from the world's big
Prison for Punishment, Not Rehabilitation
Robert Perkinson: No, \r\nthat’s a huge shift. For 200 years since the birth of the Northeastern \r\nPenitentiary, the stated purpose of incarceration—if not the reality, \r\nmind you—was to grab hold of wayward citizens who had done wrong and to \r\nintervene in their lives in such a way that they would come out the \r\nother side of incarceration better than they had entered. Now, this \r\nnever really worked out. It was never really attempted to the full \r\nextent. But because that was the stated purpose and because there was a\r\n kind of higher calling, in theory to corrections, it kind of mitigated \r\nthe extent to which vengeance and neglect and retribution could dominate\r\n the correctional experience.
But that really has changed in \r\nthe last 40 years. Rehabilitation, which reached it’s zenith under the \r\nfederal system and the California system in the ‘60’s came under attack \r\nby the left and more aggressively under attack from the right and has \r\nreally been squashed such that the purpose we have now for imprisoning \r\nso many people is on much more shaky ground, philosophically. It’s to \r\nincapacitate people from committing crimes. We say it’s for deterrence,\r\n but the evidence for deterrence is extremely weak. People are deterred\r\n by the presence of car alarms or police. But, you know, before a drug \r\naddict breaks into your car to steal your stereo, they do not consult \r\nsentencing schedules to find out of the penalty in Maryland is harsher \r\nthan the penalty in Virginia. And it’s silly of us to think that that \r\nwould happen. The death penalty also doesn’t work as a deterrent. So, \r\nit’s really incapacitation, but that’s a very expensive way to prevent \r\ncrime and help public safety and it doesn’t work very well.
What\r\n the collapse of... for me in my work, with the collapse of the \r\nrehabilitative claim and the collapse of "corrections" as a framework \r\nfor thinking about incarceration has done has really brought into clear \r\nreview an alternative tradition of American punishment. Not a tradition\r\n that has it’s genesis in Northern churches and Quaker meeting houses \r\nand genteel reform movements, as is the traditional story told about the\r\n North—and as a traditional story you’ll find in almost any history book\r\n about prisons. But an alternative genealogy comes into view that \r\nreally stretches back through racially divisive politics, and it \r\nstretches back to segregation, it stretches back to convict leasing the \r\ntotally privatized incredibly brutal prison system that took root in the\r\n South after the Civil War and stretches ultimately back to slavery—and \r\nthat’s a tradition of intentional debasement, public vengeance, \r\nexploitation of labor, and racial control. And in many ways, that, \r\nsadly, is the genealogy I think that gives us a more accurate sense of \r\nwhere we have ended up in the present than the trappings of \r\nrehabilitation that have dominated the historical literature.
Question:\r\n What can we do as a society to reduce the number of people in prison?
Robert\r\n Perkinson: What we have done of course is the opposite. In a \r\nsense, 40 years ago it’s as if we sat down and thought, okay, we have \r\nthis problem of crime and crime was going up in the 1960’s, let’s figure\r\n out the most expensive, most ineffective way to deal with crime that \r\nwill produce the most kind of social stratification and collateral \r\ndamage, and will undo a lot of the progress that’s going on towards \r\ncivil rights. No one sat around and did that at the time, not even the \r\nhardest hardliners. But that is in effect what we have done.
For\r\n 40 years we have legislated by headline. We have legislated by fear \r\nand campaign announcement. We have not governed in the interest of \r\neffective public policy, but we have let partisanship trump common \r\nsense. And we’ve been very tough on crime, but not very smart on crime \r\nat all. And it’s going to take a lot of effort to undo it, but I think \r\nyou’re exactly right. What needs to happen is we need to have as a \r\ncentral goal, not just try to make conditions of confinement more \r\nhumane, or help people who are released from prison – there’s like \r\n750,000 people a year who get out of prison, they’re tossed out on the \r\nstreet with stigma, without money, angrier and more alienated then they \r\nwere before. They didn’t get much treatment behind bars, so there’s a \r\nlot of emphasis on re-entry right now, as well there should be.
But\r\n in my view there really has to be an emphasis on reduction of this \r\nout-of-control, bloated government bureaucracy that is causing, and it’s\r\n like other types of government waste. I mean if we have a contract to \r\nbuild a highway and it gets double-billed... or air marshals—take air \r\nmarshals for example, which it seems like now that the evidence is in \r\nhas been totally useless government program. They haven’t committed any\r\n crime; there’s been an average of four arrests a year. But it’s \r\nrelatively benign. People get jobs, no one really is harmed by it and \r\nmaybe there’s a little bit of public safety, so it’s more or less – it’s\r\n wasteful, it’s irresponsible use of taxpayer money, but it’s not \r\nharming anyone.
Prison is very different. It actually is most – people think that \r\nit is responsible for maybe for 10% to 20% of reducing crime in the \r\nUnited States. There are many better cost-effective ways to reduce \r\ncrime. And we haven’t done them, and we need to start changing \r\ndirection. There are signs that that’s happening. And there needs to \r\nbe changes at every level of the system. We need better indigent \r\ndefense, we need fairer trials, we need a shift in our approach to \r\naddiction, toward thinking about it as a medical problem entwined with a\r\n crime and poverty problem, rather than as a solely criminal justice \r\nissue. We need to think about better ways to let people out of prison, \r\nespecially as they pass beyond their criminal prime.
