August 17th, 2013
03:07 AM ET

U.S. wakes up to its prison nightmare

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By Global Public Square staff

We were struck by a piece of news recently that is good for America, shows that our politicians are learning from their mistakes, and are actually cooperating with each other – on both sides of the aisle. Sounds too good to be true?

For many years, the United States has had a growing problem in its criminal justice system. As Global Public Square has pointed out before, the United States is number one in the world when it comes to incarceration – by far. In 2009, for example, for every 100,000 citizens, 760 Americans were in prison. That was five times the rate of incarceration in Britain, eight times the rate in Germany and South Korea, and 12 times the rate in Japan.

This trend began about 40 years ago. In 1970, state prisons had a combined total of 174,000 inmates. By 2009, they had 1.4 million – an eight-fold increase. And these correctional systems cost a lot of money of course – nearly $80 billion a year, more than the GDP of Croatia or Tunisia.

Well it seems that finally, common sense is prevailing. Attorney General Eric Holder made an important speech this week admitting that our prisons are overcrowded and costly. He specifically called for a reduction in mandatory sentences for low-level drug offenders.

It's important the attorney general brought up drugs, because the numbers are startling. Federal prisons, the group Holder was referring to, account for about 14 percent of our total inmates. In these prisons, the most serious charge for nearly half of all inmates is a drug offence. Compare that with state prisons, where only 20 percent of the inmates have a drug offence as their most serious charge.

More from CNN: Shame of mandatory minimums

Now, here is what is interesting. The federal prison population has increased every single year since 1980. On the other hand, state prison populations have been declining in recent years, so much so that the overall number of inmates – state plus federal – is actually down in each of the past three years. And here is the best part: the declines encompass 28 states, red AND blue.

Part of these declines are because budgets were simply collapsing. But it could also be because of a growing acknowledgment that the war on drugs has failed. According to the pro-reform Drug Policy Alliance, the United States spends about $50 billion a year on the drug war – adding up to a trillion dollars in the last four decades – but there has been no real change in addiction rates.

Americans are not more prone to drugs or crime than citizens of other countries, so why should we put so many people in prison? Well, the good news is that the numbers are finally too large to ignore. The states are already acting. And Holder's comments will add momentum to a growing chorus for reform.

The greatest challenge in pushing these numbers further down will be the prison lobby. Believe it or not, many of our prisons are run by private companies that then lobby state legislatures massively for bigger prisons, larger budgets, and of course more prisoners. According to the non-profit Justice Policy Institute, the two largest private prison companies in America together generate revenues of $3 billion a year – paid by taxpayers, of course. These private prison companies also happen to be major donors to a number of state campaigns, lobbying for more resources.

If our politicians can take on the prison lobbies, there really is hope for America.

Post by:
Topics: Drugs • Law • United States • What in the World?

soundoff (1,005 Responses)
  1. zylofone

    The thing that America has never quite gotten its head around is that drug abuse is a HEALTH issue, not a CRIMINAL issue. If someone is doing drugs too much, that's akin to someone drinking too much. In both cases, you're putting something into your body that changes your normal behavior and makes you more prone to do something stupid or dangerous. Addiction needs medical treatment, not incarceration.

    The reason that America has gone on its own compared to other nations and has imposed such harsh criminal penalties is mostly because America has a very moralistic past (the country was founded by strict Christian religious sects, such as the Puritans), and has always felt that "drug abuse is morally bad and needs to be punished". That is a very backward, 18th-century way of looking at the problem. Drug abuse is a human failing that crosses national and cultural boundaries, and no human failing has ever been solved by jail time.

    August 18, 2013 at 8:45 am | Reply
    • Ron

      Accept termination!!! of the people causing the problem!!

      August 18, 2013 at 9:15 am | Reply
  2. Robert

    The WOD has been, by all measures and benchmarks, a complete and utter failure. Show me one, just one, quantifiable measurable good that came from it.

    Legalize all currently-illegal drugs then tax them - moderately.

