Re: Uncarceration

1

What's not to love?

the company's first "clients" (as the monitored are always called) were not human beings but Holsteins

On the other hand, it's hard to imagine that this setup is more degrading than the current one.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 08-16-10 6:53 PM
horizontal rule
2

The Holstein comparison is a bit degrading. But this is clearly more humane than being ware-housed.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-16-10 7:00 PM
horizontal rule
3

The man was cruel, but his diet worked. I didn't get the extra fodder and lost the pounds.


Posted by: Opinionated Holstein | Link to this comment | 08-16-10 7:27 PM
horizontal rule
4

That's a rather creepily gleeful article in parts, I must say. It's got some better quotes later on, but the author certainly loads up the front end with a great big dose of boosterism.

Another BI system, recently deployed with promising results, features an electrostatic pad that presses against the offender's upper arm at all times, chemically "tasting" sweat for signs of alcohol.

Delightful. No way to misuse that, I'm sure.

BI is immensely proud of its backup systems, which boast an ultrasecure data room and extreme redundancy: if, say, a toxic-gas cloud were to wipe out the town of Anderson, the last act of the staff there would be to flip the switches diverting all call traffic to BI's corporate office in Boulder, Colorado, where a team capable of taking over instantly in case of disaster is always on duty.

Smells like marketing hogwash to me. No way a for-profit company pays for two identical sets of staff, one of which goes almost entirely unused.

Criminals typically differ from the broader population in a number of ways, including poor impulse control, addictive personality, and orientation toward short-term gratification rather than long-run consequences.

Hellooooo, bait and switch. I would maybe, maybe believe this is true of people with convictions for violent crime. For nonviolent offenders? More like "People convicted of nonviolent crimes typically differ from the broader population in that they are more likely to be young, male, poor, and nonwhite."


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 08-16-10 7:41 PM
horizontal rule
5

Hmm. While I generally don't like turning public functions over to the private sector, this didn't set off especial warning bells to me. Especially given how many prisons are run by private corporations already.

But that third quote - yeah, I intended to pull that out and disagree with it in the original post, and then I forgot. Although if a huge portion of your inmates are in there for drug use, addictive personalities are probably going to be overrepresented.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-16-10 7:48 PM
horizontal rule
6

Kind of weird article about the "legendary" carrot cake served at Rikers Island. Recipe included!


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 08-16-10 7:49 PM
horizontal rule
7
Already, I have an application on my iPhone that broadcasts my exact location to selected friends at all times. If I were ever convicted of a crime and forced to submit to GPS tracking, I would, in theory, need only to add my probation officer to my Google Friends list and keep my phone handy.

Consent! It's all implicit, anymore. Grrrrr.

(Although I must confess I don't carry around that kind of tracker, and remain distantly, uncomfortably aware of my cell phone's tattletale abilities.)

At the same time, if the people being monitored are those who would otherwise be in prison, then the infringement on their privacy is substantially less intrusive than that entailed in being required to sit in a cell all day.

Wonder how long it will take the rationale to flip from "This is so much less onerous than prison!" to "Why not make it a new crime; after all, if people break this law, we can just punish them with tracking, which isn't so very onerous."

(The article also explains a rather peculiar phone call I got a few years ago from a representative of BI, Inc. I thought he was being cagey for another reason. I guess he just wanted information without having to reveal that his client was a criminal.)


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 08-16-10 7:50 PM
horizontal rule
8

I'm with Witt on how this is written and I wonder about the privacy concerns at the end of the article I'd be more interested in how this works for women, especially since it would then be a way to keep more children out of foster care. But I'd really be worried about privacy creep in that situation, too, I guess.

I just finished reading The Corner and was very struck by the way you needed to be in a home with a phone line to be able to call and check in with a parole officer every night and how this wasn't an option for many of the people involved, including minors.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 08-16-10 7:52 PM
horizontal rule
9

Wonder how long it will take the rationale to flip from "This is so much less onerous than prison!" to "Why not make it a new crime; after all, if people break this law, we can just punish them with tracking, which isn't so very onerous."

But we love to punish people. I can't imagine a slippery slope taking this form - it would take a complete paradigm shift. I can only imagine the slippery slope towards incarcerating people who could otherwise be out living highly monitored but productive lives.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-16-10 7:55 PM
horizontal rule
10

I'd be more interested in how this works for women, especially since it would then be a way to keep more children out of foster care.

