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Update: 2017-05-31


Sarah, Ezra, and Matt talk about the real causes of mass incarceration, Trump's move to roll back contraceptive coverage, and the mysterious world of high-end credit cards.Links!German Lopez’s piece about John Pfaff’s “Locked in” Mark A.R. Kleiman, Angela Hawken, and Ross Halperin on graduated reentry as prison reform.Today’s white paper, 'Status Goods: Experimental Evidence from Platinum Credit Cards' Our Weeds in the Wild Episode about birth control Ezra Klein’s conversation with Chris Hayes about “A Colony in a Nation” Jon Bois excellent video, The Dumbest Boy in the WorldBooks!'Locked In: The True Causes of Mass Incarceration' by John Pfaff'The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness' by Michelle Alexander'A Colony in a Nation' by Chris Hayes

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we've sponsored by text or teachers offering listeners a fourteen day free trial when it actually dot com slash weeds sponsored by me and ease is a special URL me and ease dot com slash weeds get twenty percent off your first pair and I wake when does offering listeners twenty dollars off their first order to try wink dot com slash weeds is very tall this tells me I'm extremely tell other episode in the mass media podcast that when they see is here with us or cliff and Ezra Klein is great and the whole gang here in studio third episode on me yet it's so yeah lots of wits although this gets into the the best threat ever on the internet about how many days or week I have never seen the single greatest video ever created is by John Boyce was an SB Nation The Vox Media family I think it's called that it is called the stupidest boy in the world and you should go watch it is a narrative edition of the single greatest forum thread in history nothing we do is as good as I will share a link in our facebook groups have you not and I had maybe the we can talk about the French Revolutionary calendar in which they tried to solve this odd number of days in the week problem but until that you might want to tide yourself over with the advent of webs podcast I think are interesting he sent each week with that you know interesting as fasting figures from from pop culture and it's a it's a break from you know as Jim video nonsense and whatever else face with their jerk been a jerk a tense morning on the weeds and we were going to we're going to talk to companies for Sarah Cliff had a big news breaking overnight about the birth control mandate in Obamacare being repealed by regulation bought by Trump we're going to talk about that we're going to talk about a study about credit cards or something I'm not really to stand at the lair of platinum Credit refund credit cards based on my credit card to be heavy fell the only thing on the first going to talk about mass incarceration and what is and what is really driving it so there's a great new book by John Taft looks cold yes it is called locked in the true causes of mass incarceration to achieve real reform mandate has the thesis I was a somewhat unwelcome thesis too would be reformers which is that um whatever you may think of of the war on drugs or the propriety of having people locked up for non violent low level drug offenses that actually is not that many people in prison for nonviolent low level offenses and to be build up in the number of people in prison in the United States was driven by one an actual increase in the quantity of violent crimes and to an increase in this severity of punishments meted out for the violent crimes that over the past fifteen years or so the crime rate has has tended to fall more like twenty years so that one factor driving incarceration has gone down but the much more severe penalties are still in place so at some numbers to this real quick and we're primarily talking here we're talking about state prisons which have the overwhelming majority of prisoners and threatening to federal prison system it has somewhat different dynamics but only sixteen percent sixteen of state prisoners are on drug charges and of that sixteen percent only five to six percent of that group are both low level and nonviolent so we're talking about a fraction of a fraction and this can be confusing because a lot of people come in to prison on drug charges and that matters because then they have probation by the part of the criminal justice system but because it kind of pretty short sentences of people left and are not low level drug offenders it's again it's only sixteen percent the prisoners on drug charges only five to six percent grade level and violent you could solve that and we would still have extraordinarily international rates of incarceration way and you know basically the story is as I was I was up on Capitol Hill the other day and talk about something completely unrelated to this but they were holding votes about a bill to it had something to do with child sex trafficking and it was going to make the penalties quite a bit tougher and more progressive members on the Hell were finding themselves in a tough spot because they had gotten invested in the idea of reversing mass incarceration and all this kind of stuff that has become Commission was in the least among liberals but you're sitting there and have to ask yourself like Well do I really want to be the guy who voted against tougher penalties for people involved in child sex crimes and like you know you don't care you stand on principle but the fear you know that the drives politicians on this is that all it takes is like one media salient crime that catches the public's attention and the fact that you voted for lighter penalties and that kind of case where one person who got out of jail early because of something you did I mean this was the at the Willie Horton case with Michael Dukakis in the eighties he had some prison furlough program in Massachusetts I think statistically speaking the program work fine that was like no big problem with that one person who benefited from the program did go out and commit some grisly murders afterwards and it was real you know political weak spot for for Dukakis and and to me that's what's in fast buck he discusses Michelle Sanders earlier book The New Jim Crow that was very popular and the thing about her book is that he tells a story it is a tough story but it's also a story that sort of easy for a progressive politician to hear which is that driven by racist panic there was this move to lock up huge quantities of basically non violent drug offenders predominantly black and Latino and it's fairly easy to say if