    Benefits:
    + No more housing non-violent drug offenders, saving us many, many billions a year in combined cost-cutting.
    + Gang crime will plummet
    + US/Mexican border crime will plummet
    + Court dockets will plummet, giving time to try more important cases
    + Mexican drug cartels will DISAPPEAR OVER NIGHT! Imagine that!
    + Thousands of innocents will not die due to drug-related crime and murder, esp in Mexico.

    People either have addictive personalities or they don't. People that do will abuse regardless of legality. If the four-decade old WOD has taught us anything, it's that criminalizing drugs is ineffective. If drug abusers can buy their stuff on the open and free market, drugs prices will plummet 90-plus percent. Secondary crime to feed a habit, likewise, will plummet.

    Prohibition is a an excellent study in why drug laws don't work. Our law makers would do well to understand behavioral dynamics and do away with these utterly pointless prohibitions. People that argue these facts just don't get it.

    Now, take all that money we saved and put it to good use, including some toward rehab programs - which aren't that effective anyway. What politician wouldn't salivate at having all that extra money available? Or, hey, cut our taxes a little bit.

    August 18, 2013 at 8:49 am | Reply
    • adsfas@asdfljfs.com

      Sorry, I don't want someone shooting up with heroine in my neighborhood. Legalizing drugs only takes away the secondary criminals. If I still have to live with the primary garbage, I'll pay the premium in taxes to lock them away for life, and I'll vote that way every time. I don't mind weed, but you can forget legalizing the drugs that actually do matter.

      August 18, 2013 at 9:45 am | Reply
      • Joe Thompson

        You don't want someone shooting up with heroin in your neighborhood? Legal or illegal, that is going to happen. Legalizing it won't make it any more frequent an occurrence.

        August 18, 2013 at 9:51 am |
      • thinkpeople

        you are not smart! people snort opium in frount of you everyday...and guess what? it's legal! heres another fact for your tiny brain...opium, and herion comes from the poppy plant stupid! your coporate pham are legal herion dealers! right in frount of you! think before you talk!

        August 18, 2013 at 10:11 am |
      • Patrish

        You probably already do, but just don't know it.

        August 18, 2013 at 10:43 am |
      • Shorebird

        It is unlikely that we have anyone is shooting heroin in our upscale neighborhood, but we have several that stay high on booze and painkillers, drugs with a mode of action very similar to that of heroin and morphine. While these people are not on the path to self-realization, nor are they considered criminals even though they are dragging others with them as they slip over the edge. The only significant difference between them and street druggies is that they use good health insurance to subsidize their habit. There's no reason to lock any of them up. Unless they mend their ways, they'll all be off the Earth soon enough.

        August 18, 2013 at 2:29 pm |
      • davidv

        "Sorry, I don't want someone shooting up with heroine in my neighborhood."

        So where do the released crackheads go? You don't want a shooting gallery next to your house. Oh that is so insensitive.

        August 18, 2013 at 4:34 pm |
    • fnordz

      Your utter ignorance of the destructive effects of drug abuse is astounding. "Name one... quantifiable measurable good that came from it." How about saving my life? Does that count? Is that "quantifiable and measurable" enough?
      If it weren't for fear of incarceration, I probably would not have had the "wake-up call" that I did when a friend got caught and thrown in the slammer. At least in part, this was a catalyst which induced me to quit using cocaine intravenously. I'm one example of many for whom the WoD had quantifiable, measurable and significant consequences. It's not all just about the almighty dollar, Robert.

      August 18, 2013 at 9:46 am | Reply
      • cezo

        he's not ignorant about the destructive effects of drugs, he's just being realistic. people will use the substances no matter the legality of the drug. are you aware that there are countries where drugs are legal and they have a less percentage of usage than we do. bottom line, the way we approach drugs in this country is archaic, and it does more damage than it does good. i'm not saying legalizing everything is the solution, but what we have in place right now is MOST CERTAINLY NOT WORKING. this fact we can't keep making the mistake of ignoring..

        August 18, 2013 at 10:05 am |
      • raw4mrw

        I have seen bales of pot being broken up for sale, coke being measured out of 55 gallon drums, Hash pipes being passed right in front of me and spent many nights in a bar cold sober. Yet I have never gotten high on any drug legal or illegal. Right now I could make 2 or 3 phone calls and get almost any drug I want yet I don't. The argument that if we legalize drugs we will all suddenly turn into junkies is pure propaganda BS. Booze is legal and not everybody gets drunk every night.

