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.

Our Broken Justice System

By Clark Neily,
from CATO Institute, Policy Report,
May/June, 2019:

Imagine you have omnipotent power over nature but a poor understanding of how it actually works. One day, after being stung during a picnic, you decide to get rid of all honeybees. What would happen? Before long, wide swaths of the terrestrial ecosystem would begin to fall apart. Crops that depend on bees for pollination would fail; various other plants and trees would be unable to reproduce and would start dying off, followed by the countless insects, birds, and mammals that depend on those flora to survive. This is an apt metaphor for what has happened to America’s criminal justice system over the past century as we have taken the very heart of that system — citizen participation, in the form of jury trials — and ripped it right out. The result has been every bit as disastrous for the criminal justice “ecosystem” as the elimination of bees would be for the natural one.

The jury trial is the only right mentioned in both the unamended original Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Indeed, the Constitution devotes more words to the subject of jury trials than to any other right. The Founders’ intent to put citizen participation at the very heart of our criminal justice system is unmistakable. And yet the criminal jury trial is now all but extinct. More than 95 percent of all criminal convictions today are obtained through plea bargains — that is, supposedly voluntary confessions. In the federal system, more than 97 percent of all criminal convictions come from plea bargains. Today’s federal prosecutors rarely lose a case because they rarely go to trial.One of the most important questions in criminal law and criminal justice reform is why so few people are interested in exercising their right to force the government to prove their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to the satisfaction of a unanimous jury. There appear to be two main reasons. First, the plea-bargaining process can be — and often is — extraordinarily coercive. Second, the criminal jury trial itself has been fundamentally transformed over time so that it is much less valuable to criminal defendants now than it was earlier in our nation’s history.

Cato’s Project on Criminal Justice considers the practical elimination of citizen participation in the administration of criminal justice through coercive plea bargaining and the diminished power of the jury to be among the American criminal justice system’s chief pathologies, and we have devised a strategic plan to challenge it.

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