you like want to get ahead in the world of progressive politics the war against that just like all of that like non violent drug offenders being in jail is bad racist panic is bad mass incarceration the number here again we did a poll with Morning consult and we found that eight in ten U S voters supported reducing prison sentences for people committed a nonviolent crime and a low risk of re offending I mean you know it's rare to pull something of eighty percent non violent drug offender yet let him out fewer than three in ten back shorter prison sentences for people who commit a violent crime even if they also have a very low risk of re offending so that's you move from extremely popular to extremely unpopular as soon as a crime becomes violent what are the things in the fast but I have not read the book after reading articles about it was and he really recognizes the role of prosecutors is very important in this story I'm one of the kind of amazing stats that I honestly wasn't aware of until Peter this was brought up was that you there's been a massive rise in the number of prosecutors in the United States this kind of start of the crime wave in the nineteen seventy the nineteen eighties but as a crime wave dissipates not like we like lay off the prosecutors may become some other kind of lawyer they keep working as prosecutors I'm one of he cites in his book is that in nineteen seventy we had seventeen thousand prosecutors working in the United States that has now to thirty thousand prosecutors in two thousand seven so we've nearly doubled the number of people whose job it literally is to prosecute people and bring charges against them and bring them to core and then when things you see is the prosecutor productivity which I guess is the metric you use for determining a very successful prosecutors remained roughly steady you know they're putting prosecutors after putting about the same number of people per person in jail as they did what is the site in nineteen ninety and two thousand seven but just by the sheer fact of numbers the factors so many more people working as prosecutors that just means you're like a lot more people in jail and I think that's not a super exciting story like you know Matt was saying I think it's ah like a narrative that's going to like fire people up as much that Like a Local governments hired a lot of prosecutors in that site causing some of this prize but it was something new I was even after reading Alexander buck like I had never even come across that I think that's a very interesting part of what's going on of mass incarceration of fired up about this narrative actually with the couple quick things here one is I really want to call out so Hermana Lopez our colleague wrote a very long detailed essay on on Facebook it's called Why You Can Play mass incarceration on the war on drugs you should find it on box it is it is excellent I willing notes but I really want to call that out because it's really good and your point about he really does focus in here on the prosecutor story just a couple things to add to that that I just some of these I knew something I didn't one of the weird things about the American criminal justice system that we elect our prosecutors right they are there it's a political office and in most places I don't know if it's true in all places but in most places and prosecutors are elected or reelected overwhelmingly and I think the number that he has here about ninety five percent of incumbent prosecutors won reelection and eighty five percent ran unopposed ask yourself if your prosecutor and you enjoy your job to stand for election and normally it's very easy what is the only thing that could possibly happen that might lead to a campaign that makes you lose your job and the only thing that could possibly happen is that somebody who came before you could commit a crime was not given a long enough sentence and he got out and committed another crime and now is being used to make you look like a soft on crime prosecutor who did not protect the people one thing I Chris Hayes also if your interest in this as a new book All the only nation that is related to these issues and we were talking he was on my podcast we're talking about this and it's not like there's a good policy to pass we can say prosecutors should not be elected but it is not obvious that the incentives of running for reelection are the way you want to discipline prosecutors I think I think that's about things to say there's a really nice line from home on here just wanted to grab because it sort of sums the whole thing up very nicely and he writes about Facebook at all points to one conclusion to truly eliminate mass incarceration reforms will have to at some point shift more attention to dealing to mass incarceration of violent offenders not just low level drug offenders and do so the focus on the state and local levels practically prosecutors in these areas and the boys making it relates to what Sarah and menacing here said every level the thing you have to do is the harder thing it's easy to do federal because you can just do it in one place right Congress can pass along and it's like the whole federal system changes it's easy to focus on non violent because it's much more popular prosecutors are hard to deal with because a local in their elected in their bazillion of them it's a very very tough problem on and as much as we are making I think we were before Trump got elected begin to make some real strides particular federal level to the national politics and are really good things happening the state level really getting to appoint a Weaver first mass incarceration and it's it's going to be a generations long walk you know I yeah I think that it seems relevant to music that I've seen fasts works are bubbling up and gaining more and more traction both like our more criminal justice focused writers and people on the left is that I do think that the underlying crime dynamics are really really important here and that a weird thing that happened you know that I put on my personal life like from one bucket list is that the reduction in crime rates that have been going on for so long States genuinely went into were worse in twenty fifty and it is true that the murder rate in twenty fifteen was still quite low compared to where it had been in the eighties and early nineties and that a lot of what Donald Trump said about that in the campaign was demagoguery and wrong when you think of no political challenges involved here I do think that the extent to which the movement just kind of went on autopilot with the same like this is what