        The war on drugs started because after prohibition's repeal there were suddenly thousands of cops without jobs. So these cops along with several influential businessmen (Randolph Hurst and Dupont) got together and made up a new bogeyman for these cops to go chase. Those uppity ni–ers and Mexicans smoking that evil hemp. Several congressmen even stated that when those undesirables were high on the evil marijuana they thought that they were as good as white folks. Just think of that black and brown skinned people thinking they were as good as WHITE people. The horrors, we can't allow that. So they gave all these good revenuers a new evil to chase just to keep from laying them off. Unfortunately just like prohibition it has been a total failure from day one. It has been nearly a hundred years and you still can get any illegal drug you want in any city you you live in.

        August 18, 2013 at 2:13 pm |
    • Schtick

      It just makes too much sense...

      August 18, 2013 at 10:26 am | Reply
    • harrisonhits2

      The cartels will not disappear overnight because they are also engaged in human trafficking and other things, but it will certainly put a dent into their income.

      August 18, 2013 at 10:30 am | Reply
    • Ted

      I agree 100%! Take the criminality out of drugs and generate some tax revenue at the same time. Hopefully, that would kill the drug cartels too (Bonus!).

      August 18, 2013 at 10:30 am | Reply
    • Patrish

      I tend to agree without. Now if they commit a crime while using, then arrest them I was surprised about all privation of prisons. That what our Florida Governor, grrrrrrrrr.

      August 18, 2013 at 10:46 am | Reply
    • Patriot60

      You stoners are hilarious.

      August 18, 2013 at 2:39 pm | Reply
  3. Emmett O'Riley

    Who gets prosecuted more often? A nonviolent pothead or a Wall Street thief? 'nuff said.

    August 18, 2013 at 8:52 am | Reply
    • Einstein

      well duh Einstein, there's a lot more of them

      August 18, 2013 at 9:23 am | Reply
      • nunya

        Even by percentage of population in each catagory... the wall street gangsters never ever get touched by comparison...

        August 18, 2013 at 9:30 am |
      • Robert McCabe

        Look at it this way with reform they may finally put Hillary Clinton in jail.

        August 18, 2013 at 9:32 am |
  4. paul

    Good Morning, America, How Are Ya? Congress says it's learning from its mistakes concerning the prison system. Of course, it's at OUR expense, and this time it is not just the Billions of Dollars it wastefully throws away on their system, but the lives of Millions and Millions of people who have suffered under their dysfunctional system. Non-violent offenders sentenced to unreasonably lengthy terms in prisons. Mandatory sentencing with no consideration to justice. Quotas for minimum number of prisoners on demand from the private prison companies who have blatantly encouraged the abuse by our legal system. Judges who have profited by abetting the private prison system by sending lesser offenders to prison terms to satisfy the quotas and to line their own pockets.

    Our prison system is the worst in the world. We incarcerate more prisoners for unwarranted charges than any country on this planet. The system is corrupt and unfair. There is no longer a Justice System, only a prison for hire system that demands to be fed inmates on their terms or We the People, We the Taxpayers suffer monetary penalties from them. This should never have happened. It was a premeditated disaster from the beginning and only now are the US authorities waking up to what they have done catastrophically to so many individuals and families. What they have done is a crime. It is a crime they will never pay for, but we will.

    In the real world of business, these people would have been fired for making a deal that guarantees prison companies a healthy profit with no regard to right and wrong for individuals. Fire them from our government. Close all the private prisons. Demand Justice over punishment. Get rid of mandatory sentencing guidelines. Empty the prisons of people convicted of victimless crimes, non-violent crimes, and vulnerable people who were convicted with little or no representation. Screen carefully everyone in the prison system; not only those locked up, but those who run the prisons, especially the youth prisons.

    This should never have happened. It was and is a mistake that has cost millions of citizens their freedom, their chance of legal redemption, and many opportunities upon return to society. It is NOT fair and should not be legal. Fix this!

