Crime & Punishment
The United States has the highest documented incarceration rate in the world. As of December 31, 2010, the International Centre for Prison Studies (ICPS) at King's College London estimated 2,266,832 prisoners from a total population of 310.64 million as of this date (730 per 100,000 in 2010). In comparison, Russia had the second highest, at 577 per 100,000, Canada was 123rd in the world as 117 per 100,000, and China had 120 per 100,000. A recent article by Fareed Zakaria also shows that Japan has 63 per 100,000, Germany has 90, France has 96, South Korea has 97, and ­Britain has 153. In the same article it states that in 1980, the US had 150 per 100,000, so why the increase - the war on drugs. Drug convictions represent half the inmate population. Some have said that the US had more people in prison than Stalin had in his gulags. Watch out for extremist rhetoric like this. Stalin reported killed 20m people, so you wont find them in his prison population numbers. There is also much written today justifiably about wrongful convictions overturned by DNA evidence years later. According to the Innocence Project 292 convictions have been overturned by DNA evidence. While each one of these wrongful convictions is a travesty and the causes must be corrected immediately, it represents only .0001269% of the total prisoner population. Some wild extrapolations estimate up to 20,000 wrongful convictions, or about 1%. So the much maligned American justice system gets 99.% right in the worst case extrapolation. Though I could find no statistics, this is probably the #1 effectiveness rate in the world, too. Anyone would like a 99% winning percentage, but we can and should still do better. Also, within three years of their release, 67% of former prisoners are rearrested and 52% are re-incarcerated, a recidivism rate that is alarming. Plus, African Americans are imprisoned at a rate roughly seven times higher than whites, and Hispanics at a rate three times higher than whites, giving rise to racial profiling accusations and poverty as justification, but interestingly no other reasoning for this high percentage is publicly debated. More than 60% of the people in prison are now racial and ethnic minorities. For Black males in their thirties, 1 in every 10 is in prison or jail on any given day, and some say it is a higher rate than were slaves in 1850. These trends have been intensified by the disproportionate impact of the "war on drugs," in which two-thirds of all persons in prison for drug offenses are people of color. There is clearly much to do in this country to improve our criminal justice system. Below and in the sub-category of cyberattacks, you will see both sides debate the issue. The Gray Area believes the "Right on Crime" Statement of Principles is the best blueprint we have seen to reform the American Criminal Justice system. Also, the Overcriminalization guide prepared by The Heritage Foundation is an eye opener.

Real Reform

from Texas Public Policy Foundation,

What to Know: A Virginia sheriff says the prison reform bill currently before Congress is a much-needed change to a flawed system. “The Bureau of Justice Statistics revealed an estimated 68 percent of prisoners were arrested within three years of release, 79 percent within six years, and a staggering 83 percent within 9 years of release. This perpetual re-incarceration of offenders only adds to an inescapable downward spiral of financial and social costs,” writes Sheriff Michael L. Chapman in The Hill. “I believe measuring law enforcement success should be not only the offenders we arrest but also the offenders we never have to re-arrest once they have completed their sentences. People from across political affiliations must collaborate and join the effort to urge Congress to pass vital prison reform legislation.” The TPPF Take: Reducing the prison population and preventing recidivism should be a bipartisan goal. Congress should pass the First Step Act. “The First Step Act embodies the smart-on-crime approach that has led to lower prison populations and lower crime rates in Texas and other states,” says Right on Crime signatory Doug Deason. “The bill would increase prisoners’ access to job training and educational programs to improve their re-entry into society. Prisoners who successfully complete these programs could earn up to 54 days toward an early release.”

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