Random commentary and senseless acts of blogging.
The first Republican president once said, "While the people retain their virtue and their vigilance, no administration by any extreme of wickedness or folly can seriously injure the government in the short space of four years." If Mr. Lincoln could see what's happened in these last three-and-a-half years, he might hedge a little on that statement.
Prisoners of Azkaban
Thursday, February 24, 2005
The Supreme Court has ruled against a California policy that segregates newly admitted prisoners, generally but not entirely on racial lines, in order to reduce prison violence.
I actually have some first hand knowledge of the California prison system - and no, it isn't from the obvious source, my dubious character notwithstanding. In my younger days, I worked for the state fighting forest fires. A sizable portion of the manpower at the larger fires was provided by the state's Department of Corrections.
The inmates worked the firelines in integrated crews, but it was striking that, when they went in for meals, they invariably sat at tables not by crew but strictly segregated by race. I don't think I ever saw a CDC table that was multiracial. Gangs were presumably not a major factor; these inmates came exclusively from minimum security facilities, and were usually close to release for relatively minor crimes. Prisoners with a record for causing problems inside weren't allowed on the crews, which were presumably a sought-after job in the prisons: spending time in the forest would look pretty attractive to anybody who lives cooped in a tiny cell, and the inmate and civilian crews ate the same food: basic but plentiful and quite good, with a major emphasis on steak. There may have been another attraction even more potent: although it was strictly forbidden, there were always rumors that some of the women on the civilian crews slipped away to fraternize with the prisoners.
So what do I think of the state's seperation policy? On the whole, I don't feel overly upset by it. The intention of reducing violence is valid. And it doesn't appear to be an instance of a laudable purpose being made up for a policy that actually exists for other reasons; the state also separates Northern California and Southern California hispanics - a rule that has no racial basis but does make sense in terms of gang allegiances. My personal experience that inmates segregate themselves by choice is a further indication that this rule, however unsavory, probably does more good than harm in the real world.