    August 18, 2013 at 8:55 am | Reply
    • HWB

      Ah, are you a cokehead?

      August 18, 2013 at 10:46 am | Reply
    • Larry

      Prisons do not send one single person to jail EVER, juries do. Just because drug use isn't violent doesn't mean it isn't destructive. People die from drugs all the time, and children bear the brunt of the problem quite often in the form of drug-related child abuse. The drug war is a failure not because we've been too harsh, but because we've been too lenient. Make the crime of using or trafficking an illegal drug carry a life sentence, and that will fix the illegal drug problem once and for all. Same with the illegal alien problem.

      August 18, 2013 at 4:59 pm | Reply
      • gapper

        Larry, you have just proven your lack of understanding of the system. Only a small percentage of cased go to trial. Most are dispositioned through the plea bargain process where fair counsel is absent.

        August 18, 2013 at 5:03 pm |
    • gapper

      Great comment. Please read mine somewhere in this blogsphere. The system is broken on many, many levels. No one seems to care until a loved one or family member is abused. They then lean the painful truth. There are just enough real criminals to keep the scam going. I wish that America could wake up and begin to hold the implementers of this process accountable.

      August 18, 2013 at 5:01 pm | Reply
    • Grouch

      If our prison system was really the worst in the world, then maybe criminals would think twice before trying to return. I think prisons should be h377 on earth. We just send fewer people there. We need to make it so nobody, NOBODY, would ever want to return.

      August 18, 2013 at 5:19 pm | Reply
  5. Tom Walsh

    Why hasn't Holder been FIRED INCOMPETENCE TO THE MAX because he is BLACK of course. We have TOTAL IDIOTS running the US tokens Very DANGEROUS We have NO NEWS MEDIA DOUBLESPEAK WE ARE 1984 in 2013 .

    The BIBLE Predicts it is Strange OBAMA is the Antichrist Middle East in flames Christians Slaughtered

    August 18, 2013 at 8:56 am | Reply
    • Glo G

      You need to change your meds right away.

      August 18, 2013 at 9:13 am | Reply
      • Becks

        Boy ! Does he ever...a serious whackjob!

        August 18, 2013 at 10:11 am |
    • Get a grip

      Why does it seem most of the people that are anti-Obamabots are illiterate?

      August 18, 2013 at 9:22 am | Reply
      • Richard Battaglia

        Eric Holder is a man NOT to be trusted. His part in Fast and Furious gun running, the NSA, the IRS, etc. scandals have yet to be explored as they would had he been a Republican attorney general. Eric Holder is a liar, a cheat and a scoundrel extraordinaire. He is a typical sleazy attorney and NOT to be trusted AT ALL.

        August 18, 2013 at 9:50 am |
      • Richard Battaglia

        Eric Holder is a man NOT to be trusted. His part in Fast and Furious gun running, the NSA, the IRS, etc. scandals have yet to be explored as they would had he been a Republican attorney general. Eric Holder is a liar, a cheat and a scoundrel extrordinaire. He is a typical sleazy attorney and NOT to be trusted AT ALL.

        August 18, 2013 at 9:51 am |
      • John

        The same reason that most pro Obama supporters are idiots. I would rather be an illiterate than an idiot!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        August 18, 2013 at 10:20 am |
      • Hackpiper

        It's possible to be both. Most hard-nosed Republicans seem fit the profile.

        I'm not joking...

        August 18, 2013 at 4:03 pm |
    • John Alexander

      .....I'm just wondering didn't George Bush start these wars and to name call and quote the bible, I wonder who will burn in hell, the so-called anti-Christ or the name caller.

      August 18, 2013 at 1:45 pm | Reply
    • Lance

      Congratulation....you just won the award for the dumbest RANT of the century....

      August 18, 2013 at 2:41 pm | Reply
  6. Tim

    Who is this angry terrorist doing the news??? What language is he speaking? I thought I was on CNN, not Al Jazeera!

