The Texas Penal System as a Microcosm
Robert Perkinson: Well, my family is \r\nfrom the South and when I went to grad school at Yale and decided to \r\nstart working on prisons because as an undergrad, I had noticed you \r\nknow, there’s all this money going into prisons and we’re starting at \r\nthat time already to eclipse higher education spending in many states. \r\nBut when I started kind of going through the literature I realized that \r\nalmost all of the books were really focusing on the north, there were a \r\nlot of new books and research that were coming out of California, but \r\nthe South is really where the action was. Three-fifths of the prison \r\ngrowth in the U.S. in the last 30 years has been in the South. The \r\nSouth overwhelmingly and to a lesser extent the Sun Belt, has the \r\nhighest rates of incarceration in the country and there hadn’t been much\r\n attention there.
So I went down to my own state where I spent a\r\n lot of time, Mississippi, and thought about doing research there and \r\nthen I spent time at the Angola Prison Plantation in Louisiana, but the \r\nmore I started poking around, the more I realized that Texas is really \r\nwhere the action is. You know, just like if you were going to do film \r\nstudies you were probably going to end up in Hollywood, or study finance\r\n you’re going to end up in New York.
Texas has now the largest \r\npenal system in the United States, 171,000 people behind bars. That’s \r\nmore than California, even though California has a third larger \r\npopulation. Those under some sort of criminal justice supervision, \r\nincluding parole and probation, that gets up around 750,000 in Texas, \r\nwhich makes it about the same size as the booming capital, Austin. It’s\r\n got obviously the most active death chamber in the nation, the most \r\naggressive private prison industry. Texas is also politically really \r\nimportant because Bush the second was President when I started this \r\nproject and a lot of recent Presidents have come from Texas; Eisenhower \r\nand Johnson and both Bushes.
So, I felt that Texas was a place \r\nwhere we can see the Southern influence of criminal justice on the \r\nnation because it’s a kind of bridge between the Deep South and the West\r\n and the Midwest. And it really was where the action was. And I think \r\nit was the right place to look because I think looking carefully at the \r\nhistory of Texas kind of makes us rethink the history of crime and \r\npunishment and incarceration in the country as a whole.
Question:\r\n What about Texas is causing such high incarceration rates?
Robert\r\n Perkinson: Yeah, the sentences tend to be longer, the protections \r\nfor indigent defendants so on the entry side, tend to be weaker. Texas \r\nhas, although that’s starting to change now, but there’s no state-wide \r\npublic defender system, so most of the public defenders are appointed by\r\n judges. And they’re paid a kind of set amount for the case, which means\r\n that the less work they do on behalf of a defendant the more they will \r\nmake as an hourly wage. There’s all sorts of court-appointed attorneys \r\nwho are doing... working really hard, but they are penalized for doing \r\nso. And the judges are also elected in Texas which has meant that in \r\nthe kind of resurgence of conservatism that has seized on law and order \r\nas central campaign slogan and as candidates from Bush the first using \r\nWillie Horton against Dukakis forward have found that attack ads based \r\non accusing someone of being soft on crime are pretty effective. It’s \r\nmeant that most of the judges elected to the criminal appellate courts \r\nand to the local courts have been law and order conservatives—often \r\nprosecutors or victim’s rights advocates and so the judiciary in Texas \r\nhas more often wielded a rubber stamp than a gavel. So that accounts \r\nfor some of the higher rates of incarceration. And that explains a lot \r\nof why Texas’ death chamber is so much more active.
