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October 5, 2007

Great TNR coverage of JEC hearing on mass incarceration

I am very pleased to see that Bradford Plumer writing at The New Republic Online has this effective coverage of yesterday's congressional hearing by the Joint Economic Committee (JEC) on mass incarceration in the United States.  The piece is entitled "Two Lonely Senators Look at Prison Reform: The Prison Dilemma."  Here is how it starts:

It's eleven-thirty on a Thursday morning in the Senate Hart building, and the House-Senate Joint Economic Committee is doing something fairly unprecedented: It's talking about prison reform.  Not prison reform in the sense of why-we-need-to-build-more, but why-we-need-to-build-fewer.  Curious as to how this came about — as a rule, Congress only gets "tough" on crime, never "soft" — I had asked a staffer, who explained that Chuck Schumer, the committee chair, was letting each member hold his or her own hearing on whatever topic they so desired.  Senator Jim Webb, who had reported on the Japanese prison system as a journalist in the 1980s, had picked this critical issue.  And so, for the past hour, five experts had put forward overwhelming evidence that the sprawling U.S. prison state — essentially a $200 billion per year social program that rivals the New Deal in size and scope — is devastating inner cities, deepening poverty, and making the crime problem worse, not better. But now it comes time for questions, and the congressional chairs are mostly empty.  Only Webb and fellow freshman Bob Casey of Pennsylvania are still hanging around. Critical, indeed.

October 5, 2007 at 04:06 PM | Permalink

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