Sunday, October 8, 2017

Ordinary Rendition: The Public Servants' Quagmire

Media reports about the predicaments of public servants remind me of the passenger who brought my efforts as a taxi driver full-circle.

She started out like most the others: the buzz of a fare offer and "835 yards" as the distance. When the address came through I turned around, turned right, and arrived at the apartment complex in about 4 minutes. I called the provided number. A woman's voice gave directions to a building in the back of the complex.

A group came out; a woman in her 20's got in the cab. An 50-ish male stood outside and gave directions to where his truck was parked. As we pulled away the passenger said, in a flustered voice, “I don't know why he messes with her, she's like 20 years younger...”, and this wasn't the first time they'd had to take a taxi or a bus to get the truck back.

I didn't care, because I was happy to have a longer trip than someone going across the street with groceries. I broke into my standard line of questions.

Before long she asked me her own question: "Did you ever pick a girl up downtown, take her to [West-Valley city], and she wasn't able to pay?"

'I would do that. Let me think.... ... .. .' I glanced at my passenger to jog my memory. Recently: no. Semi-recently: no. Then I remembered, 'THAT WAS A LONG TIME AGO!' I looked at my passenger again, 'Was that... YOU?', and cautiously confirmed that I had.

She said with glee, "THAT WAS ME!"

I remembered her trip well.

Friday, September 22, 2017

America's Make-Work Sheriff: The Anachronism of Joseph Arpaio

The name given to the Arizona Department of Corrections expresses society's hope that we can help people who cause problems for others learn to make better decisions. At some point over my 3.5 year taxi driving career I came to appreciate the harm that is perpetrated on people in the name of "justice", and began to think it more appropriate to call this the "Department of Gratuitous Punishment".

Make-work programs are "jobs that have less immediate financial benefit to the economy than the job costs to support." No one is overtly harmed by make-work programs.

Make-work justice uses the criminal justice system to traumatize people who make mistakes, who get caught in the system through 'circumstances', or for 'doing what they gotta do, to survive'. The usual effect of putting people through the Justice pressure-cooker is not to correct their behavior, but to trap them in a destructive feedback loop that frequently prevents them from ever figuring out how to correct their own behavior.

The deposed-but-still-Notorious Sheriff of Maricopa[Note #1], Joseph Arpaio, branded himself "America's Toughest Sheriff" and instituted a cult of personality around his antics. Really he was a tin-pot attention whore [Note #2] whose greatest skill was attracting media attention and outrage for his actions against politically-disadvantaged groups: depressed people who turn to the street pharmacy to ameliorate their physiological imbalances ("drug addicts"), economic refugees, U.S. citizens who happened to be minorities, etc. He was popular enough to get re-elected a few times, was long under investigation for civil rights violations (costing the county millions for his defense and payments in settlements), and was finally ousted in the 2016 election.

The recently-convicted & pardoned Arpaio was really just a figurehead for the United States' failed approach to helping people 'correct' their problematic behaviors. Other states have justice programs which are just as cruel & ineffective as Joseph Arapaio's brand of make-work justice. These programs don't have a firebrand as a figurehead, so they get a pass from regular media attention.

Justice Trauma: The Predicaments of the Accused and Punished

As told by my passengers...