Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “crowded”

Jail for the Privileged and Profiteers – Roger Ingalls

Another city jail opens its doors to corruption. Fremont, California over build their incarceration capacity by a factor of six so now they’ve decided to lower their vacancy rate by renting out the open cells in an attempt to turn a quarter of a million dollar profit. On the surface it sounds like a good idea because the city fixes a planning mistake and they also make money to spend elsewhere. But these profit motivated jailing programs have proven corrupt and beneficial to mainly the privileged.

Obviously, these programs cater to the wealthier members of society. As an example, if someone breaks the law and is sentenced to jail time, instead of serving time in a crowded county jail they can appeal to the judge for movement to a city facility if they pay a daily rental fee. In the case of Fremont, the daily fee is $155. If you have extra money, you can buy your way into a nicer jail with fewer prisoners and a less stressful environment. So, two criminals with the same offence with different monetary standings will serve different sentences. The poorer guy gets hell while the richer one gets a more privileged stay. Sentencing for crime should not be based on a criminal’s wealth.

picture by thinkprogress.org

picture by thinkprogress.org

Another problem with for profit jails is financial corruption. Again, it’s already been proven that judges can get bought. A for profit juvenile jail in Pennsylvania kicked back $2.6 million to two judges for keeping their facility at capacity; the infamous Kids for Cash Scandal. Offences that normally resulted in suspension from school for a few days often put teenagers in juvy-jail for months. The judges hid behind a position of zero tolerance but in actuality it was payola time.

For profit incarceration is also driving the criminalization of basic human behavior. Many of the prisons built over the past twenty years are constructed and managed by companies on the stock exchange. Many facilities originally built by local governments are now being handed over to for profit companies. Do you wonder why crime reports state that violent crimes are down but then the next report says the prison population is increasing? To attract stock investors, publicly traded incarceration companies need to grow revenue quarterly and annually…that’s how Wall Street and their financial institutions work. More prisoners equal more dollars and rehabilitation is a dirty word. These huge prison companies and their large work force hire lobbyists and political marketing firms to promote the passing of new laws or rally against movements that try to do away with bad laws that criminalize normal human behavior. Again, these companies need bodies behind bars to make money.

Jailing for the purpose of profit is a corruption of justice.

Classism is Alive and Well on the Airlines – Tom Rossi

Unfortunately, my wife and I have to fly on the airlines a fair amount because we have family in various locations, including Europe.

Aboard a commercial airplane, the quality of the seat that you get depends on how much you are willing, and/or able, to pay. People with enough money sit in large, comfortable seats with plenty of room, while sardines, like us, get canned with some olive oil, sandwiched together in each other’s laps.

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But it doesn’t end there. People in first class or business class get better food and better drinks, including perks like free champagne. They also get their own, dedicated flight attendants – the best ones, who treat their passengers like royalty instead of cattle on their way down the chute to be “bolted.”

First and business class passengers are allowed to board the plane first, so that they can be sure to have enough space in theoverhead luggage compartments for their carry-ons and jackets and so that they can get comfortable and… drink a glass of champagne.

First and business class passengers have their own bathrooms, where the “riff-raff” are not allowed. After all, we usually carry diseases and various and sundry types of filth. And it doesn’t end there!

In the terminal, before passengers even get near an actual airplane, the upper-classes (and sometimes coach passengers who have paid to join an airlines “elite club,” or something like that) don’t have to stand in long lines, no sir-ree. They have their own line with their own attendants. And they actually get tended to by a real human-being, whereas the poor folk wait for an hour to fight with a robot and wait their turn to get help from the one ticketing agent on slum duty.

No, this is not the New York Stock Exchange.

No, this is not the New York Stock Exchange.

Then, the elite are swept into their private club-waiting-areas, where they don’t have to risk rubbing shoulders with the unwashed masses. They then magically appear to board the plane, before their admirers.

So what, you say? People who pay more get more. That’s the way things work. Well, that’s just fine. Capitalism at work. What bothers me about this is that the price differential between these levels, hell vs. heaven, is so, incredibly huge and unreasonable. Why can’t the airlines use some of the outrageous profits they extract from the superior beings to make life at least tolerable for the rest of us? Why can’t they cut their shareholder dividends by 1% so that coach passengers aren’t inhaling the hair of the person in the seat in front of them? Couldn’t they put just a little more padding in the seats?

I spent $160, after our last flight to Europe, for a chiropractor to literally straighten my ass out. My seat was incredibly uncomfortable (although I have to say that the staff on our Air France flights were very nice). Of course, this isn’t nearly enough that I could have just avoided this by buying a business class ticket.

The real purpose of the disparity between ticket categories is not to pay for extra room and services; the purpose is the separation, itself. The same principle behind the country club. While this principle doesn’t necessarily apply to every member, the purpose of a country club is to have a haven, away from home, where one is not at risk of contact with the working class.

First or even business class seats on an airline usually cost ten times what a coach seat costs. Is that to cover the cost of a glass of champagne? Is it to cover the cost of selling only four seats per row instead of 6? No. The supply side of the supply and demand equation is irrelevant, here. That price is what some people are willing to pay for a little more comfort, and a lot less exposure… to the untouchables of society – you and me.

The point here is that separation has almost no cost of production. In other words, it’s almost pure profit. The airlines charge $9,000 extra for a seat in business class, and for that they provide a little more space, some champagne, and some pampering. The cost of all this is certainly nowhere near this price. But this money get’s sucked out of the system in the form of almost-untaxed (especially with multinational corporations) capital gains for investors. That’s why it’s not used to improve travel for ALL passengers.

Some might say that things are this bad only because passengers shop by price alone. That they are obviously willing to suffer the indignities of flying coach in order to save money. Well, in our case, it’s family obligations that make us “willing.” If it weren’t for that, We’d only go on vacations that were within an hour’s drive.

At any rate, economics are so often used as justification for treating people like animals. Degrading others degrades the degrader. The airlines would only dignify themselves by dignifying their passengers, and doing away with the caste system. Unpack the sardines!

-Tom Rossi

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Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

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