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Prison Blogs

I got to thinking this morning about the idea of prison blogs. It seems unlikely that prisoners would be allowed to access the internet, given that the internet would allow them to coordinate criminal activity with accomplices on the outside, and because of that we as a society lack that particular window/mirror on our own society.

Personally, I think the criminal/justice system and the prison system in the United States represent systematic injustice on a grand scale. The bulk of people in prison in the US today have committed the crime of engaging in commercial activity; i.e. of buying or selling a desired good or service with the full consent and cooperation of the other party to the transaction. They have not assaulted, much less murdered anyone, and yet the righteously indignant rage that motivates so many opinions on the topic of how we treat prisoners assumes that everyone in prison has committed heineinous crimes against bona fide victims.

I Googled "prison blogs" and found a page that included the following chain of thoughts on the topic of how we regard and consequently treat the millions of people in our society whom we incarcerate and more specifically on whether they should be allowed to blog:
[Michelle Malkin] No, it wouldn’t [be a great experiment to let prisoners blog]. I don’t think it would be “great” for Satanic serial killer Richard Ramirez or convicted murderer Scott Peterson to be allowed to blog about their breakfasts and their workouts and their appeals and their sick fantasies and their online girlfriends.

I don’t think it would be “great” to see convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu Jamal blogging about his favorite razors and digital cameras and what’s playing on his iPod.

I don’t think it would be “great” for prison officials to allow these Death Row convicts to flaunt their lives on the Internet while the relatives of those they brutally murdered suffer.

[Mark]Hm, I sort of tend to think it might be good, for those same reasons. Prison has its share of riots and rapes and violence, but I really don’t think people are quite aware of how nice it can be sometimes. Cable TV? Internet access? I think if prisoners ran blogs, people would be outraged at the amount of freedom afforded them, and perhaps something might be done about it.

People aren’t worried about giving prisoners perks like fitness centers or cable TV because they don’t really affect the outside world. But if a perk was given that would make the world painfully aware of how much leeway some prisoners have, it might just get their attention.

[Joe Hull]the solution to all penal problems is: write a tight spec for incarceration, bid our prisoners to the third world. have inspections to insure compliance, food, cells,abuse. if specs are notfollowed you are off bid list.If U sell dope & get 5 yrs in zimbabway rather than an actual week or two with your friends,U wud get out of the business. shud cost 20% of what it costs now and the prison won’t be next door and judges won’t release early to ease crowding. IF U breakout, so what.

[Meg Hager]The truth is very few residents of prisons never get out. Something like 3% stay forever. Should we hope to be so horrible to them they never can function again in society because they are so angry.

Being in the prison, away from your family, and life outside should be enough punishment. If you think ANY prison is fun to be in you are uneducated about the subject. You all focus your hatred on the 3% that have done things that shock. My theory is that some of those got to that degree of “coldness” from being in the system in the first place. If you feel hated by society while you do one year, why would that make you anything but a worse person?

Don’t project the degree of hatred you have for Richard Ramirez on the other 98%, because if you do, your daughter could be the next Shasta, from Idaho. Just my personal opinion here that the ten years her abductor did prior to that crime may have added to his ability to cut up her brother and burn him in front of Shasta.

Carl Rogers, the one who originated the humanistic approach to psychology had a great idea. Hate what they did but don’t hate them.

Do I think they need blogs? Not necessarily, I think they need to learn to use the Internet to be useful members of society. I’m doing my part at businessbehindbars.com, to try to keep them connected to the Internet. Want to help? We can use sponsors and mentors.

Prisons all have different levels of punitive living in the United States. That’s what I think is unfair, but that should be another thread.


And now to steer this boat in a new direction, how will the diffusion of ever-shrinking, ever-cheaper, ever-more-ubiquitous technology change the experience of incarceration? Imagine experiencing a hard take-off singularity from inside prison. Quite soon, invasive nanotechnological implants, artificial intelligence, and a fully saturated pan-opticon society will present a variety of options for dealing with criminal activity much more cheaply and effectively than our current incarceration model?

As with the Drug War, some people have a strong financial stake in the status quo. They will do everything possible to keep the War in perpetual escalation and ensure a continous supply of fresh material for ever-expanding system of "corrections." How will the contest between the interests of society and the interests of the powerful play out in the run up to the Singularity?

