Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Civil Death

with 4 comments

Americans haven’t always perceived prisoners and convicts as exceptional categories of human or even an exceptional category of citizen, undeserving of most or all rights. Both the Progressive Era’s prison reform movement and the prisoner rights movements of the 1950s and ’60s attracted considerable popular support—so much so, that many states actually embarked on “decarceration” programs in the 1960s and early 1970s (leading at least one prominent sociologist to predict in 1977 that prisons might soon be a thing of the past). The idea that most convicted offenders, provided that they are freeborn men, are endowed with certain inalienable rights—natural, Christian, customary, and positive—was deeply entrenched in early republican law and culture (c.1783 – c.1820). These fundamental rights included freedom from slavery, the right to control the product of one’s labor, and protection from the kind of ongoing isolation and sensory deprivation to which over 25,000 prisoners are subjected in some 40 states today.

When Felons Were Human.

Written by gerrycanavan

August 18, 2011 at 11:09 pm

4 Responses

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  1. Are they saying 25,000 prisoners are being punished ? No mention why they are treated differently to the way Martha Stewart was treated. Why are they not revealing the crimes committed by these 25, 000? It is not newsworthy without the appropriate information. I feel too many are let out, and re-commit the same crimes, and worse. The laws were written more to protect the criminals, and I for one feel some were so bad, I would vote to have them left on Mars, next time we are in the Mars neighbourhood, drop them off.
    Some are incurable, and always will be dangerous to the public, and many are pedophiles, worse than murderers. How about adding tranquilizers to their food, like they might get in an old age home, where there are no criminals. They will have to eat, and will raise less trouble. I might even consider some laughing gas sprayed around where needed. The numerous victims suffer mostly in silence, and are left to work it out alone. Has anyone counted these victims yet ? Lack of information leads to nowhere. Wasted my time.

    Mary Dicerni

    August 19, 2011 at 12:34 am

    • I think the 25,000 specifically refers to solitary confinement.

      The rest of your comment basically proves the author’s point, doesn’t it? Even putting aside the questions of people who are innocent, whose offenses were nonviolent, or whose punishment is disproprotionate to their crimes – all big questions – your position is basically that there’s no treatment too harsh for the wicked. This piece shows that wasn’t always how people felt about criminals; it’s an attitude that’s been produced over time.


      August 19, 2011 at 9:56 am

    • “Has anyone counted these victims yet?”



      August 19, 2011 at 10:37 am

  2. In 2009, 27% of the prison population was made up of drug offenders. Another 27% of property offenders. 29% of the population was made up of violent offenders, but one third of that was assault. 1.5% was rapists; 3.9% was “other sexual offenses”. 2% were in for homicide – murder or manslaughter. I don’t have immediate data for you on wrongful convictions. I could keep going, but I’ll let you do a little bit of research for yourself.

    “It is not newsworthy without the appropriate information.” It’s an op-ed, not news.

    – In the Big Rock Candy Mountain/ The jails are made of tin/ And you can walk right out again as soon as you go in.


    August 19, 2011 at 11:04 am

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