we were saying and twenty twelve twenty thirteen twenty fourteen times going down and down and down even when exactly as the national media started paying more attention to black lives matter and bipartisan criminal justice reform like the crime rate was going up and everybody of right thinking people were like mass incarceration is a problem and then you had a guy Donald Trump who was offering what I think is like the common sense ministry point of view which is like the murder rate going up is really bad and we need to get tougher on crime not soft on crime and you know I think that this sort of missing piece here that that out Mark Lyman had a much older box keys for us was like actually think about like what are ways that people who don't want to see this astronomical prison population like what can we actually do to reduce the incidence of crime in the United States that will be effective and relatively speaking humane and less destructive to community is because I I do think that we're seeing that it's a difficult political problem and hoping that kind of elite consensus can drive to lax or policy forward in the face of like actual rising crime is is really really difficult it's hard even crimes falling I really think this is something you see true and a lot of policy areas a focus on like fixing the very small challenge ahead like educational outcomes or health outcomes or even criminal outcomes when and that is actually only touching the tip of the iceberg that it's a very small part of whatever is happening in an individual I've been there so many things happening outside of the classroom outside of the work place outside of the doctor's office that are contributing to the outcomes and those are things that have very very very difficult to change how you can work on getting their teachers you can work on like getting more doctor appointments that stuff outside of like these particularly places where you can actually host the intervention that is often really the root cause of the law of the problems that were trying to solve for the magazines are the best I got my sewing magazines my mother worked for for magazines at for much of her life her father worked for magazines I love them it is a great way to relax to get informed and to sort of stay on top of what's happening the world without being inundated with the kind of news cycle the same time is like bundles of paper their mail to your house it's like it's a barbaric and that's what texture comes and texture has brought together a whole bunch of leading 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my head but they're really good analyses that show that you actually cannot if you just do an equation based on the mound a violent crime you know you do not end up with our incarceration rate that even in America the incarceration rate and the violent crime rates do not move in tandem at all it is totally it actually turned out to be totally different thing I want to go back to something Matt mentioned which is a piece more climate crime expert wrote for Vox to play two years ago I've also is really brilliant and interesting and maybe little could be oldest OPEC but is worth considering the pieces called on and again will put this in shots the piece is called We don't need to keep criminals in prison to punish them the underlying idea which our climb in and he wrote this long with Angela Hock and Ross helper and handling a difficult graduated re entry and basically the inside is that we use to have four reasons technological maybe reasons are simply un creative this binary question Are you in prison or are you not and then we ended up creating other things like parole and probation systems a little bit more in the system but basically the inside of climbing in and his co authors is that particularly given modern surveillance technology in the three things do get a little bit dissed OPEC you really could have many more creations between being locked up on having all of your freedom taken away and just being under surveillance to make sure that you are not doing the things that had gotten in trouble in the first place or something that there's there's a lot of steps along the way that now technologically it's very doable to do that in a way that it just wasn't before I think about how the traditional probation and parole systems work you to go and check in with a guy if you didn't come that they had a manhunt for you in this whole thing here it's I mean Gee guess is very cheap and opens up a lot of creativity if you want that but one of the problems I think the CNS and I think it's in the broader discussion overall we sort of have to decide what we're trying to do here are we trying to rehabilitate people are trying to punish people are we trying to save money do not care how much we try to get the lowest crime rate possible there are a lot of goals that your justice system in your in your presence and can be attempting to accomplish and we as a country I think have not settled on which goals actually are I mean if we said the question is rehabilitation right and so more interested in is of recidivism rates and you know whether people get jobs when they leave prison you'd create something completely different than what we have right of the point was people make mistakes and what we want to do is get them to play for they will not make that mistake again and live a productive life you would not do it this way you just what punishment which I think part in the eighties and nineties was actually what we're doing maybe would do it this way we went to very maximum punishment for drug dealers further other people we had in in California with a three strikes law which created unbelievably awful consequences some still does but it was in effect when I was growing up but we haven't made that decision and say one thing that I think you see in the Alexander books the books but in the broader discussion about this in the difference between the criminal justice bipartisan working group in the Senate and Donald Trump is an often unacknowledged difference in ants Donald Trump his first act in politics what he put a He paid for a New York Times advertisement calling for the execution of the Central Park Five who were later exonerated by DNA evidence but he what his was about was not catching them or rehabilitating them it was trying to get them a harsher punishment but he wanted the system to do is punish more some people do is rehabilitate more with some people seem to other people seem to make an argument that it would just be great if it cost as little as possible and I think that these