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by the New York Times Editorial Board
For more than a decade, researchers across multiple disciplines have been issuing reports on the widespread societal and economic damage caused by America’s now-40-year experiment in locking up vast numbers of its citizens. If there is any remaining disagreement about the destructiveness of this experiment, it mirrors the so-called debate over climate change.
In both cases, overwhelming evidence shows a crisis that threatens society as a whole. In both cases, those who study the problem have called for immediate correction.
The following is an excerpt, as it appeared in The Guardian newspaper on Tuesday, from Glenn Greenwald's latest book, No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State, published on May 13, 2013 by Hamish Hamilton:
by Drug Policy Alliance
WASHINGTON, DC — A groundbreaking report released this week by the National Research Council, the principal operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences, documents the unprecedented and costly price of U.S. incarceration rates.
With less than five percent of the world’s population but nearly 25 percent of the world’s prisoners, the U.S. continues to rank first among nations in both prison and jail population and per capita rates.
As the report points out, this unprecedented rate of incarceration is a relatively new phenomenon in U.S. history. America’s prison population exploded largely as a result of the failed drug war policies of the last 40 years.
The report, commissioned by the National Institute of Justice and the MacArthur Foundation, documents how the drug war has contributed to the skyrocketing U.S prison population and the staggering costs associated with mass incarceration.
by Ajamu Baraka
by Medea Benjamin and Cayman Kai
To save a click or two, let's cut to the chase. In deep fiscal crisis, Illinois spent more than $200,000,000 in 2010 enforcing the law against marijuana possession. Enforcement has grown nearly 30% over the decade from 2001 to 2010. Nearly 60% of those arrested are black, despite use rates no higher than whites. Almost 98% of all marijuana arrests were for possession (although prosecutors often trump up charges with the nebulous "intent to deliver.") Illinois has a racial disparity in marijauna arrests that ranks 4th highest of the 50 states, with blacks more than 7.5 times as likely as whites to be arrested for marijuana.
Illinois is a national disgrace.
by Harry Belafonte
There is a crisis that demands our urgent attention. For the last four decades, this country has been obsessed with expanding the number of people we throw behind bars and the length of time we hold them there. Crime rates have been falling for the last 20 years, but still we have a massive and unsustainable prison population, particularly targeting the poor and powerless. We're not strengthening communities, we're using our criminal justice system to throw away certain people's lives – disproportionately the lives of Black and brown men, women, and children. This has decimated communities around the nation and it's gone on for far too long.
Approx. 15 Inmates enter fourth week of withholding food despite prison retaliation, beatings, threat of force-feedings
by Sarah Lazare, CommonDreams staff writer
In the cells of a segregated "High Security Unit" at a southern Illinois prison, inmates have taken the step of going without food to protest their their isolation and inhumane treatment at the hands of "corrections" authorities.
An estimated 15 people who are incarcerated at the the Menard Correctional Center are taking part in the hunger strike, which is stretching into its fourth week, amid reports of prison retaliation against the peaceful protest. This includes the beating of hunger striker Armando Velasquez, according to historian, lawyer, and life-long radical organizer Staughton Lynd, who has been actively supporting the prisoners since they contacted him seeking help.
"The conditions here are inhumane & repressive," wrote an anonymous inmate quoted in Solitary Watch, in a letter announcing the hunger strike before its January 15th start date. "So much that we are forced to make a stand as men in righteous indignation."
Periodic social upheavals as a result of moral panic seem to be the norm for humanity, with large segments of society reacting, or overreacting, with almost virally propagated outrage to perceived threats. The moral panic of our current age, an obsession with sexual inviolability, illustrates our continued susceptibility to emotional and irrational fears.