Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The world's largest prison population?

Anti-Americanists have a new battle cry: the claim that the USA has the world's largest prison population. For example Adam Liptak wrote an article claiming that "U.S. prison population dwarfs that of other nations...China, which is four times more populous than the United States, is a distant second, with 1.6 million people in prison."   Terry Eagleton sneered that America "has a higher proportion of its population in prison" than any other developed country. Glenn Greenwald defamed America as the"most brutal sprawling prison state on earth" and "the world's largest prison state, imprisoning more of its citizens than any nation on earth."

Liptak admitted that PRC data does not cover prisoners in "administrative detention" whose number he puts in the thousands, which is actually an undercount of PRC prisoners. Chinese prison statistics and Liptak do not include victims of the Laogai prison slave system. When Mao started the  Laogai system he imported Soviet consultants to help him fully replicate Stalin's Gulags.

Chinese law plainly states that Laogai prisons are a slave system that exists to product "wealth for society" and "economic construction." According to the Laogai foundation the system has at least "1007" camps while the "true number is likely to much higher." Three to five million people are "currently imprisoned in  these camps." China has one of the largest slave systems in human history; it it is nakedly false to claim that the USA has the largest prison population. The writings of Liptak and others are tantamount denial of PRC slavery.

The American system is also best evaluated by comparing it to conditions in other democratic countries.  The French penitentiary system is in many ways worse than its American counterparts, France has the EU's highest prison suicide rate. According to Prison chaplain Birgitta Winberg Swedish prisons are among the worst in the EU! She has stated that "in no other country are people in isolation before they are charged."

Solitary confinement is a universal policy widely practiced throughout the democratic world. In America it does not exist in many states while a growing movement is leading the charge to completely abolish solitary confinement; Colorado, Maine and others states have eliminated solitary detention. Two American states legalized marijuana while 18 allow medical cannabis which makes the USA more liberal on drugs than European democracies like France or Norway. All of which suggests that the imbecilic drug war policies are coming to an end.

America does not have the largest prison population but it does have a duty to reform its penitentiary system. As I wrote earlier in my post about NSA Americans must aspire to greater things than being ethically superior to the dictatorial world or or Europe. Ideologues fear monger telling Americans to fear the state above all else, while that is a very unhealthy and false outlook we must take every chance available to repair our system. Fortunately reform is not an abstract idea, its an ongoing reality in blue and red states.  Prison reform enjoys bipartisan support without significant opposition to it meaning that incarceration rates will continue to fall.

New York state's reforms have "managed to reduce both crime and imprisonment simultaneously." North Carolina is home to "shrinking prisons" caused by "the state’s massive revision of its sentencing laws, which is meant to keep as many offenders out of prison as possible through closer supervision and treatment." Oregon enacted prison reforms intended to "keep Oregon’s prison population flat and dampen the growth in spending on prison operations." Pennsylvanian prison reforms are designed so prison populations "will stay down, and more inmates will have a lesser chance of going back to prison after being released" while "non-violent and short-term offenders" will be sent "to local community facilities that better suit their offenses and rehabilitation needs."

Utah has been accurately described as 'Glennbeckistan' but even that state has enacted prison reform to "allow drug offenders and others to earn early release into halfway houses, home confinement and ankle-bracelet monitoring." Texas has played an important part in prison reform, the state "said no to building eight more prisons and began to shift nonviolent offenders from state prison into alternatives, by strengthening probation and parole supervision and treatment. Texas was able to avert nearly $2 billion in projected corrections spending increases, and its crime rate is declining. At the same time, the state’s parole failures have dropped by 39 percent." Other states are trying to lower prisons populations with early releases. I don't have the space in this entry to document the entire scope of vibrant American prison reform fortunately you can follow the process through sites like 'right on crime.'

Keith Humphreys documented the "continuing decline in the number of Americans who are behind bars or on probation/parole" which has "gone unnoticed." If ideologues who make howl about prison stats were genuinely concerned about prisons instead of exploiting an issue to score anti-American points why is it so 'unnoticed?' Humphreys also explained that "the Pulitzer Prize-winning Politifact documented that President Obama has kept his promise to respond to drug addicted non-violent offenders with rehabilitation rather than incarceration"

Kevin Drum argued that "the good news is that since the drop in lead emissions is permanent, crime rates are likely to stay fairly low and incarceration rates are likely to continue to fall. Someday, instead of hearing about overcrowded prisons, we'll be tearing down old prisons because there aren't enough inmates left to keep them in business."

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