Good catch.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-16-10 7:55 PM
horizontal rule
11

I think I expressed myself badly. I meant, right now it's being used as a selling point to say we're spending $30K a year incarcerating nonviolent offenders when we could be spending $whatever/year to monitor them.

But in the future, if it becomes sufficiently widespread, then legislators considering new laws could use it as a selling point for their law. "I know it sounds extreme, criminalizing parents who don't cut their sons' hair! But we wouldn't have to actually send them to prison, just monitor their barbershop trips."


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 08-16-10 7:58 PM
horizontal rule
12

10: Obviously it's something that's on my mind anyway, but I noticed the little aside about using "he" as the default pronoun and wondered why when currently jailed women are (AFAIK) more likely to be low-risk offeners and more likely to be custodial parents.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 08-16-10 7:59 PM
horizontal rule
13

But in the future, if it becomes sufficiently widespread, then legislators considering new laws could use it as a selling point for their law. "I know it sounds extreme, criminalizing parents who don't cut their sons' hair! But we wouldn't have to actually send them to prison, just monitor their barbershop trips."

This would certainly be shitty. But the possibility of this can't possibly outweigh the benefit of having tons and tons of incarcerated inmates functional in the real world, can it?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-16-10 8:02 PM
horizontal rule
14

4

Hellooooo, bait and switch. I would maybe, maybe believe this is true of people with convictions for violent crime. For nonviolent offenders? ...

I would expect so. For example don't drug addicts generally have addictive personalities?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-16-10 8:03 PM
horizontal rule
15

For example don't drug addicts generally have addictive personalities?

I keep clicking refresh, but the answer doesn't show up.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 08-16-10 8:05 PM
horizontal rule
16

don't drug addicts generally have addictive personalities?

What makes you think the drug users in prison are addicts? Some of them are, of course, but -- again -- one of the issues around incarceration in this country is that the relevant distinction isn't so much recreational vs. addiction, it's social class and ability to conduct your drug use out of sight of the general public.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 08-16-10 8:07 PM
horizontal rule
17

A good friend of mine won the case in Illinois affirming that pretrial defendants wearing monitoring anklets are "in custody" for speedy trial purposes. A (different) good friend had the delightful experience of discovering such a device as things progressed to a more intimate state with a fellow she was then dating. I'm not sure what this adds to the discussion, but both factoids have long intrigued me.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 08-16-10 8:12 PM
horizontal rule
18

17 brings up a the bail bondsman lobby that Will has talked about before: how 1/3 of those who we house haven't been to trial yet, at huge cost to the state and to their lives, because they can't make the minimum that bail bondsmen require to post their bail. Missing work, rent, etc. That ankle bracelets (and even honor systems) work far, far better an cheaper. And finally, that the bail bondsman lobbying industry has systematically taken out politicians who have dared to visit the issue, and undone programs in several locations, and gotten politicians elected who will build more prisons instead.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-16-10 8:17 PM
horizontal rule
19

One thing that the article doesn't discuss is battery life. A while back I heard an asylum seeker* talk about his ankle bracelet, and he said one of the greatest anxieties was the fear over the battery dying. He was terrified to stop on the way home from work to do an errand, because he would have nowhere to plug it in, and would be immediately in violation.

*Yes, we imprison all people who petition for asylum as they arrive in the US; why do you ask?


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 08-16-10 8:17 PM
horizontal rule
20

...discovering such a device as things progressed to a more intimate state with a fellow she was then dating.

Laydeez.


Posted by: Opinionated Tagged Prisoner | Link to this comment | 08-16-10 8:19 PM
horizontal rule
21

17: I'm going to go ahead and say that most of the drug users in prison are in fact addicts. Can't back it up, but I believe it to be true. The class issues are more about sentencing and the likelihood of getting busted, but chances are really pretty good if you're in for sale, you're supporting a habit, and if you're in for possession, it's also not unlikely that you are using in a way that could be called dependent--partly because you're unlikely to be incarcerated for possession unless it happens a bunch of times. And when you have been arrested a bunch of times for having drugs, you have passed one test, albeit a fairly shallow one, for addiction (is it affecting your ability to function?) and would in all likelihood at least be found suitable in intake for outpatient counseling.

