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More Bang for the Buck: Harvard Costs Less than Prison

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Among the many social issues debated around water coolers, across Internet forums, and in the presidential race, whether or not the United States government has an obligation to educate its masses isn’t much of a priority, but government spending (and what it does or does not accomplish) is a hot topic.

A report issued by The Pew Center On The States details the prison population count for all 50 states and the cost of that population’s upkeep. Of the more than 300 million residents of the United States, over 2.3 million of its adults are in prison or jail. That’s one out of every 100 of us.

This is a greater number of people than the combined populations of Washington, D.C., Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Denver, Colorado, and Seattle, Washington. The United States’ prison population exceeds that of any other country in the world – including China, a country with over 1.3 billion residents.

In 2007, the states spent over $44 billion on the incarcerated. After adjusting for 2007 dollars, that’s a tin cup-rattling 127 percent increase since 1987. Currently, this works out to almost $19,000 per prisoner per year.

For the same period, the adjusted spending on higher education climbed 21 percent. Due to recent overhauls in financial aid, the United States could send their entire criminal population to Harvard for a four-year degree and still spend less money per prisoner per year. For those currently making less than $180,000 a year, the cost of a Harvard education is $18,000 per person per year.

With this in mind, one wonders how the states justify cuts in education that would benefit the free citizen: those who have yet to (or would never) embark on a career of crime. For less money, we could be graduating rocket scientists instead of paroling rocks.

Sure, there are your serial killers, sex-offenders, and other assorted repeat offenders who should, by all means, stay in prison forever, but are there 2.3 million of them? More than one million of those currently behind bars are non-violent offenders. What, then, could possibly be the justification for there being that many people in prison in the first place when it costs less to educate them before they so much as pick a pocket? Vocational training and state universities, after all, cost a fraction of a Harvard education.

Alas, education is not a constitutional right – at least not on the free side of the wall. Part of the cost of prisoner upkeep includes their healthcare, vocational training, and higher education. We could say those who aren’t smart enough to avoid a life of crime will only take advantage of educational opportunities when its readily available and free – and we’d be right. The same could easily be said for the rest of us. Why, then, aren’t we providing education and healthcare as a preventative (for crime, poverty, and unemployment) instead of using it as a treatment?

That’s not how the United States taxpayer prefers to do business. Numbers and votes don’t lie: the United States taxpayer prefers to provide its criminal population with the very amenities it refuses to provide its law-abiding population. Also, the lawful have to do their own cooking.

Between the number of Americans without access to education and healthcare, and the number of people in prison, one could say American taxpayers are now too sick, too ignorant, and too tied up to take care of themselves.

No wonder the government wants to maintain the status quo.

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About Diana Hartman

Diana is a USMC (ret.) spouse, mother of three and a Wichita, Kansas native. She is back in the United States after 10 years in Germany. She is a contributing author to Holiday Writes. She hates liver & motivational speakers. She loves science & naps.
  • Doug Hunter

    Excellent article on a very valid issue. Prison sentences are getting completely out of hand. We’ve got teens in prison for decades for having sex with other teens, drug addicts in prison, a local teen even got 15 years for an drunk driving accident where someone was killed.

    The nation for some reason has become very authoritarian in all aspects. This isn’t a right-left issue, as both sides have failed miserably in recent years, this is an issue of individual rights in relation to the public as represented by the government.

    Sadly, I don’t see any end to this trend in sight. Perhaps it is a growing population which requires stricter controls as more and more of us are crammed into our allotted space. Maybe, the majority just feels ‘safer’ with big brother continually looking over the shoulder. Whatever the cause, it is a solution we should be seeking. Up to this point, anyone that chooses liberty over this new tyranny has been laughed into obscurity. Perhaps the future holds a change but I’m not holding my breath.

    Freedom to do only the ‘right’ thing isnt really freedom at all.

  • bliffle

    There’s a segment of the general public that believes that the answer to every problem is to punish someone, and they are numerous and powerful.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    There’s also a significant segment that isn’t interested so much in the punishment aspect as in locking people up just so they can forget about them.

    Three-strikes laws, such as we have in California, are just a way of getting around the constitutional safeguards against cruel and unusual punishments.

    Punishment per se isn’t a factor here as even the most eye-for-an-eye conservative knows that simply punishing a criminal doesn’t work as a future preventive.

  • JustOneMan

    Rehabilitation doesnt work its a waste of money and energy and doesn’t work as a future preventive either….

    JOM “I aint seen the sunshine since I dont know when!”

  • http://www.futonreport.net/ Matthew T. Sussman

    “Also, the lawful have to do their own cooking.”

    Hey! I don’t cook.

    Then again, I’m not too lawful.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    JOM “I aint seen the sunshine since I dont know when!”

    Good taste would normally prevent me from making the obvious response to this, but in your case, JOM, I’ll make an exception.

    It’s because your head is stuck so far up your [personal attack deleted by self].

  • JustOneMan

    Gee….what was that about….someone has an anger problem…speaking of sticking things up your [personal attack deleted by self)….how is your gerbil, 5 lbs of potatoes and crow bar feeling today?

    Thank you editor…

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    JOM, I’m pretty sure your counselor has to see a counselor after dealing with you, if that’s a representative sample of what’s dancing around inside your head.

    Back on topic, exactly what is the basis for your assertion that rehabilitation doesn’t work? Any studies, statistics?

  • JustOneMan

    Sixty-seven percent of former inmates released from U.S. state prisons in 1994 were back in jail within three years, according to a study conducted by the Justice Department

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    JOM, all that study shows is that inmates are likely to reoffend. If anything, it demonstrates that incarceration doesn’t work. It says nothing about the effectiveness, or not, of rehabilitation.

  • Anon

    They arent incarcerated to rehabilitate or get an education or learn life lessons. They are imprisoned as punishment. To contemplate what they did and to suffer for it.
    I argue that the prison system is too liberal in the US. 3 meals a day, cable tv, climate control are not amenities prisoners should have. They should be treated like animals so they never want to go back. Most times today, gang members operate better from within the prison than outside.
    I say let guards beat the prisoners now and then like they do in asia and arab countries. Thats where I want my tax dollars to go – I dont want my taxes giving some child rapist 3 square meals a day.

  • bliffle

    Anon sez: “#11 — February 29, 2008 @ 19:32PM — Anon

    They arent incarcerated to rehabilitate or get an education or learn life lessons. They are imprisoned as punishment. To contemplate what they did and to suffer for it.”

    And actually what they contemplate is how better to commit crimes to get more money and evade punishment.

    How sad.

    Apparently ‘anon’ cannot conceive a way to break this pattern.

    How sad.

  • STM

    Maybe the US would be better not sending so many people to prison for crimes other societies think could be better and more constructively dealt with through schemes like community service.

    It’s really out of hand.

    However, there are plenty of people in US prisons who should never get out.

    But by all means educate them, then at least they’ll know where to put the apostrophe when they’re ordering the next jail house hit.

  • Baronius

    This article treats Harvard and jail as if they’re interchangable. Society doesn’t randomly assign some people to prison, others to Ivy League schools. It takes individual effort to end up in either location.

    Do you believe that the people who go to prison would have ended up in college, if that opportunity had been given to them? Well, guess what: it was. It may have been expensive and taken a lot of hard work, but a college education is available to anyone who has the persistence and the intellectual capacity.

    As for the relative costs, that’s a straw man. It would be even cheaper to push people off of bridges, but no sane person would suggest it. The cost of prison is high because of our compassion. We do provide care for our prisoners, and it would be wrong to cut back on it. We also, in the name of justice, put criminals in prisons, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

  • http://blog.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendID=33223316&blogID=358250301 Marlon

    Di,
    Harvard instead of prison?

    Methinks you stretch my credulity here. $19,000 vs. $18,000, you forgot some important things. Does that 18k include housing, food, transportation, clothing etc.? If it does then I need to go to Harvard.

    In response to some of the other posts, what ever happened to personal responsibility? Life is nothing more complicated than choices and consequences. Choose well and the consequences include a good job with a decent wage, a comfortable home, and pleasant people to enrich your life. Choose poorly and the consequences can include a poor job with a lousy wage, a home in a depressing area, homelessness or prison. Don’t try to tell me that some people have no choice in life; there are always choices even if the choices are between horrible and terrible.

  • http://thehomelessguy.blogspot.com Kevin

    It is so funny how scientists of all kinds, psychologists, sociologists, biologists – even philosophers and theologians, cannot get a grasp on exactly what makes a human do what it does, and yet these computer clad, easychair aficionados, with questionable authority on the subject, feel so certain of their perspective. Perhaps it is because their perspective is so narrow? NAW!

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Baronius, Marlon:

    Diana isn’t seriously suggesting we send prisoners to Harvard, she’s using the relative costs as an illustration of how America has its priorities arse-backwards.

    Anon:

    To you, the Bill of Rights, the US Constitution and the UN Declaration of Human Rights are just things that happen to other people, aren’t they?

    To those who are quite happy with the current system of sending offenders to prison and then forgetting about them:

    There’s a word that describes the practice of continually throwing money at a problem and expecting a different result. Now what was it? Ah yes – stupidity.

