March 2006 Archives

Build a Prison

Should small communities with fragile or declining economies build a prison to improve their economy? In a recent study, Big Prisons, Small Towns: Prison Economics in Rural America, brought to you by the Sentencing Project, this question is addressed with an unusual attention to detail. The study goes beyond prior research by looking at the economic effect of 38 new prisons in rural areas of New York over a 25 year period. The finding: prisons have had no effect on per capita income or unemployment levels of local communities.

A list of other studies on this topic is available at (available in September 2007), although these references are dated. The recent study by Hooks et al., "The Prison Industry: Carceral Expansion and Employment in U.S. Counties, 1969-1994", Social Science Quarterly2004, Vol. 85 (1), 37-57, comes to similar pessimistic conclusions.

Follow the Money & the Avian Flu

Previously we have called attention to the media focus on the avian flu and the remarkable video (at "In the video Senator Frist quotes an official federal report saying there is a global pandemic flu coming--it's not whether, just when it will happen. The video description of the report says 200,000 Americans will die; that there is no vaccine readily available to deal with it; and that there is only one company making one drug worldwide [Tamiflu] that supposedly can prevent it."

Tamiflu was originally developed by Gilead Sciences. Apparently their former chairman and largest shareholder is Donald Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld resigned from Gilead when he became Secretary of Defense but he still retains a financial interest in Gilead. Has anyone seen Gilead's (or Roche's) profits recently? Are there any incentives to sensationalize our risk from the next pandemic? Are these worthy questions?

On a different note, the National Archives has come online with information about the influenza epidemic of 1918. See The Deadly Virus: The Influenza Epidemic of 1918. Their display provides numerous primary source materials that directly relate to this killer of over 20 million people. This exhibit notes the well-known fact that this period has been relatively ignored by historians. More recently there has been interest in the 1918 flu because of the dramatic modern search for the dna makup of the virus that led to the flu, and the establishment of its clear connection to the H5N1 avian flu of today.

For further links on the avian flu go to the Center for Disease Control's Influenza (Flu) web page and its "Related Links on Avian Influenza (Bird Flu)".

Shackles to Birth In

A longstanding practice in most states is to shackle women prisoners who are giving birth. Here is a recent discussion of this matter.

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