Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A Nation in Jail

We all love to know that America is in the lead.  We've risen to the peak.  Other nations can't catch up.

The U.S. is winning the incarceration race.  For every 100,000 people in the U.S., 723 are in jail.  The next closest country is Rwanda at 593.  Check out this map to see the percentages.  Both The New Yorker and CNN had articles concerning these startling incarceration statistics.

Fareed Zakaria and Adam Gopnik argue that the prison population is so high due to the war on drugs.  They say that the war has failed and it is time to repeal some of the laws.  It's a common and heated argument that is taking place across the globe.  Portugal decriminalized drug possession ten years ago.  Drug treatment has increased there, but so has drug use.

Like most hot button issues, people argue vehemently on both sides.  Those in favor of decriminalization point to the incarceration statistics, violent drug trafficking rings, and severe punishment for simple possession.  Those opposed argue that drugs are harmful substances.  Many people avoid them because of criminal and social intolerance.  Taking away punishment and social norms will increase use in society.  Increased use will increase addiction.  Increased addiction will increase the cost of treatment anyway.

This is a simplified version of the arguments.  As I've said before, one of the rules this blog is allowed to operate under is not taking positions on explosive issues like this.  But, that doesn't stop us from asking what you think.  I can agree that some kind of reform is necessary.  The number of people in jail and the number from certain minority groups is incredibly high.

What are the other arguments in favor of decriminalization? Against?  Why decriminalize one drug, if we don't do them all?  Instead of outright decriminalization, isn't there a way to reform the laws and sentences?  New York State has reformed their sentencing on drug cases recently, when they repealed the Rockefeller drug laws.  Isn't this a way to handle the issue?


  1. Don't even get me started. I really don't give a rat's ass if someone has a bag of weed on them. What I do care about is violent criminals being released early or just released because there is no room in the prison system because it's filled with drug offenders. Let's see, the Department of Corrections has no room and they could release a violent rapist or a drug offender. Who would I like most released back into society? I think it's a no-brainer. I think reform is definitely necessary. Violent offenders are the ones who need to be in prison and STAY in prison. This whole issue really burns me up. I don't know how true this is but I've heard there are cases where the DOC will release violent offenders due to lack of room for them before simple drug offender because the drug offenders HAVE to finish their sentences. Any truth to that? Mandatory minimums? I'm just saying, I think it's more important to put murderers and rapists away than drug offenders.

    1. I haven't heard of drug offenders having to finish their sentence, but all inmates in county jail (1 year and under sentence) serve only 75% of their sentence. In state prison (1 year and over), they serve 6/7 of it no matter the crime.