My Time at Supermax

I went to prison yesterday. Seriously. I went on a brief and heavily-controlled media tour of the so-called "Supermax" federal prison facility in Florence, Colo., home to high-profile convicts like Zacarias Moussaoui, Theodore Kaczynski, Terry Nichols, Richard Reid and, probably soon enough, Jose Padilla.

I've written a more somber piece about my visit to the ADX part of the famous prison complex in Southern Colorado (which is actually four separate prisons and a prison camp, each at a different level of security). In this post I want to share with you some of the surreal details I noticed during the 100 minutes or so we were allowed to tour an actual cellblock or two. Think Hunter Thompson meets "Shawshank Redemption" meets "Raising Arizona."

When you travel by road from Denver to Florence along the interstate and then along State Highway 115, you are traveling through truly beautiful country; a land where you can grab breakfast at the Coyotes Coffee Den or grab some produce at the Happy Apple Farm. In the mood for the eccentric? "Bring your mother-in-law" screams the flashing neon side outside of the Apple Tree Cafe. Once I got to the Rockwellian town of Florence I had to wait behind a school bus picking up kids -- less than a mile from a place that houses murderer after murderer.

I checked in at the gate and as I traveled up the winding road to the prison, patrol cars blocked every turnout and "side street." The flag was at half-staff in honor of the victims of 9/11, but we were told that the timing of our visit was just a coincidence and a matter of scheduling. As we walked toward the room in which we would have our initial briefing, we passed motivational signs and posters. Later, along the walls toward one of the cellblocks, we saw more signs: "Dignity of All," "Professionalism," "Loyalty," "Teamwork," "Responsiveness" and "Integrity." The words are for the guards, of course. The inmates never get close to that part of the prison.

The facility calls itself the "Alcatraz of the Rockies," a slogan that is emblazoned on t-shirts for sale in the lobby (beyond the metal detector and the pat-down and the place to take a Polaroid of every visitor). I picked the "Alcatraz" shirt over the one that said "Pen State" and, really, can you blame me? Another option was a badge that read "We Secure What Most Fear"; try pinning that on your kid's Boy Scout uniform. (Some of the items -- the prison mugs, I think -- were on sale.)

There are approximately 3,200 men in prison at Florence and nearly 500 who reside in the "Administrative Maximum Security" wing. Of those, about 30 are truly in "lockdown" mode, including some of the famous names noted above.

When we got into the "briefing room," Warden Ron Wiley encouraged us to grab some fruit, coffee and danish and then barked, "Don't sit" when we had found our places at the conference table. We didn't sit. Wiley said first that he was concerned about the looks on our faces and wanted to reassure us that we would be safe from the inmates. I thought to myself: We aren't worried about the inmates. We're worried because we have become your prisoners for the next few hours. By ordering us not to sit, Warden Wiley was exerting his control over us. And it worked. Spending even that brief time in a completely controlled environment, where you are literally not free to walk from here to there, had a disorienting effect.

Contrary to rumor, the warden told us, Supermax is not underground, and the prisoners are not left to simply rot in their cells. There has never been an escape from the facility, and no corrections officers ever have been the victim of a major assault (like a beating or stabbing) as opposed to a "minor assault" (like having an inmate throw a piece of paper at a guard. Most of the convicts each live in an 86-square-foot cell with green, foam, fireproof mattress and a cement table and unmovable stool. When they are out of their cell, until they reach a destination (say, a cage to exercise in) they are always in handcuffs.

All of the windows in the cells face other windows in other cells. There are five positions for staff doctors within the entire facility but only two doctors currently fill those positions, and one of those doctors is a psychiatrist. This means that there is one doctor for approximately 3,200 prisoners. There are 11 positions for physician's assistants, and eight people fill those slots. There are eight EMTs on staff and no operating rooms. A lot of the medical work is done via teleconference when possible. Each inmate has a "distress" button he can push if he is stricken.

