Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Prison in America - By Richard Branson

Richard Branson
Original Article


By Richard Branson

A New York Times op-ed drew our attention to a remarkable piece of journalism from the Times-Picayune, the big paper in the American state of Louisiana. The eight-part series chronicles how Louisiana became the prison capital of America, and therefore of the world.

Prison in America has shockingly come to echo the days of slave plantations. Like cotton and sugarcane operations, prisons now make profits by taking away people’s liberty. In Louisiana, the series says, three drug convictions can land someone in prison for life, two car robberies can earn 24 years. Each of those prisoners is a long-term cash cow for the owners of private prisons (many of whom are also local sheriffs according to the series). Rehabilitation leading to release would just take away the per-prisoner revenue. So “inmates subsist in bare-bones conditions with few programs to give them a better shot at becoming productive citizens.”

No wonder “Louisiana's incarceration rate is nearly triple Iran's, seven times China's and 10 times Germany's” - in most societies, locking people up is costly. In America, it’s profitable. It is perverse, dehumanizing and devastating communities. If we want to do some good through privatization, why not privatize rehabilitation with bonuses for successful reintegration of inmates who don’t re-offend? Then private sector creativity would be channeled to help rather than bleed society.

NE - Facebook - Child Predators on a Virtual Playground

Original Article


By Annie Andrews

If any of the five men charged in the Buffalo County child prostitution case get convicted, they will become registered sex offenders. In the state of Nebraska, that means they'd be able to keep their Facebook accounts.

In 2009, Nebraska struck down part of a federal law banning sex offenders from the Internet. In that repeal was the ban on social networking sites -- which they called unconstitutional.

Now, sex offenders across the country are using Nebraska's precedent to help them fight for Facebook.

That makes the social networking site's pending decision to allow kids under the age of 13 to join all that more concerning, say some. They say it's opening up the doors to convicted child predators on a virtual playground, a potentially life-changing game, where kids don't know the rules.

But to many, lifting the ban seems like a moot point because kids under 13 are already on Facebook. In fact, the most recent report showed 7.5 million members are under 13-years-old and lying about their age. The same report showed 5 million of those minor members are under the age of 10.

What's worst, say child advocates, is that 64 percent of those kids' parents were unaware they had even joined the site.

"My parents didn't want me to join, but I did it anyway," said one teen stopped in the mall about her Facebook membership. Just about every kid NTV talked to said the same.

"I have Facebook and I'm under 13," said a 12-year-old boy. Another teenage girl we stopped said she had been a member since 12, admitting with a laugh she lied about her age to gain access.

It's the growing epidemic Facebook is hoping to address. On Monday, through the Wall Street Journal they announced plans for kid pages aimed at those under 13. The accounts would be through the parent or guardian's profile, programmers looking at ways to create filters that would give parents complete control over their child's online activity.

"I would not recommend that, and that's my personal opinion," said Deb Harder, a Grand Island Public School administrator who overseas elementary education working directly with counselors and principals.

For Harder, Facebook is already a problem. Most common eruptions are from cyber bullying. "If we have arguments or fights at school, many times we can trace it back to Facebook from the night before or weekend before," she said.

The biggest fear for Harder isn't the name calling; however, it's what she called the most dangerous of circumstances. "We always have the concern of predators getting a hold of our kids of minor age," she said.

Statistics prove that most likely they will. Studies show that one in seven kids online will get sexually solicited and over half of those were asked to send an explicit picture.
- But, it's almost always by other peers, based on this huge study that was done.

"Their telling them ‘we know how you feel,' letting them know they understand them, talking about being their friend, that ‘their parents don't understand them,'" said Deborah Fitts, Executive Director of CAPstone Child Advocacy Center in Scottsbluff. "Sexual predators are grooming for a relationship and leading them down that path."

It's a path, said Harder and Fitts, that many kids won't ever see coming. "Their brain is still developing areas," said Harder. "Developing the areas that make choices, judgments, self-control, emotions, and organization, so their brains aren't developed to handle what comes across on Facebook," she said.

Perhaps showing telltale signs of personal experience, those same teens NTV talked to agreed. "It's a bad idea, because they don't know what they're getting into," said one teenage boy. "There's a lot of things on Facebook, kids don't need to see," said the same teen girl who went behind her parents' back. "If you're not on Facebook, then you really don't know what your kids are doing, that is an issue," said another.
- The same stuff kids don't need to see can be found outside of social networks, like Google for example.

Both CAC advocates, teachers and kids said it needs to come down to strict monitoring by parents. Fitts recommends keeping computers in family areas, not allowing kids to take them to their rooms.

WA - KIROTV interview

The following was sent to us via the contact form and posted with the users permission. The article this person is referring to is here.

By Anonymous:
I just wanted to thank you for being loud enough that reporters look to your blog for interviews. I am a local SO in Washington State and I sent the lady from KIRO a nice long e-mail with all my scattered thoughts and a little of my story, but like I told her, there is no way I'd put my life on the line by doing an interview or putting my name out there. I'm a level 1 in Washington, so I'm not really in the public eye at all - so I'm keeping it that way for now. I do want to say something, though, so I made this e-mail and sent her a message. It was terrifying, though. I recommended she try to interview some local treatment providers. Hopefully a positive story comes out of this tragedy.

Thanks, again.