  • Anon

    To you, the Bill of Rights, the US Constitution and the UN Declaration of Human Rights are just things that happen to other people, aren’t they?

    To me when you kill someone in cold blood or rape a child or engage in drug/sex trade – you give up your rights offered by the constitution and bill of rights. You had your chance and you blew it. I feel no sympathy for such people.
    There is a reason why convicts and ex-cons arent allowed to vote. We already make them forgo their rights.
    To me they are in jail for one reason only – punishment. And air conditioned rooms, cable tv, 3 meals a day, easy access to drugs , etc are not punishment.
    I want them to suffer like their victims did.
    I am not happy with the current system. The only money ‘thrown’ at it should go to guards, security measures and safety of prison employees. Nothing should go to the inmates’ betterment.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Then you shouldn’t be surprised when inmates come out of the prison system even more brutal than when they went in.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/diana_hartman Diana Hartman

    I agree all violent offenders should be imprisoned forever. I agree the money spent to keep them away from the rest of us is money well spent.

    I do not agree with the notion of spending money later on the very people we could’ve spent money on before but chose not to – and then calling it their choice. It wasn’t their choice to be born into poverty, without access to healthcare, or without access (read: knowledge of how to get and work toward) higher education. It was our choice not to provide the very basics of successful living.

    It is calloused to suggest anyone purposefully chooses to abstain from the American dream when we have made it abundantly clear to many Americans that this is instead the impossible dream.

    It starts with the little things, you know – our disregard for our fellow human beings. A little disregard here, a little more there; before you know it, we’ve an urban plight on our hands in the form of gangs, drug users and dealers, teen alcoholics, unwed mothers, deadbeat dads, ad nauseum.

    By “disregard” I don’t mean our not letting an intellectually barren individual into college. Go further back and start at the beginning, if you would.

    While the law says pedestrians have the right of way, first graders know this isn’t true with every precarious step they make on the way to school. Society is not there to protect them, thus sending the message that we don’t really care about them. Relief should not be the emotion a child looks forward to when reaching the school door. By that door, though, we expect excitement and motivation. By elementary lunchtime we’ve made it clear we will feed them shit and then blame them for their nutritional choices.

    By middle school we’ve taught them that we won’t keep drug dealers, gun-totin’ hooligans and pedophiles away from them. By now they’ve spent about seven years eating crap food at lunch and failing or doing poorly in any post-lunch classes because their brains are bogged down – assuming they got breakfast. Again we, the adults, chide them, the children, for their poor nutritional choices. When the choice is crap or crap, what else are they to choose? We have the money to feed students and we choose to spend that money on crap. How is that the child’s choice? A parent who can ill-afford the rent, much less the growing cost of fruit and vegetables, isn’t an unwilling advocate in their children’s health. They do what many poor do: they buy the much cheaper white breads and high-fructose corn syrup products in bulk.

    By the time a child is in the 9th grade, we’ve made it clear that our uptight, out-of-control puritan beliefs will keep them from knowing about their bodies, how they work and what their bodies will do. We chide their actions and the consequences of those actions while keeping information, education and choices at bay.

    In high school we convince those traffic-dodging, crap-food-eating, sexually-ignorant children that getting into college takes an act of Congress. We hammer them with 4.0 expectations, rote learning, relentless testing, and SAT literature until they’re chanting what we’ve taught them all along: those without degrees are doomed – and that’s you, child. Our icing on the cake is telling them that even one failed grade will forever mar their “permanent record” and that their coming to us in 10th grade with a 2.0 has sealed their fate.

    Anyone who has attended college without so much as a GED and rich parents knows this is the biggest crock of shit. How many of us with a college education didn’t get it until well after the age of 22 because we didn’t find out until later that it doesn’t take an act of Congress? Why did we have to wait when someone could’ve just said (and shown us how) getting into college is not that damned difficult, expensive or elitist?

    For some reason we send elementary children to school at 9am and we send teenagers to high school at 7:30am. Wouldn’t it make more sense to reverse this schedule since younger children aren’t experiencing a developmental growth spurt that requires more sleep – and teenagers are? What could possibly be the harm/cost/inconvenience of flipping these around?

    From day one we make it very clear that “by your own bootstraps” really means “Piss off you little bugger! If you don’t have college-educated parents with their own health insurance and more money than pieces of wood in their parquet floors, you’re on your own!”

    Every failed adult is the result of our having failed a child. Sure, we can write off the child by writing off the parents – and that’s worked sooo well for us, hasn’t it?

    Show me why we should not invest in the futures of our children and I’ll show you an annual $44 billion dollar prison tab.

  • Anon

    Then you shouldn’t be surprised when inmates come out of the prison system even more brutal than when they went in.

    They come out like that today anyway. So why not make them suffer as much as possible when they are inside?

  • Baronius

    Diana, by your own words you say that we should keep the drug-dealers and other criminals away from children… but I thought your original premise was that we lock up too many people.

    Also, you leave out the positive roles that family, church, and neighborhood play. A neighborhood isn’t just traffic and drug-dealers. There’s Boy and Girl Scouts, Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs, YM and YWCA. Even a lousy neighborhood can be a motivation to find a way out. The relatives who leave can be role models, as much as those who stay.

    Charles Murray once asked an interesting question. If you had to give your children up for adoption, would you rather your kids go to a family of limited means and good values, or a wealth family with no ethics and principles? I think that anyone would choose the latter. So our priorities for the poor (and all of us) have to change. We have to support decency – and I don’t believe that government spending can do that.

    You and I agree on nutrition. We disagree on sexual ethics. I don’t know how much of either of those we can control. They both are more influenced by the parents than by government, even the most intrusive government. In a nutshell, we don’t agree on what we would want the poor to do. More than that, we don’t agree on whether we have the right to tell the poor what to do. (OK, that’s two nutshells, but you see what I mean.)

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    They come out like that today anyway. So why not make them suffer as much as possible when they are inside?

    I don’t know, Anon. Perhaps I’d like to have my cake and eat it, too. Perhaps I’d like to find a way of treating prisoners in such a way that they’re less likely to go straight back to committing crimes the second they’re released. Perhaps I think it would also be a great idea to invest some time, money and effort into finding out why people turn to crime in the first place so that we can work out ways to prevent that from happening. Perhaps I’m fed up with so many of my taxes being tossed without a care into the penal money pit.

    Marlon’s assertion that inmates had the same opportunities as everyone else and should pay the penalty for making the wrong choices is simplistic and does nothing to advance the debate.

    And rehabilitation isn’t some wishy-washy, left-wing, liberal thing either. Even ultra-conservative Republican Senator (and erstwhile presidential candidate) Sam Brownback thinks it’s a good idea, as does President Bush. The Senator and the President may disagree with liberals on the how, but the why seems painfully obvious.

    Will any of this work? No-one knows. Try Googling “inmate rehabilitation statistics” and see what you come up with. It’s not an idea that has ever really been taken seriously in this country. But some people are starting to realize that it at least deserves consideration. To dismiss rehabilitation out of hand without even trying it is idiotic and unforgivable.

  • Baronius

    Dread, it’s not like we’ve never done studies. We know what steers people toward crime. It’s like everything else in human behaviour: there’s some heredity, some environmental conditions, and some personal choice. (It’s unfair to say that we’re dumping money into a criminal justice system without researching the root causes of crime. I’m pretty sure that you know your statement is false.)

    The question is, how to best influence the root causes? A lot of it is cultural and moral, which are arenas that government can’t control and shouldn’t try to. Income and education are indicators, but those are related to cultural factors too.

    I’m not taking Anon’s position. He and I agree on the importance of an effective penal system, but he wants to make prison harder on the inmate. There’s one real, important reform that we need to make, and that’s protecting prisoners against physical and sexual violence. Incarceration should be punishment, not hell. We need a prison system that takes away civil rights but not human rights. Our current system actually encourages gang membership, which is just about the best way to guarantee future incarceration.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/diana_hartman Diana Hartman

    Diana, by your own words you say that we should keep the drug-dealers and other criminals away from children… but I thought your original premise was that we lock up too many people.

    We lock up too many non-violent criminals for too long. The only exceptions to “non-violent” should be stalkers, those who violate restraining orders, those who deal drugs and those in court for their 2nd DUI.

    For example, (feel free to throw another one at me; I’m full of ideas) first time DUIs should be in court-mandated driving school (not that weenie classroom-only class they have now), community service to include having to participate in high school DUI-prevention programs, attend counseling, pavement-scrape wrecks caused by alcohol, and attend minor tasks in emergency rooms on weekend nights for the same duration as was going to be their sentence. Their license should be suspended that entire time, and they should be issued government-paid bus passes for that time. After they’ve done their time and work, they should have to pay a $1,000 re-licensing fee.

    The uninsured, unlicensed, improperly tagged, those who could have caused wrecks with their negligence, and those who did cause wrecks should be treated similarly. From DUI to the negligent, any driver on their second offense and whose behavior could have caused injury or death should be treated as if they did. This is the only way to prevent them from accomplishing their unintended goal.

    Driving is a privilege, not a right. Treating it like a right has caused a lot of people a lot of unnecessary pain and anguish.