"I love what I do," Warden Wiley told us. "I love the profession of corrections."

In the prison "recreation" room I saw shelves lined with movies like "Shrek" and "James and the Giant Peach" and "Mary Poppins." I saw puzzles and checkerboards and at least one boxed game of Trivial Pursuit. In the library I saw books about sports and magazines like Ebony. The literature and periodicals are switched around at random to discourage the inmates from using messages in books or magazines to communicate with one another. When the woman who ran the library wasn't quick enough with her summary, Wiley barked us out of the room. "Walking and talking," he said loudly as we all we ushered out.

The inmates who aren't allowed to watch television receive censored newspapers approximately 30 days after they are initially published, which means that yesterday inmates were learning about the world on Aug. 11. The Warden told us that only occasionally do the guards find contraband -- like "intoxicants" made out of ketchup or "sissy shanks" made out of newspapers. Currently, the high-security and medium-security compounds at Florence are overflowing with inmates -- 50 percent or more over capacity for each.

So did the tour achieve its purpose? Did officials convince me and my news colleagues that "The Alcatraz of the Rockies" is less like a dungeon and more like other maximum security federal prisons around the country? Let me put it this way: I'll know the answer to that question when I get to see the whole Supermax facility, including those places within it where inmates are confined under Special Administrative Measures -- and of course I'll never get to see that. We saw, in other words, the most "positive" parts of the prison and certainly not the least attractive ones.

I applaud the Bureau of Prisons and the Justice Department for giving us the opportunity to see a tiny sliver of the place -- it's long overdue and certainly better than nothing. But my lasting impressions of my morning at Supermax are of the quiet of the place and of the hundreds and hundreds of remote-controlled cameras. The level of control exercised over virtually every single function is remarkable, and for most of the inmates there, this soulless, artificial world is all they will ever again know.

I'm not saying that the inmates don't deserve that fate. I'm just saying I took no satisfaction in seeing it.

By Andrew Cohen |  September 11, 2007; 8:55 PM ET
Previous: The Six-Year Story: Lost Opportunities, Poor Choices | Next: Mukasey: The Anti-Crony

Comments

Please email us to report offensive comments.



You get around, don't you! Great idea, and a fascinating read, from the source.

Posted by: Bill B | September 12, 2007 02:15 PM

Gotta love law enforcement/military humor (yes, probably SOME exceptions).

Posted by: Tim | September 12, 2007 02:27 PM

As humane as the government can make it or not much.

Posted by: lorp | September 12, 2007 04:50 PM

Having spent a number of days (and happily no nights) in a maximum security prison, I can attest that they are not places where anyone would want to reside. In some ways they are not as bad as the popular image of the hell holes portrayed in many movies, but in many ways they are just as bad. Not all of the inmates are sociopaths, men without consciences, but perhaps 10% to 20% are. Not all of the prisoners are terribly angry or profoundly depressed, but many of them are. Some of the inmates are professional killers, some are predatory sexual perverts, some have done things like setting their girlfriends on fire with lighter fluid: these are men who need to be segregated from society. Others are pathetic young men who sold crack or other drugs on street corners and in alleys to willing customers, men who saw no future for themselves in the modern economy or in the wider world outside their ghettos. For some of them, the prison was a step up from lives on the street. For some, prison provided the first place where somebody cared for them, a teacher or chaplain or other prisoner. In my experience, those who have gotten to work with a wide variety of maximum security prisoners find it impossible to paint them all with the same brush. Some are indeed monsters, but some are not. Some need to be kept in the direst circumstances, to protect the corections officers, other staff members and other prisoners; but most do not. If there is one thing however on which most people familiar with prison environments would agree it is that no prisoner, no matter how vile or dangerous, deserves to be kept in an environment almost certain to drive him crazy, to cause him to 'lose his mind'. The problem with supermaxes is that that is what they do, drive inmates crazy with isolation and confinement. That's the part of the prison structure and the prison experience they didn't want to show you, Mr. Cohen, the part that perhaps Dick Cheney would describe as 'the dark side.'