    August 18, 2013 at 9:01 am | Reply
  7. sim namore

    William Shakespeare, yes Shakespeare, has a great deal to say on this matter. Read 'Measure for Measure." There you will find the morality police at work. By the end of the play (and the return of the good Duke), Angelo, who serves in the Duke's absence, has everyone in prison. It's a comedy. Our situation is more dire. Let's put down the Renaissance plays and have look at the states. Let's look at the state of Georgia. In a nation with more people in prison (per capita) than any other nation (the USA), Georgia as more in prison (per capita) than any other state. This means, of course, that Georgia has more in prison than any nation on earth. How's that working out for them? Guess. Go ahead. But before you do, also know that Georgia is a poster child for failed Republican policies–every one of them. Next up: Georgia leads the world in bank failures.

    August 18, 2013 at 9:06 am | Reply
    • HWB

      While you may think it is a Replubican policy failure in Georgia, you forgot to mention it is ten times better than the Democrut's policies in the USA. Most if not all our country's problems would be solved if Democruts would just move to the former USSR. The could find a home there at last.

      August 18, 2013 at 10:55 am | Reply
  8. Ender

    Hmmm...this is a bad writers using stats in an article. 14% / 2 = 7% & (100-14%) / 5 = 17.2% means 24% of people in jail have drugs as their most serious charge. While that is a high percentage throwing around "eight fold increase" and then a bunch of percentages shortly after is very misleading that the "eight fold increase" was largely a result of drugs. So if 336k are drugs and that is definitely twice as big as 174k in 1970, there is still that silently not noted 1 million that is a much bigger growth from 174k. Only highlights the likely bias of the article writer?

    August 18, 2013 at 9:06 am | Reply
  9. Jon

    Correctional facilities are big business. If they' would have spent more money for educating the public about the harmful effects of drugs, their war on drugs would have been a little more successful. Incarceration is nothing more than stacking body's away, there is no rehabilitation in there.

    August 18, 2013 at 9:16 am | Reply
  10. geno marcello

    Part of America's problem is that we have too many politicians who build their careers on a 'tough on crime' approach. In political campaigning, they slam their opponents for anything that seems to be a soft position on crime. They use their posture to get votes and once they are elected, it's business as usual. Our prisons should be cleaned up and cleaned out, and a lot of people should be released, have their voting rights, driving privileges and right to bear arms returned. Otherwise, we will have a permanent underclass of people who will not be part of the American Dream.

    August 18, 2013 at 9:18 am | Reply
  11. cee

    Among the world America is the prison addict, and like most addicts no cost is too large to feed the addiction and eventually as with all addicts the cost of feeding the addiction will bankrupt us, unless we wake up.

    August 18, 2013 at 9:20 am | Reply
  12. SuZieCoyote

    The nightmare began to blossom when prisons became a privatized Industry. As crime has decreased, prison sentencing has increased. The Industry has tremendous political clout and is a big lobby behind many draconian laws.

    August 18, 2013 at 9:20 am | Reply
  13. DanE

    It might be worth mentioning that the increase in prison population coincided with a decrease in crime.

    August 18, 2013 at 9:21 am | Reply
    • jim

      EXACTLY. Crime rates are what matter, not incarceration rates.

      Though I agree that nonviolent drug offenders should be shown more leniency.

      August 18, 2013 at 9:31 am | Reply
    • anamericancynic

      No, it hasn't! Check your facts! The war on drugs, another Ronald Reagan special has been a huge failure.

      August 18, 2013 at 9:34 am | Reply
    • cee

      The belief that the American dream was obtainable and the job opportunities available in the 80's, 90's and early 2000's reduced the crime rate in my opinion. The year of the great recession will mark the reversal point in the crime rates. Just my opinion.

      August 18, 2013 at 9:37 am | Reply
    • anamericancynic

      There is no way you can tie a direct causal link of more prisons to lower crime statistics, you just can't. There are too many other contributing factors.

      August 18, 2013 at 9:44 am | Reply
      • Ladrigan

        Harsh laws took the recidivists off the streets and its an easy direct link to the reduction in violent crime. Lots of great comments about the broken justice system. Broken top to bottom. Drug court, legalize pot, get rid of the mandatory minimum sentences. I would rather these violent criminals remain in jail people, lets not get to excited about releasing everybody.