Texas \r\ndoesn’t have the largest death row. It’s not sentencing more people to \r\ndeath, although there are a lot of people being sentenced to death \r\nbecause they are not getting good representation... but the Appellate \r\nCourts are so harsh in Texas. So much so that even the U.S. Supreme \r\nCourt, which is now a very conservative body, has repeatedly over the \r\nlast few years been rebuking the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. I \r\nmean, they’ve made decisions that, to the rest of us seem unfathomable. \r\n They allowed an execution to go forward because, without review, \r\nbecause the defense attorneys missed a 5:00 p.m. filing deadline. They \r\nrefused to release inmates who have been proven twice innocent by DNA \r\nevidence. Just a couple of weeks ago the Supreme Court had to step in \r\nand stop the execution of Hank Skinner because the prosecutors had \r\nrefused for years to subject the physical evidence from his crime scene \r\nto DNA testing and the list kind of... they refused to order new trials \r\nwhen they found out that the judge and the prosecutor had been sleeping \r\ntogether during the defendant’s trial. So, there’s a whole series of \r\nkind of outrageous decisions.
So, it’s a confluence of factors,\r\n but what I didn’t get to and maybe we’ll talk about later is what I \r\nreally actually argue in the book is more that there is this historical \r\nlegacy of slavery and that we still live within slavery and \r\nsegregation’s shadow in that really is what is governing and propelling \r\nprison growth in the south, and now in the country as a whole
Question: \r\n How has DNA testing affected the justice system in Texas?
Robert\r\n Perkinson: DNA testing has led to a kind of crisis in the judiciary\r\n because—if it’s done properly—which is often isn’t... I mean, the \r\ncrime labs in Dallas and Houston have been plagued by error and \r\nprosecutorial bias... But if the labs are independent and fair, and the \r\ntraining is solid and they’re independent, then the results are so good \r\nthat it has made us realize that types of testimony—types of evidence \r\nthat we thought were unassailable, like eyewitness testimony in rape \r\ncases, in which the victims with great conviction believe that the \r\nperson before them was the assailant, it has turned out in many cases \r\nthat they were wrong. And there’s a lot of cognitive research now to \r\nback this up that we can kind of plant memories or change memories \r\nthrough the process of the lineup and so on.
So yeah, the more \r\nthat we can—the more that we can provide defendants in cases which there\r\n is physical evidence the best kind of testing to ensure the most \r\nfairness, that’s better. And that’s a way to reduce, frankly the prison\r\n population and to save money in the long-term as well. I mean, I think\r\n having a robust public defender system, having a genuinely adversarial \r\ncriminal justice system that will... on the one hand, stop people from \r\ngoing to prison, but also there’s a much larger category of gray areas \r\nwhere people are going down for, or pleading to sentences that are much \r\nlonger than they would have gotten even if they were guilty, had all the\r\n investigative and mitigating factors come to the fore with adequate \r\ndefense representation. That’s a way to reduce the prison population \r\nand it’s a way to do it in such a way that it might not entail as much \r\npolitical peril as some early release programs, if they’re not done \r\ncarefully because that always of course will generate some portion of \r\nghastly headlines.
Question: Why does Texas execute so \r\nmany people?
Robert Perkinson: That has to do, I think\r\n primarily with the way that both indigent defense is handled in Texas \r\nand the Appellate Courts are organized. Indigent defense is court \r\nappointed rather than a public defender system, although there have been\r\n some improvements in the last couple of years. But court-appointed \r\nattorneys in Harris County, which is the death penalty epicenter of the \r\nUnited States, they don’t have their own evidence budgets, they don’t \r\nhave salaries. They are penalized economically if they work really hard\r\n on a case, and so there’s a kind of assembly-line quality to the \r\nconvictions. And then worse, the elected judges at the appellate level \r\nhave let all sorts of cases go through. And indeed, we have now pretty \r\nmuch irrefutable evidence that Texas, in recent years, with all of the \r\ncriminal procedure improvements since the Warren and the Berger courts \r\nthat have been executed were innocent. Notably, Cameron Todd \r\nWillingham, who was one of my research subjects and we corresponded for a\r\n long time. He was profiled in The New Yorker.