Posted by: P. Bosley Slogthrop | September 12, 2007 05:06 PM

It's a great opportunity that you got to see the Prison even though you only saw some parts of it.

Personal Injury Attorneys
http://www.lipsig.com/

Posted by: Personal Injury Attorneys | September 12, 2007 08:55 PM

I agree with ya, Bos, having also spent many days, and some nights, in a Florida prison. In my professional capacity as a nurse, let me add. They are NOT pleasant places.

This one, Charlotte Correctional Institution, had its hellish side. Most of the inmates in this stinking hot, swamp-humid setting, were housed in concrete "dormitories" baking in the Gulf Coast sun. WITH NO AIR CONDITIONING! I worked in the medical confinement/suicide watch dorm, which was the only place with AC. Prisoners would actually slit their wrists just so they could get a few days sheltering from the swelter.

As you note, settings like that are designed to drive men mad. Being cooped up alone, in baking heat, dead air, unable to see anything except your walls, deranges a person and breaks their will. (This applied to the "confinement" cellblock, for inmates who had broken prison rules and were being punished in addition to their punishment. The regulars had it slightly better, walking the yard and such.)

This Florida prison wasn't outright abusive. Doing time isn't meant to be fun. Seeing it from the inside gave me at least a taste of what Guantanamo must be like -- the heat, the boredom, the crappy food, the constant weight of authority. It's why I tell people who favour the death penalty this -- "If you want someone to suffer, don't put them out of their misery quickly. Make them spend their life in an American prison. It will be unending hell, day after day. Killing them is merciful compared to that."

I could go on at length about the poor medical care inmates get (it was a "sick prison," where Florida sent cons with HIV, mental illness or other health problems) the lack of rehabilitation that would make thse men fit to return to society, etc. I'm not for making prison plush, but even criminals should be treated as humans, because most of them are going to get out someday. If you turn a man out after 10 or 20 years where all they do is get more badly bent, sooner or later they're going to bop some little old lady on the head and go back in. Meanwhile, there's another traumatised old lady whose life has been shattered...

Mr. Cohen, good onya for writing about Supermax. I shall check out your linked story. It must feel good to report on something besides Alberto Gonzales.

Posted by: Bukko in Australia | September 13, 2007 03:08 AM

It's a small world, Bukko. I've been to the outside perimeter of Charlotte Correctional, just looking. My father lived nearby and we drove up to see it, out of curiosity. We sat in the car wondering what it must be like on the inside, until a guard came up and shoo'd up away. Your post confirms what we knew intuitively, that life in a prison in the subtropics must be grueling. I don't get terribly upset however about the lack of air conditioning since my grandparents had moved from Chicago to southern Sarasota County in 1962 to live in a small cement block home with no air conditioning and no automobile. A bicycle and an adult trike were their transportation. I confess that I don't know how they tolerated the heat and humidity, but they did, just as the prisoners at Charlotte Correctional do. Unlike the prisoners, however, they were able to step outside and sit under a large live oak or sniff the orange blossoms or check on the grapefuit and lemon trees and chat with neighbors who were law-abiding and friendly. Big differences, of course. In any event, given my choice, I'd surely prefer to be imprisoned in northern Wisconsin, where I've had most of my prison experiences, than in the subtropics or in a tent in the Sonora Desert, where Phoenix sheriff Joe Arpaio's inmates spend their days or night. For those imprisoned in harsh environments, the climate is part of the punishment, but for supermax prisoners in any environment, the main punishment consists of almost total isolation and confinement in a small space, conditions unavoidably conducive to severe mental illness, a form of Hell. In Sartre's "No Exit," he had a character say, "L'enfer, c'est les autres" or hell, it's the others. If he had spent some time in isolation and confinement, he would have thought the opposite.

Posted by: P. Bosley Slogthrop | September 13, 2007 08:35 AM

The link to the story on the second paragraph doesn't work.