I think in an effort to champion those incarcerated as a result of the stupid fucking drug war, you're running the risk of glossing over some stuff.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 08-16-10 8:21 PM
horizontal rule
22

19: All? Is this a new thing? I handled an asylum case about a decade ago, and my client was neither incarcerated nor wearing a monitoring device.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 08-16-10 8:24 PM
horizontal rule
23

21: Eh, I wouldn't push my argument super-far, because I don't have the detailed knowledge to back it up. I do think the word "addict" gets tossed around pretty lightly sometimes, and I honestly do think that if you look at the total population of those incarcerated (jail + prison), there are fewer actual addicts there than you might think.

I mean, the fact that 9 of 10 guys in the Hawaii court program cited in the article were able to keep clean urine under that program, that suggests to me they weren't ALL addicts. (And yeah, I've known a couple of cases where carrot-and-stick really did work for people with certain kinds of addictions, so I'm not pooh-poohing the whole idea.)


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 08-16-10 8:27 PM
horizontal rule
24

22: Your client probably petitioned for asylum after gaining admission to the U.S. -- that is, s/he sent in a form later, rather than asking upon landing at the airport -- or after being caught up in the immigration detention system months or years after arrival.

As far as I know, every single person who asks for asylum as they arrive in the U.S. -- meaning they ask the Customs and Border Patrol guy/woman -- is incarcerated.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 08-16-10 8:30 PM
horizontal rule
25

The slippery slope that I worry about is that this thing might become, not an alternative to prison, but an alternative to sentencing reform. Given how the Tasar seems to have migrated from an alternative to deadly force into a tool that gets used in not even close to deadly force situations, I worry about the potential for abuse here.


Posted by: Dave W. | Link to this comment | 08-16-10 8:33 PM
horizontal rule
26

But the possibility of this can't possibly outweigh the benefit of having tons and tons of incarcerated inmates functional in the real world, can it?

Dave W. answered this more pithily than I could. But just to be clear: I do agree it would be a monumental and nearly unambiguous good to have fewer nonviolent offenders out and monitored, rather than incarcerated. I'm just worried about how fast and how severe the slippery slope would be for the rest of us.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 08-16-10 8:53 PM
horizontal rule
27

I would maybe, maybe believe this is true of people with convictions for violent crime.

I would definitely believe it of your average CEO.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 08-16-10 8:57 PM
horizontal rule
28

But is sentencing reform anywhere on the docket? Right now the only momentum seems to be for building more prisons, so I don't see how this can be anything but an alternative to more prisons.

I worry about the potential for abuse here.

Sure, I generally don't trust a lot of players in every aspect of this country, and so when there's a new proposal, it needs to be thoroughly vetted. But I'm still not clear on the imminent potential for abuse.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-16-10 8:58 PM
horizontal rule
29

16

What makes you think the drug users in prison are addicts? ...

I expect addicts are more likely to end up in prison than recreational users and hence drug using prisoners are more likely to be addicts than drug users in the general population. Similarly I expect short term thinkers with poor impulse control are more likely to be sent to prison than the general population, hence will be over represented in prison as compared to the general population.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-16-10 8:58 PM
horizontal rule
30

21 is consistent with my experience. A hell of a lot of dope arrests are due to other criminal behavior to support a habit. Someone with the resources to support a habit without resorting to burglary, forgery, etc. stands a much better chance of staying out of the way of the fuzz.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 08-16-10 9:08 PM
horizontal rule
31

Further, recreational users are also better at things like keeping their car registered and insured, having a valid DL in their possession, etc. Neglecting that kind of stuff leaves you much more vulnerable to getting searched.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 08-16-10 9:11 PM
horizontal rule
32

recreational vs. addiction, it's social class and ability to conduct your drug use out of sight of the general public.

I sometimes wonder if you can define a robust distinction between recreational drug use and addiction if you set aside class and the ability to keep up appearances.

My experience dabbling in the literature on addiction is that there isn't a functional definition out there. Absent another definition, an addict is just a user who gets in trouble.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08-16-10 9:14 PM
horizontal rule
33

Further, recreational users are also better at things like keeping their car registered and insured, having a valid DL in their possession, etc.

Keeping up appearances. Also easier to do if you have money and time.

I'm not sure what this implies though. Everything is easier if you have money and time. I don't want to say that the difference between a moderate user and an addict is money and time, but it is hard to avoid.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08-16-10 9:22 PM
horizontal rule
34

money and time

How long till we can revel in this follow-up to Heidegger from some enterprising economist?

"The Money money moneys only when it's always already moneying."


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 08-16-10 9:25 PM
horizontal rule
35

I'd say a pretty obvious bright line is the ability to stay employed.

