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March 05, 1983 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 1983-03-05

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4

OPINION

Saturday, March 5, 1983

Page 4

The Michigan Daily

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Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan

Stewart

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Vol. XCIII, No. 120

420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Editorials represent a majority opinion of the Daily's Editorial Board

A fix for the state

N LESS THAN 30 minutes, House
l Democrats were able to override
Republican opposition Wednesday and
'pass a much-needed state income tax
hike. But unless Senate Republicans
drop their rhetoric and acknowledge
the state's long-term budget crisis, a
workable solution to the problem will
"fail.
Third in size to New York's and
California's deficits, Michigan's $900
million projected shortfall for 1983
comes on the heels of several years of
accumulated deficits totaling an ad-
ditional $820 million. In spite of the
chronic problem, however,
Republicans still insist that the tax
hike should only be short-term.
The recurring nature of Michigan's
fiscal crisis, which Republicans seem
tobe ignoring, demonstrates the need
for a more permanent solution. State
agencies and institutions such as the
University cannot reasonably function
and formulate rational future plans
when their chief source of money is un-
stable each and every year. A tax hike
would return stability and confidence
in state institutions, among those both

within and without the state, that is so
essential for their long-term success>
But by focusing their efforts on a
short-term hike, Republicans in the
House (who all voted against the hike)
also miss the genius of the Democratic
plan. The proposal ties the taxation
rate to the unemployment rate, a chief
indicator of state revenue. As the
number of unemployed decreases, so
does the tax rate. Once the jobless rate
dips below nine percent, the income
tax rate will automatically revert to
the current rate of 4.6 percent. Such a
mechanism provides for stability and
would probably almost eliminate the
spectre of huge budget cuts that have
been a disaster for state programs in
the past.
Democrats need Republican support
in the Senate if the plan is to have any
chance for success. The Democratic
majority consists of merely two votes
in the Senate and in the House, four
Democrats crossed over to the
Republican opposition. Without bipar-
tisan support, the plan will undoub-
tedly fail, as will the state's way out of
its fiscal quagmire.

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14

Prison riots: The politics of

Recovery of jobs

violence or just

T HE RECENT surge in the nation's
leading economic indicators has
led some conservative Republican
senators to call the jobs bill just passed
by the House unnecessary and a
possible hindrance to economic
recovery. Critics of the bill need to be
reminded that though the recovery
may be just getting underway, the jobs
bill is still a necessary step to put
people back to work and to help
stimulate the recovery.
The 3.6 percent jump in the indicators
is welcome news, but it needs to be
seen with caution. These indicators
have been rising since February, 1982,
but the recovery didn't begin until 1983.
Thus, there is much speculation as to
just how accurate the predictions are.
One good sign was the rate of the in-
crease. It was the biggest single jump
in over 30 years and the second biggest
in the history of the index.
: The increase was due in large part to
:positive signs from the housing and

construction industries, the stock
market, and interest rates. But all the
signs are not so good.
Even the Reagan administration is
saying that unemployment is likely to
stay above 10 percent through the end
of the year. First time unemployment
compensation claims rose yet again in
the third week of February. And heavy
industry is still in decline.
So, while some cautious optimism
might be called for, cancelling the jobs
program is not. The House recognized
this by passing the $4.9 billion measure
by an overwhelming majority even af-
ter hearing the good economic news.
The Senate now needs to follow up the
House's actions and quickly pass the
bill.
The sooner the Senate acts, the
sooner hundreds of thousands of
unemployed people can be put to
work-putting money in their pockets
to spend and creating tax revenues
from those who for so long have only
been using tax revenue to survive.

By Frank Browning
SAN QUENTIN, - These facts are known
about America's prisons: They have more
inmates than ever before. They are more
crowded than they have been in decades. The
age of the inmates grows younger every year.
Internal racial divisions and antagonisms
have reached a new pitch.
And there is one more fact: Across the
country, there is a new fear rising among
guards, inmates and their families that the
entire prison system is a bloody explosion just
waiting to happen.
YET WHEN prisoners at Ossining State
Prison in New York seized 17 guards hostage
in early January, they not only avoided
violence but even chanted insistently, "We
don't want another Attica," referring to the
outbreak at Attica State Prison 12 years ago
that left 43 guards and inmates dead.
The dramatic contrast between the
peaceful rebellion at Ossining and the gore of
Attica and of an uprising at the New Mexico
State prison three years ago only underscores
how little most outsiders know of the
shrouded world of America's prisons.
The narrow, specific content of the Ossining .
inmates' demands - better food, heating, and
exercise space among others - also was an
extraordinary counterpoint to the radical
"prison movement" of a decade ago that
propelled the issue of prisoners' rights into
the forefront of American political debate.
AMERICA'S prisons, George Jackson and
Eldridge Cleaver wrote then, were extensions
of the visible territory of . America's
dispossessed, crucibles of injustice which
would transform themselves into the
cauldrons of a new revolutionary political
movement.
Now, a decade later, George -Jackson is
dead, slain in a prison shootout. Eldridge
Cleaver has become a clothing designer and a
Moonie. Despite steady deterioration of
prison conditions, the "prisoner unions" that
once proliferated have all but disappeared.
John Irwin, a nationally respected
sociologist at San Francisco State University
and himself an ex-con who has written ex-
tensively on prisons, attributes the change to
a wholesale shift in the attitudes of both
prisoners and the public.