I myself, I \r\nmust confess, because I have young children and he was convicted of \r\nburning alive his two daughters in order to collect insurance money. I \r\nalways felt a little queasy corresponding with him. I never really \r\nbelieved his constant professions of innocence, but luckily somebody did\r\n start looking into it and once they hired minimally competent arson \r\ninvestigators to go over the physical evidence, and once they had people\r\n go back and look at the witness testimony when they were first \r\ninterviewed by police, versus what they said on the stand, they were \r\nable to show that, A) there’s no evidence of arson whatsoever, B) \r\nthere’s no serious motive—the insurance settlement was paltry. And all \r\nof the kind of evidence of him being kind of dangerous was also dubious \r\nand generated by prosecutorial coaching. And everybody who has looked \r\nat that case is now convinced that Willingham was innocent.
The\r\n Texas Forensic Science Commission was about to, a couple of months ago,\r\n declare that he had been wrongly executed. Governor Ryan, in Illinois,\r\n when this happened under watch, to his credit, he was a pro-death \r\npenalty Republican, he was so troubled by the prospect of executing \r\ninnocents that he vacated death row in order to really high level \r\ninvestigation of the entire death row, and it resulted in a lot more \r\nexonerations. And he commuted a lot of those sentences to life in \r\nprison, and some less, and some people walked free.
Governor \r\nPerry, longest serving Governor in Texas history, executed under his \r\nwatch, more people than any other Governor quite possibly in American \r\nhistory. He took a different approach. When the evidence became clear \r\nthat an innocent person had been executed under his watch, he fired the \r\nmembers of the Forensic Science Commission and replaced it with his \r\ncronies such that the truth would be squashed. And that’s kind of \r\na—that’s a pattern of his in the past is to pursue policy ideologically \r\nbased and to ignore truth and evidence.
Recorded April 14, 2010
Looking carefully at the history of Texas makes us rethink the history of crime and punishment and incarceration in the country as a whole.
These thought leaders, founders, and entrepreneurs are propelling the kind of future we want to be a part of.
- The tech industry may be dominated by men in terms of numbers, but there are lots of brilliant women in leadership positions that are changing the landscape.
- The women on this list are founders of companies dedicated to teaching girls to code, innovators in the fields of AI, VR, and machine learning, leading tech writers and podcasters, and CEOs of companies like YouTube and Project Include.
- This list is by no means all-encompassing. There are many more influential women in tech that you should seek out and follow.
The results of this study showed depressive symptoms being highest in adolescence, declining in early adulthood and then climbing back up again into one's early 30s.
- A 2020 Michigan State University study examined the link between teen social networks and the levels of depression later in life.
- This study used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, specifically targeting social network data. The results showed depressive symptoms being highest in adolescence and declining in early adulthood, then climbing back up again into one's early 30s.
- There are several ways you can attempt to stay active and socially connected while battling depression, according to experts.
The study suggested that teenagers who have a smaller social circle showed higher rated of depression later on in life.
Credit: asiandelight/Shutterstock<p><a href="https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-09/msu-tsn093020.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">A 2020 Michigan State University study</a> examined the link between teen social networks and the levels of depression later in life. The results of this study suggested teens who have a larger number of friends in adolescent years may be less likely to suffer from depression later in life. These findings were especially prominent in women.</p><p>This study used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, specifically targeting social network data. This data asks students to select up to 5 male and 5 female friends and indicate how often they felt depressive symptoms. </p><p>MSU Sociology Assistant Professor Molly Copeland and lead author Christina Kamis (Sociology doctoral candidate at Duke University) published the study in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior in September. </p><p><strong>Female teenagers may struggle more with depression during their teen years but show fewer depressive symptoms later in life.</strong> </p><p>For female adolescents, popularity can lead to increased depression during their teen years. However, this ultimately may lead to lasting benefits of fewer depressive symptoms later in life. "Adolescence (is) a sensitive period of early life when structural facets of social relationships can have lasting mental health consequences," Copeland wrote, adding that "compared to boys, girls face additional risks from how others view their social position in adolescence."</p><p>Throughout this study, men showed no association between popularity and depressive symptoms, however, they did show benefits from naming more friends. As for why this is, Copeland has a theory: perhaps the expectations on young girls (compared to young boys) as well as the roles that lead to popularity can create a kind of stress and strain felt more prominently by girls than boys. </p><p>While this does create more difficult teen years for young girls, the stress and strain may lead to giving these girls a psychological skillset that benefits them later in life, allowing them to deal with stressful situations more easily.</p><p>The study also suggested that teenagers who have a smaller social circle showed higher rates of depression later on in life. </p><p><strong>Results from both men and women followed a U-shaped trajectory of depressive symptoms.</strong></p><p>The results showed depressive symptoms being highest in adolescence and declining in early adulthood, then climbing back up again into one's early 30s. This was particularly more noticeable in women, who showed a steeper decline in symptoms between the ages of 18-26, followed by a more rapid increase in symptoms in their early 30s. </p>
How to stay social while battling depression<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQ1MjA3MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNDMyNDY1N30.e1ULIJ5QYXh4H1SGUPUTJqYBCnX2XWp6InjPRr-2Bdw/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C22%2C0%2C22&height=700" id="832fd" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="b360bb24fb8d6025680bfffb52fd5982" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="depression support group illustration" />
Attending support groups, planning activities with family or even just a weekly phone call to a friend can help alleviate depression.