You can often see the descent in their criminal histories. Older cases have addresses for employers listed, residence addresses in much nicer areas, they used to have a car, etc. They weren't always the street guy chugging mouthwash and/or smoking crack and getting in fights in the park.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 08-16-10 9:31 PM
horizontal rule
36

I mean, there are all kinds of definitions of addiction. Whether you buy them or not is another question, but I don't think it's as pro-drug-user as intended to say "an addict is a casual user who gets in trouble." I am fairly certain a self-identified addict wouldn't say so.

Helpy-Chalk, are you including DSM IV-TR? Because it's not without (substantial) problems, the good ol' DSM, but on some things like addiction, it is pretty specific and, upon perusal just now, convincing. Of the criteria for substance abuse (as distinct from addiction) one in four seems problematic in terms of class-based biases.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 08-16-10 9:38 PM
horizontal rule
37

I don't want to say that the difference between a moderate user and an addict is money and time, but it is hard to avoid.

That's absurd, for at least some drugs. The phrase "drinking yourself to death" did not come from science fiction. Even people with access to medical care and doctors who gave warnings have done it. That group is very small and it is certainly hard to draw the line in certain cases, maybe most cases. But that is very different than saying addiction is all based on lack of resources. (A minimum duration for the period of usage is usually part of the definition of 'addiction,' so I won't quibble with the 'time' part of "money and time."


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-16-10 9:39 PM
horizontal rule
38

I once asked a libertarian econ prof. if markets were human creations, and his answer was surprisingly evasive. I expected him to reject the vaguely Marxist idea that markets are an invention of the modern era. But I didn't think he would say that markets existed, in say, our hominid ancestors. And yet, he was at least unwilling to deny this idea.

So I've been wondering how far back you can push the metaphysical priority of markets. Perhaps living organisms are a product of market forces. Perhaps physical objects are a product of market forces. Maybe we could come up with a system of physics where quarks and leptons (or probability fields or strings or whatever) are epiphenomena produced by the true market.

Someone should try to produce this metaphysical system and work it out as far as it can go. Just, like, as an art project.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08-16-10 9:39 PM
horizontal rule
39

34: Buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 08-16-10 9:39 PM
horizontal rule
40

I want to keep the conversation going, but I need to be in bed, sorry.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08-16-10 9:41 PM
horizontal rule
41

Sleep addiction is a real problem.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 08-16-10 9:44 PM
horizontal rule
42

Nein.


Posted by: Rumpelstiltskin | Link to this comment | 08-16-10 10:06 PM
horizontal rule
43

I think the expansion of monitoring seems likely. And once you're being monitored, why should it ever stop?

Also, you can tie it to employment. Similar to getting green card, you have to have employment to qualify for non-jail. Tell your boss to take the job and shove it, and back to jail. Because obviously those without employment are going back to their wayward ways. Corps already drug test their employees, this just makes it a bit more streamlined.

And I would say the DSM is mostly bullshit.


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 08-16-10 10:36 PM
horizontal rule
44

||

I'm just now noticing this, and probably everyone else already saw it, but: Harry Reid is now opposing Cordoba House? Christ, what an asshole history's greatest monster.

|>


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 08-16-10 10:45 PM
horizontal rule
45

Also, apparently I missed the name change, and I should say Park51 instead of Cordoba House.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 08-16-10 10:48 PM
horizontal rule
46

44, 45: Essential reading from Justin Elliott at Salon on the "prehistory" of the controversy. When Pam Geller became mainstream.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-16-10 10:53 PM
horizontal rule
47

People who rely on the NYTimes for these things know Geller as a "a right-wing blogger" not a hateful bigoted loon who came up with the theory that Obama was the son of Malcolm X.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-16-10 11:07 PM
horizontal rule
48

don't drug addicts generally have addictive personalities?

I would question the whole idea of an "addictive personality", since it tries to reduce a complex contextual/social process to a static trait located in the individual. Psychologists have been talking for decades about the so-called "personality paradox" -- the fact that there is often very little correlation between behaviors across contexts. Traits defined based on behaviors in one context are not all that predictive of behaviors in another. (There is correlation, but it's low). "Addiction" is a particularly ill defined trait to start with too, it's not a simple behavior.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 08-16-10 11:47 PM
horizontal rule
49

I'm just now noticing this, and probably everyone else already saw it, but: Harry Reid is now opposing Cordoba House

Jesus fucking Christ. I hate everyone.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 08-17-10 12:19 AM
horizontal rule
50

That's OK, rfts, but only if you hate Jimmy Carter a little extra.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 08-17-10 12:53 AM
horizontal rule
51

Drugs: British doctors break ranks. Will this start the avalanche? Film at 11:00

Harry Reid is a political hack with no imagination and a close election to fight. You expected principle?


