The Perpetual Prisoner Machine (Basic Books, 2000)

Monday, June 16, 2008



Joel Dyer's book examines the frightening way in which the increasingly privatized prison system in America, with it's profit motive to have as many people incarcerated as possible, has through various factors become a self-perpetuating system (or machine) that guarantees not only heightened recidivism but increased incarcerations.

Posted by St. Drogo at 1:05 PM  

9 comments:

P. 2 - " ... the United States now locks up about 5 to 7 times as many people as most other industrialized nations - nations whose crime rates are similar ... but which have chosen to deal with the majority of their nonviolent offenders outside of the prison walls. These alternatives ... are both more effective when it comes to reform and cost billions less per year to implement ... So why is it that only America has abandoned these alternative programs in favor of a policy of mass imprisonment? ... The motive behind the unprecedented growth ... is the $150 billion being expended annually on criminal justice, much of which eventually winds up in the bank accounts of some of America's best known and most respected corporations."

St. Drogo said...
June 20, 2008 at 11:34 AM  

P. 3 - "The perpetual prisoner machine is an impressive and complicated mechanism that ... (is) the result of three separate and initially unrelated occurences: the accelerating consolidation of the media industry, the rise in influence of political consultants, and the emergence of an organized prison-industrial complex that is perhaps best described as a collection of interests whose financial well-being rises and falls with the size of the prison population ... In the 1980s, when the media corporations decided to dramatically increase their use of violent, crime-oriented content as a means of increasing ratings ... it created a by-product - an exaggerated apprehension of crime throughout the general population."

St. Drogo said...
June 20, 2008 at 11:34 AM  

P. 13 - " ... America at the end of the 20th century will be at least partially remembered as the society of imprisonment. The days of building public works like Grand Central Station, Hoover Dam and the Golden Gate Bridge have given way to two decades dominated by building structures surrounded by razor wire."

St. Drogo said...
June 20, 2008 at 11:34 AM  

P. 31 - "The most widely reported source regarding crime is the Uniform Crime Report (UCR). This report is tabulated by the FBI and is based upon arrest reports provided by over 17,000 separate police departments ... the UCR has become the most-often reported measure of crime in America. But is the UCR an accurate gauge for crime? Most criminologists say "no" ... the first reason for this "exaggeration" cited by NCSC research is that the techniques used by police for reporting crimes have been greatly improved by computer technology. For example, in 1973, there were 861,000 aggravated assaults reported to police departments in the United States, but because of archaic techniques used for keeping track of such information, the police passed on to the FBI only 421,000 of those assaults. By 1988, things had changed radically in the technology front ... police were able to record and pass on to the FBI 910,000 of the 940,000 assaults reported that year ... As a result of nothing more than better record-keeping, the statistics contained in the UCR inaccurately reflected that the crime rates had virtually doubled during the fifteen-year period."

St. Drogo said...
June 20, 2008 at 11:35 AM  

P. 34 - "The method used by police departments for tabulating their statistics is also flawed. Police departments count those arrested for committing crime rather than the number of crimes committed ... if 3 people were to assault someone ... the police would register 3 assaults with the FBI instead of one."

St. Drogo said...
June 20, 2008 at 11:35 AM  

P. 35 - "Although it's true that law enforcement still has a financial motive for tinkering with the crime rates, I still believe that the main reason for the discrepancies between these two measures is in their design and in the interpretation of data. For instance, if you create new laws, you create more crime. If you put 100,000 additional police officers on the streets, they will find more crime. If you weaken the rights of citizens in such a way as to allow more random searches without probable cause, you will uncover more transgressions of the law. If you allow racial profiling, you will arrest more minority criminals. All of these things have come about in the last twenty years. As a result, the number of people being arrested for crimes, particularly drug-related crimes, increased dramatically in the 1980s."

St. Drogo said...
June 20, 2008 at 11:36 AM  

P. 60-61 - "For media conglomerates, news is mostly a useful corporate adornment ... shareholders in these corporations are less concerned with journalism's higher calling than they are with the bottom line ... which type of content do you suppose a non-journalist CEO, who can draw a seven-figure salary only so long as the shareholders are pleased with their commitment to the bottom line, is going to demand from the news division? ... think back to some of the more heavily covered national stories in recent years: the murder of JonBenet Ramsey, the death of Princess Diana, John Wayne Bobbitt's severed penis, the Columbine school shootings, the saga of Joey Buttafuoco and Amy Fisher ... Did these stories merit coverage as national news? ... none of them deserved anywhere near the amount of coverage that they received ... For decades, media owners knew that their television news programming was going to lose money. It was the one area of the TV business that was still looked upon as a public service - the price a company had to pay for free access to the airways. But no more. At the end of the 20th century ... all are expected to pay their own way and produce hefty profits."

St. Drogo said...
June 20, 2008 at 11:36 AM  

P. 70 - "Under Clinton, America has had more corporate mergers than ever before in its history. There were a record-breaking 1,471 mergers in 1996, and 1998 mergers were expected to shatter that mark with the meshing of $1.61 trillion worth of corporations. Democrat Clinton has proved to be just as enthusiastic about media mergers as Reagan. Not only did he sign the monopoly-friendly 1996 Telecommunications Act, but it was on Clinton's watch that Disney took over ABC ... ABC-Disney was exactly the type of corporate marraige that the antitrust laws were designed to stop."

St. Drogo said...
June 20, 2008 at 11:36 AM  

P. 83-86 - "According to Gerbrer, 'whoever tells most of the stories to most of the people most of the time has effectively assumed the cultural role of parent and school." If this is the case ... then in the 1990s it is the nine supercorporations that control the majority of the media that have primarily assumed the important societal role of storyteller ... it means that our society is now being guided into the future by little more than the programming desires of advertisers and shareholders, and I suspect that few would argue that this is a particularly thoughtful plan for the continuation of a healthy culture."

St. Drogo said...
June 20, 2008 at 11:36 AM  

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