Comments

( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
rancor4real
Mar. 11th, 2006 06:03 pm (UTC)
Perhaps you could provide concrete examples of this assertion? "The bulk of people in prison in the US today have committed the crime of engaging in commercial activity; i.e. of buying or selling a desired good or service with the full consent and cooperation of the other party to the transaction."
thiyavat
Mar. 12th, 2006 01:19 am (UTC)
kmo, are you referring to drug-related crime? That was my guess but I just wanted to clarify if it was something else or other things in combination etc.
kmo
Mar. 12th, 2006 02:59 pm (UTC)
Indeed
The Drug War = My A #1 Political Pet Peeve
david_lucifer
Mar. 11th, 2006 06:07 pm (UTC)
It is impossible to make predictions about the nature of incarceration after a singularity (by definition) but the prisoners might find themselves to be gods in their own personal virtual world while their physical forms are kept alive in a prison pod in the real world. Many non-prisoners may opt for the same fate.
kmo
Mar. 12th, 2006 03:13 pm (UTC)
That Seems Like a Hopeful Scenario
I would have no problem with that outcome. I fear that a sizeable "socially conservative" contingent will demand that any simulated world that a vile convict be allowed to enter must match today's prison environment in being structured to reward to most viscious and predatory players and create a living hell of fear and brutal victimization for the peaceful majority of prisoners.
jasonwentcrazy
Mar. 11th, 2006 06:50 pm (UTC)
I was in prison for exactly two years well over a decade ago and the internet was, of course, not nearly as prevalent as it is now. Still, I ... I can't kill my entire morning rambling on about my views on the prison system.

I've been, just over the last few days in fact, re-reading and transcribing the letters sent to me and from me while in prison. I'm posting them online very soon as a sort of personal introspection/reflection exercise.

I'll send along a note when I'm finished, if you'd like.

Solid handshakes,
Jason
kmo
Mar. 12th, 2006 03:28 pm (UTC)
Solid handshakes
I'll send along a note when I'm finished, if you'd like.

Please do.
mungojelly
Mar. 12th, 2006 10:17 pm (UTC)
We absolutely need to get everyone in prison onto the internet as soon as possible. Monitor them, if you absolutely have to. But we can't survive systematically cutting people out of the loop. Constant connection to the hive mind is the only reasonable way to survive a Singularity in any sort of mental health.

I saw a guy on Democracy Now a while back who had just gotten out of prison after being acquitted after decades on death row for a murder he didn't commit. The most interesting part of his story, to me, was when he was released to the street-- given just sixty five cents and a bus token-- and someone offered to let him borrow a cell phone. What he said was that it was some "Star Wars shit." Take a second to step back from where we're at. It was late at night on the side of a dark road, and someone flipped open a phone & it's glowing blue, right? This teeny little magical phone. Star Wars shit. Of course he was disconnected than most, he didn't watch TV much while he was in, to stay sane, & he didn't have as much contact with people, being on death row. Still, things are changing faster & faster out here, & we have to get everyone we possibly can along with the program, along for the ride.

When I was in jail recently, I was thinking about implants. They confiscate all your communications media & electronics, even paper books, right? But they wouldn't be able to confiscate your implanted computers, would they? In an essential sense, people who are implanted are thus unimprisonable. You could possibly cut off their connections to the outside world, but you can't cut off their connection to the INSIDE world, which in short order is going to be as large as the outside world is now. Those protopowers may FEEL imprisoned by being cut off from outside comm, but lock them away for a week or two & they can easily occupy themselves with their slush of low-priority emails.

Unless, of course, those systems are compromised. Unless the government has root. That is one of the fundamental Bad Outcomes we need to fight against. Unless there are dangers against which there is absolutely no other way to protect ourselves-- Even Worse Outcomes. We'll burn that bridge when we get to it. For now my working assumption is: The individual must have root over their personal computer systems. We're fighting that one with the media companies now (eg sony's drm) and we'll fight it with the governments soon enough.

Another question is how the pharmaceutical revolution we are already entering very quickly is going to relate to the crime problem. What would it do to the crime situation if we had a real cure for alcoholism? Decimate it. There's every reason to believe that's happening in the next decade. What if we cured schizophrenia? The jails could be emptying soon-- as society becomes sane. Imagine that!!

<3
kmo
Sep. 9th, 2006 10:42 pm (UTC)
Singularity Lockdown
The jails could be emptying soon-- as society becomes sane. Imagine that!!

I like to.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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