    Also, you leave out the positive roles that family, church, and neighborhood play. A neighborhood isn’t just traffic and drug-dealers. There’s Boy and Girl Scouts, Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs, YM and YWCA. Even a lousy neighborhood can be a motivation to find a way out. The relatives who leave can be role models, as much as those who stay.

    I didn’t leave them out. This article is not about the good; it is about the bad. You want to read an article about the effects of positives, write it. I’ll be happy to read it. Please include what amounts of money and what resources these programs find and employ that allows hungry children to eat and college-worthy children to get their degrees. In this way, you’re telling those who wish to reach out and help where to go to do so.

    Charles Murray once asked an interesting question. If you had to give your children up for adoption, would you rather your kids go to a family of limited means and good values, or a wealth family with no ethics and principles? I think that anyone would choose the latter. So our priorities for the poor (and all of us) have to change. We have to support decency – and I don’t believe that government spending can do that.

    Why can’t government spending do that? I would venture to guess that, at present, society is too busy thinking up dumbass questions, like Mr. Murray did, and pondering the answer to it instead of doing anything productive. Doing so also allows the inactive to shift the focus away from the fact that they’re not doing anything.

    You and I agree on nutrition. We disagree on sexual ethics. I don’t know how much of either of those we can control. They both are more influenced by the parents than by government, even the most intrusive government. In a nutshell, we don’t agree on what we would want the poor to do. More than that, we don’t agree on whether we have the right to tell the poor what to do. (OK, that’s two nutshells, but you see what I mean.)

    I believe we have the control to pay for healthcare, proper nutrition in our schools, and education across the board and up the ladder. We don’t exercise that control. That’s not the same as not having it.

    We currently teach and train athletes. Sex is a way more important sport, if you will. How does one justify telling an athlete how to avoid injury by proper exercise and play, but we don’t want our children knowing how and what happens when egg and sperm meet? Better yet, many still don’t know why they should wear condoms. They wear them (when they do) for the same reason children look both ways before crossing the street: it’s not because they understand the meaning of the action; it’s because they think of it as a magic potion. This is why, every now and then, you’ll see a small child look both ways, and then cross the street right into traffic. There are those kids (and adults) who don’t understand why a condom doesn’t always work, or that it will not work if it breaks.

    I’m not suggesting we tell the poor to do anything. I’m flat out telling my fellow man (and government representatives, and every naysayer of every community program I’ve ever worked for and with) that the poor (and fast, the middle class) are not afforded the same opportunities as the rich for no other reason than because they aren’t rich.

    Working for what one has is by all means the best way to get it, and society should support that by providing the opportunity to do just that (see: how to get your driver’s license back after just one DUI). Presently we expect a significant portion of the population to show up to work bathed even though they can’t afford to pay their water bill. We expect children to have energy and enthusiasm even though we know they haven’t eaten in a couple of days. We expect college-ready seniors in high school to have been born with the knowledge of how to approach, enroll and pay for college. We expect single parents to live off minimum wage when that wage won’t even cover the cost of daycare.

    We allow potato chips to be bought with food stamps, but not vitamins. The government supports people but does not require attendance in finance classes, parenting classes, nutrition courses or vocational/GED/college training. In many instances, these classes are not available to be taken. It would still cost less to provide this, as well as transportation to these classes, than it would to continue to support them.

  • Baronius

    “I believe we have the control to pay for healthcare, proper nutrition in our schools, and education across the board and up the ladder. We don’t exercise that control. That’s not the same as not having it.”

    Diana, I’ve parsed that statement every way I can think of, and unless I’m missing something, it’s really dangerous. So let me make sure I’ve got it straight. Let’s say you’re in a room with a bear. It doesn’t have the authority to rip you apart, but it has the power to do so. Power versus authority. Do you believe that government has unlimited authority and/or unlimited power?

    I think that government is suprisingly ineffective at fixing root causes. It has limited power. Government is like a woman putting on makeup. It tries to fix flaws that may or may not be real, and sometimes it works, but 90% of the time it just makes things worse.

    More importantly, government has very little authority to do the things you want it to do. Maybe I should have taken a different quote from you to illustrate my point. You ask why can’t government support decency. That’s not even a slippery slope; there’s nothing sloping about it. It’s called The Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, and there used to be a ministry by that name under the Taliban government.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Dread, it’s not like we’ve never done studies. We know what steers people toward crime. It’s like everything else in human behaviour: there’s some heredity, some environmental conditions, and some personal choice. (It’s unfair to say that we’re dumping money into a criminal justice system without researching the root causes of crime. I’m pretty sure that you know your statement is false.)

    All right, I could have phrased that differently. But the question remains: if we know about the causes of crime (and I’m not sure we do – not everything, anyway) why not tackle them? You say that it isn’t the place of government to direct culture and morality. Agreed – but law and order is government’s responsibility, and prevention is a much-neglected tool. Find some middle ground, at least.

    Too many people in this country seem to think throwing more and more criminals into prison for longer and longer spells is the answer to everything. Then they act all surprised when gangs become more sophisticated and start to take over whole areas of the inner cities.

  • http://pointlessannointed.blogspot.com Colin

    Jesus H motherfucking crucified Christ on a bike!… kinda what Diana said, but do you not see that collecting criminals together in a big room of criminals produces nothing other than more criminals, with like better skills and such.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/diana_hartman Diana Hartman

    I said: I believe we have the control to pay for healthcare, proper nutrition in our schools, and education across the board and up the ladder. We don’t exercise that control. That’s not the same as not having it.

    You said: Diana, I’ve parsed that statement every way I can think of, and unless I’m missing something, it’s really dangerous. So let me make sure I’ve got it straight. Let’s say you’re in a room with a bear. It doesn’t have the authority to rip you apart, but it has the power to do so. Power versus authority. Do you believe that government has unlimited authority and/or unlimited power?

    No. It’s not an issue of authority or power. It’s an issue of control – which we the people have. We don’t have control over the weather (Katrina) and we do have control over widespread poverty (those without the means to leave the path of the hurricane [transport them out] and who lost everything, including what food, clothes and shelter they had secured, and the means with which to replace it [replace it]).

    No one bothered to mention during or after the looting of New Orleans that there wouldn’t have been nearly as much looting had those in search of food and clothing been transported out before the storm. It wasn’t surprising to me when those in search of food and clothing took to looting other things as well, but then I’ve cracked open a psychology book. (I have no idea what the excuse for not forecasting that kind of destruction could have been from those who are more educated than myself about such things.)

    In that situation, those in need — especially in high numbers — will get angry and (what appears to the rest of us to be inappropriately) selfish. A human being’s hoarding instinct will kick in when one has lost everything. Anger, and other people, easily feed the instinct. When the looter realizes s/he can’t carry, much less sell, his/her excess, s/he will tend to become all the more angry and territorial even over property and land that doesn’t belong to them. This often turns violent. Again, greater minds than mine had “no idea” that would happen.

    I think that government is suprisingly ineffective at fixing root causes. It has limited power. Government is like a woman putting on makeup. It tries to fix flaws that may or may not be real, and sometimes it works, but 90% of the time it just makes things worse.

    The government is made up of us, the people – not wildlife. Why this insistence of our having no control, or worse, trying to apply words to it that are not synonyms of it?

    You ask why can’t government support decency.

    No, I don’t.

  • http://pointlessannointed.blogspot.com Colin

    Military industrial complex…

  • http://blog.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendID=33223316&blogID=358250301 Marlon

    Driving is a privilege, not a right. Treating it like a right has caused a lot of people a lot of unnecessary pain and anguish.

    A college education is also a privilege, not a right and I believe it should remain so. Remember that piece of paper called the constitution? If I’m not mistaken it says we all have the “right” to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. It says nothing about catching it, just the right to pursue it.

    The government supports people but does not require attendance in finance classes, parenting classes, nutrition courses or vocational/GED/college training.

    Required attendance? Sounds a bit like re-education camps to me (and yes I am paranoid). Am I hearing mandatory government intervention from the same woman who screamed so loudly when the “government experts” told you to “medicate your child”? Who had the correct answer to that one? Her mother did, because she knew the child and the “expert” only had a snapshot to base a judgment on.

    The government mandating anything has FAIL written all over it. So far as I know, about the only things the government has been successful at include building roads, prisons and raising an army. I REALLY don’t want MORE government in my life.

    Dread, thanks for the gloss over

    Marlon’s assertion that inmates had the same opportunities as everyone else and should pay the penalty for making the wrong choices is simplistic and does nothing to advance the debate.

    Prison is a terrible place, it’s supposed to be. If it wasn’t there would be absolutely no reason not to go or return once released. I don’t advocate the Gulag style prisons of the old Soviet Union but I also don’t believe that we should be making prison any more comfortable. At this time prisoners have too much free time on their hands. You want to educate them? Fine, but don’t expect stellar results. The “average” prisoner doesn’t have the “student” mindset in the traditional sense. Sure they will learn a new way to steal a car because it will result in the IMMEDIATE payoff of being a more competent car thief. Spend some time with prisoners (I have) and you will find most of them don’t’ (can’t) think of long term consequences (good or bad). While they are adults, most have the emotional age of 14, they think of INSTANT GRATIFICATION only. Until this changes I don’t see where any amount of “rehabilitation” or “education” is going to amount to more than spitting in the ocean.