Posted by: | September 13, 2007 09:48 AM

Good morning. I fixed that link in the second graph. Sorry for the inconvenience. Have a good day

Posted by: Andrew Cohen | September 13, 2007 10:17 AM

Sorry, Andrew, but the link (once again) isn't working, 28 minutes after your "fixing" it. Could be a hacker from a prison of lesser security, or some 10-year old slacker/hacker taking the day off from school.

Posted by: Exum Bauer | September 13, 2007 10:47 AM

Good reporting, Andrew, and while I don't fault you for it, I also come away with the feeling that we don't know most of what goes on in there, for reasons that serve the penological interests of the BOP. As long as the "dark side" is kept secret, we don't really have a way to evaluate whether all of the conditions and practices inside places like Florence comport with our understanding of the Eighth Amendment. It would be a worthy subject for the Congress to take up, and at the BOP's request, the highly sensitive operational details could be discussed in executive session, much as is done with the intelligence committees. Maybe someone will tell us this is already being done. The more oversight the better.

Posted by: ExAUSA | September 13, 2007 02:32 PM

Fredo can't simply leave.

An A. G. Gonzalez Swearing Out Ceremony will be held today (Friday 09/14)

Posted by: DC | September 14, 2007 11:53 AM

One lazy college summer in France, instead of working at the pool as a life guard, I decided to take a job as a janitor in a detention center. Same hours, same pay but I had been at a pool before never in a jail.

My understanding is that, detention centers, unlike prisons who houses convicted criminals, are for people awaiting trial. It is supposedly not as bad as a prison but already I can tell you it wasnt fun. The facility had a juvenile section with kids as young as 15 I believe.

Most of the cleaning work was done by inmates contactors like me were only hired to go where they couldnt go. Staff area, watch towers, screening rooms, administrative office.

Through the weeks peeking a look at files carelessly left open on desk in the offices I realized that there were very different kind of people in there ranging from small drug offenders (marijuana dealing but probably recidivist otherwise they wouldnt be there) to (the case struck me) a guy who had participated in the gang rape of of a minor of less than 15 year old (an agravating offense in the french system).

I was puzzled. Who do you think made the rules in the overcrowded cells where 3 to 4 inmates were crammed.

Posted by: Greg | September 14, 2007 12:39 PM

Supermax a mile away from a schoolbus? I'd say that's an example of real-life "TERROR" right here; so therefore why isn't the solution advocated to "exterminate all brutes" (and I'm sure many certainly are menaces to society) to remove risk? (no, don't believe, but this is advocated in other contexts, just where often " brutes" who are of far lesser heinousness or not much at all, are not American born)

Posted by: Bill | September 14, 2007 01:22 PM

With much experience of many people, in my opinion, Bosley, that character in No Exit has the better of the argument.

Posted by: Dan | September 14, 2007 01:26 PM

Interesting piece. I spent 9 months in the Miami Federal Metropolitan Correction Center (MCC Miami) awaiting trial on pot smuggling charges in 1986-87. I was in medium/minimum security, but worked as an electrician every day and had access to the max unit where high value inmates were housed. Please don't confuse Federal correctional institutions with state prisons. There are few if any inmates in federal custody who are guilty of crimes such as murder, rape or sexual offenses as those are not generally federal crimes. Most are there for violation of federal drug laws, bank robbery, interstate transportation of stolen items, RICO statute racketeering charges, white collar offenses and lots of "immigration holds" -- foreign nationals awaiting departation or extradition. I must not forget the 10% or so of the population that are mentally disturbed and have had the misfortune to fall afoul of some federal statute, usually making some sort of threat towards the President or other elected official covered by the Secret Service.