        August 18, 2013 at 6:47 pm |
  14. Dusty

    Legalize weed. You cant overdose and people dont hurt other people while high on weed. The non violent potheads dont belong in there locked up with violent criminals. You know they say that pot makes you stupid. I never really thought that being smart was what made you successful in life. It is drive and creativity. No one ever accused me of being a genius yet I am the most succesful of all family & freinds. I have one freind that everyone says is a genius.......He has 3 DWI's and hasnt even had a car in 2 years! Lot of good that geniusness did him!

    August 18, 2013 at 9:35 am | Reply
  15. Johnny D

    Yes, crimes for possessing a small amount of pot, or even pipes with resin in it. Such nonsense. However, I honestly don't believe anything Holder says. He has bee very dishonest since he was appointed to this office. And he is fighting against Judges, guards, unions, and that is who the real prison industry is. Or is he making room for the people who own guns that he is planning on arresting? People like Holder never do something to please the masses. They always have a motive.

    August 18, 2013 at 9:40 am | Reply
  16. Mark

    I had a relative who lived in Belgium for a few years and their house got robbed. They moved to London for a few years and got carjacked. Small sample size but I think that they incarcerate fewer in Europe and have a higher crime rate. We incarcerate more and have a lower crime rate. Note that odd coincidence that the crime rate here which was higher in 1970 started falling as the incarceration rate rose. I don't think American's desire for a low crime rate is changing. What's changed is that we are becoming a poor country thanks to a trillion lost on wars fought with borrowed money and a political party which wants as little government as they can get away with and as much money kept in the pockets of the rich. They are perfectly content to let workers turn into drugged out zombies as long as we keep working, don't complain about the conditions and don't asks for raises.

    August 18, 2013 at 9:48 am | Reply
    • Chris Honry

      Thats funny, Mark. Dems have been in power for 5 years now and the debt keeps on rising, RECORD number of AMERICANS on food STAMPs and you're still cryin about GWB? Get a life, get clue, stop crying and stop blaming others, the problem is you and your party that just keep giving section 8 rent, SSI, disability, EBT, "earned" (really UNearned) income credits to the gorillas and beans in the mist, and they still hate you but you don't even see that.

      August 18, 2013 at 9:57 am | Reply
      • ozarkan

        You are half right, Chris. Democrats own 50% of the responsibility for these problems. Republicans own the other half. We are all responsible because we allow government leaders and their mouthpieces to paralyze the electorate by polarizing our points of view and demonizing the concept of rational compromise – without which democracy cannot succeed.

        August 18, 2013 at 10:18 am |
      • Mark

        Yes, Chris is right nary a Democrat in Washington had the guts to stand up to GWBser and call his phony war what it was. But like Bill Clinton said don't be mad cause the Democrats haven't fixed in 5 years what GWBser spent 8 years making a mess of. Your racist Gorilla and beans reference is just sad. The real problem is all the Red State PWT spending their days scrounging enough cough medicine to cook up their daily drugs in their basements.

        August 18, 2013 at 3:02 pm |
  17. Julie

    In the last 50 years are so 10's of millions of citizens have been incarcerated for ingesting a weed that grows in dirt. This war on drugs may have been the greatest crime perpetrated by a government against its own people in the last century. Mass incarceration for non-violent so-called crimes. Not only has over a trillion dollars been wasted on a make believe war, but these 10's of millions of citizens have had their lives ruined forever because they are now felons for life. Banned from many jobs that require license, many can't vote, many are excluded from renting a home in certain areas, employers won't hire them, can't own a gun for recreation or home protection so in other words sentenced for life. Meanwhile alphabet government agencies like the DEA, FBI, ATF, IRS, Home land security and every other state and local police organization gets to get dressed up and act like Rambo kicking these peoples doors in and seizing their property before they ever even go to trial. The list goes on as lawyers, prosecutors, judges, phony rehab centers all are feeding at the taxpayers through. Now, you have the prison industrial complex. The worst of the worst. Having no conscience what so ever they deal in human misery, constantly lobbing politicians to keep the body's coming. How can we be the greatest nation on earth and at the same time incarceration 25% of the worlds prison population and half of these prisoners are in for non-violent drug crimes? Its a sad day for us a nation.

