Andrew McCullough's Blog

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Americans incarcerated

March 1, 2008

Over the last few days, the news media has widely reported that: "For the first time in U.S. history more than one in 100 American adults are behind bars" (Salt Lake Tribune, 2/28/08). According to BBC news, this is the highest percentage among world democracies. The cost is high, not only in what it takes to lock people up, but in broken families and lost production. Former Federal Judge Paul Cassell is quoted in the Tribune as saying the cost is not as high as it seems, as it is mitigated by lower crime rates. How many Americans would former Judge Cassell incarcerate to further lower the crime rate? If were all locked up, the crime rate would be close to zero, but who would pay for the jails?

The high rate of incarceration in this country comes from a number of things. Federal crimes in particular are punishable by incarceration for such long periods of time, that it has no rational connection with the crime charged. And then there is the war on drugs, which puts people in jail who have done nothing other than use or possess substances that the government thinks are bad for them. The government does not seem to think that prison is bad for them too. The jails and prisons are full. Shall we build more indefinitely, or will we wake up and reform our justice system to avoid incarceration which does not make sense?

The present Utah Attorney General, charged with coordinating the State's law enforcement, and I fundamentally disagree on the need to jail or imprison so many people. If you support him in the upcoming election, you will do so out of fear -- fear which I think does not bear a real connection to society's needs. If you support me, you will be doing so in the hope that more freedom will make society better. The choice, and the cost, is yours.

6 Comments:

  • At 2:50 PM, Blogger Reach Upward said…

    How many of the "Americans" in federal prisons are not U.S. citizens? How much of the increase noted in the study is imported?

     
  • At 6:19 PM, Blogger Andrew McCullough said…

    KSL Radio recently reported that the incarceration rate for "illegals" (which I can only guess is what you refer to) is considerably lower than that for American citizens. I do not have the exact figues handy. If you have verifiable information to the contrary, send it to me.

     
  • At 3:37 PM, Blogger Jason D'Avignon said…

    I have read what you are refering to Andrew, although I think what I read from the LA Times, they seemed to suggest that "illegals" do what they can to stay away from trouble - they just want to work and provide for their families.

    What hasn't been mentioned yet on this blog is that the failed "war on drugs" is what drives the incarceration rate so high. Which is sad when most people in jail for drugs don't need prison they need treatment.

     
  • At 6:03 PM, Blogger Andrew McCullough said…

    Gee, I thought I had made it quite plain that I think it is the war on drugs which causes much of this problem. We are essentially locking people up for being victims. Those who are addicted to drugs need to be treated as victims, not as criminals; and the incarceration rate will come down.

     
  • At 9:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Crime enforcement is so selective. The "War on Drugs" is only a war on the drugs poor and ethnics utilize; whites go to doctors - or are doctors - to self-medicate. The federal government in coooperation with local law enforces undocumented immigrants but not polygamist "illegals".

    The LA Times article gives figures as if all Crime were prosecuted the same. NOT!

     
  • At 9:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Crime enforcement is so selective. The "War on Drugs" is only a war on the drugs poor and ethnics utilize; whites go to doctors - or are doctors - to self-medicate. The federal government in coooperation with local law enforces undocumented immigrants but not polygamist "illegals".

    The LA Times article gives figures as if all Crime were prosecuted the same. NOT!

     

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