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March 7, 2008

Another strong editorial on mass incarceration

The Newark Star-Ledger has this editorial expressing concerns with the practicalities and politics of modern mass incarceration.  Here is how it starts:

For the first time in history, more than one in every 100 adults in the nation is in jail or prison, giving the U.S. the grim distinction of leading the world in incarcerating its people.

Alarming is the only way to describe the numbers. At the start of 2008, a record-breaking 2.31 million U.S. residents were behind bars.  No other nation — not China, not Iran, not Russia — has so many prisoners either in sheer numbers or per capita.  Even as the crime rate has gone down, the prison population has gone up.

Though the number of offenders decreased slightly last year in New Jersey, the state stands out because it leads the nation in locking up nonviolent drug offenders.  Most frightening about these numbers is the failure of politicians to seriously consider the wisdom of mandatory sentencing laws and other policies that have got ten New Jersey and so many other states into this fix.  Reflexively, politicians support legislation because they want to be tough on crime even if the result is sending a lot of people to prison who should not be there.

Gov. Jon Corzine, who claims to be sensitive to these issues, nevertheless has signed more bills imposing mandatory sentences in two years than any governor be fore in such a short period.

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March 7, 2008 at 12:26 PM | Permalink

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