  • Baronius

    Diana, I said “We have to support decency – and I don’t believe that government spending can do that.” You replied “Why can’t government spending do that?”

    When I said, “You ask why can’t government support decency”, you replied “No, I don’t.”

    So, do you think that government should support decency or not?

  • Baronius

    “Why this insistence of our having no control, or worse, trying to apply words to it that are not synonyms of it?”

    Because I don’t always understand what you’re saying. I’m trying to come at this any way I can.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/diana_hartman Diana Hartman

    So, do you think that government should support decency or not?

    I do think government should support decency. I did not, however, say that in a previous post as you asserted I had.

    To clarify, the government should support human rights and basic human dignity because it is the decent thing to do. To further clarify, decency is not synonymous with morality or religious beliefs. One may well be partnered with the other, but they are independent of each other, not interdependent.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/diana_hartman Diana Hartman

    I said: Why this insistence of our having no control, or worse, trying to apply words to it that are not synonyms of it?

    You said: Because I don’t always understand what you’re saying. I’m trying to come at this any way I can.

    You insist we have no control because you don’t understand what I’m saying?

    Try coming at this from the angle of answering a direct question with an answer relevent to the question.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/diana_hartman Diana Hartman

    Marlon said: A college education is also a privilege, not a right and I believe it should remain so. Remember that piece of paper called the constitution? If I’m not mistaken it says we all have the “right” to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. It says nothing about catching it, just the right to pursue it.

    I agree, a college education is not a right. It is a privilege granted those who are smart enough to complete the assignments and who study hard enough to pass the tests. Oh yea, and the money.

    All things being equal (diligence, intelligence), if it’s okay with you that money is the only thing separating a person and their “right to pursue” an education, then let’s jack up the price and the conditions of getting a driver’s license or a permit to have a garage sale and let’s see how many cry out “Privilege!” in defense of the rising cost and trouble of selling one’s wares out of one’s driveway.

    The bottom line is: No cash, no college, no questions. We don’t care how much of a contribution to society you might make. We’re not interested in the your “cure for cancer” or your “spinal cord regeneration.” It’s more important that you not violate our right to pursue the happiness we feel when we get to see you turned away from college for not other reason than because you’re poor.

    I said in a previous post: The government supports people but does not require attendance in finance classes, parenting classes, nutrition courses or vocational/GED/college training.

    Required attendance? Sounds a bit like re-education camps to me (and yes I am paranoid). Am I hearing mandatory government intervention from the same woman who screamed so loudly when the “government experts” told you to “medicate your child”? Who had the correct answer to that one? Her mother did, because she knew the child and the “expert” only had a snapshot to base a judgment on.

    For the benefit of those who don’t know what you’re talking about, the mother and child (myself and my daughter) were subject to limited civil liberties as afforded to those in and of the U.S. military. We, which is to say I, agreed to that when I married a Marine and hopped onto a military installation. What happened to us would never happen to a civilian. Also, the fix was as easy as requesting the charge of “neglect” be proven, which it was not and I knew it couldn’t be, thus the charge was thrown out right along with the mandate.

    For the record, if the civilian world ran more like the military world (far fewer civil liberties), I’d be a happier camper.

    Anyway, yes, required attendance – just like in college. In college, you don’t have to attend class, but if you don’t, you won’t get your degree. On welfare (my version) you don’t have to go to the classes, but if you don’t, you won’t get your check.

    The government mandating anything has FAIL written all over it.

    Are you and Baronius eating from the same trough? The government is a body of people. You know people, yes? Me, you, us, them. The government is not a pit of alligators or a Petri dish of bacteria. It is of us, by us and for us. Thus, (so many “us”-es!), it only has “fail” written all over it if us, er we vote it so.

    We’re talking about education, healthcare and food. We’re not talking about religious belief, political affiliation or what kind of welcome mat you must have on your front door.

    So far as I know, about the only things the government has been successful at include building roads, prisons and raising an army. I REALLY don’t want MORE government in my life.

    Really? What’s up with you and your driver’s license, gun license, home ownership (per the interest rate), the schools your children have attended, the liquor and business licenses of your favorite establishments, your use of postage, your having ever called 911 and expecting someone to show up? I’ve heard few, if any, complaints.

    Seems to me that any true “less government” kind of person would, out of constitutional spite, demand restitution from the post office for all the postage they’d ever paid for, drive a car and own a gun without license, put their kids in private school, and patronize only those businesses whose owner/operators thumbed their nose at any kind of government regulation. Speaking of which, what’s up with the meat you eat? USDA, right? For that matter, how do you, oh he who would make the government smaller, explain your dip into the food supply? Are you growing your own chickens and chow mien? I thought not.

    Before you think I’ve gone and proven your point, consider for a moment the many things we the people have gotten right, and then further consider that if we can get so many things right, it means we can do it again – and again and again. Failure was voted in; it wasn’t waved in by some wizard’s wand. Success was also voted in, and was not the result of some random defiance of the laws of physics.

    Dread answers for himself. I will point out, however, I never said we should educate prisoners. I said we should minimize our prison population, reserve it for violent offenders (see above for my definition of a violent offender), and dump our non-violent offenders off in the land of natural and logical consequences: Tell me what the non-violent criminal did and I will show you the fastest (and legal) way to convince that person to never do that again.

  • http://www.google.com RJ

    “Of the more than 300 million residents of the United States, over 2.3 million of its adults are in prison or jail. That’s one out of every 100 of us.”

    Speaking of college educations, I would recommend a refresher mathematics course. (Or two.)

    “Due to recent overhauls in financial aid, the United States could send their entire criminal population to Harvard for a four-year degree and still spend less money per prisoner per year.”

    Except, a) most people in jail or prison are semi-literate high-school dropouts with 85 IQs who would be completely lost in any university setting, especially an Ivy League school, and b) most of these prisoners have committed multiple felonies; in other words, they are habitual offenders. How many co-eds would be sacrificed to rape or murder if we implemented such a naive policy?

    “For less money, we could be graduating rocket scientists instead of paroling rocks.”

    You seem to believe that everyone is equally intelligent, equally motivated to be successful within the confines of the law, and equally educable. Common sense and empirical evidence contradicts this notion.

    “Sure, there are your serial killers, sex-offenders, and other assorted repeat offenders who should, by all means, stay in prison forever, but are there 2.3 million of them? More than one million of those currently behind bars are non-violent offenders.”

    Well, perhaps many of these one million plea-bargained down to a “non-violent” offense. (And plenty of violent offenders don’t ever wind up in jail or prison, either.) But anyway, what about the other 1.3 million? Should we unleash them all on the campuses of American universities as some sort of misguided cost-cutting measure?

    “What, then, could possibly be the justification for there being that many people in prison in the first place when it costs less to educate them before they so much as pick a pocket?”

    ProTip: Some people would rather rape you or cut your throat for 50 dollars than spend four years studying sociology and astronomy. I mean, seriously.

  • http://www.google.com RJ

    “Punishment per se isn’t a factor here as even the most eye-for-an-eye conservative knows that simply punishing a criminal doesn’t work as a future preventive.”

    There’s a difference between specific deterrence and general deterrence.

    The fact of the matter is, crime skyrocketed during the liberal criminal justice policies of the 1960s to the 1980s. Once more conservative crime control policies (focusing on incarceration and deterrence as opposed to rehabilitation) were implemented in the late 1980s and through the 1990s to the present day, crime rates have collapsed.

  • http://www.google.com RJ

    “Back on topic, exactly what is the basis for your assertion that rehabilitation doesn’t work? Any studies, statistics?”

    Check it out. Required reading for all Criminal Justice students.

  • http://blog.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendID=33223316&blogID=358250301 Marlon

    Di,
    It just struck me, you have just effectively made the case for NCLB (No Criminal Left Behind).

    Pun intended.

  • http://www.google.com RJ

    “JOM, all that study shows is that inmates are likely to reoffend. If anything, it demonstrates that incarceration doesn’t work.”

    Well, no. Of course incarceration works. Here’s a hint: While they are in prison, THEY AREN’T OUT ON THE STREETS REOFFENDING.

    “Well, they have to be released sometime!” you exclaim. Well, depending on the crime, maybe. But offenders tend to “age out” of crime after a while. The peak offending years are roughly ages 15-30. If some scumbag commits three felonies at age 18, I have no problem locking his ass away until he’s in his mid-30s, when he is less likely to reoffend.

    Of course, the pro-criminal left has a tendency to go berserk when both empirical data and common sense combine to form a successful conservative ideological viewpoint. Which is why “three strikes” laws are so widely condemned by the academic elite, in their gated communities.

    There is an undeniable direct correlation between the implementation of policies such as three-strikes laws, and the dramatic drop in crime that has occurred over the last 15 years or so. It’s often amusing to witness academic leftists argue against both obvious research findings and basic logic and common sense. In that regard, studying criminal justice has been immensely fulfilling over the last few years. ;-)

  • http://www.google.com RJ

    “This article treats Harvard and jail as if they’re interchangable. Society doesn’t randomly assign some people to prison, others to Ivy League schools. It takes individual effort to end up in either location.”

