We have 2.3 million people behind bars here in the United States. There has been a huge growth in incarceration since the 1980’s. Is it any wonder that human rights organizations are taking issue with what they call “a new form of inhumane exploitation.”
Many are the result of non-violent crimes. Research shows that 60% of the inmates in state prisons, are serving time for a drug offense with no prior history of violence . For the people that have invested in the prison system, it is like striking it rich. They have an unlimited workforce which gets paid only 25 cents an hour – without the hassle of wondering if the workers are going to show up on time, or call off sick. This has prompted action by Senator Webb, who feels now is the time to get this solved.
Calling the US criminal justice system “a national disgrace,” US Senators urged for a top-to-bottom review with an eye on reforms aimed at reducing America’s massive prison population.
Democratic Senator Jim Webb, backed by Republican Senator Arlen Specter, introduced legislation to create a blue-ribbon panel that would conduct an 18-month assessment and offer concrete recommendations for reform.
“America’s criminal justice system has deteriorated to the point that it is a national disgrace,” Webb said, noting that the United States has five percent of the world’s population but 25 percent of the world’s prisoners.
The Virginia lawmaker noted soaring numbers of drug offenders in prison, and charged that four times more mentally ill people are incarcerated than housed in mental health hospitals.
This is what Joe Sheridan/The Liberal Perspective had to say and it deserves the all caps format he put it in:
AUTHENTIC JUSTICE COMES ONLY TO THOSE WITH PLENTY OF MONEY, AN EXCELLENT ATTORNEY AND A FAMILY WITH PRESTIGE IN THE COMMUNITY.
The Senator points out that “one out of every 31 adults in the U. S. is in prison, in jail or on supervised release.”
While the world-at-large incarcerates 158 for every 100,000 of its citizens, the great beacon of “liberty and justice for all,” the United States of America confines 756 for every 100,000 residents. We “put away,” “send up the river,” or “restrain and commit” five  times more of our citizens for everything from murder to smoking pot.
I agree with Joe’s answer to the problem, which would cut the prison population down considerably.
My answer to this predicament is simple. Those who commit no violent crimes, i.e. if they are not a danger to themselves or others should not go to prison.
These people remain in their communities near friends and family either in a halfway house, or at home with the new high tech ankle bracelets tracking their every move. They should received therapy in response to the nature of their crime, they should be allowed to work and pay for at least a portion of their confinement and they should be provided all of the educational opportunities that can help make them ready to go out into the world once the restraints on their movement are removed and obtain meaningful employment.
Those who are violent, who, indeed, are a serious danger to themselves and others should be placed in a center where they are not only locked up in some reasonable fashion (verses the forms used by several states and federal institutions where the inmate in confined up to 23 hours per day), but receive professional treatment during their entire incarceration.
Consider that in 1972, the jail population was 300,000 inmates, by 1990 we reach the one million mark. The U.S. had 2 million by the year 2000. The reason for the large increase, according to reports by human rights organizations, are several factors. The first, thirteen states have adopted the “three strike” law (life in prison after being convicted of three felonies)
made it necessary to build 20 new federal prisons. One of the most disturbing cases resulting from this measure was that of a prisoner who for stealing a car and two bicycles received three 25-year sentences.
Jailing persons convicted of non-violent crimes, and long prison sentences for possession of microscopic quantities of illegal drugs. Federal law stipulates five years’ imprisonment without possibility of parole for possession of 5 grams of crack or 3.5 ounces of heroin, and 10 years for possession of less than 2 ounces of rock-cocaine or crack. A sentence of 5 years for cocaine powder requires possession of 500 grams – 100 times more than the quantity of rock cocaine for the same sentence. Most of those who use cocaine powder are white, middle-class or rich people, while mostly Blacks and Latinos use rock cocaine. In Texas, a person may be sentenced for up to two years’ imprisonment for possessing 4 ounces of marijuana. Here in New York, the 1973 Nelson Rockefeller anti-drug law provides for a mandatory prison sentence of 15 years to life for possession of 4 ounces of any illegal drug.