Creating a healthy environment is the best thing we can do, isn’t it?

Can’t hurt. But the government doesn’t raise all the children.

If you take the position that a poor social environment is highly correlated to bad social outcomes (and stated vaguely like that, I’d agree with the statement) then you have to move on to the next problem, which is that people raise children, not governments.

So, you’re kind of back where you started from.

The system is clearly flawed.

Hmmmm. “Flawed”. I don’t know if I’d agree with that word. I’d say it’s imperfect, and can be improved upon, but ultimately, you cannot remove punishment from the equation.

The question, I suppose, is (a) how much punishment for a given crime, (b) the prison environment the punishment is administered in, and (c ) what sort of rehabilitation is provided in the prison environment.

The US has issues in all three areas. First, it administers dangerously high levels of punishment, in certain circumstances, for ‘casual’ crimes:

  • Drug use and sales of small quantities of recreational drugs. In the 80’s, the “War on Drugs” was a popular focus, driven by the large number of voters in their 40’s who were starting to see drug sellers targeting secondary schools. It’s been estimated that if the US were to decriminalize marijuana use and the sale of small quantities retroactively, up to a third of US prisoners would immediately be released.
  • “Three strikes you’re out” laws. There was a crime uptick at during the same period and into the 1990’s, and these laws were popular with the voters, and politicians who ran on platforms that you would have approved of were cast out of office. Nobody really thought through the issue and realized that under these laws, the third shoplifing offense could net you 20 years in the slammer.
  • As for (b), it’s kind of assumed that maximum security prisons in the US are not nice places to be. Making them comfortable is not a goal of the judicial system.
  • Rehabilitation programs came under attack in the 1970’s, when prison populations started to rise, and budgets for these programs started to baloon. The taxpayers were not happy, and voted in politicians who promised to make prisons focus on punishment.

And if we as a society know how to make it better, but refuse to do so, it’s equally our responsibility too. We’re an accomplice to the crime.

The other way to look at it is that it’s NOT our responsibility, it’s the responsibility of the individual not to commit crimes. It’s a horse-cart problem. You have your opinion; mine differs.

I was talking about welfare — an umbrella term for social programs that might help the girl in this story and mentally challenged individuals.

Hmmmm. I have many friends and colleagues with children who are “challenged” in many ways. They usually take the position that the resources are available.

You’ll remember from the OP’s account that she did seek help with a counselor (I don’t remember if it was school or social services) and she was sexually abused by the counselor. So, the problem was NOT that the social service was unavailable, but that the vendor of that service was a toad.

I am not hugely tied in to this anymore, but when I was teaching in a very low income school (with tons of kids who had problems) resources were not the problem. The problem was getting parents to avail themselves of those resources. School teachers and counselors can scream to high heaven that a child needs help, but if the parent doesn’t listen, nothing can be done, UNLESS that child actually commits some sort of social infraction or crime. THEN, the wheels start turning.

This puts us back to the “government doesn’t raise children” situation. If you suggested giving school counselors the right to force children into services over the objections of the parents, you’d have parents with pitchforks lining up to take the heads of the politicians.

Are European parents so sanguine? I doubt it.

Good policymaking is nothing more than the allocation of resources.

Quite right.

When something clearly doesn’t work, you switch funding to more progressive institutions. In this case, that would be the reform of prison systems in favor of social programs.

Unfortunately for this idea, the US is not a dictatorship. The federal government controls federal prisons, but the vast majority of inmates are in state or local lockup and are judged under state or local laws. And I can tell you that although the current climate in the US is to make some progress in the area of my (a) above, by decriminalizing recreational drugs, the any politician advocating such a “reform of the prison system” would be tossed out on their ears. The public is much more in the mood for “lock them up and forget about them” than they are for moderating sentences.

Why am I advocating this approach? Because it works in other developed nations.

Define “works”. That is a vague term which is generally subjective in nature.

America has a problem with racism, not botched socialization.

Uh, no. These are not unrelated terms, but social surveys like the General Social Survey show that < 10% of US Citizens believe in racial superiority, and most of those are likely in nursing homes in the Deep South.

When I speak of “botched socialization”, racism WAS a factor in prior years of course, but today, the “botching” comes from the fact that African American children are primarily educated in low-performing schools by low-performing teachers, which perpetuates failure.

Biggest homeless population, highest number of mass shootings and biggest prison system in the world. Maybe the way you treat people is not the best? just saying…

You’ve thrown out a lot of social problems to which you have decided are highly correlated with the US emphasis on punishment.

The level of correlation is debatable and difficult to prove, especially (for one example) most perpetrators of mass shootings were never in the prison system. So, there’s that. Something else is afoot there.

But, more to my original point, although we can agree that there are systemic issues which should be addressed, the bottom line is that (as far as the US is concerned) we are where we are, and until the public changes its outlook on crime and punishment, where we are isn’t going to change much.

But, since we’re engaging in hypotheticals, here’s one for you, putting aside for the moment that the original author of the piece completely refutes your position by her own experience (she got 22 years, but was rehabilitated to a functioning member of society, or so it seems):

Suppose she instead found a judge sympathetic to her upbringing and socialization problems, who instead sentenced her to 10 years supervised probation under which she had to complete her education, hold a job, and had to attend individual and group counseling sessions in order to mitigate her social problems and bring her back into society. (I assume this is a bit closer to the type of judicial system you prefer.)

Then, she goes out two years after she’s been in probation and kills somebody.

You want to blame the public for not rehabilitating the prisoner. If the “rehabilitating probationer” kills again, who gets blamed then?


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Data Driven Econophile. Muslim, USA born. Been “woke” 2x: 1st, when I realized the world isn’t fair; 2nd, when I realized the “woke” people are full of shit.

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