THE AMERICAN LOCKDOWN: Is prison reform on the horizon?
As the situation of prisoners at Guantanamo continues to inform the national debate around incarceration, more and more observers are pointing out that Gitmo is far from America's only prison problem.
The prison crisis in the United States is at a historic high. As Facing South has reported before, the United States incarcerates one out of every 100 adults. Combine this with the number of people under probation or parole, and the statistic is even starker: one in 31 adults (7.3 million people) is under some form of correctional supervision.
America's criminal justice system is broken.
How broken? The numbers are stark:
• The United States has 5% of the world's population, yet possesses 25% of the world's prison population;
• More than 2.38 million Americans are now in prison, and another 5 million remain on probation or parole. That amounts to 1 in every 31 adults in the United States is in prison, in jail, or on supervised release;
• Incarcerated drug offenders have soared 1200% since 1980, up from 41,000 to 500,000 in 2008; and
• 60% of offenders are arrested for non-violent offensives--many driven by mental illness or drug addiction.
The goal of this legislation is nothing less than a complete restructuring of the criminal justice system in the United States. Only an outside commission, properly structured and charged, can bring us complete findings necessary to do so.
Fixing our system will require us to reexamine who goes to prison, for how long and how we address the long-term consequences of their incarceration. Our failure to address these problems cuts against the notion that we are a society founded on fundamental fairness.
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