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 08-17-10 1:35 AM
horizontal rule
52

Electronic tagging of prisoners? Yes, it exists; been around for ages, and it has problems but overall seems to work.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/special_report/1999/02/99/e-cyclopedia/594314.stm

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/panorama/6902628.stm

Why is the Atlantic writing about it as though it's a completely new idea?


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08-17-10 2:09 AM
horizontal rule
53

Why is the Atlantic writing about it as though it's a completely new idea?

Perhaps it is in the US. It's not a country known for its progressive penal approach.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 08-17-10 2:22 AM
horizontal rule
54

Not only have we had it for some time, but we've also had the guy who managed to stage a jewel heist while tagged.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 08-17-10 4:49 AM
horizontal rule
55

32

I sometimes wonder if you can define a robust distinction between recreational drug use and addiction if you set aside class and the ability to keep up appearances.

In the case of alcohol I think there is a pretty clear distinction between social drinkers at one end of the spectrum and alcoholics at the other end. Of course it is a continuum so there will be intermediate cases that are difficult to classify as one or the other. But perhaps not that many as intermediate cases are often headed one way or the other.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08-17-10 4:57 AM
horizontal rule
56

Given how the Tasar seems to have migrated from an alternative to deadly force into a tool that gets used in not even close to deadly force situations, I worry about the potential for abuse here.

The Taser: The non-lethal weapon that makes non-lethal situations lethal.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 08-17-10 5:06 AM
horizontal rule
57

we've also had the guy who managed to stage a jewel heist while tagged.

Oh, here, now, be fair. He took the tag off first and left it at home.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08-17-10 5:18 AM
horizontal rule
58

The big conversation on foster-adoption blogs this week has been tentative planning for Canada to provide alternatives to jail for criminals with fetal alcohol syndrome. There was no mention of electronic monitoring, but I could see that being one leg of the program.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 08-17-10 6:04 AM
horizontal rule
59

but I could see that being one leg of the program.

Well they wouldn't need a tag on both legs.

I'll get my coat.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 08-17-10 6:24 AM
horizontal rule
60

I'm not an addict; my body just developed this massive alcohol deficiency. Seriously, though, the DSM IV is fairly straightforward about it, it's the ASI that is evil. It's basically a honky test.

P.S. Shearer's right.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 08-17-10 6:44 AM
horizontal rule
61

In the case of alcohol I think there is a pretty clear distinction between social drinkers at one end of the spectrum and alcoholics at the other end.

You wouldn't say that if you saw the people my parents hung out with in the '70s.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-17-10 6:54 AM
horizontal rule
62

The DSM is exactly the sort of definition that was thinking of when talked about a definition that lets people with privilege off the hook. The first thing they look for whether alcohol has lead to problems at work. Well, wait, didn't ari just say recently that could show up drunk for work for a semester and not get fired?

Pace sheerer, I think that the soft drugs--alcohol and pot in particular--are the ones where it is harder to separate addicts from casual users.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08-17-10 7:45 AM
horizontal rule
63

alcohol and pot in particular

Alcohol is decidedly easier, since it actually produces physical addiction with specific withdrawal symptoms.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-17-10 8:06 AM
horizontal rule
64

||

Apo [since you quoted a bit of this on Facebook], you might find the whole speech interesting:


http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/still-irresistible-a-workingclass-heros-finest-speech-2051285.html

>


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-17-10 8:10 AM
horizontal rule
65

Electronic monitoring bracelets could be fairly readily combined with electric shock collars of the kind used to torturetrain dogs. If the use of these things becomes routine that will be the next step.

The technology will exist in a fairly short time (if it doesn't already) to make implantable devices that generate power from sugars in the blood and which control electrodes implanted in the pleasure and pain centers of the brain. I fully expect to see implantation of such a device made a requirement for release of certain offenders. It's easy enough to see how such a requirement might pass muster with the public if it was initially limited to say sex offenders, causing them pain when they approach a location designated as likely to have children present, for example.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 08-17-10 8:11 AM
horizontal rule
66

65: you wouldn't expect the ARMs to just send them straight to the organ banks?