    Ah, thank you. Your entire comment #14 was much better said and more concise than what I wrote in response. :-)

  • http://www.google.com RJ

    “It wasn’t their choice to be born into poverty”

    See: Welfare, subsidized housing, food stamps, WIC, Head Start, free public education, earned income tax credit, etc.

    “without access to healthcare”

    See: Medicaid, SCHIP, local health clinics, private charities, and emergency room hospital visits that require no insurance and are generally written off for the indigent, etc.

    “or without access (read: knowledge of how to get and work toward) higher education.”

    That’s their own (and/or their parents’) fault. With a high school diploma or a GED, they can get into any community (junior) college in their state. They can also get Pell grants and other government-provided or subsidized funding. With an AA or AS, they can get into a four-year state university, and also receive financial aid and scholarships. And with a Bachelors Degree, they can get a decent job that will “break the cycle of poverty” or whatever it’s called by their enablers.

  • http://blog.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendID=33223316&blogID=358250301 Marlon

    Diana said: The bottom line is: No cash, no college, no questions.

    That is by far the biggest crock you have posted to date. You and I both know that is not the case. Between grants, scholarships (not all of which are based on intelligence or skill) and student loans there is not a person of legal age that is barred from attending a university.

    Granted it probably won’t be Harvard but then getting into Harvard is VERY competitive and many moneyed students are turned away from their ivy covered walls simply because they don’t meet the academic criteria.

    For those not aware, I am an ex-con. I was tried, convicted and sentenced. I did my time and spent 5 years on probation. After my release I, a high school dropout with a GED, a wife and children to support went to college. I was working a near minimum wage job 40 hours a week, attending no less than 15 hours of classes per semester, and working part time on campus.

    Between student loans, Pell grants and Perkins loans I was able to graduate with a bachelors degree in just over 4 years. So you cannot convince me that a person with limited means is barred from a higher education.

  • http://www.google.com RJ

    “By middle school we’ve taught them that we won’t keep drug dealers, gun-totin’ hooligans and pedophiles away from them.”

    Maybe because people like yourself don’t want to lock them up?

    “By now they’ve spent about seven years eating crap food at lunch and failing or doing poorly in any post-lunch classes because their brains are bogged down – assuming they got breakfast.”

    I almost never ate breakfast, and rarely ate lunch at school. I’m working on my second Masters degree. (Pwned.)

    “We have the money to feed students and we choose to spend that money on crap.”

    But if it’s supposedly so important, why can’t mommy and daddy bring a healthy lunch to school with their kid? Or is basic parenting 101 now the federal government’s responsibility?

    “By the time a child is in the 9th grade, we’ve made it clear that our uptight, out-of-control puritan beliefs will keep them from knowing about their bodies, how they work and what their bodies will do.”

    Is that also no longer a parent’s responsibility, but now something the state needs to take on? Have no fear: Barack Hussein Obama wants sex-ed for Kindergarteners!

  • http://www.google.com RJ

    “Every failed adult is the result of our having failed a child.”

    Yes, it surely takes a village to raise a generation of Übermensch. Every child is above-average in every way, here on Planet Wobegon. GENES AND BIOLOGY AND FREE WILL ARE LIES.

  • http://www.google.com RJ

    “For the record, if the civilian world ran more like the military world (far fewer civil liberties), I’d be a happier camper.”

    [shudder]

    Bill Buckley’s body just did a backflip.

  • http://www.google.com RJ

    “Seems to me that any true “less government” kind of person would, out of constitutional spite, demand restitution from the post office for all the postage they’d ever paid for, drive a car and own a gun without license, put their kids in private school, and patronize only those businesses whose owner/operators thumbed their nose at any kind of government regulation. Speaking of which, what’s up with the meat you eat? USDA, right? For that matter, how do you, oh he who would make the government smaller, explain your dip into the food supply? Are you growing your own chickens and chow mien? I thought not.”

    This is a common leftist argument. Just because the federal government has presently decided to swoop in and regulate nearly every aspect of our lives, we therefore OWE nearly every aspect of our lives to the federal government.

    Sorta like Clarence Thomas cannot possibly oppose “Affirmative Action” because he benefited from it whether he wanted to or not, amiright?

    “A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have.” – Attributed to Barry Goldwater

    For examples, see: Cuba, North Korea, the USSR (d. 1991), etc.

  • REMF

    “This is a common leftist argument. Just because the federal government has presently decided to swoop in and regulate nearly every aspect of our lives, we therefore OWE nearly every aspect of our lives to the federal government.”
    – RJ Elliott

    One aspect it needs to bring back is the draft. And no deferments this time.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    RJ, my goodness. Some of us really do seem to have got your criminal justice student knickers in a twist, don’t we? :-)

    Your #39:

    Check it out. Required reading for all Criminal Justice students.

    That’s it??!!?? One lousy paragraph on studies that were conducted upwards of forty years ago? No wonder I couldn’t find anything online when I searched…

    I found the following sentence from the paragraph revealing:

    “In a 1978 publication he admitted that they had left out of their study some pieces of research which may have shown rehabilitation to be more effective than they had publicly stated.”

    Kudos to you, though, for actually pointing to some research – which is more than JOM bothered to do.

  • http://thehomelessguy.blogspot.com Kevin

    I’ve lived among criminals most of my adult life. And it is obvious to me that most of them just don’t “get it.” That is, they have a skewed sense of logic, that they apply to every aspect of life, from civility, to morality, mathematics. When asked, the overwhelming majority will say that they never finished thee 7th grade, let alone highschool. Talk about arrested development! The reason these people didn’t finish school was because school was not culturally important. Family, friends, neighbors, downplayed the significance of an education. To change things, the culture that criminals grow up in, mostly projects and ghettos, must be transformed. To do that, you must start with the children. And separate them from the influences of the culture they are raised in. – good luck getting that done.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/diana_hartman Diana Hartman

    Marlon said: Between student loans, Pell grants and Perkins loans I was able to graduate with a bachelors degree in just over 4 years. So you cannot convince me that a person with limited means is barred from a higher education.

    A person with limited means has to secure loans and grants – which are cash. Again, no cash, no college, no questions. Loans and grants must be sought out and qualified for, and under no circumstances will one application pay one’s entire way. Year after year (for some, semester after semester), the applications go in and the student waits to see if s/he qualifies, and then waits for the money to arrive.

    I’m not downplaying what you had to do by any stretch of the imagination. I’m saying you, of all people, are a prime example of why it should be easier – and prepaid.

    How long did society have to wait before reaping the benefits of your contributions? How much money did society spend on your incarceration? Tell me that much money would not have been better spent on your education before you did what you did that created a tab for the state.

    Why should you have to have waited? We graduated from the same high school, Marlon. Remember the hoopla? I don’t. Where were the college recruiters? Where was the money then – the loans and the grants? We were among the smartest and still no one was there to say, “You can do this!” How many of us from that class made something of ourselves — much later — and how many are still walking around intelligent, but still sure there’s no way in because no one has told them otherwise? What of the other high schools in the area? Those children are still without the knowledge of how to do it and that is completely unjustified.

    You cannot tell me there aren’t kids you can keep off the streets with little more than showing them just how a certain path is taken. You can’t tell me this because I’ve seen drug dealers and gangs show kids how a certain path is taken – and they take it because there’s no other path in sight.

    I’m not suggesting we force anyone into college. I’m saying everyone who could and should go to college should be given every bit of information and assistance necessary to get them into college and well on their way to becoming a productive citizen for their own benefit, the benefit of their future family and of society.

    We are Family – and all that. Yes, we’ve got the bastard children who are going to end up locked away no matter what we do, and frankly I don’t think they’re that hard to spot. Conversely, the child who could very well make a fine electrical engineer or paleontologist is left on the side of the road, and why? Because it’s ridiculously easy to ignore those who don’t cause trouble, who go bag groceries everyday because they’ve been shut out of the idea of going to college. There are a lot more of them than there are troublemakers.

    We spend all our time (and money) oiling the squeaky wheels and then wonder why there are so few people to man the cogs.

    Your whole issue with our oversized, failing government highlights my growing concern: we aren’t educating those who could successfully fill those positions. We’re stuck with politicians, most of whom hail from the most affluent families (read: those who don’t know the meaning of the word thrift, and who wouldn’t know a thrifty course of action if it bit them in the face).

    Who are the most respected people in the armed forces? Those who went from enlisted to officer. The civilian world is no different. Those who make it up out of the ghetto garner way more respect and possess way more life skills than those born with a silver spoon in their mouths. They are the leaders we trust because they know our pain, our struggle and our worth. Why then would we not promote that sector of the population instead of lamenting those we’ve allowed to take over – the same “those” who have no idea what it means to balance a budget or close the screen door to keep the flies out?

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/diana_hartman Diana Hartman

    RJ, to address each of your concerns and questions would be to repost my article and the comments I’ve made. To save time for both of us, and much like the teenager who can’t answer the homework questions because they admittedly didn’t read the assigned chapters, I suggest you reread all of the above. If you still have questions and concerns, by all means, let’s hear ‘em.

  • Baronius

    RJ and Marlon – thanks for picking up the slack. I start to feel guilty when I log off my computer.

