16 thoughts on “USA world imprisonment leader

  1. An ex-Repub does something right

    Posted by: “Compañero” companyero@bellsouth.net

    Thu Apr 2, 2009 12:44 am (PDT)

    http://scienceblogs.com/dispatches/2009/04/in_praise_of_ jim_webb.php
    In Praise of Jim Webb
    Posted on: April 1, 2009 9:09 AM, by Ed Brayton

    It takes a lot for a politician to impress me, but Jim Webb, the first term
    senator from Virginia, has done it. He is pushing hard on one of the most
    important but politically dangerous public policy issues there is: prison
    reform. He gave a speech on the Senate floor last week that was as eloquent
    as it was risky, condemning a “justice” system that locks up far too many
    people and calling for serious change. A long excerpt from that speech below
    the fold.
    Let’s start with a premise that I don’t think a lot of Americans are
    aware of. We have 5% of the world’s population; we have 25% of the world’s
    known prison population. We have an incarceration rate in the United States,
    the world’s greatest democracy, that is five times as high as the average
    incarceration rate of the rest of the world. There are only two
    possibilities here: either we have the most evil people on earth living in
    the United States; or we are doing something dramatically wrong in terms of
    how we approach the issue of criminal justice. . . .
    The elephant in the bedroom in many discussions on the criminal justice
    system is the sharp increase in drug incarceration over the past three
    decades. In 1980, we had 41,000 drug offenders in prison; today we have more
    than 500,000, an increase of 1,200%. The blue disks represent the numbers in
    1980; the red disks represent the numbers in 2007 and a significant
    percentage of those incarcerated are for possession or nonviolent offenses
    stemming from drug addiction and those sorts of related behavioral issues. .
    . .
    In many cases these issues involve people’s ability to have proper
    counsel and other issues, but there are stunning statistics with respect to
    drugs that we all must come to terms with. African-Americans are about 12%
    of our population; contrary to a lot of thought and rhetoric, their drug use
    rate in terms of frequent drug use rate is about the same as all other
    elements of our society, about 14%. But they end up being 37% of those
    arrested on drug charges, 59% of those convicted, and 74% of those sentenced
    to prison by the numbers that have been provided by us.
    Glenn Greenwald is exactly right
    http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2009/03/28/ webb/index.html :
    It’s hard to overstate how politically thankless, and risky, is Webb’s
    pursuit of this issue — both in general and particularly for Webb. Though
    there has been some evolution of public opinion on some drug policy issues,
    there is virtually no meaningful organized constituency for prison reform.
    To the contrary, leaving oneself vulnerable to accusations of being “soft on
    crime” has, for decades, been one of the most toxic vulnerabilities a
    politician can suffer (ask Michael Dukakis). Moreover, the privatized Prison
    State is a booming and highly profitable industry, with an army of
    lobbyists, donations, and other well-funded weapons for targeting candidates
    who threaten its interests.
    Most notably, Webb is in the Senate not as an invulnerable, multi-term
    political institution from a safely blue state (he’s not Ted Kennedy), but
    is the opposite: he’s a first-term Senator from Virginia, one of the
    “toughest” “anti-crime” states in the country (it abolished parole in 1995
    and is second only to Texas in the number of prisoners it executes), and
    Webb won election to the Senate by the narrowest of margins, thanks largely
    to George Allen’s macaca-driven implosion. As Ezra Klein wrote, with
    understatement: “Lots of politicians make their name being anti-crime, which
    has come to mean pro-punishment. Few make their name being pro-prison
    reform.”
    For a Senator like Webb to spend his time trumpeting the evils of
    excessive prison rates, racial disparities in sentencing, the unjust effects
    of the Drug War, and disgustingly harsh conditions inside prisons is
    precisely the opposite of what every single political consultant would
    recommend that he do. There’s just no plausible explanation for what Webb’s
    actions other than the fact that he’s engaged in the noblest and rarest of
    conduct: advocating a position and pursuing an outcome because he actually
    believes in it and believes that, with reasoned argument, he can convince
    his fellow citizens to see the validity of his cause. And he is doing this
    despite the fact that it potentially poses substantial risks to his
    political self-interest and offers almost no prospect for political reward.
    I’m impressed. You should be too. More importantly, we should all get behind
    this effort. Our entire criminal justice system is a disaster from top to
    bottom. Law enforcement is rife with corruption, our prisons are full of
    people who shouldn’t be there at a staggering cost to state taxpayers and an
    even higher cost to families and communities ripped apart, the right to
    counsel remains a fantasy for many accused of a crime and despite locking up
    at least twice as many people as any other civilized nation, our crimes rate
    continue to lead the western world even after going down for the last 25
    years.
    And the reason it’s this way is precisely the reason why even raising the
    issue is so dangerous for Webb politically, because the ignorant masses are
    easily swayed by emotional appeals to lock up the bad guys and throw away
    the key.

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