The U.S. is a Prison State “Unmatched In Human History”

Did you know that the U.S. has,  “5% of the world’s population” and “25% of the world’s known prison population”?

In other words, “We have an incarceration rate in the United States . . . 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. . . .”

I’m quoting Jim Webb’s Senate floor speech from March 2009 as excerpted by Glenn Greenwald at

If it weren’t 9:37pm on a night after I played a couple games of chess, put in a few billable hours, dined two tables over from a TV actor (we used to call him Felipe Hartmano back when he appeared on 24), completed the pre-Thanksgiving grocery shopping, and walked a measly 1.5 miles — (working mothers, how on earth do you do all that you do?) — I might actually research the proposed Senate bill to find out what happened with it.

Instead, I’ll continue with a few more statistics Webb used during his speech, “In 1980, we had 41,000 drug offenders in prison; today we have more than 500,000, an increase of 1,200%. . . . a significant percentage of those incarcerated are for possession or nonviolent offenses stemming from drug addiction and those sorts of related behavioral issues. . . .”

“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.”

Even if you think that drugs should be illegal, there’s something you need to acknowledge in terms of the numbers above: our prison system is a privatized, highly profitable industry.

Andy and I just listened to the first 10 minutes or so of this video which features Glenn Greenwald speaking at Brown University earlier this month. If you watch some of it, I’d be curious to hear your thoughts.

As for me, I intend to continue learning more about prison reform and how I can help.

Janus Forum – Should the US Legalize Drugs? from Brown University on Vimeo.


November — NaBloPoMo — Day Twenty-one

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