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America is now the world's number one incarcerator with a record 1 in every 100 Americans in prison.  

Think that ratio looks bad?  If you're a man between 20 and 34, its one 1 out of 30, and if you're a black man in that age range, its 1 in 9.  For women, its still pretty stark.

So what should we do?  I propose the following:

  • Elimination of federal and state 3-strikes laws.  These laws have helped to achieve these prison rates and have shown little effectiveness in terms of crime reduction.

  • Reform of drug laws and sentencing.  Included should be the legalization of marijuana (which incidentally would spurn a new economy and would serve as a needed boost in many areas including medical research to agriculture vis a vis hemp) and a restructuring of other drug laws with a reliance on prevention and treatment.

  • Abolishment of the death penalty.  Even this short federal moratorium has started to show that there have been no severe spikes in crime and eventually people would come to fully accept it much like the rest of the world community.

  • Public education and awareness as to the situation at hand, and the benefits in moving towards a prevention/treatment based society

  • Repeal of laws revoking voting rights for felons.  With these stats, its especially apparent that this serves as a modern form of Jim Crow in many areas.

  • I don't think you can touch the issue of crime prevention without discussing poverty and education.  I hope that the Edwards-driven focus of eliminating poverty be maintained (I applaud Hillary's child poverty prevention initiative).  There also needs to be a monetary boost, especially at the federal level, to the education system (I really like Obama's plan for college grants in exchange for public service)

This seems to be, at times, almost a silent issue, as lately its been politically expedient to be "tough on crime."  

So what do you think?

Update: Pew Center on the States news release

Originally posted to amherstprep on Thu Feb 28, 2008 at 07:28 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Thanks for taking a crack at this (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Woody, trashablanca, norahc

    1 in 9 young adult black males are in prison. Michigan spends much more on prison than it spends on higher education. Punitive drug laws are a national disaster that don't stop drug use.

    You should go to the original source at the Pew Center, not HuffPo.

    "It's the planet, stupid."

    by FishOutofWater on Thu Feb 28, 2008 at 07:31:44 PM PST

  •  This one is the key: (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JuliaAnn, serrano, Paul Ferguson, norahc

    "moving towards a prevention/treatment based society"

    The long-term solution is providing quality education and equal, achievable economic opportunities to everyone - so that criminal behavior becomes a much less attractive option.

    I don't mind straight people as long as they act gay in public.

    by internationaljock on Thu Feb 28, 2008 at 07:43:57 PM PST

  •  Lets get some prospective here... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    serrano, Paul Ferguson, norahc

    Richard Pryor is quoted as saying - "Thank God for penitentiaries". There are people I want kept away from me and my family for the rest of their lives.

    But, not nearly this many nor for this long.

    It is beyond comprehension the range of crimes people warehoused together are convicted of - from negligible to inhuman acts. I fully agree:

    1. Decriminalize all illegal drugs. Not later, now.
    1. 3 Strikes was pandering to Republican insecurities, was a bad idea when passed and is even a worse idea now. Great Grandpa is realistically not going to commit violent crimes.

    Imprison people who we really need to be protected from and let the rest out now.

  •  Yes!!! Excellent, Excellent Diary!!! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Woody, trashablanca, norahc

    You are on to some really fundamental, critical issues for our country---great job!!!

    Keep on pushing and studying!  For example, did you see the diary here some time back that said after the Civil War they specifically designed the list of offenses that would disqualify you from voting that would maximize the number of Black Folks eliminated from the voting rolls???!!!

  •  Sick Society - How did it get so bad ? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JuliaAnn, norahc

    This is a sick society - worship of all things material.  Everyone for himself...

    I want out... no wonder the repukes hate Europe - the contrast is startling.  The people happy, taxes high, health care free, college free, happy families.

    But there are no billionaires.... so the rethugs hate the europeans.

    What a vapid and venal party the repukes have brought to this great country.  What a sick ball and chain they have hung around the neck of the american people.

  •  Law and Order (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    That was the theme in the 80s and 90s remember.

    Yeah our society is wacked.

    We shall overcome, someday. Yes we can.

    by Sam Wise Gingy on Thu Feb 28, 2008 at 08:23:13 PM PST

  •  Let's put the blame on those enriching themselves (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Until we start putting the heat on the lawyers, because the lawyers are the ones making money on this travesty, nothing will change.