    Marlon, that’s a great story. Some people to go from prison to college, and some in the other direction. Diana’s right that your path takes a lot, but money is the least of what it takes.

    Diana has a plan for everything, from broad fiscal policy to sentencing recommendations. Thank God we have a Constitution to block her. She doesn’t seem to understand that “let’s give your money to him” is a form of coersion. But that’s small potatoes compared to the role she sees for government to promote an ethical code.

    There’s probably no more debasing force in our culture than rap. It appeals to the worst tendencies in our society, and reinforces them. And it’s marketed to kids. I can’t imagine how much better off we’ll be once rap finally disappears. We as a society need to come together to get rid of it. But “we” as a government shouldn’t. I’d be terrified to give government that kind of power.

    (Diana, I keep messing up when I try to understand your position. I’m sorry if I’m mischaracterizing it again.)

    Diana sees no difference between a people doing something and a government doing it. But the government doesn’t allow individuals to opt out. 100% of us aren’t going to agree, for example, on how to educate our children about sex. If Diana wants to teach her kids about condoms, I won’t try to stop her. But she reserves the right to teach my kids about condoms, over my objection. Call it control, coersion, whatever; she’s in favor of using government to intrude on my rights.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/diana_hartman Diana Hartman

    Baronius says: Diana has a plan for everything, from broad fiscal policy to sentencing recommendations.

    You know, I’m right here. You can direct your concerns to me rather than talking about me like I’m not here.

    Thank God we have a Constitution to block her. She doesn’t seem to understand that “let’s give your money to him” is a form of coersion. But that’s small potatoes compared to the role she sees for government to promote an ethical code.

    What ethical code? And where in the constitution does it say there is no way the government will ever pay for a person’s education?

    There’s probably no more debasing force in our culture than rap. It appeals to the worst tendencies in our society, and reinforces them. And it’s marketed to kids. I can’t imagine how much better off we’ll be once rap finally disappears. We as a society need to come together to get rid of it. But “we” as a government shouldn’t. I’d be terrified to give government that kind of power.

    I agree. How does this relate to anything I’ve asserted?

    (Diana, I keep messing up when I try to understand your position. I’m sorry if I’m mischaracterizing it again.)

    Try ditching the parentheses and addressing me directly.

    Diana sees no difference between a people doing something and a government doing it.

    Unlike China, Russia and Cuba, we are governed by ourselves in the form of those we freely elect to represent us – to include our views, opinions, preferences and ideas.

    But the government doesn’t allow individuals to opt out.

    You’re confusing the government of the United States with governments that indeed do not allow individuals to opt out.

    100% of us aren’t going to agree, for example, on how to educate our children about sex. If Diana wants to teach her kids about condoms, I won’t try to stop her. But she reserves the right to teach my kids about condoms, over my objection. Call it control, coersion, whatever; she’s in favor of using government to intrude on my rights.

    I do not reserve the right to teach your children about condoms. It is your right to raise your children as ignorantly as you see fit, presumably in your image.

    I reserve the right (because it is my right) to redress my grievances. In this case, my grievance would be you and yours allowing the government to pay for the result of ignorance (services rendered to unwed teens and their children who cannot afford their own upkeep, [AFDC, food stamps, etc] as well as deadbeats whose unpaid debt leaves the government supporting his/her family), but you formally oppose the significantly cheaper option of the government paying for education (both sexual and higher).

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/diana_hartman Diana Hartman

    Baronius said: RJ and Marlon – thanks for picking up the slack. I start to feel guilty when I log off my computer.

    I am reminded of the time I kicked all three of my brothers’ asses in a rousing Thanksgiving game of Kill the Guy With the Ball on my grandmother’s snow-covered front lawn in 1976. In retrospect, it is most amusing to recall their battle cry to each other, “C’mon! Pick up the slack!”

  • Clavos

    “You’re confusing the government of the United States with governments that indeed do not allow individuals to opt out.”

    No he’s not.

    Try not sending your kids to school in most jurisdictions.

    Or not wearing a helmet when you ride your motorcycle in many jurisdictions.

    Or not paying your taxes.

    Or not registering your car or boat (exclusively a revenue generating measure, no other valid reason; law enforcement can identify them by the VIN or HIN).

    Try smoking pot in public practically anywhere, no matter your age.

    I could go on, but you get the idea.

  • Baronius

    Diana, your words: “I do think government should support decency…To clarify, the government should support human rights and basic human dignity because it is the decent thing to do.” That sounds like an ethical code to me.

    As for condoms, you’ve brought them up twice as an example of what we should be teaching our children. You can’t have it both ways. Some of these statements you make have got to mean something. Either you’re arguing for a governmentally-enforced definition of decency or you’re not. I’ve been trying all weekend to pin you down, and you’re just not answering clearly.

    No one wants to think of himself as a thug. We all believe that government should do only a limited number of things – including the things we want. That’s human nature. But you’ve got to move past the instinctive here, and think out what you’re implying. You can’t defend the limitation of civil liberties only in the areas you support, without allowing government to remove civil liberties at whim.

    To reiterate Clavos’ point: just because you believe that half of our prisoners shouldn’t be behind bars, doesn’t give you the option of skipping a proportional tax payment. Since you’re the one who chose to write this article, it falls on you to clarify how far you think government should be allowed to go in enforcing your vision.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    I think the attitude of Kevin, in comment #51, is the saddest indictment of the way things are in the US.

    Kevin gets it. He knows criminals. Having lived around them all his life, he understands what causes them to take their chosen life paths.

    And then he just gives up and says there’s nothing to be done for them. Just… sad.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/diana_hartman Diana Hartman

    Try not sending your kids to school in most jurisdictions.

    Try homeschooling.

    Or not wearing a helmet when you ride your motorcycle in many jurisdictions.

    Try moving or redressing the grievance.

    Or not paying your taxes.

    Try filing for tax-exempt status.

    Or not registering your car or boat (exclusively a revenue generating measure, no other valid reason; law enforcement can identify them by the VIN or HIN).

    Try redressing the grievance.

    Try smoking pot in public practically anywhere, no matter your age.

    This is not a constitutionally guaranteed right like owning a gun. If you want to make it as much, do allow me to tack on something way more important: education and healthcare.

    I could go on, but you get the idea.

    What is the idea?

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/diana_hartman Diana Hartman

    As for condoms, you’ve brought them up twice as an example of what we should be teaching our children. You can’t have it both ways. Some of these statements you make have got to mean something. Either you’re arguing for a governmentally-enforced definition of decency or you’re not.

    What does decency have to do with it?

    I’ve been trying all weekend to pin you down, and you’re just not answering clearly.

    What is your question?

    No one wants to think of himself as a thug.

    Relevance?

    We all believe that government should do only a limited number of things – including the things we want.

    No we don’t all think that. Some of us remember the government, unlike a dictatorship or theocracy, is made up of its citizens. It is not an enemy – it is us. Therefore, what the government does is our doing, to and for ourselves.

    That’s human nature. But you’ve got to move past the instinctive here, and think out what you’re implying. You can’t defend the limitation of civil liberties only in the areas you support, without allowing government to remove civil liberties at whim.

    Yes, I can. I am. Everyday, with every article I write, email/letter I send, civic activity of which I partake, and so forth. The government is as much mine as anyone else’s. If more people participated in its defense (actively or indirectly – no, I do not mean Iraq), perhaps more people would feel the sense of ownership I do. That you and many others have given up on your share (read: civic responsibility) doesn’t mean the rest of us should, have to or will.

    To reiterate Clavos’ point: just because you believe that half of our prisoners shouldn’t be behind bars, doesn’t give you the option of skipping a proportional tax payment.

    I didn’t say it did.

    Since you’re the one who chose to write this article, it falls on you to clarify how far you think government should be allowed to go in enforcing your vision.

    Give me an issue, I’ll tell you what I think should/not be done about it.

  • Clavos

    “What is the idea?”

    If that question wasn’t rhetorical, you sorely lack comprehension skills.

    None of your responses in #60 addressed the central point: that this government, right here in the United States of America, does NOT allow citizens to OPT OUT of a number of governmental requirements which should be individual choices. The suggestions you make are not opting out; they are approved alternatives; a huge difference.

    Here’s another example I forgot the first time around:

    Try stopping the government from seizing your property “for the greater good” and then handing it over to a private developer.

    And, if Hillary is the next president, try choosing not to have health insurance.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/diana_hartman Diana Hartman

    If that question wasn’t rhetorical, you sorely lack comprehension skills.

    Insult being the last refuge of the defeated, what’s keeping you from answering the question? Also, what’s the answer to the question?

    None of your responses in #60 addressed the central point: that this government, right here in the United States of America, does NOT allow citizens to OPT OUT of a number of governmental requirements which should be individual choices. The suggestions you make are not opting out; they are approved alternatives; a huge difference.

    So, it’s not that you want to get out of sending your kids to school; it’s that you’d rather have the right not to educate them at all. Put your money where your mouth is. If you’re opposed to someone forcing you to educate your child through age 16 (depending on where you live), then fight it where it will do you some good to do so instead of tapping out your discontent in a forum where your desires will not be met. Should you choose to do that, an education would come in mighty handy.