Even though the Florissant "super-max" prison is Level 6, it also houses inmates in a minimum security camp -- who else is there to do the maintenance work, the cooking and the cleaning? Also, most federal prisons have an "industry" operated by UNICOR in which medium or minimum security inmates work regular shifts and get small paychecks to buy personal items from the commissary. MCC Miami made sheets and pillowcases for the Navy. Of course they do not want you to see the maximum security (segregation or "SEG") areas. This is BOP policy to discourage outsiders from getting information regarding security procedures and the physical layout in case you divulge this to others who would assist in escape attempts. Although the BOP facilities are consistently overcrowed, if you are going to do time, you are much better off in a federal institution. The TV portrayal of hell hole prisons refer to state institutions. I can assure you that the BOP runs a pretty tight ship and if you violate their rules, get in fights, do drugs or attempt to injure or intimidate other inmates you will go to SEG in a heartbeat, losing all your privileges. If you keep your mouth shut, work your shift and stay out of trouble you can make the best of a bad trip. Plenty of time to read and figure out just what the hell you are doing there and maybe even decide to avoid future criminal activity that would result in prison time. If you want to know more about federal prisons, just hang out in the parking lot and talk to inmate family members returning from visitation. The main thing I learned in prison was that half of the inmates don't belong there and the ones who really do are still out on the street.

Formerly FRN# 19677-004

Posted by: jan stickle | September 14, 2007 04:08 PM

What a bunch of cry babies! This is prison, not a day camp! This should be shown to everybody, so people will not want to go there. Don't do the crime, if you can't do the time!!! I think we should use all of this free labor, instead of letting it go to waste in prison. Let's use those chain gains to keep the communities clean and to discourage people from doing crime! U.S. prisons are the most luxurious in the world!

Posted by: Pariotic, Law Biding American | September 14, 2007 04:35 PM

No, Law "Biding" (sic), from what I've heard, Aussie prisons are luxe. Have you ever been in a U.S. slammer? Try it. Volunteer as a reading teacher, or church outreach. You'll rant a different tune.

And thanks for the info on federal prisons, Jan. Nice to hear that some branch of government has decided that hellholes are not the best way to go.

This Cohen blogpost has been on my mind more than his others, in large part because I'm now living on a landmass that was settled as a continent-sized prison camp. I recently finished reading a book titled "The Fatal Shore" that traced the history of "transportation," what the Brits called their exile of criminals to this arid arse-end of the Earth. It showed me how many of the problems that plague U.S. society today -- public fear of crime, what should society do with people who broke the rules, what hope is there for redemption, how much does it cost, what does it do to the moral character of a society when it mistreats so many people? -- were the same in the England of that other Mad King George.

Australia was like England's Supermax, because Irish anti-colonial rebels, British "Chartist" political agitators, union organisers and others whom threatened the establishment were sent to this inescapable exile. Those who weren't hung outright, that is.

And people who committed crimes on the mainland were shipped to brutal punishment camps in Port Arthur, Tasmania and Norfolk Island, a flyspeck that's even more remote than New Zealand. They were flogged until gobbets of their flesh littered the ground, stsrved, worked to death building piers in frigid water, etc. People like the previous commenter would have loved that!

And it did nothing to reduce the crime rate in England. What treatment like that does is poison the moral fabric of society, like the lockup of 2 million Americans is doing to the U.S.

I don't think prison should be fun. Crime deserves punishment. But punishment for the sake of sadism, with no attempt at rehabilitation, just produces hardened criminals. Most of them are going to get out someday. Either that, or you kill everyone who gets a prison sentence -- shoot the man who wounded someone in a bar fight, fry the forger, give a lethal injection to every drug addict. Would you rather have them get out with some education and skills, or just bent and twisted?

Posted by: Bukko in Australia | September 15, 2007 12:27 PM

One more thing about the "make 'em work on a chain gang argument." That's just stupid.

Prisoners are not productive. They are not organised people with a Protestant work ethic. I was always amazed at how scattershot and short-term their thinking was. Many are borderline retarded, mentally ill or just have a time horizon of less than 24 hours. You expect them to do something the next day and they just forget about it, or blow it off.