Credit: Mascha Tace/Shutterstock<p>Although maintaining relationships can help you cope, it can also be one of the most difficult things to do when you're experiencing depression.</p><p>As Dr. Jennifer L. Payne (an assistant professor/co-director of the Women's Mood Disorders Center at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore) <a href="https://www.everydayhealth.com/hs/major-depression/staying-socially-active-with-depression/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">tells Everyday Health</a>: "One of the common symptoms of depression is social isolation." </p><p>Payne goes on to explain that you can "soak up some energy" by simply being around other people, moving around, and staying active.</p><p><strong>Creating a daily schedule and planning activities ensures action. </strong></p><p>While it may be easy to turn down last-minute plans, it's more difficult to cancel plans you've already committed to with friends and family. While it's important not to overwhelm yourself with a packed schedule, creating a minimal daily schedule that involves seeing friends and family or doing activities that you've previously enjoyed can ensure you stay active and often makes you feel more accomplished at the end of each day. </p><p><strong>Support groups and social networking with people who understand. </strong></p><p>While depression can very easily make you feel isolated and alone, surrounding yourself with others who may be struggling with depression as well can help in multiple ways. You will have peer support from people who relate to how you're feeling plus the added benefit of being around people, which can raise your spirits. </p><p><strong>Keeping a journal (and setting goals) can help you feel accomplished. </strong></p><p>Keep a thought journal and detail certain daily or weekly goals (such as a plan to call a friend on Monday or to visit your local coffee shop for a change of scenery on Thursday). These small, achievable goals not only get you out of the house and/or interacting with others, but they also provide a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction once they are complete. </p><p><strong>Random acts of kindness, such as volunteering, will make you feel good. </strong></p><p><a href="https://bigthink.com/mind-brain/kindness-benefits-james-doty?utm_term=Autofeed&utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Twitter#Echobox=1596517476" target="_self">Being kind is good for your health</a> in many different ways. Doing something nice for others can boost your serotonin levels. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is responsible for feelings of satisfaction and well-being. Similar to exercise, kindness, and altruism can also release endorphins, creating a <a href="https://www.quietrev.com/6-science-backed-ways-being-kind-is-good-for-your-health/#:~:text=Kindness%20releases%20feel%2Dgood%20hormones&text=Doing%20nice%20things%20for%20others,as%20a%20%E2%80%9Chelper's%20high.%E2%80%9D" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">temporary sense of euphoria</a> that can help combat depressive symptoms. </p>
Researchers have just discovered the remains of a hybrid human.
90,000 years ago, a young girl lived in a cave in the Altai mountains in southern Siberia. Her life was short; she died in her early teens, but she stands at a unique point in human evolution. She is the first known hybrid of two different kinds of ancient humans: the Neanderthals and the Denisovans.
Physicists create quantum entanglement, making two distant objects behave as one.