    Here’s another example I forgot the first time around:

    Try stopping the government from seizing your property “for the greater good” and then handing it over to a private developer.

    See above paragraph.

    My issues with public domain have been made abundantly clear to my government representatives and I am currently awaiting a third response from one in particular. How’s your commentary going with your reps – or are you content to withhold your input and then complain when the input of others is legislated?

    And, if Hillary is the next president, try choosing not to have health insurance.

    Really, you think she’ll win? I don’t see it. Let’s cross that bridge when we get to it. Perhaps you’ll write an article about how bad it will be if she wins and why.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Diana’s right, Clav. The questions Baronius raised are legislative, not constitutional. With enough public backing, the laws governing them can easily be changed.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/diana_hartman Diana Hartman

    I said, “I do think government should support decency.”

    I did not say the government should legislate it.

    Government funding for food programs is decent and supports decency – without, say, telling everyone in a food program to become a vegetarian.

  • Anon

    And then he just gives up and says there’s nothing to be done for them. Just… sad.

    Whats more sad is delusional people wasting money on trying to ‘rehabilitate’ the toxic scum like pedophiles, cold blooded killers, rapists, etc.
    I’m all for helping out minor offenders, non violent offenders, someone who stole to feed his/her family and so forth. Rehabilitate them all you want.
    But I don’t want my tax dollars going to understanding why someone rapes and kills a child. I have no interest in knowing that. All I need to know is that they are suffering for their actions.
    Here’s a couple alternatives to improving the state of prisoners committing more crimes:

    Send known associates, gang members, etc to different prisons. A LA gangbanger should be sent to Alaska and a FL gangmember can be sent to a prison in Maine or Utah. Seperate them so they cant congregate in prison and strengthen their gangs.
    Today we have all arrested members of an LA gang going to the same prisons in California. Of course they are going to get stronger and more deadly. Send one to Utah and one to Maine and then lets see how strong they get.
    Second, expediate the death penalty. Some people need to be executed and that process should be expedited so it can be used as an effective deterrent.
    I believe state bans on the death penalty are unconstitutional or at least worth a debate.

    Here’s an example from Connecticut.. A guy was in prison serving 2 life sentences for murders. In prison, he raped and killed a female guard and you know his punishment? Fasten your seatbelts: It was a third life term. That’ll teach him!
    I don’t know about others but for me, after the first life term without parole, the next terms dont really have the desired effect..just my opinion. He basically got a free pass on the murder of the guard.
    So delusional people are welcome to their delusions – just dont waste my tax dollars on figuring out why some scumbag did what he did. I don’t care at all. I’d rather have my tax dollars go to the victims.

  • Clavos

    “Insult being the last refuge of the defeated, what’s keeping you from answering the question? Also, what’s the answer to the question?”

    Sadly, you apparently are lacking in comprehension.

    Your original remark was:

    “You’re confusing the government of the United States with governments that indeed do not allow individuals to opt out.”

    The answer is we DO live in a country where the government imposes requirements on us without an opportunity to simply “opt out,” unless it’s by means of even more onerous alternatives such as those suggested in your #60.

    Put another way: I shouldn’t have to fight to opt out of most the situations I posited; they are (or should be), for the most part, individual, private decisions, but thanks to the increasing trend toward nannyism and autocracy in these Benighted States of America, I increasingly have fewer and fewer individual choices in leading my life the way I want to, without interference from the government.

    And Doc, i’m not making distinctions between legislative and constitutional issues; I’m merely pointing out that the government (all of ‘em: federal, state and local) are becoming increasingly intrusive in our day-to-day lives, and we have fewer means of saying “no.”

  • Clavos

    Diana,

    Further on the comprehension “insult” (which if an insult, was entirely unintentional; I DID allow for the possibility of your question being rhetorical):

    “And, if Hillary is the next president, try choosing not to have health insurance.

    Really, you think she’ll win? I don’t see it.”

    Since when does “if” mean “when?”

    Where in that statement did I imply I thought she would be elected?

    “If” means just that: IF.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Doc, i’m not making distinctions between legislative and constitutional issues; I’m merely pointing out that the government (all of ‘em: federal, state and local) are becoming increasingly intrusive in our day-to-day lives, and we have fewer means of saying “no.”

    Au contraire, I think you/we have exactly the same ways of saying ‘no’ that we always have.

    Think of it as a pendulum. All it takes is enough impetus, in the form of public opinion, to push it in the opposite direction, and things will change. These periodic pendulum swings are literally what makes our democracies tick. Sometimes the changes may seem extreme, but things always go back the other way and they tend to balance each other out. To a large degree it’s what makes our American and British systems so stable.

    Bearing in mind the results of the last two presidential elections, I would say that at the moment the pendulum is somewhere in the middle.

  • Clavos

    I understand you, Doc (and I understood Diana, too).

    I guess I’m not doing too good a job of expressing myself tonight, because I don’t think either of you understand my point.

    I resent the government trying to be my guardian; I don’t want or need it, and I don’t want to have to fight, or lobby, or vote or make any special effort to keep the goddamn government off my back, but, increasingly, it wants to intrude more and more, in part because so many americans today think the government should have that role.

    Sigh…

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/diana_hartman Diana Hartman

    I resent the government trying to be my guardian; I don’t want or need it, and I don’t want to have to fight, or lobby, or vote or make any special effort to keep the goddamn government off my back, but, increasingly, it wants to intrude more and more, in part because so many americans today think the government should have that role.

    If that’s what our forefathers wanted — government involvement in citizens’ lives limited to the extent you express it should be — then why do you suppose they included the right to redress grievances? It sounds like you’d rather they’d have created a constitution wherein that right would never be necessary.

    If my interpretation is incorrect, do correct.

  • Clavos

    Once more, I’m NOT speaking of the constitution!!!

    The government actions I’m objecting to are, for the most part, relatively recently passed laws which, I contend , intrude where the government has no business being; they have nothing whatever to do with the constitution.

    As for the right to redress grievances in the constitution: the writers correctly foresaw that government will invariably screw up; in fact, they were (when they wrote the document) still smarting themselves from their own inability to have their grievances as colonials addressed (or even recognized) by the crown.

    What I’m contending is that I am disgusted with the tendency today by the government to intrude into people’s affairs at an unprecedented level, and even worse, I’m disgusted at the obvious acquiescence on the part of americans to welcome and even encourage such intrusion.

    Increasingly, americans are turning responsibility for their lives over to the government. The problem with that is that the more you ask the government to help and watch over you, the more you relinquish the right to lead your life as you please, particularly if you choose to be stupid and not educate your children or ride a motorcycle without a helmet.

    The right to make mistakes is important, silly as that may sound.

    Ultimately, the security of the group becomes more important than the rights of the individual, and THAT, I’m sure was never the intent of the writers of the constitution.

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ Elliott

    “That’s it??!!??”

    Yes. Only one research study ever conducted has found rehabilitative efforts to be essentially useless in deterring recidivism. And my response was clearly an exhaustive review of all the available peer-reviewed research literature.

    /sarcasm

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ Elliott

    “under no circumstances will one application pay one’s entire way.”

    Google “FAFSA” …

    And I take comment #53 to mean you have no response. Understandable.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/diana_hartman Diana Hartman

    I shouldn’t have to fight to opt out of most the situations I posited; they are (or should be), for the most part, individual, private decisions, but thanks to the increasing trend toward nannyism and autocracy in these Benighted States of America, I increasingly have fewer and fewer individual choices in leading my life the way I want to, without interference from the government.

    So you want things to change but you can’t be bothered with exercising your constitutional right to bring about those changes. How impotent.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    No need to get snitty, RJ.

    I spotted your link and thought you might have been able to dig up some hard data where I had failed.

    Oh well.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/diana_hartman Diana Hartman

    I said: under no circumstances will one application pay one’s entire way.

    RJ said: Google “FAFSA” …

    Students have to fill out a new FAFSA application every school year.

    And I take comment #53 to mean you have no response. Understandable.

    You didn’t get the response you wanted. That’s not the same as no response.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/diana_hartman Diana Hartman

    Since when does “if” mean “when?”

    As I were. To rephrase with something a little more accommodating: Really, you think she could win? I don’t see it.

    If you were suggesting she could win, then, to reiterate, we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.

    If you were suggesting she couldn’t win, then what are you worried about?

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ Elliott

    “I do not reserve the right to teach your children about condoms. It is your right to raise your children as ignorantly as you see fit, presumably in your image.”

    Cute.

    Math, science, proper English, and basic morality? Minor compared to teaching preteens about fisting and how to properly place a condom on a cucumber.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/diana_hartman Diana Hartman

    Math, science, proper English, and basic morality? Minor compared to teaching preteens about fisting and how to properly place a condom on a cucumber.

    You’re so far out of context I can’t see you anymore. How is Mars?

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ Elliott

    Comment #63:

    “Insult being the last refuge of the defeated”

    BUT: Comment #55:

    “It is your right to raise your children as ignorantly as you see fit, presumably in your image.”

    I mean, this stuff just writes itself!

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ Elliott

    “I spotted your link and thought you might have been able to dig up some hard data where I had failed.”

    Do you have a subscription to JSTOR? If not, you won’t be able to read any of the research I cite.

