Simple Justice on Prison Shutdowns

Scott Greenfield at Simple Justice, responding to a post by Jamie Spencer at Austin Criminal Defense Lawyer, takes another look at the New York Times article regarding the proposed shutdown of prisons in upstate New York. (Jeez, the blogosphere gets tangled quickly, doesn’t it?) Greenfield’s take is snarkier than mine, and more charged up.

Prisons are a gold mine for depressed rural areas, he explains, and “for anyone who doesn’t live in a depressed, rural area with a brand-spanking new prison, they are a dirty little secret of the redistribution of wealth from your pocket to the pockets of the people who live in those depressed, rural areas. This might best be called ‘Republican Welfare,’ though the Democrats are not above it either.”


It’s a huge economic misfortune for these prison-dependent towns that people just aren’t committing enough crimes to keep the prisons full and the towns afloat. Darn criminals. You can’t even count on them for economic prosperity….

It’s not that people have stopped supporting the ever-increasing length of incarceration as the magic bullet that will safeguard our children and stop crime forever. Indeed, even as crime continues to drop dramatically, the media and politicians continue to play on our fears to keep us interested and believing that the threat is real and omnipresent.

Now I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the demands for ever-higher prison sentences and creating crimes that never before existed is entirely a scam on the public.  At the very least, so many people support this approach that our tough and tougher on crime politicians feed off this tact for years.  But just so you aren’t mislead into thinking that the funding spent on prisons is primarily intended for the good of society, don’t forget that there are depressed, rural areas across America who appreciate your support.

It will be interesting to see how they argue for the need to keep these empty prisons open and well-guarded until they are needed again.  After all, who knows how long it will be before driving with tinted windows will command a state prison sentence.  And once it is, we’re going to need prisons to house those dastardly criminals.


2 responses to “Simple Justice on Prison Shutdowns

  1. It’s important to keep in mind the studies that question the economic gain that these communities receive. The people who hold the “high dollar” jobs are associated with the prisons as a rule don’t tend to live in the town since it’s a, you know, prison town. They live in the closest bigger community with enough amenities on which to spend their “high dollar” incomes. And the benefits of the spending of the “low dollar” employees frequently are offset by the new drains on the community for services caused by offender families moving to the town. It’s not that the communities won’t suffer some hardship if the prisons close, but that hardship rarely has equaled what we would have expected from the economic benefits predicted when the prisons were sited there.

  2. Pingback: Corrections Sentencing Re: Prison Shutdowns « Juvienation

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