America's High Incarceration Rate Puts Justice at Risk
The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, a trend that disproportionately affects racial minorities.
June 01, 2012 /24-7PressRelease/ -- America is supposed to be the "land of the free." Unfortunately, we don't always live up to this motto. In fact, the United States incarcerates a higher percentage of its citizens than any other country on earth.
More than six million people in the United States are currently under some form of correctional supervision, and an astounding 730 out of every 100,000 Americans are currently behind bars. This is twice the incarceration rate in Iran and more than five times higher than in China, both of which are countries that many regard as having significant problems with human rights.
So why do we lock up so many people? Is it because we have more crime than other countries?
Not really. Instead, our federal and state governments tend to take a more punitive outlook toward crime than those in other countries. Take, for example, the so-called War on Drugs that puts addicts and non-violent drug offenders in prison instead of providing them with much-needed chemical dependency treatment. Or, look at legislatively-mandated mandatory minimum sentences that take away judges' discretion out of a fear that they may be too "soft on crime."
As of 2009, more than half of all the people in federal prisons were incarcerated for drug crimes. Less than 8 percent were locked up for committing a crime of violence.
The Pervasive Problem of Racial Inequality
The American criminal justice system used to be focused on rehabilitating the offender. Now, though, the system is much more punitive.
Indeed, the effects of incarceration extend far beyond the actual prison sentence. Nearly all convicted felons lose their right to vote, either temporarily or permanently. Most find it difficult to secure jobs or housing when they get out, making it extremely hard to escape the circumstances that landed them in prison in the first place.
The effects of incarceration tend to fall disproportionally on minority populations. African-American men are incarcerated at a rate six times higher than their white counterparts.
In fact, according to Michelle Alexander, a law professor at Ohio State University and the author of the book "The New Jim Crow," as of 2010, there were more African-American men under correctional control than were enslaved in the decade before the Civil War. More African-American men have lost their right to vote because of felony convictions than were prohibited from voting before the Constitution was amended to stop states from discriminating based on race.
Unnecessary Incarceration Hurts Everyone
Our high incarceration rates don't just affect prisoners and their families. They also take precious government resources away from much more needed areas. In Massachusetts, the state spends approximately $50,000 per year on each prisoner.
The best guardian against unfair incarceration is a robust criminal defense system. If you are charged with a crime, be sure to get help from an experienced criminal defense lawyer.
Article provided by Cunha & Holcomb, P.C.
Visit us at www.cunhaholcomb.com
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