“Penal reformers have long claimed, ‘prison doesn't work.’ This is only partly true: for drug cartels, prison works brilliantly. Jails provide a place to hire and train new members of staff, something that is normally extremely difficult for criminal organizations to do because of the constraints imposed by the illegality of their businesses...
How misguided it was to send low-level offenders to these universities of crime was apparent even to Richard Nixon, the first US president o declare a "war on drugs. To take somebody that smoked some of this stuff (cannabis), put I'm into a jail with a bunch of hardened criminals... that's absurd...There must be different ways than jail." He said in a private conversation recorded in the Oval Office in 1971. *
*Cited by Common Sense for Drug Policy, at:
Since he made those comments, the United states, in particular, has struggled to find ‘different ways than jail’, At the time of Nixon’s remark, the country's prison population stood at about 200,000. It is now 1.6 million. Most of the criticism leveled at this policy is made on human-rights grounds, but an equally persuasive case can be made based on economics. Prison is fabulously expensive. Sending a teenager to jail. Costs more than it would to send him to Eton College, the private boarding school in England that educated Princes William and Harry. It seems especially odd that the United States, a country with a proud history of limited government, is unquestioningly generous when it comes to this particular public service, on which is blows $80 billion a year. Does it really need to lock up five times as many people per capita as Britain, six times as many as Canada, and nine times as many as Germany?
The case for making prisons less populous is fairly clear. Less obviously, there is also an argument for making them cushier. This flies in the face of common sense, which suggest that worse prisons provide a stronger deterrent to committing crime. But the evidence is that prisoners react to ugly dangerous surroundings by joining criminal groups that offer them protection and privileges. "We're not a gang, we're a [labor] union," prisoners in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, told thee London Times. Just like ordinary workers inmates are more likely to unionize if they face bad conditions. Making jails safer removes prisoners' need for protection: providing training gives them noncriminal options when they eventually leave. The more the state fails to meet prisoners' basic needs the greater the opportunity for criminal gangs to fill the gap.
The Dominican Republic shows how such an approach can work. The country was once addicted to high levels of incarceration in jails that maintained dreadful standards. Under the old Dominican system, half of all inmates reoffended within three years of their release.. Under the new system fewer than 3 percent do...
For organized-crime groups, steering inmates into criminal careers is far easier under the older, more punitive regime.
The implication of this is that if one can hamper cartels' recruitment by limiting the flow of apprentices coming through prison, one can tighten up the criminal labor market. For one thing, this will force criminal organizations to pay their employees higher wages, cutting into their profits. It will also deter them from violently quarreling its the employees they have. One can only treat members of staff as disposable if there is a steady stream of replacements lined up.”
THE PEOPLE PROBLEMS OF A DRUG CARTEL
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