    We can put heat on everyone else gaming this system also.

    We have a system where the accused faces the vast resources of the state.  The accused is forced to spend whatever it takes to defend himself.  This is lucrative for the lawyers.

    And then the lawyers have the nerve to claim that since they make so many hundreds of billions in other branches of the law that suppposedly they make no money in criminal law.  Well with 2 million people in prison and so many others in the system the lawyers are raking in billions upon tens of billions upon gobs and gobs of money in this system.

    Follow the money.  This is where to find the real villians here.

    •  Lawyers? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Those working for the D.A. maybe so. But defense attorneys, not so much. Typically their clients are broke, you know, unemployment being one of the root causes of crime.

      But seriously, lawyers? Have you never considered the prison guard unions?

      How about the representatives of rural districts who gain many additional "persons" for purposes of redistricting when black and brown people are removed from urban areas and sent into the boonies.

      But lawyers? You need to give this one more study.

      •  All kinds of people can make all kinds of money (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        preying on poor people.  Lawyers being no different.

        We could go after the corporate prisons also but the real culprits here are the lawyers.  

        •  U R nuts (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          The number of prisoners in any jail in any state who had private attorneys to represent them is miniscule. The overwhelming number -- wanna bet close to 90%? -- were represented by Legal Aid or assigned counsel.  O.J. could afford some hot shot lawyers, but very few unemployed black men have the scratch.

          You obviously have some personal obsession about lawyers. It is delusional and unhealthy. Seek help before your condition worsens and you find yourself walking about mumbling to yourself.

    •  the real money (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      is in operating private prisons under government contract.

      Looking for intelligent energy policy alternatives? Try here.

      by alizard on Thu Feb 28, 2008 at 09:44:09 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  If only prisoners had K St. lobbyists... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Woody, norahc

    Poverty perpetuates the cycle of crime & incarceration which is now as devastating as a health pandemic.  Amherstprep is absolutely right: it is a silent issue.  I'm convinced that it's a silent issue because the people who are effected are powerless.  They don't have lobbyists or corporate donors. They don't have money or influence.   Prisoners generally aren't fuzzy or cute. I've never seen an endearing photo of a prisoner on the side of a bus with a message begging the public  to "save the prisoners" and, I don't think anyone is worried that prisoners are heading for extinction.

  •  Ronald Reagan (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Lives on!

  •  Drug Law reform: from a Prosecutor (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    In my experience we already effectively have legalized marijuana in my part of the country.  Law enforcement rarely bothers with arrests based solely on possession or distribution of marijuana, unless the amount exceeds 8 ounces.

    The criminal penalty in New Mexico for possession of less than one ounce of MJ is a fine.  It takes more than one ounce to get into misdemeanor territory.

    Federal authorities won't even prosecute marijuana possession until it exceeds 500 POUNDS!  And even then there is no guarantee of federal prison time.

    Our primary problem is that we continue to rely on the legal system to solve what is essentially a medical issue.  We will never eliminate DWI until we have vehicles that test the driver every time he enters the car.  We will empty our jails when we find effective medical therapies for addiction.

    We also need to be honest about the object of our laws. Many states use drug laws as a means of criminalizing behavior found more often in minority communities.  We are only now beginning to address the inequity of cocaine vs. crack sentencing in federal court.

    Our criminal codes are constantly amended by elected officials looking to placate a public newly frightened about this or that.  The criminal code is too often the tool of demogogues looking for easy votes.

    •  vehicles that test the driver? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Yes, it's possible, and wouldn't be all that expensive. I'd guess that in volume production, devices which would test an equipment operator's fitness to operate equipment that affects the public safety would cost <$100 and probably, under $25 in high volume production.</p>

      Performance testing tests the  "balance, speed of reaction, vigilance and discrimination".of vehicle operators for the kind of impairments caused by illegal and legal drugs, lack of sleep, etc.

      The bad news? It appears that this is a webpage from the former owners of the website that's still on the site, the current owners specialize in chemical sensitivity testing. (perfumes, etc.)

      My guess is that the the company making performance testing gear went out of business because of lack of interest, "drug testing" is more politically acceptable because it provides corporate employers with life-style control of employees, all "performance testing" does is protect public safety.

      Looking for intelligent energy policy alternatives? Try here.

      by alizard on Thu Feb 28, 2008 at 10:02:40 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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