There is a\r\n promising piece of legislation in Congress right now that Senator Webb \r\nof Virginia is pushing to create a national criminal justice commission \r\nto look at the whole U.S. criminal justice system, especially the \r\nfederal, but also in the states. At every stage, from arrest to parole,\r\n and to bring together experts from across disciplines and perspectives \r\nand to try to actually, for the first time in 40 years, look at this \r\nproblem in a sober-minded way rather than in a partisan, divisive way. \r\nAnd that hasn’t happened since President Johnson’s crime commission in \r\n1967, which, if you go back and dust that off, is a pretty great \r\ndocument. They had a whole laundry list of reforms. The prison \r\npopulation was 300,000 in their day and they thought that was too high. \r\n They had a whole series of recommendations for enhancing public safety \r\nby preventing child abuse with more effective policing, with better \r\npublic housing, with afterschool programs, as well as more effective law\r\n enforcement techniques, and a better targeting of our criminal justice \r\nresources, which are so disproportionately devoted to drug crimes right \r\nnow and not toward the crimes we really tend to be afraid of. So I \r\nthink that's promising.
But in order for us to undo 40 years of\r\n warring on crime and 40 years of warring on drugs, it’s going to take a\r\n lot more than this sort of budget-driven minor reforms that many of the\r\n states are undertaking now. And I think it’s going to take leadership \r\nfrom President Obama and Congress to make this an issue on par with \r\nhealth care or banking reform. And it really should be. I mean, in \r\nPresident Obama’s inaugural address, he said that we want to carry this \r\ngreat gift of freedom that American’s have carried over the course of \r\nour history, or at least tried to carry through the better chapters of \r\nour history and deliver it safely to future generations. We cannot do \r\nthat. We cannot carry the torch of freedom into the 21st century with \r\nhaving built the free world’s version of the Gulag... with 2.4 million \r\nAmericans behind bars with more than a million African-Americans having \r\nlost the vote, it fundamentally undermines our claims to democratic \r\nleadership in the same way segregation did during the cold war and the \r\nsame way I believe that slavery was the great contradiction to the \r\nfounding of the American democratic experiment.
Recorded April 14, 2010
We once hoped criminals would come out of prison better than they had entered. Not anymore.
An article in Journal of Bioethical Inquiry raises questions about the goal of these advocacy groups.
- Two-thirds of American consumer advocacy groups are funded by pharmaceutical companies.
- The authors of an article in Journal of Bioethical Inquiry say this compromises their advocacy.
- Groups like the National Alliance on Mental Illness act more like lobbyists than patient advocates.
The Corruption That Brought Prozac to Market — Robert Whitaker, Journalist<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="bea9cff2b25efc18b663a011a679ba16"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/UyaJExxFPAE?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Consumer-oriented groups gained steam over the ensuing decades. Their efforts helped inspire the 1938 Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act after over 100 people (mostly children) died from a sanctioned drug, Sulfanilamide. If not for the hard work of these advocates, this case might have been overlooked.</p><p>Early efforts also focused on the food industry, which was increasingly using chemical preservatives. The origin of Consumer Reports can be found in the consumer advocacy movement. Both the food and drug industries were getting a free pass to experiment on citizens with few repercussions.</p><p>These movements provided a social foundation for important advocacy work in the second half of the century. Female-led groups evolved to focus on women's reproductive rights, AIDS, and mental health. As the authors write, these groups struck a balance between working <em>with</em> and <em>against</em> current trends. Sometimes you need to craft legislation with officials; at other times, you have to rage against the machine with everything you've got. </p><p>Advocacy marked an important turning point in public health (and culture in general). These groups were tired of placating to a medical model that treated the male body as the standard. This wasn't limited to anatomy. As I <a href="https://bigthink.com/coronavirus/pandemic-warnings-rp-eddy" target="_self">wrote about last week</a>, a high-profile 1970s-era conference about the role of women on Wall St featured no women on stage. You can imagine what reproductive health looked like during that time. </p><p>Advocacy groups made real impact in public health. Then the money began pouring in. </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"These groups were funded largely by individual donations with some foundation support, but in the late 1980s, newer women's health groups moved to professionalize, effectively splitting the women's health movement."</p><p>A number of groups resist corporate ties to this day, such as the National Women's Heath Network and Breast Cancer Action. Too often, however, groups argue that their existence depends on corporate funding. This can lead to uncomfortable compromises. </p><p>An estimated two-thirds of patient advocacy groups in America accept funds from the pharmaceutical industry. Pharma companies gave <a href="https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007/s11673-019-09956-8.pdf" target="_blank">at least $116 million</a> to such groups in 2015 alone.</p><p>For example, over a three-year period, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), which was founded by two mothers whose sons suffered from schizophrenia, received nearly $12 million from 18 pharmaceutical companies. The largest donor was Prozac manufacturer, Eli Lilly. By 2008, three-quarters of NAMI's budget was funded by the pharmaceutical industry. It gets worse:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"An Eli Lilly executive was even 'on loan' to NAMI, paid by Eli Lilly, while he worked out of the NAMI office on 'strategic planning.'"</p>
A customer waiting for his medication at the Headache Bar in a pharmacy in Sydney, Australia. Among the items on sale are 'Paigees with Chlorophyll' and Alka Seltzer on tap.