    Believe it or not, the mainstream media generally doesn’t provide extensive coverage of academic social science research and its conclusions, particularly when the results seem to back up a pro-crime control (i.e. conservative) philosophy.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/diana_hartman Diana Hartman

    Re: #81

    How is it insulting to presume one would raise their child to believe as they believe? In the case of my comment in #55, I asserted the person would raise their child to believe as they believe based on what that person said. That person asserted the premise of deliberately withholding knowledge and information from a child. Doing so would render the child ignorant (read: without knowledge).

    If the person was asserting that it’s okay for him to know how his body works and it is his right to withhold this same information from his child, I would agree it is his right to do so.

    There is also the possibility the person doesn’t know how his body works and is frightened by both his own lack of knowledge and the likelihood of his child discovering this should he attempt to answer the child’s questions or unexpectedly express some form of surprise when told by the child what s/he learned in school.

    If this is the case, the parent could easily escape any further burden by simply asserting his right to withhold information as he sees fit, which in this case is not so much withholding as it is a sheer mask of his own ignorance.

    Either way, this person’s child unknowingly runs the risk of losing in a game of “How screwed up is your life after having unprotected sex?”

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ Elliott

    “Students have to fill out a new FAFSA application every school year.”

    [GASP!] Horrors!!!

    You mean to tell me that college students have to spend 15 or 30 minutes every year filling out a free financial aid application online that will likely provide them with thousands of dollars in grants and government-subsidized student loans???

    WE TRULY LIVE UNDER A BRUTAL PLUTOCRACY!

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/diana_hartman Diana Hartman

    I said: Students have to fill out a new FAFSA application every school year.

    RJ said: [GASP!] Horrors!!!

    RJ, is it really too much to ask that you concede your assertion of it taking one application to get through college? This was your assertion, and it is incorrect.

    You mean to tell me that college students have to spend 15 or 30 minutes every year filling out a free financial aid application online that will likely provide them with thousands of dollars in grants and government-subsidized student loans???

    Clearly you are the victor on this issue since I must concede it took me about an hour to help each of my children to fill out their FAFSAs – each and every year.

    That said, I never so much as indicated this was a hardship of any kind. Why, then, the sarcastic dismay?

    Is it that difficult to stay on topic that one must get bogged down in so many peripheral issues?

    Because I believe the government should pay for anyone’s (citizen) college education that wants one, one application would do it. With attendance comes money. No attendance, no money.

  • Clavos

    “So you want things to change but you can’t be bothered with exercising your constitutional right to bring about those changes. How impotent.”

    No, I’m not looking for change, at least not the kind of change included in “constitutional rights.” I’m simply insisting that the system in this country no longer provides the freedom to simply opt out, as I said originally.

    “Live and let live” is no longer valued; on the contrary, busybodies, whether of the government or the activist group du jour are making sure that everyone toes the politically correct line of the moment, no matter how personal the issue.

    Individuality and self reliance, quintessential american qualities in the first century and a half of the country’s history, have morphed into a desire for uniformity, acquiescence, and security from the vicissitudes of life with personal responsibility (and along with it, personal freedom) surrendered to the higher power of the secular deity, the government.

    Pathetic…

  • Clavos

    “If you were suggesting she could win, then, to reiterate, we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.

    If you were suggesting she couldn’t win, then what are you worried about?”

    I wasn’t suggesting either; I have no idea whether or not she’ll win, nor do I care.

    I was merely illustrating that, in the event she is the president, even the right to “opt out” of having health insurance will disappear.

    Meh.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Do you have a subscription to JSTOR? If not, you won’t be able to read any of the research I cite.

    Not personally, I don’t, but the university library across the street from my house does. This particular university also has a highly-respected criminology program, so I imagine I’d be able to track down anything you cared to reference.

    Believe it or not, the mainstream media generally doesn’t provide extensive coverage of academic social science research and its conclusions

    Believe it or not, RJ, my reading is not restricted to the mainstream media. I don’t know where you got that impression.

  • STM

    I do agree with Diana up to a point. America is certainly stagnating in many ways, and a more even distribution of wealth might be one way to go at it.

    There are a lot of reasons why, as some astute commentators have said recently, Americans can hold down a fulltime job for 20 years and remain homeless, or why people have to live on tips, or accept that they will only ever receive a second-rate education or second-rate (not even that sometimes) healthcare because they can’t afford insurance.

    The main one here is that a lot of American workers are not protected by arbitrated awards, have very few workplace rights, and earn sh.t money.

    My view: a government that can spend billions on defence (when a bit less would work just as well, directed into new ideas instead of vast air fleets and naval squadrons with no one to use ‘em on) can also redirect some of that money into something that really benefits everyone.

    That’s the sort of work where governments can make a real difference, and bring the living standards of all Americans up to par so that the cycle of poverty that leads to much of this crime Diana is talking about can be broken.

    Seriously, for how much longer can America consider itself civilised with a minimum wage of around 7 bucks an hour, when there are corporations and individuals pulling in billions and it’s the richest country on the planet?? It just doesn’t make sense.

    Share the wealth, just a bit, and give workers more money and better protections in return for higher productivity. Stop making everything in China too, and start manufacturing again in the US.

    So am I suggesting big-taxing the rich and adding a tax impost to everyone in between, so that the poor pay less or no tax?

    No, I’m saying tax the mega-rich and the corporations a little bit more. Make them fork out for their tax obligations the same way everyone else has to (many rich people often brag they don’t pay taxes and that it’s something only “little people” do), without all the rorts and sanctioned loopholes designed to have them paying little or next to nothing.

    In the wash-up, if it’s done fairly, they’ll hardly even notice it.

    *I will put my hand up now to acknowledging that this will be a very unpopular POV among most Americans, but it’s the only one I have, I know it works because I live in a great country where it does actually work, and I make no apology for it.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/diana_hartman Diana Hartman

    No, I’m not looking for change, at least not the kind of change included in “constitutional rights.” I’m simply insisting that the system in this country no longer provides the freedom to simply opt out, as I said originally.

    “Live and let live” is no longer valued; on the contrary, busybodies, whether of the government or the activist group du jour are making sure that everyone toes the politically correct line of the moment, no matter how personal the issue.

    Individuality and self reliance, quintessential american qualities in the first century and a half of the country’s history, have morphed into a desire for uniformity, acquiescence, and security from the vicissitudes of life with personal responsibility (and along with it, personal freedom) surrendered to the higher power of the secular deity, the government.

    So you’re not looking for change and you have complaints. That’s as individual a problem as it gets and it’s a problem only self-reliance can address. This very mindset is fast becoming a quintessential American quality – and that’s no one’s fault but the individual American who thinks that way.

    Political correctness serves two purposes, neither of which have anything to do with civil liberties or constitutional rights. PC gives those on the left a language they think gets them in with those who are different from themselves, and it gives those on the right a reason to feel put upon and victimized whenever PC language is used. It’s very much like a superstition only worse because, ironically, PC effectively shuts down communication

    I’ve found “live and let live” everywhere I’ve been. In big cities, one can get so lost in the crowd one might as well be alone. In the smaller towns, they’re not abiding by big city values even when they know what those are.

    My wanting my country to provide an education and healthcare to everyone who wants it is no imposition on those who don’t. Taxes are already being paid and spent on and for the consequences of our having so many (unnecessarily) uneducated and ill citizens. It costs less to educate and inoculate than it does to incarcerate and medicate. Once educated and inoculated, most people are good to go. That would leave us with a minimum in the latter group, whereas now we seem hell-bent on maximizing the same.

  • Baronius

    Good grief. Diana, I fear condoms because I don’t understand my body. How’d ya guess.

    Clavos, you’re making perfect sense. I don’t think this is the right thread for that kind of behaviour, though.

  • Howard Bowen

    Until the 1960’s, a girl who became pregnant in High School was expelled. Now they use birth control or abort the fetus. A man cannot afford to maintain a wife and family since the 1960’s. Now, a wife must be gainfully employed in almost all situations. More than half of the marriages in America fail. Attaining manhood was once a dream for a boy. Since WWII, getting rich and buying all that money can buy, (including a bevy of females for sex) is a boys pre-programmed dream. The sex act of copulation between a male and a female no longer represents (in the media) anything associated with pregnancy in the USA. The media touts womanhood as the equivalent of manhood, and emphasizes the accomplishment of girlsdom to womandom as the equal of a boy attaining manhood. There are no longer any rights of passage recognized by American culture that honor a boy into manhood. The Holy Bible prophecies the time of “barren wombs”, when males will go bald, become fat and the male portion associated with the female will be considered the same area. Males seldom have voices that lower any further that at the time of puberty. African males are now the standard for America. Why do lions roar?

  • Lore

    I believe that everyone has the right to a good education. One of the problems I have is that we will spend hard earned money to provide an education to the inmates, but we will cut support for our students who are struggling to get grants, loans, work study, and just plan struggling to make it. A Harvard education is the reach of every student, they give more scholarships to low income, first generation learners than most schools of their caliber. I say lets investigate this issue and give our students who have not broken the law just as many opportunities and breaks as our inmates. I do feel that our inmates need education as well, but lets be more reasonable and realistic about the results for offenders and repeat offenders.

    THanks.