And chaining people up, then forcing them to shuffle along in public view, makes them angry. They drag their feet, literally and figuratively, doing way less work than they would unchained. English prison masters here, and southern U.S. states tried it, including in Florida when I was still living there. They all abandoned the practise, not because they suddenly got liberal, but because it didn't work. It might make reactionaries feel all tough and hard and proud of themselves to spruik for it, but it's a flop. You could do some research before you recommend that, or you could say what makes you feel good and wind up looking foolish to people like me who have some knowledge of the world. Guess what I think you'll continue to do?

Posted by: Bukko in Australia | September 15, 2007 12:28 PM

I have absolutely no pity for those"poor prisoner's" that have no air condioned cells or have to live a structured life.I was in the military for 22 year's I will not use that as a comparison to prison but a structured life is not that "bad".The place's I live in even before life in the military where there was actual air conditioners were so few and and far between the only one that stand's out was the movie theater.The first house I bought in 1980 had central air.I never used it!Any one over 45-50 in the U.S.can tell you the same story.If it was hot you stayed hydrated the same as our HERO'S in harm's way.Three hot's and a squat with some thing to read sound's good to me!Do the crime!!!! Do the time!!!!!!!!

Posted by: Robert Alexander | September 16, 2007 01:31 PM

Andrew, SuperMax. I am glad to see someone talking about the Federal Prison System. Unless you have someone inside a FPS, you do not know the whole story. Federal Parole would open up beds and not have the overcrowding that seems to be growing faster every day, like a spinning top out of control, soon to crash. If it were a State Prison, they would not be locked away.There is a need for Federal Parole. First time non-violent offenders. These are the ones you find at the camps. They should be house arrest - electronic braclet - probation, paying their own way. Congress needs to get back to the basic's, pass a Bill to revive the System of Parole for Federal Prisoners. Marijuana does not deserve 5 to 10 years in a camp, wasting a life for a first time non-violent offender,who deserves a second chance at a successful reentry into society. It is illogical to spend billions in tax dollars on long term imprisonment of many first time non-violent offenders who demonstrate exemplary behavior, working on their own rehabilitation. Only will this country wake-up when our news (TV-News papers) make a difference. All the letters sent to congress does not have the political pull the media has.. Please speak up for those who can not be heard. Kenny Linn with FedCure would be someone of interest to speak with about the Federal Prison System and Federal Parole. Thank you for your consideration and response.

Posted by: Maudie | September 16, 2007 04:28 PM

I must say that the idea of this prison sounds grim, but isn't that the point?
Honestly.

If you don't like prison, don't do the crime.

Poor inmates.
Psh.

Posted by: GWHannahFisher | September 16, 2007 06:43 PM

I periodically write to Terry Nichols at Supermax. He will tell you that he consumes his time well. Although they get their cells searched often, even though they are virtually "locked down". It is a harsh place though.

Posted by: Brent | September 16, 2007 11:45 PM

A lot of those early Australian settlers were agitators against the law, often not miscreants in themselves. Of course shouldn't severely punish every prisoner as if a petty crime is equated with something awful. But frankly I'd rather that the serious prisoners DON'T get out into society, that or ship them to Mozambique or some Devil's Island or Antartica, and take the whiners with them who escape to a first-world country and then complain how bad their life is while creating massive amounts of crime where didn't exist before, as well as legitimizing their cultural ghetto habits into the mainstream (sure, to know about life's underside may well be useful, but it shouldn't automatically be legitimized or celebrated-many of those Somalians, Arabs etc..in Europe etc. etc. SEND THEM BACK OR FAR AWAY to Africa or some favela somewhere as soon as they commit a serious crime and don't let them back-what a criminal is automatically somehow more noble than a self-regulating person?; this is not to condone fascistic attitudes that are often associated along with such notions).

