Today there are more African-Americans under correctional control, — in prison or jail, on probation or parole – than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began. There are millions of African-Americans now cycling in and out of prisons and jails or under correctional control. In major American cities today, more than half of working-age African-American men or either under correctional control or branded felons and are thus subject to legalized discrimination for the rest of their lives.

legal scholar Michelle Alexander. On Monday’s Fresh Air, Alexander talks about how the mass incarceration of African-Americans in the War on Drugs has undermined many of the gains of the Civil Rights movement. (via nprfreshair)

This is all, unfortunately, old news by now. But it bears repeating. The War on Drugs must end, and ending it should be framed as a civil rights movement.

Gitmo Costs $800K/Year Per Detainee

The Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg, returning to Gitmo for the arraignment of alleged USS Cole bomber Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, reports how much the island prison is costing American taxpayers these days.

The Pentagon detention center that started out in January 2002 as a collection of crude open-air cells guarded by Marines in a muddy tent city is today arguably the most expensive prison on earth, costing taxpayers $800,000 annually for each of the 171 captives by Obama administration reckoning.

That’s more than 30 times the cost of keeping a captive on U.S. soil.

Just to put that in perspective, while each Gitmo detainee costs close to a million dollars per person annually, inmates in federal prisons cost about $25,000 per person. Even in our supposed age of austerity, with Republicans demanding cuts to Social Security, Medicaid, and turning Medicare into a voucher plan, there’s always money to waste on an elaborate island prison for thirty times the cost it would take to lock people up here. 

There is no other country in the world that has imprisoned more people of color than the United States. The entire population of the United States only represents five percent of the world’s population and over twenty percent of the world’s prison population. Incarcerating poor people in large numbers has become big business for the United States. As a matter of fact, more African American males are locked up in prisons throughout the United States than were slaves in 1850. This is a larger prison population than that of the top 35 European countries combined.

The United States incarcerates five times more people than Britain, nine times more people than Germany, and twelve times more than Japan. The business of incarceration is major and many people benefit from the misery of others. Some states spend over a billion dollars a year on their correctional system. This does not include the tens of billions of dollars spent by the federal government to police, prosecute, and imprison individuals. Everybody understands that some people need to be locked up if they commit a violent crime against another person. However, locking people up in mass numbers for nonviolent crimes is an atrocity against humanity.


Justice is not color-blind

Unfortunately, the modern (post-Furman) death penalty continues to be pervaded by racial discrimination based on the race of the victim and, in some places, the race of the defendant. This has been shown in numerous studies that the independent U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) validated in 1990. (U.S. Gen. Accounting Office, Death Penalty Sentencing: Research Indicates Pattern of Racial Disparities (1990).) The GAO found that in over 80 percent of the studies (23 of 28), the race of the victim correlated with getting the death penalty, i.e., that for otherwise similar homicides committed under otherwise similar circumstances and where defendants had similar criminal histories, a defendant was several times more likely to receive the death penalty if his victim were white than if his victim were African American. In the most validly conducted studies, the defendant was four or five timesas likely to get the death penalty if the victim was white than if the victim was African American.

These results were remarkably consistent across data sets, time periods, states, and analytic techniques. The studies showed that race had its greatest impact in prosecutors’ decisions whether to seek the death penalty. Moreover, subsequent to the GAO analyses, it was revealed that the district attorney’s office in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, used a training video to teach prosecutors how to improperly keep African Americans off of juries. (DATV Productions, Jury Selection with Jack McMahon, transcript at 45-46 (1987).) Then, in 1998, the Cornell Law Review published a study revealing a pernicious pattern of racial discrimination in Philadelphia capital punishment cases based on the race of the defendant and on the race of the victim. (David C. Baldus, George Woodworth, David Zuckerman, Neil Alan Weiner & Barbara Broffitt, Racial Discrimination and the Death Penalty in the Post-Furman Era: An Empirical and Legal Overview, with Recent Findings from Philadelphia, 83 Cornell L. Rev. 1638 (1998).)

In 1980, fewer than 500,000 Americans were in prison; today, the number is 2.3 million. To put that statistic in perspective, the median incarceration rate among all countries is 125 prisoners for every 100,000 people. In England, it’s 153; Germany, 89; Japan, a mere 63. In America, it’s 743, by far the highest in the world. Include all the U.S. residents currently on probation or parole, and our country’s correctional population soars to about 7.2 million—roughly one in every 31 Americans. All told, the U.S. incarcerates nearly 25 percent of the world’s prisoners, even though it’s home to only 5 percent of the world’s inhabitants.

That’s Newsweek’s Andrew Romano, writer of this week’s profile of Jim Webb and his “crusade” to reform the criminal-justice system. (via newsweek)

I wonder if the War on Drugs has any correlation to this explosion of prisoners over the last 30 years. How many of those 2.3 million are drug offenders (we’ll ignore the classification questions: weed vs heroin, etc, and look at all drugs)? (via joshsternberg)

This is just a rhetorical question, right?

The decline of the working American man has been most marked among the less educated and blacks. If you adjust official data to include men in prison or the armed forces (who are left out of the raw numbers), around 35% of 25- to 54-year-old men with no high-school diploma have no job, up from around 10% in the 1960s. Of those who finished high school but did not go to college, the fraction without work has climbed from below 5% in the 1960s to almost 25% (see chart 2). Among blacks, more than 30% overall and almost 70% of high-school dropouts have no job.
and then most of them will end up in prison

Marijuana possession is now by far the most common misdemeanor charge in [New York City]. Defense lawyers say if everyone with a marijuana charge actually fought his or her case to the fullest, the already overextended court system would grind to a halt.

h/t The Awl

Marijuana possession is now by far the most common misdemeanor charge in [New York City]. Defense lawyers say if everyone with a marijuana charge actually fought his or her case to the fullest, the already overextended court system would grind to a halt.

h/t The Awl