New Record : 7.2 Million in Criminal Justice System

And the chicks are coming home to roost.

The number of women in prison “rose faster in 2006 than over the previous five years,” mostly in Hawaii, North Dakota, Wyoming and Oklahoma, the Bureau of Justice Statistics report said.

Roger Baker / The Rag Blog

Nation’s Justice System Strains
to Keep Pace With Convictions

By Darryl Fears / June 12, 2008

The number of people under supervision in the nation’s criminal justice system rose to 7.2 million in 2006, the highest ever, costing states tens of billions of dollars to house and monitor offenders as they go in and out of jails and prisons.

According to a recently released report released by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, more than 2 million offenders were either in jail or prison in 2006, the most recent year studied in an annual survey. Another 4.2 million were on probation, and nearly 800,000 were on parole.

The cost to taxpayers, about $45 billion, is causing states such as California to reconsider harsh criminal penalties. In an attempt to relieve overcrowding, California is now exporting some of its 170,000 inmates to privately run corrections facilities as far away as Tennessee.

“There are a number of states that have talked about an early release of prisoners deemed non-threatening,” said Rebecca Blank, a senior fellow in economic studies at the Brookings Institution, a centrist think tank. “The problem just keeps getting bigger and bigger. You’re paying a lot of money here. You have to ask if some of these high mandatory minimum sentences make sense.”

The bureau’s report comes on the heels of a Pew Center on the States report showing 1 percent of U.S. adults behind bars, a historic high. The United States has the largest number of people behind bars in the world, according to the Pew report.

Black men, about one in 15, were most affected, and Hispanics, one in 35, were well represented among offenders. The number of women in prison “rose faster in 2006 than over the previous five years,” mostly in Hawaii, North Dakota, Wyoming and Oklahoma, the Bureau of Justice Statistics report said.

In 1980, about the time that tough sentencing laws, particularly for drug offenses, began to be passed by federal and state legislators, 1.8 million people were in the system and $11 billion was spent on corrections.

“It’s really like a runaway train,” said Ryan King, policy analyst for the liberal Sentencing Project. “Nobody’s taking a step back and asking where all these billions of dollars are going.” With so much overcrowding, King said, states “need billions of dollars to build enough beds to catch up to where they need to be.”

Defenders of the system argue, however, that the rise in the prison population means that more dangerous criminals have been taken off the streets.

“If you look at the fact that these are people who are committing a crime, creating a danger to the public, you can’t look at it as wrong,” said Scott Thorpe, chief executive of the California District Attorneys Association. “What is the appropriate number of people to be incarcerated to ensure public safety? I don’t know if you can answer that.”

State contracts with private prisons to house offenders grew by 6 percent, or about 6,000 inmates, the report said. Nearly 114,000 state and federal prisoners were in private institutions in 2006.

Tim Lynch, director of the criminal justice project for the libertarian Cato Institute, called the numbers “scandalous” and said states have resorted to “tinkering” to solve prison overcrowding.

“I think these numbers demonstrate that we’ve lost our way,” Lynch said. “We’ve lost our way when our laws require such a massive scale of incarceration.”

Lynch and others said the drug war is destroying American inner cities almost as much as the drug trade. “When you lock up a bank robber, a child molester or a mugger, you’re removing a career offender from the street.

“When you lock up a drug dealer, he is immediately replaced,” Lynch said. “We tried this with alcohol during Prohibition and it didn’t work. We’re not reaching the same conclusion with the drug war. It’s slowly sinking in, but it will take politicians some time to turn this around.”

Source. / Washington Post

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1 Response to New Record : 7.2 Million in Criminal Justice System

  1. I have worked to end the drug war for over 40 years and it is not politicians who will turn it around.

    Every politician I have ever talked with PERSONALLY about the issue has told me that they PRIVATELY agree with me, but that THEIR CONSTITUENTS would have their heads on a pike if they were to support any reduction in drug war expenditures or penalties.

    In Alaska in 2004, we saw local elected officials who were known to smoke pot — virtually everyone in AK has at least TRIED it by now, since their Supreme Court consistently rules in favor of AK’s more libertarian Constitution — coming out in public with the “Drug Czar” to denounce Proposition 2, which would have legalized, taxed and regulated cannabis commerce. THEY were bullied into this falt-out public hypocrisy and lying by threats to cut federal funding to AK, which is fed, more than any other state, at the federal teat.

    Alcohol Prohibition, to which today’s drug prohibitions are often compared, has some fundamental similarities, and some even deeper, imho, fundamental differences. Chief among the latter is the length of duration. Alcohol Prohibition survived in these United States for less than a dozen years; Cannabis prohibition began (in El Paso, TX) in 1914, going federal in 1937. THAT IS SEVENTY-ONE YEARS OF LIES, DECEIT, HYPOCRISY, FALSE TESTIMONY, FALSE “SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE”, GRAFT, CORRUPTION, GREED, and every other SOCIAL POISON imaginable, and people have become simply inured to it. Those of us who know the government lies about pot knows it lies about everything else as well. Those who don’t get it by now, ain’t ever gonna get it.

    Even taking Mary Jane out of the equation and simply looking at the “hard” drugs, mostly characterized by their white or brown powder one-chemical formulation, and certainly not excepting the very many prescription drugs whose legal use can awaken illegal cravings in those susceptible, this is not a “problem” which should have any significance whatsoever to the criminal justice system. We don’t lock up tobacco addicts. We don’t lock up alcoholics, unless they drink and drive or commit some actual crime, and even then, we almost always offer the choice of rehab and restitution to first offenders.

    If you wonder why marijuana is illegal, read Jack Herer’s seminal “The Emperor Wears No Clothes”, available at any Planet K store in Austin and through lots of web sources, I’m sure. HINT: It has to do with “marijuana’s” alter ego, HEMP, the most valuable and versatile agricultural crop known to humanity over thousands of years, and today marginalized and virtually eliminated due to a MASSIVE (and successful!) RESTRAINT-OF-TRADE CONSPIRACY led by such all-Americsn stalwarts as Wm. Randolph HEARST, DuPONT, Southern COTTON FARMERS, the brand-new PHARMACEUTICAL industry, and ALCOHOL & TOBACCO interests.

    A LOT OF MY FRIENDS AND POLITICAL ASSOCIATES APPARENTLY THINK I “JUST LIKE TO GET HIGH” — WHICH I DO!!! — AND THAT THEREFORE THE REST OF THIS IS SOME MEANINGLESS FANTASY PIPEDREAM. Just goes to show how vulnerable THEY are to a 71-year WAR of PROPAGANDA.

    We have allowed ourselves to be cheated of one of the greatest gifts of the Universe, however you conceive of that, through terror and trivialization. And one in every 100 Americans (MANY OF THEM OUR TRUE BROTHERS & SISTERS) went to jail or prison in 2006.

    PS — When they get out, they tend to think they can’t vote anymore. They don’t register to vote, and therefore aren’t on the jury rolls.

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