Tough sentencing laws, record numbers of drug offenders and high crime rates have contributed to the United States having the largest prison population and the highest rate of incarceration in the world, according to criminal justice experts.Okay, but that just means that we're tougher on violent criminals, right? Well, not exactly:
A U.S. Justice Department report released on November 30 showed that a record 7 million people - or one in every 32 American adults - were behind bars, on probation or on parole at the end of last year. Of the total, 2.2 million were in prison or jail.
According to the International Center for Prison Studies at King's College in London, more people are behind bars in the United States than in any other country. China ranks second with 1.5 million prisoners, followed by Russia with 870,000.
"The United States has 5 percent of the world's population and 25 percent of the world's incarcerated population. We rank first in the world in locking up our fellow citizens," said Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance, which supports alternatives in the war on drugs.When we start locking up non-violent "criminals" for hurting no one but themselves, we have officially crossed the line into tyrannical territory.
"We now imprison more people for drug law violations than all of western Europe, with a much larger population, incarcerates for all offenses."
Ryan King, a policy analyst at The Sentencing Project, a group advocating sentencing reform, said the United States has a more punitive criminal justice system than other countries.
"We send more people to prison, for more different offenses, for longer periods of time than anybody else," he said.
Drug offenders account for about 2 million of the 7 million in prison, on probation or parole, King said, adding that other countries often stress treatment instead of incarceration. ...
... Julie Stewart, president of the group Families Against Mandatory Minimums, cited the Justice Department report and said drug offenders are clogging the U.S. justice system.
"Why are so many people in prison? Blame mandatory sentencing laws and the record number of nonviolent drug offenders subject to them," she said.
One of the problems with the Justice Department report is that it only focuses on those who are in prison, on probation, or on parole. Countless Americans are penalized in other ways every day.
If you don't think we live in a police state, take a drive without wearing your seat belt and see how long it takes before a cop writes you a ticket. On your next trip to the grocery store, park in one of the 25 seldom-used handicapped spaces. Try replacing those broken concrete steps in the front of your house without a permit. Light up a cigar within ten feet of a public building entrance and see if you aren't harassed by someone in uniform. Try starting your own business without first paying for the appropriate forms to ask permission from the government, without paying the proper license and filing fees, without getting a tax ID number and charging sales tax, etc. And if you're really daring, walk boldy through an airport security line without removing your shoes.
I suppose it could be worse. I am thankful that I haven't been dragged from my bed in the middle of the night and shot. But shouldn't living in the "Land of the Free" mean more than that?
Something tells me that the Founding Fathers wouldn't even recognize the America of today as the country for which they fought and died. If they could see us now, I think they would call for an immediate repeal of the Declaration of Independence. Why go through the pains of bringing liberty to people who clearly don't want it?