"THE POLLS taken after Attica said that
people believe the prison administrators were
responsible for the violence there," Irwin
says. "If the pollsters asked the same thing
today, the results would be totally different.
The shift in the sympathy of the general
public is immense."
There is more, Irwin says, than a decline in
sympathy, for with it has come a growing
social readiness to write off prisoners as
people whom society does not need or want
and whom it therefore does not care about.
The result is that the nation's prisoners are
more cut off from the outside world, more
atomized, more violent toward each other and
toward their keepers.
Authorities across the country agree that
violent prisoner assaults on each other and
against guards have risen sharply in recent
years. Beryl Harris, president of Family and
Friends of Inmates in New York, is especially
alarmed at the volatile conditions she sees
mounting in that state's prisons. The old
prison movement, she says was diffused by
segregating any inmates who demonstrated
leadership potential. Former outside support
organizations have also disappeared.
"I DON'T KNOW how many times inmates
here have reached out for community sup-
port," she says. "They just can't hook up with
anything now. Nobody wants to listen."
A worse problem, she fears, is the large in-
flux of adolescent inmates whose only ex-
perience is violent street life and who refuse
to respect any of the standard codes of prison
behavior by which most older inmates live.
"There is a sense of unity and control in
New York prisons, but if anything blows it up,
it'll be having these young kids in
there...They come in with a do-or-die attitude,
an 'It's me against you whether you're a
guard or an inmate'attitude."
HOW VALID Beryl Harris' fears are is dif-
ficult to assess. San Francisco State's John
Irwin says that the two state systems to watch
are New York and California, where both in-
ternal tension and overcrowding are
especially high.
But Robert Gangi, president of the New
York Correctional Association, one of the
nation's oldest prison watchdog groups, sees
a clear danger of more situations like the
ghastly riots that broke out at New Mexico

iolence?
State Prison where 33 inmates were killed in
their cells.
"There's no vision inside the prisons these
days, no larger community," Gangi says.
"When they broke loose in New Mexico, there
was no internal organization and the men just
went on a rampage and slaughtered each
other."
TO A CONSIDERABLE degree, Gangi
believes, the broader political perspective of
prisoner movements in the '60s and 70s
helped to channel the anger away from such
random violence. Indeed, at San Quentin
prison where George Jackson once held
heroic status among black inmates, violence
has been rising .steadily. Sixty-seven men
were injured here in a confrontation that
broke out last June between gangs of
Hispanic and black inmates.
According to lawyer Michael Satras, who
runs a nonprofit Prison Law Office for in-
mates just outside San Quentin's gates,
frustration has been rising. Inmates now are
far more restricted than they once were; they
are no longer permitted to build closets for
their rooms; they may no longer keep pets,
and exercise is restricted.
"Prisoners are complaining bitterly about
what's happened to them," says Satros.
"There's a much greater potential for violeh-
ce than before."
John Irwin says the same volatile situation
exists in prisons across America. Where once
nearly all prisoners "used to have a strong af-
finity for each other - kind of like vets who
had been in Vietnam," today there is a
"resurgence of the super dog-eat-dog world,"
he adds.
Nevertheless, as the peaceful nature of the
Ossining protests suggests, it would be
premature to argue that all of America's
prisons - and prisoners - are inevitably
headed toward horrors like those at New
Mexico.
Perhaps the only thing that can be said with
certainty is that the world inside the peniten-
tiary, and the rules which govern it, remain
more than ever terra incognita to those out-
side.
Browning wrote this article for the
Pacific News Service.

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LETTERS TO THE DAILY:
Clearing up the myths of

To the Daily:
Will the University go for gay
rights or for it's military assets?
"Gays deserve rights," pleaded
the Daily (Feb. 18), all the while
conceding that gay people on
campus are too helpless to win
them. Have heart, Daily. Chins-

funding" issue is actually a false
issue. That is, a University
decision to adopt LaGROC's gay
rights proposal does not, in
reality, mean the loss of military
recruiters, ROTC, or military-
funded research contracts.
How can I say the military

decide to bar recruiters. Then the
military would issue a threat to
cease military contracts.
But the military has never ac-
ted on this threat. Last summer,
six law schools took part in a ban
and received such threats. Some,
like the University of Pen-

ray rights-
provide universities like
Michigan an excuse for blocking
gay rights proposals and in some
cases, for rolling-back hard-won
rights like at Penn.
We, as gay rights advocates,
cannot afford to play-into this
hypothetical trap. Gay civil

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