    August 18, 2013 at 9:54 am | Reply
    • Chris Honry

      OK, Julie, we get it, you have mental issues and love to smoke pot to alleviate your pain. Get some facts, most pot heads do violent crimes because they don't want to work but want drugs.

      August 18, 2013 at 9:59 am | Reply
      • Julie

        No Chris, I do get it. You're incapable of critical thinking and obvious uneducated. It's never to late to go back to school, you should look into it.

        August 18, 2013 at 10:06 am |
      • digdug

        Idiot!

        August 18, 2013 at 4:34 pm |
  18. joney

    There sure are a good many repeat offenders on the street. If we release the pot heads does that mean the career criminals will be locked up for good? I doubt it...

    August 18, 2013 at 9:54 am | Reply
  19. D

    I agree with letting non violent drug offenders out. The population of prisons goes up because the population increases the ratios pretty much stay the same...to say the WOD was a failure based on this article is crazy. If you have other data that makes sense than lets see it. The theory was that drug use leads to other crime, which in some cases it does. The rate of imprisonment is high for the US....i think its directly related to education. We spend our time and effort trying to educate the world about democracy...I think we should start figuring out how to bring back the American dream, because without dreams...life becomes one desperate nightmare.

    August 18, 2013 at 9:58 am | Reply
    • davidv

      "I agree with letting non violent drug offenders out. "

      And they can come and live in your neighborhood right?

      August 18, 2013 at 4:38 pm | Reply
  20. Bob

    Who in their right mind thinks that our world is going to be safer because of this??? Next up: Prisoner release at Gitmo!!!

    August 18, 2013 at 9:58 am | Reply
  21. rubytu

    It's true that Eric Holder's position on the draconian prison sentences for nonviolent drug offenders should be reduced. This is the first step toward legalizing weed. But there is a greater problem with the prison system, and it's ever increasing mandatory sentences, and sentences in general. Draconian really does describe it.
    And the new SuperMax prisons, years of solitary confinement, these things need to change. It's not ok to treat human beings like that.

    August 18, 2013 at 10:02 am | Reply
    • John

      Maybe one of those so called "nonviolent drug dealers" will come and visit you sometime in the dead of night. What will you say then?

      August 18, 2013 at 10:17 am | Reply
      • Hackpiper

        Gee...that was clever.

        August 18, 2013 at 4:05 pm |
  22. Guest

    Our jails wouldn't be so crowded if people learned that THE LAW DOES APPLY TO THEM

    August 18, 2013 at 10:04 am | Reply
  23. Tim Arias

    People in prison make mistaked that they pay for and go free. I maked mistakes and don't want to set a president for my kids. West sacramento is a nice place buti still need to get the belt out and their still might find time in jail. Society needs to take care of us more.

    August 18, 2013 at 10:07 am | Reply
  24. BostonDan

    What is missing from these advocacy articles is any discussion of whether mandatory sentencing and high incarceration reduces crime. Since it is missing I have to assume it is one of those "inconvenient truths" that get in the way of some agenda. Criminals usually never get "reformed" for whatever reason. So maybe keeping them locked up isn't such a bad idea. Nothing is perfect and there are some crazy outcomes by an unthinking bureaucracy, but maybe the current path IS the most effective.

    August 18, 2013 at 10:13 am | Reply
  25. John

    I don't care what it costs, put the criminals away to protect the public. Maybe by doing away with one of Obama's many vacations would be enough to pay for a extra prison. Letting criminals out of jail to prey on the public is not the answer.

    August 18, 2013 at 10:13 am | Reply
    • Rick

      Ha.Spend a day behind bars for nothing.

      August 18, 2013 at 10:19 am | Reply
    • CatSh

      Most of these prisoners are put there for drugs, not because they were bothering anyone else.
      I agree we should lock up those ho prey on others – particularly the violent ones, but I am not harmed by another's private use of weed, no more than I am harmed by my neighbors use of alcohol.
      As a taxpayer, I no longer wish to pay higher taxes to lock up pot heads.
      And Obama's vacations cost no more that Bush's or Clinton's.

