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.

How U.S. Cities Can Get Rid of Violent Crime

By Robert L. Woodson Sr.,
from The Wall Street Journal,

I was born in segregated Philadelphia in 1937. When I was growing up amid ruthless discrimination, the young and elderly could still walk the streets safely without fear of being attacked. We were denied civil rights that we later fought to be rightfully given to us. But we also enjoyed a relative standard of safety. From Emancipation on, peaceful black cities were the norm, not the exception, in America. Yes, there were places where black prosperity provoked envy: In Oklahoma in 1921, a white mob set fire to the Black Wall Street area in the Greenwood district of Tulsa. But peaceful black cities existed across the country, including in Georgia, Arkansas, North Carolina, Illinois and Mississippi. My hometown of long ago was a completely different place from the Philadelphia of the post-civil-rights era. It became plagued by crime, poverty and feuding gangs. By the early 1990s, such cities as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles were each reporting between 900 and 2,200 homicides a year and homicide rates that exceeded 30 per 100,000 residents. People who could afford to flee to the suburbs vanished, taking tax revenue with them. Explanations for the rapid urban deterioration abounded, with progressives pointing the finger at poverty and racism, and conservatives blaming individual and community moral failings. There is plenty of blame to go around. Liberals have a point that white flight and the choice to put interstate highways through black economic centers in some cities played a huge role. And conservatives are correct that welfare policies that discouraged women from marrying the fathers of their children and so-called urban renewal projects that used eminent domain to raze black-owned homes and replace them with public housing proved an incubator for violent crime. Whatever caused homicide and violent crime to surge, the legal victories of the civil-rights movement clearly were no panacea. But something interesting happened toward the end of the 1990s and in the following decades. Crime rates began to go down.

There is another, more powerful explanation: The crime wave activated community “antibodies,” local leaders and the neighborhood organizations they formed to address these problems. In the paper “Community and the Crime Decline: The Causal Effect of Local Nonprofits on Violent Crime” (2017), Patrick Sharkey, Gerard Torrats-Espinosa and Delaram Takyara write that such local efforts are largely “overlooked in the theoretical and empirical literature on the crime decline.” “Drawing on a panel of 264 cities spanning more than 20 years,” they wrote, “we estimate that every 10 additional organizations focusing on crime and community life in a city with 100,000 residents leads to a 9 percent reduction in the murder rate, a 6 percent reduction in the violent crime rate, and a 4 percent reduction in the property crime rate.”

Unfortunately, crime is rising again in some American cities. The Woodson Center has responded with the Voices of Black Mothers initiative, deploying mothers of homicide victims to form partnerships with police and heal neighborhoods from within. In time, we’re hopeful that these communities will go the way of Benning Terrace and Omaha. To rebuild our urban centers, we must first restore peace. We’ve done it before and must do so again.

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