Arrest records in the USA

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jef costello's picture
jef costello
Joined: 9-02-06
Feb 23 2013 22:57
Arrest records in the USA

I recently read this book called Arrest-proof yourself. It got me thinking a lot, and then I saw this thread by Akai.
In the book the author (former cop, FBI agent and currently a defence attorney) offers some simple (and fairly repetitive) advice on how to not get arrested. The interesting aspect of the book is that although the author was far from writing from a left-wing perspective he actually seemed to have a decent analysis at some points.
His basic argument was that the american judiciary and penitentiary systems require a stream of criminals to make them cost-effective.
"You’re worth real money when you’re busted. For example, if you’re
arrested for a petty federal offense like making phony IDs (yes, computerbuying
moms and dads, Junior can be arrested on a federal charge, as was
one of my stepsons, by the Homeland Security Agency and the Secret Service
for using the ’puter to make phony IDs to buy beer), the state gets paid
more than $150 per day by the federal government for every day you’re
in custody, since the federal government does not have pretrial detention
facilities, i.e., jails. One of my clients was tossed into a cell with 10 other
federal inmates. That’s 11 inmates at $150 per day, or $1,650 per cell per

In order to sell his book he makes the argument that the majority of people who are arrested are 'clueless' rather than criminals and that by following his rules you can avoid being clueless and avoid arrest. However this idea that people are arrested for being 'clueless' (more accurately of not understanding what cops are doing and how to handle them) and that their arrests serve no purpose other than to put them on the 'electronic plantation' once you have been arrested those records (regardless of whether you are convicted, exonerated or even tried at all) are used by reference agencies to bar you from jobs etc. Now while some of his advice is unhelpful and his description of people as clueless is insulting there is a fair bit of truth in it.
Cops are judged based on numbers, those numbers are to do with stops, arrests, citations and nothing to do with actual crime. As a result cops are not fighting crime, they are hunters, looking for arrests. He describes profiling as how cops size up their chances of an arrest, much in the same way as sales staff measure up clients. By focussing on the 'clueless' with 'chaotic lifestyles' cops can make a lot more arrests which is the aim.

The police also try to upgrade arrests, by provoking other crimes, such as lying to police, resisting arrest etc.
"Nonetheless, police routinely use tactics, such as inciters, that provoke
suspects to run, resist, and fight. Using these tactics is called putting a suspect
in the trick box. They allow cops to transform a traffic ticket or misdemeanor
into a felony arrest guaranteeing incarceration for suspects and
impoverishment for the families who pay the legal fees, bail bonds, court
costs, and probation charges. Although generally legal, these tactics are
highly unethical."
In the same way as the sales person who helps you find the shirt in your size is supposed to make sure you buy a matching tie, the police officer is also looking maximise his commission from each encounter with the public.

Although I think that the book is ultimately wrong in thinking that this is an unfortunate downside of a necessary service I do think it has an interesting point about modern America. I'd be interested to hear what anyone else has to say about it.

Joined: 29-09-06
Feb 24 2013 00:58

Haven't read the book but one thing is very certain: the cops can really stick it to people who are clueless or simply do not realize the trouble they are in. I mean I literally knew people who confessed to stuff because they didn't think it was really illegal and certainly I know about people who wound up taking some plea because they were pressured by public defense attorneys - because for the state, it is not economical for them to actually defend anybody whose case might require a lot of hours or work. A lot of people who are quite far from hardened criminals wind up in jail due to cluelessness, I am sure.

Anyway, the US clearly leads the world in the percentage of the population in jail and it is clear that they have created a prison culture.

The thing about the fake IDs is horrible: there was a time when any kid could get one quite easily, and used them to buy drinks, see porn movies or even get jobs.

boozemonarchy's picture
Joined: 28-12-06
Feb 24 2013 17:52

Does the author talk about the pervasive racism in the whole "criminal justice" biz? If so, does he backtrack on his whole "cluelessness" as cause of arrest bullshit?

jef costello's picture
jef costello
Joined: 9-02-06
Feb 24 2013 18:21

He argues that cops are not on the whole racist but that they target those most likely to yield arrests and that includes minorities. Like I said I don't agree with his conclusions but the book makes some interesting points, I'm almost wondering if a condensed version might not be helpful.
Akai, he does mention how people can be tricked into admitting guilt for several offences. He argues that the majority of those in jail are not hardened criminals, he especially stresses the high numbers in jail for possession of marijuana.

flaneur's picture
Joined: 25-02-09
Feb 24 2013 18:33

Clueless is a bit harsh, but people are certainly naive when dealing with cops, especially in the interrogation process. Both a laywer and a copper in this lecture say no one should say anything.

Black Badger
Joined: 21-03-07
Feb 24 2013 19:06

That video should be a prominent link on the websites of any and all radicals.

Joined: 11-03-13
Mar 11 2013 23:13

His other book on how to survive after you have been arrested is worth reading as well.

His point about electronic arrest records following you around for life, possibly making it impossible to find employment or housing, is something to keep in mind when engaging in black bloc smashy-smashy or encouraging others to do so.