History UsefulNotes / AmericanPrisons

3rd Sep '17 4:29:33 PM angie710
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Technically speaking, a jail is where someone is placed while awaiting trial or to serve sentences under one year, while a prison (also known as correctional institution, penitentiary, or correctional facility) is for persons serving a year or more. However, the words are often used interchangeably. Even people sentenced to long prison terms may spend a significant portion of their time in a local jail, and placement in a permanent prison can sometimes take more than a year before a space is found (especially if the prisoner has a problematic history in prison already or has enemies in particular prisons, narrowing the choices where they can be sent).

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Technically speaking, a jail is where someone is placed while awaiting trial or to serve sentences under one year, while a prison (also known as correctional institution, penitentiary, or correctional facility) is for persons serving a year or more. However, the words are often used interchangeably. Even people sentenced to long prison terms may spend a significant portion of their time in a local jail, and placement in a permanent prison can sometimes take more than a year before a space is found (especially if the prisoner has a problematic history in prison already or has enemies in particular prisons, prisons narrowing the choices where they can be sent).



American prisons are also known as breeding grounds for racism and gangs. Prisons with violent inmates often have racist gangs, which tend to divide up into White, Black and Hispanic. Sitting with or hanging out with someone of a different race than your own may lead to your being attacked. Just consider yourself warned to find out the situation before doing so. (There's actually a logical but depressingly self-reinforcing reason for this: every race demands loyalty so they have troops in case they're at war with another race, and prevents their members from hanging out with other races to prevent personal disagreements from starting racial incidents in the first place, but that prevents anyone from ever seeing prison life as anything other than racially-driven, so it's a vicious cycle.) Some of these gangs, such as the Aryan Brotherhood and Mexican Mafia, have since spread beyond prison walls, with inmates taking their gang ties with them as they're released. In fact, in some states, like California, the majority of organized and gang crime 'on the street' is controlled by prison gangs from inside prison, on the logic that people involved in gangs or criminal activity are probably going to wind up doing some prison time sooner or later, where they might have friends among the gangs inside, or not. The power of prison gangs drove much of the enthusiasm for [[TheAlcatraz Supermax]] prisons in the 1990s as a (harsh and extremely expensive) solution to the problem by isolating as totally as possible anyone who was even suspected of being a gang member.

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American prisons are also known as breeding grounds for racism and gangs. Prisons with violent inmates often have racist gangs, which tend to divide up into White, Black and Hispanic. Sitting with or hanging out with someone of a different race than your own may lead to your being attacked. Just consider yourself warned to find out the situation before doing so. (There's actually a logical but depressingly self-reinforcing reason for this: every race demands loyalty so they have troops in case they're at war with another race, and prevents their members from hanging out with other races to prevent personal disagreements from starting racial incidents in the first place, but that prevents anyone from ever seeing prison life as anything other than racially-driven, so it's a vicious cycle.) Some of these gangs, such as the Aryan Brotherhood and Mexican Mafia, have since spread beyond prison walls, with inmates taking their gang ties with them as they're released. In fact, in some states, like California, the majority of organized and gang crime 'on the street' is [[MightAsWellNotBeInPrisonAtAll controlled by prison gangs from inside prison, prison]], on the logic that people involved in gangs or criminal activity are probably going to wind up doing some prison time sooner or later, where they might have friends among the gangs inside, or not. (Some gangs even ''[[GetIntoJailFree require]]'' prospective members to do some time in prison at some point!) The power of prison gangs drove much of the enthusiasm for [[TheAlcatraz Supermax]] prisons in the 1990s as a (harsh and extremely expensive) solution to the problem by isolating as totally as possible anyone who was even suspected of being a gang member.
3rd Sep '17 4:23:20 PM angie710
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Prisons other than minimum security (and sometimes even those) are notorious for PrisonRape. The actual prevalence of it is subject to debate, with many prison officials claiming that it either does not exist or is very rare. As a result, inmates attempting to report rape are usually not believed or just get NoSympathy. Often, word of reporting it gets back to the rapist, who then punishes the victim further. A surprisingly high amount of prison rape is perpetuated by staff, and an unsurprisingly high amount of it occurs in juvenile facilities. Much actual prison rape tends to use coercion, psychological pressure, or veiled threats rather than actual violence. For a very depressing look at the subject, go [[http://www.hrw.org/reports/2001/prison/ here]]. The federal government passed a law, the [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prison_Rape_Elimination_Act_of_2003 Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003]], that sought to provide significant resources to study and help fight the problem on a national level.