Photo by Dennis Rowe/BIPs/Getty Images<p>This influx of cash skews public understanding of drugs. It also influences advocates to overlook real problems caused by pharmaceutical interventions, especially when it comes to mental health.<br></p><p>For a real-world example, consider how Xanax came to market. As journalist Robert Whitaker <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2e829xdb4AA" target="_blank">explains</a>, an <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1463502/?page=1" target="_blank">initial study</a> was conducted to determine efficacy in treating panic attacks. After four weeks, Xanax was outperforming placebo, which is common with benzodiazepines over short-term usage. But it wasn't a four-week study; it was a 14-week study.</p><p>At the end of eight weeks, there was no difference in efficacy between Xanax and placebo.</p><p>At the conclusion of the study after 14 weeks, the placebo outperformed Xanax. By a lot.</p><p>Why is Xanax still prescribed for panic attacks? Because the pharmaceutical company, Upjohn, only published the four-week data. The 14-week data was not in its favor. Nearly forty years later, over <a href="https://www.statista.com/statistics/781816/alprazolam-sodium-prescriptions-number-in-the-us/" target="_blank">25 million</a> Americans receive a prescription despite its <a href="https://drugabuse.com/xanax/effects-use/" target="_blank">long list</a> of side effects and addictive profile. </p><p>As the authors note, many consumers are not aware of how advocacy groups are funded.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"An international study of groups in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and South Africa found that the extent of relationships with industry was inadequately disclosed in websites that addressed ten health conditions: cancer, heart disease, diabetes, asthma, cystic fibrosis, epilepsy, depression, Parkinson's disease, osteoporosis, and rheumatoid arthritis."</p><p>That's a tangled web of relationships. Pharmaceutical industry funding negatively impacts the work advocacy groups should be focused on: protecting us. NAMI, for example, claims that as a "natural ally" to the pharmaceutical industry, it helps consumers access "all scientifically proven treatments." When the industry ignores evidence of long-term damage caused by its treatments, you have to wonder what's being advocated. </p><p>Although, as the authors conclude, that question is easy to answer. </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Instead of drawing insights from patient experience to set organizational agendas and challenge industry agendas, today's groups are silent on high prices and drug harms, oppose efforts to regulate these basic rights, and demand access to drugs that challenge the safety and effectiveness."</p><p><span></span>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
- Modern antibiotics can effectively treat bubonic plague, which spreads mainly by fleas.
Bacteria under microscope
needpix.com<p>Today, bubonic plague can be treated effectively with antibiotics.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Unlike in the 14th century, we now have an understanding of how this disease is transmitted," Dr. Shanthi Kappagoda, an infectious disease physician at Stanford Health Care, told <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/seriously-dont-worry-about-the-plague#Heres-how-the-plague-spreads" target="_blank">Healthline</a>. "We know how to prevent it — avoid handling sick or dead animals in areas where there is transmission. We are also able to treat patients who are infected with effective antibiotics, and can give antibiotics to people who may have been exposed to the bacteria [and] prevent them [from] getting sick."</p>
This plague patient is displaying a swollen, ruptured inguinal lymph node, or buboe.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention<p>Still, hundreds of people develop bubonic plague every year. In the U.S., a handful of cases occur annually, particularly in New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado, <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/plague/faq/index.html" target="_blank">where habitats allow the bacteria to spread more easily among wild rodent populations</a>. But these cases are very rare, mainly because you need to be in close contact with rodents in order to get infected. And though plague can spread from human to human, this <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/seriously-dont-worry-about-the-plague#Heres-how-the-plague-spreads" target="_blank">only occurs with pneumonic plague</a>, and transmission is also rare.</p>
A new swine flu in China<p>Last week, researchers in China also reported another public health concern: a new virus that has "all the essential hallmarks" of a pandemic virus.<br></p><p>In a paper published in the <a href="https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2020/06/23/1921186117" target="_blank">Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences</a>, researchers say the virus was discovered in pigs in China, and it descended from the H1N1 virus, commonly called "swine flu." That virus was able to transmit from human to human, and it killed an estimated 151,700 to 575,400 people worldwide from 2009 to 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.</p>There's no evidence showing that the new virus can spread from person to person. But the researchers did find that 10 percent of swine workers had been infected by the virus, called G4 reassortant EA H1N1. This level of infectivity raises concerns, because it "greatly enhances the opportunity for virus adaptation in humans and raises concerns for the possible generation of pandemic viruses," the researchers wrote.
Want help raising your kids? Spend more time at church, says new study.
- Religious people tend to have more children than secular people, but why remains unknown.
- Conversely, having a large secular social group made women less likely to have children.