coalitions of different goals are really impossible to say what conversation or even having much of how to achieve the ends we want out I went to to my things when is a program that I think had not existed at the time of climates peace but that is more than set to code and that that I think is a good concrete example and not that dystopian to think about is a program called twenty four seven sobriety which is a way of punishing people who commit alcohol related offenses which is the example read like Lincoln try being he is a serious problem like people die because people are on the road driving drunk at the same time when you get when you kiss someone gets pulled over driving drunk and the like haven't killed someone in a horrifying accident the idea of like locking them up for a lengthy prison term I think strikes a lot of people as you know it's too much since it's too much and what they do under twenty four seven sobriety is you have to take a breathalyzer tests twice a day and if you skip your test or you're not clean you go to jail for like two days and then come at right so the idea is to like not have you be rotting in jail out of your community experiencing horrific deprivation for a long time but to use the fact that jails exist and the certainty of detection because they know problem to compel you to stay sober and pain I'm sure people who are enrolled in the program don't enjoy it and it's punitive and in that sense it's really not so bad but not be drunk and it's in fact in your interests to not drink and drive as well as in the larger interests of society and it's a way of saying you know it's not about like rehabilitation in a touchy feely sons but is about like what is the social bottom line here in the bottom line is we do not want people getting drunk and driving automobiles so we're going to stop them from doing that but we're going to use the least forceful intervention possible so that you know if you do what we want like you keep living that sort of productive life variance of that that that could work for a lot of things I mean obviously that's particular song because the crime there like literally just involves alcohol consumption but you know this a lot of people who get mixed up in crime because they fundamentally have substance abuse problems and looking at measures that you have full treatment but also some stick to it that directly address those those kind of things I think could be reasonably promising the other thing that I think often gets missing in these discussions is that America is in some ways we got a punishing criminals really bad actually catching them like in twenty fifty and sixty two percent of murders in DC were solved and that's like not that great and if you get a sixty two percent in math test we would consider that like a huge crisis and it's it's interesting that the political system processes like excessively lax punishment of convicted offenders like the worst thing a politician to do but just literally letting people get away with murder is like not a big deal in a weird way and you know I think it's like common sense right like really we can all agree that murderers should be punished like somewhat and the calculation that will catch half the murders and will give them incredibly harsh punishments verses like let's try to catch them all and give the medium sized punishments to mean that's like a big difference there and what we're currently landing on what words are substituting very harsh punishment for good like crime fighting seems like a bad trade off the lesson if you've been settling for store bought underwear five packs three packs whatever it is that something that will change your life for the better it's me and I know it's it's funny to be talking about underwear at the fact is you wear underwear everyday I wear to every day maybe you don't that's gross and really have matters it changes your day how it 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control to the throne and all access but yeah it's a downtown has brought religious freedom back to Floyd working on its draft we can say Merry Christmas again and also last night around nine o'clock at myself and Elder Scott and other health care Porter your thoughts even the weeds we got a copy of a draft regulation that the Trump administration working on that really you why it ends the exemptions to the Obamacare birth control mandate in a way that does nullify is the man did I think it's fair to say it so it a bit of background is helpful here are as I'm sure many of our listeners know Obamacare is requirements that insurance companies cover busy all types of contraceptives with no sort of cost sharing for the individual where you don't have to pay out of pocket when you go to the doctor this is a provision that you know is quite popular I think you've even if you look across all voters it is like eighty or ninety percent popularity rating but has also been contested by some religious groups particularly religious universities religious hospitals as well as businesses owned by religious people have said we don't want to cover birth control in this all really culminated in the Hobby Lobby lawsuits a few years ago where the Supreme Court ruled that the modernization had to make more exemptions they had to let more people out of this requirement anyway so the above illustration is was really aggressive in protecting the Obamacare mandates they wanted to make exceptions as narrow as possible to let him not as many people opt out does new regulation that we've got a copy of last night it essentially lets any employer wants to raise a religious and moral exemption opt out of the birth control requirement and one of the things that Sam really notable about it to me it's not like you're too late apply and say Hey government like I have this religious or moral objection he just stopped covering at Jones of this is one of the big things I was kind of at issue is I'm their mom has visions that OK we'll do this exemption to the courts as we have to you'd have to file the paperwork and will make sure that your exams religious group said We don't want to file the paperwork that essentially makes us complicit in or birth control mandate have no part we just want to stop covering at it and that's the process that this regulation would and would basically say Hey you're an employer you don't want to cover birth control just stop covering birth control you have to notify employees you'd like send them an update that your plan a longer covers birth control but that's essentially it
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