“The Economist” just published a fantastic analysis of the American justice system in a piece called — “Rough Justice in America: Too Many Laws, Too Many Prisoners” — and when one in 99 citizens is doing time, we need to re-examine the social fabric of our nation and start asking what went wrong with crime deterrence and inmate rehabilitation.  We write this Carceral Nation blog to help unskew injustice in a dangerous world.

We can’t just keep building prisons and making tougher laws.  We will break under our continued notion of an ever-expanding — “criminalization threat” — and what is risked in that breaking is our economy and our communal morality:

Justice is harsher in America than in any other rich country. Between 2.3m and 2.4m Americans are behind bars, roughly one in every 100 adults. If those on parole or probation are included, one adult in 31 is under “correctional” supervision. As a proportion of its total population, America incarcerates five times more people than Britain, nine times more than Germany and 12 times more than Japan. Overcrowding is the norm. Federal prisons house 60% more inmates than they were designed for. State lock-ups are only slightly less stuffed.

The system has three big flaws, say criminologists. First, it puts too many people away for too long. Second, it criminalises acts that need not be criminalised. Third, it is unpredictable. Many laws, especially federal ones, are so vaguely written that people cannot easily tell whether they have broken them.

The answer to this incarceration mess is not for Federally “empowered” Southern States to deport every illegal immigrant for any minor offense:

Some local law enforcement agencies, particularly in the Southeast, are turning over illegal immigrants who commit even minor offenses to federal authorities for deportation, while others are focused on deporting more violent criminals, according to a report released Monday. …

The study, which examined a program that allows participating local agencies to enforce federal immigration law, found that several agencies in the Southeast were turning over every illegal immigrant taken into custody. An influx of immigrants in the generally conservative region has heightened political tension, the report said. North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and South Carolina were in the top six in terms of growth rates of foreign-born populations from 1990 to 2009.

We need to focus on early education program to help steer kids away from the streets and into the classrooms to live a life of the mind.

For those kids who aren’t interested in thinking jobs, we need to help find them vocations where their hands and backs and labor can be fruitful and staked into the future of our nation.

We also need to de-criminalize petty offenses and start dealing with real issues of Racial inequality and socioeconomic depression based on class and landing and not gumption and work ethic.  We will continue to endeavor to write the record of this reclamation from our Carceral Nation.


    1. Yes, fine people, tax people, require public service — but don’t toss them into jail for petty crimes — the cost is becoming unbearably high.

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