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Prisons other than minimum security (and sometimes even those) are notorious for PrisonRape. The actual prevalence of it is subject to debate, with many prison officials claiming that it either does not exist or is very rare. As a result, inmates attempting to report rape are usually [[CassandraTruth not believed believed]] or just get NoSympathy. Often, word of reporting it gets back to the rapist, who then punishes the victim further. A surprisingly high amount of prison rape is perpetuated by staff, ''staff'', and an unsurprisingly high amount of it [[WouldHurtAChild occurs in juvenile facilities. facilities]]. Much actual prison rape tends to use [[QuestionableConsent coercion, psychological pressure, or veiled threats threats]] rather than actual physical force or violence. For a very depressing look at the subject, go [[http://www.hrw.org/reports/2001/prison/ here]]. The federal government passed a law, the [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prison_Rape_Elimination_Act_of_2003 Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003]], that sought to provide significant resources to study and help fight the problem on a national level.
3rd Sep '17 4:08:00 PM angie710
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The United States has the world's highest incarceration rate. One person in a hundred people are in prison, and one person out of thirty-one people are in prison, probation or on parole. (Note that a ''very'' large percentage of this is argued to be due to the "[[DrugsAreBad War on Drugs]]" by opponents of said movement.) The rate is especially high among black men. Important to note is the American philosophy that prisons are more for punishment, deterrence, and incapacitation then they are for rehabilitation. Whether or not it works (which is quite debatable), rehabilitation is low on the prison system's list of priorities, as many Americans are skeptical that it's even possible. This skepticism results in longer sentencing as well. For example, in much of Europe, "life" is 20 years, with about seven to ten years off that for good behavior. In the US, this varies from 25 years (with parole hearings possible after half that time) to a very literal "lock 'em up and throw away the key" sentence (more typically referred to as "life without parole"). In the federal system, early release on parole is even forbidden for prisoners convicted for offenses committed after November 1, 1987, but time off for good behavior remains. In the 1980s, there was a trend towards determinate sentencing (a fixed sentence with a certain number of years, as opposed to "10 to life"), statutory sentencing guidelines, and mandatory minimums that made sentencing relatively predictable (and harsh, especially for drug offenses), but the trend in the 21st century has perhaps been slowly moving away from that.

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The United States has the world's highest incarceration rate. One person in a hundred people are in prison, and one person out of thirty-one people are in prison, probation or on parole. (Note that a ''very'' large percentage of this is argued to be due to the "[[DrugsAreBad War on Drugs]]" by opponents of said movement.) The rate is especially high among black men. Important to note is the American philosophy that prisons are more for punishment, deterrence, and incapacitation then they are for rehabilitation. Whether or not it works (which is quite debatable), rehabilitation is low on the prison system's list of priorities, as many Americans are skeptical that it's even possible. This skepticism results in longer sentencing as well. For example, in much of Europe, "life" is 20 years, with about seven to ten years off that for good behavior. In the US, this varies from 25 years (with parole hearings possible after half that time) to a very literal "lock 'em up and throw away the key" sentence (more typically referred to as "life without parole"). Sometimes, it's even a LongerThanLifeSentence. In the federal system, early release on parole is even forbidden for prisoners convicted for offenses committed after November 1, 1987, but time off for good behavior remains. In the 1980s, there was a trend towards determinate sentencing (a fixed sentence with a certain number of years, as opposed to "10 to life"), statutory sentencing guidelines, and mandatory minimums that made sentencing relatively predictable (and harsh, especially for drug offenses), but the trend in the 21st century has perhaps been slowly moving away from that.
25th Jun '17 10:20:06 AM nombretomado
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* Federal law has made debtors' prisons illegal since 1833, however states laws vary. TheOtherWiki has [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debtors%27_prison#Modern_U.S._by_state a list of modern debtors' prisons by state.]] And as recently as 2014 there have been cases of people imprisoned for "contempt of court" ironically [[http://www.npr.org/2014/05/21/313118629/supreme-court-ruling-not-enough-to-prevent-debtors-prisons defying the Supreme Court]], in what some have called "[[http://www.independent.org/newsroom/article.asp?id=2229 The Return of Debtors' Prisons]]".

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* Federal law has made debtors' prisons illegal since 1833, however states laws vary. TheOtherWiki Wiki/TheOtherWiki has [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debtors%27_prison#Modern_U.S._by_state a list of modern debtors' prisons by state.]] And as recently as 2014 there have been cases of people imprisoned for "contempt of court" ironically [[http://www.npr.org/2014/05/21/313118629/supreme-court-ruling-not-enough-to-prevent-debtors-prisons defying the Supreme Court]], in what some have called "[[http://www.independent.org/newsroom/article.asp?id=2229 The Return of Debtors' Prisons]]".
26th Apr '17 3:10:31 PM justapage
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Added DiffLines:

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See also the UsefulNotes for UsefulNotes/AmericanCourts.
26th Apr '17 3:07:32 PM justapage
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* Federal law has made debtors' prisons illegal since 1833, however states laws vary. TheOtherWiki has [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debtors%27_prison#Modern_U.S._by_state a list of modern debtors' prisons by state.]] And as recently as [[http://www.npr.org/2014/05/21/313118629/supreme-court-ruling-not-enough-to-prevent-debtors-prisons 2014]] there have been cases of people imprisoned for "contempt of court" ironically [[http://www.npr.org/2014/05/21/313118629/supreme-court-ruling-not-enough-to-prevent-debtors-prisons defying the Supreme Court]], in what some have called "[[http://www.independent.org/newsroom/article.asp?id=2229 The Return of Debtors' Prisons]]".

to:

* Federal law has made debtors' prisons illegal since 1833, however states laws vary. TheOtherWiki has [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debtors%27_prison#Modern_U.S._by_state a list of modern debtors' prisons by state.]] And as recently as [[http://www.npr.org/2014/05/21/313118629/supreme-court-ruling-not-enough-to-prevent-debtors-prisons 2014]] 2014 there have been cases of people imprisoned for "contempt of court" ironically [[http://www.npr.org/2014/05/21/313118629/supreme-court-ruling-not-enough-to-prevent-debtors-prisons defying the Supreme Court]], in what some have called "[[http://www.independent.org/newsroom/article.asp?id=2229 The Return of Debtors' Prisons]]".
26th Apr '17 3:05:37 PM justapage
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!!! Prison Debt
A more recent development is that [[http://nation.time.com/2013/08/21/welcome-to-prison-will-you-be-paying-cash-or-credit/ prison is often not free anymore]] with inmates being charged for amenities and lodging, and sometimes being put back into prison for failure to pay those debts.

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!!! Prison and Debt
A more recent development is that [[http://nation.time.com/2013/08/21/welcome-to-prison-will-you-be-paying-cash-or-credit/ prison is often not free anymore]] with inmates being charged for amenities and lodging, and sometimes being put back into prison for failure to pay those debts.
debts.
* Federal law has made debtors' prisons illegal since 1833, however states laws vary. TheOtherWiki has [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debtors%27_prison#Modern_U.S._by_state a list of modern debtors' prisons by state.]] And as recently as [[http://www.npr.org/2014/05/21/313118629/supreme-court-ruling-not-enough-to-prevent-debtors-prisons 2014]] there have been cases of people imprisoned for "contempt of court" ironically [[http://www.npr.org/2014/05/21/313118629/supreme-court-ruling-not-enough-to-prevent-debtors-prisons defying the Supreme Court]], in what some have called "[[http://www.independent.org/newsroom/article.asp?id=2229 The Return of Debtors' Prisons]]".
20th Feb '17 8:11:43 PM lcmortensen
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Thirty-six US states have statutes allowing capital punishment. Some states use this more than others. For instance, Texas has executed 449 inmates since 1976, while Virginia, with the second highest number of executions, had only 105. (Partly justified as Texas's total population is about 3 times that of Virginia's. Ironically, the definition of what constitutes a "capital murder" in Texas is one of the strictest standards in the country[[note]]though it's been argued it's ''because'' of such, giving Texas an objective basis to decide if someone should be executed[[/note]].) Also, the federal government and the US military can use capital punishment, although the former hasn't used it since 2003 and the latter since 1961 (there are six people on death row though).

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Thirty-six Thirty-one US states have statutes allowing capital punishment. Some states use this more than others. For instance, Texas has executed 449 inmates since 1976, while Virginia, with the second highest number of executions, had only 105. (Partly justified as Texas's total population is about 3 times that of Virginia's. ) Ironically, the definition of what constitutes a "capital murder" in Texas is one of the strictest standards in the country[[note]]though it's been argued it's ''because'' of such, giving Texas an objective basis to decide if someone should be executed[[/note]].) Also, the federal government and the US military can use capital punishment, although the former hasn't used it since 2003 and the latter since 1961 (there are six people on death row though).
3rd Oct '16 2:50:10 PM tommythegun
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There are prisons run by the federal government (both for civilians and the military), states, counties, and cities. People convicted of federal crimes normally go to federal prison, people convicted of state crimes to to state prisons, and so on. Counties and cities usually run jails, not prisons. In recent years, however, there's been a significant amount of cooperation and contracting between the federal, state, and local governments in transferring prisoners, where one government that doesn't have space in its prison system will pay another to keep some of its prisoners (California started exporting prisoners to other states in 2010 and the Federal government often does this with immigration detainees). There are also [[LawEnforcementInc privately-operated prisons]], which contract with the state or federal governments on a per-diem rate to hold their prisoners (over 260 facilities holding nearly 100,000 prisoners nationwide as of 2010). Needless to say, this is highly controversial.

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There are prisons run by the federal government (both for civilians and the military), states, counties, and cities. People convicted of federal crimes normally go to federal prison, people convicted of state crimes to to state prisons, and so on. Counties and cities usually run jails, not prisons. In recent years, however, there's been a significant amount of cooperation and contracting between the federal, state, and local governments in transferring prisoners, where one government that doesn't have space in its prison system will pay another to keep some of its prisoners (California started exporting prisoners to other states in 2010 and the Federal government often does this with immigration detainees). There are also [[LawEnforcementInc privately-operated prisons]], which contract with the state or federal governments on a per-diem rate to hold their prisoners (over 260 facilities holding nearly 100,000 prisoners nationwide as of 2010). Needless to say, this is highly controversial.
controversial. As of 2016, the federal government has ceased contracting with privately-operated prison corporations.
10th May '16 3:33:22 PM nightkiller
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* As mentioned above, there is the potential for a last-minute pardon.

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* As mentioned above, there is the potential for a last-minute pardon.commutation.
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