      August 18, 2013 at 10:35 am | Reply
    • Julie

      How does a pot smoker prey on you? Why comment if you have absolutely no explanation for your point of view. It just makes you look like you have a lower than average I.Q.

      August 18, 2013 at 10:41 am | Reply
    • John Alexander

      .... Maybe you don't understand drug use won't get you a life sentence they will get out one day and without changes in our current system they may be at your door to rob you because they can't get a job, vote and enjoy some of the benefits this country has to offer because of a criminal record. This country sells far more legal drugs than illegal ones. Try decriminalizing drugs not making them legal where treatment instead of jail, in a country that has a pill for what ever pain you suffer from and they are legal.

      August 18, 2013 at 2:13 pm | Reply
    • Hackpiper

      John, sounds like YOU need a vacation. Sheesh.

      August 18, 2013 at 4:06 pm | Reply
  26. Rick

    I spent time in one of the worst of places in the US, Dauphin County Prison, Pa. The so called officers there could say anything, do anything they wanted...Most people would say that does not happen. Yes, it does. My first time there? Because I had a probation officer from day 1 said I want to see you go to jail. A 53 year old man who worked in the federal government 30 years. She talked at me like dirt. Not to me, or with me at me. She finally got her way, because I could pay the fines off fast enough. Here, you can not express a thing without trouble. I spent 2 months behind bars for simply she did not like me. She made a point of why the judge released me...Illegal house search...She came by unannounced and demanded I talk to her while another tried to search the house, for what? Alcohol. Found none. I was retired, and had a full time job. The next day I made my appointment to see her, I was sent to the prison. Her and her counterparts looked like they were having a party going through my pockets, saying 'eew' to this, haha you won't need that, she was laughing. I did not do anything seriously wrong, was paying for what I did. But, they had this so called ankle bracelet that never worked, in fact half the time was programmed wrong. She got her wish, got me in jail. And made a point when I was released, told me of the complaint made on her, it was an illegal house search, I was renting a room, they intended to search the whole house with no permission. They found nothing, even in the garbage. But their ankle bracelet did not work. Not to say she was any worse than others working in their system. This idiot never asked anything about me, all she said can't wait to put you in jail. I was twice her age. And once in there I found some of the inmates made more sense than the idiots hired to work there. One volunteer told me the only reason they had jobs working there was because who else would people like that? did not take much thinking on it, since in there one is treated like some sort of animal they have to deal with. And I did not kill someone, rob anyone. I was a decent citizen, but after that experience when treated like a piece of dirt, I got no respect for those that run any jail.

    August 18, 2013 at 10:15 am | Reply
    • BostonDan

      What crime did you commit?

      August 18, 2013 at 10:31 am | Reply
    • Brian

      Apparently you agreed to probation, terms of probation means they can search your house at any time, for any reason and they don't need a search warrant. Your comments are typical of a person who blames everyone for their problems and fails to take responsibility.

      Not all persons are the same and not all jails and PO's are the same. You cannot paint all with the same brush!

      August 18, 2013 at 11:03 am | Reply
  27. Sam

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armenian_Genocide

    August 18, 2013 at 10:16 am | Reply
  28. Carlos Hunter

    "United States is number one in the world when it comes to incarceration" = other countries carry out the death sentences!

    "Non-violent felony" – check what states consider "non-violent felonies," it is scary...

    August 18, 2013 at 10:18 am | Reply
  29. anon

    The Privatized Prisons have guaranteed signed agreements with government to maintain 90% occupancy. Now you know why the government does everything in it's power to make it easy to land in jail, and to stay there. The laws are designed to prey on the unfortunate and weak and to get them into a cycle of jail and "crime". This is usually targeted towards minoirites by the same political parties that promise government as the answer. Say hello to the modern slave owners, Liberals and Conservatives.

    August 18, 2013 at 10:28 am | Reply
    • Larry

      Then don't break the laws and you won't go to prison. Prisons send no one to jail.

      August 18, 2013 at 5:02 pm | Reply
  30. gary

    US prison system , justice system is terrible

    August 18, 2013 at 10:31 am | Reply
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