What is Mass Incarceration?

Domestic, illustration, Infographics, Political Cartoons, Uncategorized

Over the past 30 years, the U.S. has put in place radical, unprecedented policies and practices that attempted to address crime through prioritizing harsh and disproportionate punishment, rather than prevention or rehabilitation. By 2010, 7.25 million Americans were under some form of correctional control ¹— either in prison or jail, or on probation or parole — up from 1.84 million in 1980.²

The term “mass incarceration” refers to the unique way the U.S. has locked up a vast population in federal and state prisons, as well as local jails.

But this academic sounding term doesn’t capture the insanity of the situation.

 

mass incarceration spot color 2.jpg

 

 

These prisoners are disproportionately black and Latino — against whom the system is biased at every level. Despite similar rates of drug use, black people are nearly four times as likely to be arrested for marijuana use,⁴ and black males are often given longer sentences for crimes than their white peers.⁵

Many of the people locked up should be receiving treatment in the community. A 2006 Bureau of Justice Statistics Study found that more than half of all inmates have mental health problems.⁶

How did this happen?

The “tough on crime” punishment philosophy of the 1980’s and 90’s, combined with a heinous “War on Drugs,” led to legislation under Republican and Democratic administrations that used a jail cell as a first, rather than last, resort for people who broke the law.

This uncompromising posture, which often exploited racial fear, became an essential part of running a political campaign. For years, elected officials competed with one another on how brutally they would be willing to punish people who broke the law, especially regarding drug-code violations. Legislators enacted policies that led to more people being locked away for increasingly smaller offenses, and combined them with further policies that kept people locked up longer.

The prison population skyrocketed.

Mass incarceration timeline

 

It somehow became understood as acceptable to put people in prison for non-violent crimes. But there is nothing normal about the way the U.S. locks away its citizens.

 In fact, it’s unparalleled anywhere else in the world, even compared to the most repressive regimes.

Incarceration by country

 

 

Over the course of three decades, the U.S. built a gargantuan system of state punishment that destroys lives and communities, in a racially discriminatory way, at great financial cost.⁷ More ridiculous still, there is no solid evidence that tougher punishment even deters crime initially,⁸ and inmates in state prisons are likely to be arrested and locked up again after their release.⁹

What is being done?

Within the last few years, both Democrats and Republicans seem to be acknowledging the need for reform. It’s as if they’ve woken up from a decades-long stupor.

Bipartisan Bender Shading2

 

There are so many associated issues that need attention as well — the racial bias at every level of the criminal justice system, the use of solitary confinement, unemployment and recidivism, the way we deprive felons of their rights as citizens — the list goes on and on.

The good news is that for the first time in 33 years, the federal and state prison population declined in tandem in 2014.¹⁰ But 1 or 2 percent annual reductions will not solve this problem. We need radical reform to confront the massive damage that’s been done.

The first step is acknowledging the senselessness and inhumanity of mass incarceration, and understanding that millions of people are waiting every day for reform to come.

 


Citations

(1) “Correctional Population in the United States, 2010.” Retrieved from The Punishment Imperative, by Todd Clear and Natasha Frost, 2014.

(2) “Probation and Parole in the United States: 2007 Statistical Tables” 2009. (Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics. Retrieved from The Punishment Imperative, by Todd Clear and Natasha Frost, 2014.

(3) Correctional Population in the United States, [Image] 2014. Bureau of Justice Statistics. Danielle Kaeble, Lauren Glaze, Anastasios Tsoutis, and Todd Minton

(4) The War on Marijuana in Black and White. 2013.American Civil Liberties Union.

(5) Report on the Continuing Impact of United States v. Booker on Federal Sentencing. 2012. United States Sentencing Commission.

Incarceration over time [image]: Based on an analysis of Bureau of Justice Statistics data: 2000–2015 , 1990–97 1850–1984: 

Incarceration rate by country[image]: World Prison Population List (11th Edition) 2015. Institute for Criminal Policy Research.

(6) Mental Health Problems of Prison and Jail Inmates. 2006. Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report.

(7)SMART on CRIME: Reforming The Criminal Justice System for the 21st Century. 2013. U.S. Department of Justice.

(8) The Punishment Imperative, by Todd Clear and Natasha Frost, 2014. pages 120–121.

(9) The Misleading Math of ‘Recidivism’ 2014. Dana Goldstein.

(10) State, Federal Prison Populations Decline Simultaneously for First Time in 36 Years. 2015. The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Documents Show ISIS’s Pitch to Investors

Uncategorized

We’ve heard a lot about how ISIS uses social media to recruit new members and spread it’s message. And as MATTER pointed out– if ISIS was a start-up, they’d be working with some pretty impressive statistics. But we could never have guessed how much the start-up mindset is engrained in their culture. Recent documents acquired by the Gabbler show ISIS’s latest pitch to investors.

Read the full story at The Gabbler…

Cruel and Unusual

Uncategorized

Cruel and Unusual

 

According to the Supreme Court, the Constitution does not allow for “cruel and unusual punishment” but does allow for an individual to be confined in  a room for years awaiting the date of their execution. In the case of a recent botched lethal injection in Oklahoma, these executions are sometimes tantamount to torture, and are arguably inherently  inhumane.

I thought I would include two passages on the subject, from Camu and Orwell, who I think both made their points better than I did.

On the notion of the death penalty providing justice by way of equivalence, Camu wrote in his essay Reflections on the Guillotine

But what then is capital punishment but the most premeditated of murders, to which no criminal’s
deed, however calculated it may be, can be compared? For there to be equivalence, the death penalty would have to punish a criminal who had warned his victim of the date at which he would inflict a horrible death on him and who, from that moment onward, had confined him at his mercy for months. Such a monster is not encountered in private life.

And George Orwell, who wrote about the meaning of extinguishing a human life in his short story, A Hanging

It was about forty yards to the gallows. I watched the bare brown back of the prisoner marching in front of me. He walked clumsily with his bound arms, but quite steadily, with that bobbing gait of the Indian who never straightens his knees. At each step his muscles slid neatly into place, the lock of hair on his scalp danced up and down, his feet printed themselves on the wet gravel. And once, in spite of the men who gripped him by each shoulder, he stepped slightly aside to avoid a puddle on the path.

It is curious, but till that moment I had never realized what it means to destroy a healthy, conscious man. When I saw the prisoner step aside to avoid the puddle, I saw the mystery, the unspeakable wrongness, of cutting a life short when it is in full tide. This man was not dying, he was alive just as we were alive. All the organs of his body were working – bowels digesting food, skin renewing itself, nails growing, tissues forming – all toiling away in solemn foolery. His nails would still be growing when he stood on the drop, when he was falling through the air with a tenth of a second to live. His eyes saw the yellow gravel and the grey walls, and his brain still remembered, foresaw, reasoned – reasoned even about puddles. He and we were a party of men walking together, seeing, hearing, feeling, understanding the same world; and in two minutes, with a sudden snap, one of us would be gone – one mind less, one world less.