Ace in the Hole

You pick up the paper, you read about 84 men or 284, or a million men, like in the Chinese famine. You read it, but it doesn’t stay with you. One man’s different. You wanna know all about him. That’s human interest. Somebody all by himself, like Floyd Collins. You never heard of Floyd Collins? 1925. Kentucky. The guy pinned way down in that cave. One of the biggest stories that ever broke. Front page in every paper in the country for weeks. – Wilder, B., Douglas, K., Sterling, J., & Arthur, R. (1951). Ace in the Hole.

One spectacular crime swamps human interest drowning out the millions of famished lives we as a nation inflict on our prisoners. Saturate the media with details of a particularly heinous rape and murder case, coin a catchy phrase like “three strikes and you’re out” and your referendum is assured an 80% voter approval: 2.3 million lives get impoverished.

Incarceration has proven itself a compelling argument in the court of public opinion. 20% of today’s prisoners will commit 80% of tomorrow’s crimes. Those incarcerated can’t commit tomorrow’s crimes.

But which 20%? All prisoners lie If they’re not guilty of their charged crime then they’re guilty of something else! Safer to lock ‘em all up and throw away the key.

The redeemable get swept up by the commanding influence on the statistics of the irredeemable.

Sucks being a statistic.


  1. Ace in the Hole
  2. Prison Industrial Complex
  3. Punishment
  4. Panopticon
  5. Reconciliation
  6. Conclusion

Prison Industrial Complex

There’s good money in running prisons. For public unions, private contractors, local governments, suppliers, politicians. Even the police can fill their arrest quotas, justifying their budgets. Nothing beats a recidivist. Like a walking ATM.

There’s something disturbing about tying an individual’s freedom to their economic value as a prisoner. But I don’t have an answer that won’t come across as ‘soft on crime’.

So let’s play the game and play it to win.

Set up new economic interests. Ones more powerful than today’s players. Deeper pockets than those puny corrections officer unions and private contractors.

Retain the top three PR firms in the nation: make sure they’re not working for our competitors. Pump out endless reports with appendices stacked with numbers. Flood the blogosphere. Crank up the robocaller. Win the war of words, numbers and images.

Get tougher on crime than those namby pamby’s running today’s penal institutions. Make punishment public, corporal and brutal.


Excruciating pain. Make heroin withdrawal seem like a minor headache. Pass out and we’ll dash you with water to make sure you don’t miss the next lash.

Lockup? We maintain reservations at the SHU. We may release you into the general prison population if we feel you need an unrestricted beating or prison rape. We have an agreement with the guards to look the other way.

Thinking Groundhog Day? Not. Severity is intermingled with temperance. Punishment is unpredictable and irrational. You go to bed in your apartment feeling good and wake up next morning in the SHU or in one of our corporal punishment facilities.

What we’ve got here is… failure to communicate. Some men you just can’t reach. – Strother Martin, Paul Newman, … (1967). Cool Hand Luke.

We pursue a psychological purging. One that cannot be faked. A total breaking down of the old self, the old way of acting.

Parole? Hell no. You get out when we say you do. No maximum sentences. No minimums either, but we tally your Pain Points. Twenty years in prison equals how many lashes?

Punishment is tailored, personally delivered and always ‘interesting’. Not just prison. We are practiced in the art of punishment. Sure there’s community service. It’s just not worth that many Pain Points.

Gain the ‘moral’ high ground by ratcheting up public punishment of perpetrators. I hereby declare brutal public beatings as morally superior to out-of-sight-out-of-mind prison rapes, humiliations, stabbings and mutilations.


Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon was an 18th century prison design that allowed guards to observe (-opticon) all (pan-) inmates without their being able to tell whether or not they are being watched. A central guard tower looks out on a multi-story ring of cells surrounding the tower. Prisoners control their own impulses since Big Brother might be watching.

With technology we can do much better. Multiple Pan-biomons (biologic monitoring) embedded using minimally‑invasive surgery into the prisoner’s body cavity: audio capture, substance detection, drug delivery, geo-location, biosignals, and alerts. It’s Disney’s MagicBand™ on steroids.

We track inmates real-time with automated supports, alerts and histories. A pedophile comes off as too friendly around kids? Hit the drug delivery button and remotely drop him in his tracks.

Onlookers have detailed knowledge of inmate actions, movements and discussions. They have at their fingertips a geographic visual of an inmate’s movements vis-à-vis local police patrols or guards. There’s a local surveillance or web camera nearby? That’s in our database.

Time for a random stop and frisk!


Reconciliation.[1] Victims being healed. They too carry doubts. “What more could I have done to have kept my son from being murdered?” “What could I have done to avoid that rape?” “Why would anyone have committed such a heinous act?”

We attend to both victims and perpetrators (“perps”). Twice as many clients. Throw in the affected communities. Onlookers address the needs of entire communities affected by a crime.

A lifetime of reconciliation. Victims set the pace. If a victimized woman is still afraid of coming out of her apartment then the perp will continue to pay for that victimization. No incentives, cajoling, negotiations, plea bargaining, tearing at heartstrings.

Only once the victim has reconciled does the Overseer then consider whether the community as a whole has reconciled. Can the perp self-regulate without Panbiomon surveillance?

A lifetime of work within a vastly expanded client list. This can be a real money maker! And think of the network of political supporters we’re building.


Abraham said: “Will you really sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there were fifty righteous people in Sodom; would you really not spare Sodom for the sake of the fifty righteous people within it? Would you kill the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike! Should not the judge of all the world do what is just?” The Lord replied: If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake. … Abraham went on, “Please, do not let my Lord be angry if I speak up this one last time. What if ten are found there?” For the sake of the ten, He replied, I will not destroy it. – Genesis 18:32

The U.S. has 2.3 million people in jail or prison. Holy Sh*t! That just can’t be right. This number points to a fundamental disconnect in the criminal justice system: setting the rules too tight in contra-distinction to the norms of society. Surely there are ten righteous people in these 2.3 million.

Prohibition failed. There was no lasting shame. End the War on Drugs.

We throw a pedophile into jail and fewer children get molested. We throw a drug dealer into prison and we create a new job opening. – Peter Moskos, Author. Cop in the Hood: My Year Policing Baltimore.

Think of the lifetime of grateful voters you win by just turning on the Governor’s autopen and signing pardons for all drug-related offenses. Better do it before the other party does.

And the pedophiles?

Justice is meant to be a morally challenging choice for the public. We’ve subcontracted it out to commercial and political interests who make it their job to make it go away. Let’s push it back onto the public conscience. The community and victims must push the fat man onto the trolly tracks.

Look at it as really tough love. We never forget the love. But our tough is really tough.

Reconciliation, no matter how tough we make it, beats a lifetime in jail. That pedophile could be your 17‑year old kid caught in the backseat of your car with his 15‑year old girlfriend.

1. AKA Restorative Justice. A very good discussion of Restorative Justice is found at Simon (18:40) My goal would be to make Restorative Justice palatable for public consumption by co-opting arguments, tools and techniques used by today’s Prison Industrial Complex.

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