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by Peter Moskos

November 10, 2011

How many strikes do you need?

You know, I'm against "three strikes and you're out." It's too expensive and doesn't deter. But the case could be made for "20 strikes and we'll lock you up till you're 50" (admittedly, it lacks a certain jingoistic ring). But seriously, at some point you do have to keep "them" (people certain to offend) away from "us" (everybody else).

The Times reports on a robbery and attempted murder: "Mr. Milton and Mr. Louree are both from Brooklyn and have previously been arrested more than 20 times each." They don't really need another chance.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

PCM,

Not sure if you read this, but after reading Cop In The Hood, I picked up a copy of New Jack: Guarding Sing Sing, by Ted Conover. While it's not a sociological dissertation, it was a case of a journalist opting to become a CO to learn about the life. For this reader, it worked as an interesting companion piece despite having come out a few years earlier than Cop In The Hood. Anyway, you should check it out.

PS I'm enjoying In Defense Of Flogging as well. Though I applied to my local PD, I don't plan on applying to the possible Local Flogger position any time soon.

PCM said...

I know New Jack well (it's assigned in some of my classes, even). I think Conover is an excellent writer. I particularly liked his book about riding the rails, Rolling Nowhere.

My only complaint about New Jack is that that because he was covert in his research, he was always an outsider, afraid of being outed. He never really got into the culture of COs. It's a great look into being a prison guard at Sing Sing--not such a great look into the culture of prison guards.

(In contrast, when I was a cop, everybody knew what my gig was. And because I had nothing to hide, I became friends with a lot of good people. I think this benefited both my book and my life.)

Conover has also about a gazillion more books than me, it should be noted.

Anonymous said...

PCM,

I totally agree about it lacks the culture aspect.

But in terms of guarding etc what I got from New Jack was that in place of a manufacturing base for blue collar jobs, we now have a public (and sometimes private) jailing system in place that barely provides a living wage. Not to mention jailing a certain percentage of our underclass essentially because they're not needed any more. It seems the penalty for non-violent crimes and non-violent repeat offenders are more harsh than violent, simply because it's an easier to obtain and more abundant "resource". Makes my head spin.

PCM said...

Are you familiar with Eric Schlosser's (1998) Atlantic piece "The Prison-Industrial Complex"? I talk about it in both of my books. But it's worth reading the whole thing (you can find it with google). 13 years later, it's more true than ever.

Anonymous said...

I'll check it out, thanks. Here's to hoping some of that changes as we run out of oil, money, and a generation growing up quoting The Wire.

Anonymous said...

I guess I'm not surprised, but one of the guys with more than 20 arrests is only 26. I wonder how many arrests he'll rack up by 35? (Assuming he makes it to that age)