I know some conventions of religion are deeply vested in the idea that one can be redeemed at any time but in my opinion this has ruined a lot of society's quality of life anywhere (all the most "liberal" places in the US also have the most liberated crime rate, or just look at the crime rate of just about EVERY city above a small town in the US; great lot of good such benevolence has done for the quality of life just about anywhere), and I used to have this compassion for criminals myself, sort of a sympathy for the underdog thing.

Sadism or revenge probably doesn't do good either, but what matters boils down to changing people's thoughts and habits-if just covering up their habits or utilitarian pain/pleasure social behavior is the notion of a solution, it makes many criminals not very different from how many "respectable", law-following (many just out of fear, or to avoid punishment, not for just the violation of something basic--and that a crime has now been termed as "personal" and a "debt to society" indicates to me a problem, as does some notion from the 60's that "everyone has good and bad in them and the capacity to commit a crime"-- that many crimes are, as opposed to violating a convention or stealing for hunger etc..) people get by.

I don't know, I'd REALLY rather ever not live around those who were willing to do something egregious (don't mean something like using drugs or something, a private thing that doesn't hurt anyone) at some point in their life. The prevalence of guns' importance and influence in US society of course has a lot to do with this. What can I say, in my opinion, a society with fairly recent drastic, systemic problems but hey plenty of employment and influence for religionists and academic sociologists, psychologists (I am SURE crime statistics per capita from the 60's earlier weren't anything close), which has exported many pernicious notions to the rest of the world. (I do find the jocular self-congratulation of " do the crime do the time" as if that's all it is- I think the benightedness of many such is a large part of the problem; Hell, I suspect the very same people consider following the law some onerous effort, in some way resent doing it, and might be the first to break it if they could get away with it).


Posted by: Clem | September 17, 2007 12:11 PM

Actually, Clem, factual error there. New York City is the safest large city in America -- by a long shot -- and five out of six registered voters are Democrats. If you've never lived there, you have no idea how completely safe you are. In parts of Brooklyn, women can walk around in the middle of the night alone. There's a lot of suburbs in America where I wouldn't do that. Crime on the subways is at statistically insignificant levels.
NYC closed part of Rikers' Island for lack of use.

Crime is a function of demographics and/or necessity. Density, young men, guns, drugs, mental illness, financial need (pretty much in that order) are the ingredients for crime. Supermax, chain gangs and condescending liberal sympathy are all pretty much irrelevant. New York became safe through brainy policing, community responsibility for each other and social services, not police batons and handcuffs. Little lesson there if we get past our prejudices.

Posted by: pivoine | September 17, 2007 05:19 PM

Thanks for the point pivoine, didn't think about NYC, good to hear you feel free. Still, I think the generalization (of course always exceptions, I didn't really mean to say "all")holds for many places, and police crime statistics year to year of most cities, period, are disquieting, so seems to belie the density as a main factor; probably is significant past a certain point. I also know of places with high crime and people without the factors of (is there somewhere in the US where it is difficult to get a gun?) significant drugs (but may be a main factor if some of the others aren't there), official mental illness (of course to want to commit many crimes there has to be by definition some attitudinal/mental/belief problem), and financial need . Men, most definitely (but are often fanned by women too)!

Glad to hear you feel so safe in New York (community responsibility sounds a bit fascistic but you probably didn't mean that).

Posted by: Clem | September 17, 2007 05:55 PM

Didn't NYC have some idea of having crimnals whereabouts on a computer so knew whenever they moved? something like that is a good idea.

Posted by: | September 17, 2007 08:38 PM

Okay, I wasn't there, but my reaction to reading this piece was to wish at least one of the esteemed reporters in this tour group had the presence and confidence to just sit down when the warden barked, no one sit down! I mean, what could he have done? The national press was there as cover. Boot you from the tour? I don't think that would have been much of a loss.

Posted by: Dave | September 20, 2007 10:49 AM

Post a Comment

We encourage users to analyze, comment on and even challenge washingtonpost.com's articles, blogs, reviews and multimedia features.

User reviews and comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions.




 
 

© 2007 The Washington Post Company