From HUSTLER Magazine
America’s Shameful Criminal Justice System
There are many reasons to be proud of the United States, but our criminal justice system is not one of them. We have the highest incarceration rate in the world, with 2.2 million citizens in federal, state and county jails—a 500% increase since the mid-’70s. And the system is rife with gross disparities and injustices, including a private for-profit prison industry with an extensive record of inhumane abuses and negligence.
The average American prison sentence is nearly twice as long as in Australia and five times that in Germany. Black and Latino citizens are routinely sentenced to longer terms than white offenders for the same crimes. Mandatory minimum sentences and truth-in-sentencing laws remove a judge’s discretion and result in draconian prison terms, and too many inmates endure long spells of solitary confinement, deemed a form of torture by the United Nations.
Prosecutors withhold exculpatory evidence and have been known to railroad innocent men and women to gain a notch on their belts. Even after their victims have been exonerated, dishonest prosecutors are rarely held accountable for these gross perversions of justice. So there is no deterrent to repeating the offense.
The wealthy can afford teams of ace lawyers who get their clients off the hook, while indigent defendants must rely on overworked public defenders who often push their clients into guilty plea bargains rather than risk a jury trial.
The War on Drugs has been a huge, counterproductive failure, criminalizing nonviolent offenders at a cost of $51 billion per year. Nations like Portugal that have decriminalized drugs have experienced lower rates of drug use, addiction and contagious diseases. Why can’t we learn from them and other nations? Worst of all, we still practice the barbaric death penalty, outlawed by all other Western nations. Then we have the summary executions performed by our trigger-happy police forces, with black men three times as likely to be killed as their white counterparts, even if unarmed.
Justice is the single most important tenet of government, and the wrongs perpetrated by our current system are unforgivable for a nation that purports to be civilized. Someday I hope we will become enlightened enough to get smart rather than tough on crime.
Many states now have criminal reform initiatives to address injustices at the state level. And several national organizations are pursuing these issues as well, including the Sentencing Project, Death Penalty Focus, Brennan Center for Justice, and the Innocence Project. Your spare time and/or money would be well spent supporting them.