lack of winter. Apart from that, their crime rate has been going down for 20 years, from about 1000 murders a year to 400.

    And there's nothing particularly special about Chicago. It's violent crime rate is pretty much middle of the pack when it comes to large cities in the US.

    Frankly, the only reason people pay attention is because the GOP has been focused on it as a way to attack Obama the last several years. Similar to their totally sincere concern about the increase in Black unemployment under Obama.

  • Question of Auban||

    "The shift to tougher penal policies three decades ago was originally credited with helping people in poor neighborhoods by reducing crime"

    That COULD have been the case if the things that they were in prison for were real actual crimes with real actual victims.

  • sarcasmic||

    Crimes with victims require doing actual police work as stuff, and there's no property for the police to steal. Basically, they're nothing but a bother.

    Contraband on the other hand, well that's easy to prove, and the police get to steal any cash or other property that strikes their fancy.

    Incentives.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Well maybe the parent should have thought about the effects on poverty rates when he was attacking society by doing the drugs.

    A few years ago when they walled off Manhattan as a penal colony and renamed it Detroit, maybe they could have let the inmates bring their families inside. I wonder if that would have been an improvement. Maybe Snake Plissken wouldn't even have been needed to get the president out.

  • ||

    I don't know about Tierney's libertarian cred but the guy has zero science cred (social or real) in my opinion.

    A while back he teamed up with social science hack Roy Baumeister to write a pop-sci book about willpower. I wrote about it briefly, here.

    In short Baumeister's sciencey experiments consist of such things as giving college kids a coke then measuring their willpower, by how much they are "stifling prejudice during an interracial interaction".

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Frankly, the only reason people pay attention is because the GOP has been focused on it as a way to attack Obama the last several years. Similar to their totally sincere concern about the increase in Black unemployment under Obama.

    That's so sweet.

  • ||

    My experience with poor people is that most of them are rats, bed bugs, or vampires, and I have a lot of experience living with and working with the poor.

    Let's move on to the real scandal, now: America's penal system is set up to coerce innocent people to pay for prisons on the pretext of making criminals pay a debt to society.

  • jdgalt||

    Granted, we have far too many laws and far too many people are locked up as a result. Still, it would be helpful if authors who criticize the practice of imprisonment offered alternatives. Whipping? Stocks? Exile? (We don't exactly have a Siberia, but Utah might bore 'em to death.)

  • Robert||

    Looks more like a criminal lifestyle than incarceration per se that causes poverty.

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