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08-17-10 8:16 AM
horizontal rule
67

This comes next.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 08-17-10 8:21 AM
horizontal rule
68

64: I looked for the text of the whole speech for quite a while, but without success. Thanks!


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-17-10 8:32 AM
horizontal rule
69

re: 68

It's straight out of the school of ass-kicking working-class autodidacticism and erudition that used to be fairly widespread but is now, largely, dead.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08-17-10 8:41 AM
horizontal rule
70

The first thing they look for whether alcohol has lead to problems at work. Well, wait, didn't ari just say recently that could show up drunk for work for a semester and not get fired?

But there's an argument that Ari's showing up drunk for a semester would genuinely mean something different about his addiction level exactly because he would know it wouldn't get him fired. Someone showing up to work drunk despite the fact that it's going to wreck his job is doing a different thing than someone showing up to work drunk in the knowledge that it won't wreck his job.

I think what that means is that addiction is probably easier to diagnose among people with less socioeconomic ability to protect themselves from the consequences of drug use -- someone working class will get in trouble if they use drugs heavily, so they'll either have the sense not to or, if they do, it'll be related to addiction. Someone better off who can indulge in heavy drug use with impunity, on the other hand, might be an addict or might just be doing it for fun.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-17-10 8:49 AM
horizontal rule
71

but the diagnostic criterion wasn't "drinking would interfere with work activities if the patient didn't have a really cushy job." Nor was it, "shows up drunk for work." The test was whether drinking interfered with your work activity. For Ari, it wouldn't.

So why is the strict standard that comes from people with low job security the right way to identify addiction, rather than the loose standard that would get applied to people like Ari?


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08-17-10 9:25 AM
horizontal rule
72

What I'm thinking is that someone who can't restrain themselves from getting drunk when it's going to get them fired is an addict. Someone who gets drunk when it's not going to cause any trouble at all might be an addict, but it's not particularly diagnostic of addiction -- lots of people who aren't addicts get drunk sometimes.

So 'does your drinking cause trouble at work' is a useful diagnostic question for the sort of people who have jobs where they can't show up drunk. For someone like Ari, it's just not a useful question at all -- he can't get in trouble drinking at work, so whether he does or he doesn't isn't a source of information.

And an objective comparison between his behavior at work and a bus driver's behavior would be misleading: if a bus driver ever shows up for work drunk, that's a pretty good sign that he's got a problem, because if he didn't, he'd have had been able to restrain himself given the high stakes and the amount of economic harm he could do himself. If Ari shows up at work drunk, all that necessarily means is that he gets drunk sometimes, and he doesn't mind being seen to be a fuckup where there are no serious consequences for it.

(Ari, throughout, is of course a hypothetical tenured professor. No one is actually showing up for work drunk.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-17-10 9:36 AM
horizontal rule
73

I'm pretty sure showing-up-drunk Ari would qualify as an alcoholic, by the end of the semester if not the beginning, you just wouldn't be able to infer it from his non-fired status.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 08-17-10 9:37 AM
horizontal rule
74

Think Mad Men -- that's a milieu (or a similar one) that I saw the tail end of as a kid. As a NY architect, my father went back to work after lunch drunk a lot, and so did most of the guys he worked with -- there was a semiserious policy that you only did work requiring calculation in the morning: afternoons were for meetings.

Now, there are lots of jobs where that would get you in trouble: almost all jobs, these days. And a fair number of the guys my father worked with were drunks. But a fair number of them weren't -- when the culture changed such that coming back from lunch wasted was a problem, they stopped coming back from lunch wasted, and those guys were heavy social drinkers but not alcoholics.

I think there's a fair argument that "not being able to control your drinking when it's going to cause problems for you at work" is a useful diagnostic tool, despite the fact that "when it's going to cause problems for you at work" is objectively all over the place depending on socioeconomic status or specific milieu.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-17-10 9:44 AM
horizontal rule
75

I really did not expect this comment thread to move in this direction.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-17-10 9:49 AM
horizontal rule
76

I'd agree with 74.last, but addressing the other two requires a distinction between alcoholism the medical condition and alcoholism the social construct. If you flood your bloodstream with a CNS depressant for the majority of your waking hours, your body will adjust to this. When you stop, this adjustment is no longer adaptive, and you will experience withdrawal. Your physiology doesn't know how much your coworkers drink.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 08-17-10 9:57 AM
horizontal rule
77

but addressing the other two requires a distinction between alcoholism the medical condition and alcoholism the social construct.

Isn't there a third thing -- alcoholism the psychological condition? Say you have two people in a heavy-drinking-friendly environment, and they drink about the same amount, both getting drunk frequently, and developing the same amount of physical adjustment to the alcohol. And then circumstances change, making heavy drinking more problematic. And one reduces or ends his drinking in response, and experiences physical withdrawal symptoms, but isn't prevented from reducing his drinking by those symptoms, while the other does not reduce his drinking, and runs into social/vocational trouble because of it.

While you could reasonably say that the two men were both physically addicted to alcohol to the same extent, it seems that the second guy is psychologically addicted in a way the first guy isn't.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-17-10 10:06 AM
horizontal rule
78

Also, you can tie it to employment. Similar to getting green card, you have to have employment to qualify for non-jail.

This seems to me to be a huge barrier to monitoring become more common. It's hard enough for ex-convicts to get jobs. How many employers are going to hire current convicts? Especially in a recession? If it happens on a widespread basis, expect a major backlash about "them" taking jobs that should go to decent people.

I do think there's a lot to be said for monitoring, with the many caveats above.

Why is the Atlantic writing about it as though it's a completely new idea?

This is rhetorical, right?

Off to read about the British experience.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 08-17-10 10:41 AM
horizontal rule
79

78: yes, I know, but I thought that if the name of your magazine is something that exists outside CONUS, you might actually pay attention to things outside CONUS in the articles inside...


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08-17-10 10:56 AM
horizontal rule
80

Is it a symptom of my American insularity that I had to look up CONUS?


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 08-17-10 11:04 AM
horizontal rule
81

No, I think it just means that you hate your troops.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 08-17-10 11:07 AM
horizontal rule
82

Good point.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 08-17-10 11:33 AM
horizontal rule
83

72.2 and only the most clueless clinician would fail to consider context. If they're using the DSM as an outright checklist, they are Doing It Wrong. Hey, anyone catch the gender-neutral 3p singular "they" there?


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 08-17-10 11:47 AM
horizontal rule
84

if the name of your magazine is something that exists outside CONUS, you might actually pay attention to things outside CONUS

They do!


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 08-17-10 11:59 AM
horizontal rule
85

I really did not expect this comment thread to move in this direction.

If the whole comment thread is spinning then you've had too much to drink, heebie.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 08-17-10 12:55 PM
horizontal rule
86

Oh huh. 83 was me.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 08-17-10 1:32 PM
horizontal rule
87


Holy shit. My uncle bought one of those cow feeding systems in the late 70's (or possibly very early 80's). I'm reasonably sure that the computer than ran the whole system (you could, for example, program it to give growing animals more feed or pregnant animals a different nutrient mixture) was the first computer I ever saw up close.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 08-17-10 2:14 PM
horizontal rule
88

Hey Knecht. Been a while. Nice to see you.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 08-17-10 2:27 PM
horizontal rule
89

the vaguely Marxist idea that markets are an invention of the modern era

Marx himself had no quarrel with Adam Smith's notion of a quasi-inate "propensity to truck, barter and exchange". Marx acknowledged that markets were as old as civilization, and voluntary exchange even older.

The modern innovation, in Marx's eyes, was (oversimplifying a bit) the intrusion of the "cash nexus" into spheres previously governed by other modes of obligation, and here specifically the innovation of wage labor (which has very specific preconditions: a monetary economy, division of labor, and accumulation of capital, if I'm remembering my Marx correctly).

The later neo-marxists, notably Karl Polanyi, expanded on this idea. Polanyi pinpointed the transition from the traditional social form (an economy that contains markets) to the modern social form (a market economy) in the creation of markets for the "fictitious commodities": land, labor, and money.

Good lord, I haven't thought about Polanyi for 20 years, and now it's all coming back to me like a bad LSD flashback.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 08-17-10 2:33 PM
horizontal rule
90

88: Likewise!


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 08-17-10 2:37 PM
horizontal rule
91

I'm drunk right now! (Not really, President Yudof.)


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 08-17-10 2:52 PM
horizontal rule
92

So, the same as most of your weekday comments?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-17-10 3:15 PM
horizontal rule
93

Ari's drunk where it counts.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 08-17-10 4:04 PM
horizontal rule