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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

CJ Quote: Locked Up in America

     Life behind bars is invisible to most of us, but if one bothers to look, it's unremittingly grim. About one of every nine American prisoners are serving a life sentence, many of them without the chance of parole, some 10,000 of them for wholly nonviolent offenses.

     More than 50,000 prisoners are held in long-term solitary confinement, even though the United Nations special rapporteur [a person assigned to prepare reports] on torture has determined that solitary confinement for longer than 15 days amounts to "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment." [That may be true, but there is usually good reason these extremely violent men are isolated from other inmates.]

     Prisons offer little in the way of rehabilitation or training for life after incarceration. And even after release, many ex-convicts are barred from public housing, food stamps, certain kinds of jobs and voting. [If I own a plumbing company, I'm not sending a convicted rapist or pedophile into your home to fix your sink.] Should we be surprised that the recidivism rate is 67.5 percent?

     Our proclivity for incarceration costs American taxpayers about $80 billion a year. And that doesn't count the vast indirect costs visited upon the incarcerated, their families and communities. In 2007, there were 1.7 million children in the United States with a parent in prison. [How many of these kids were better off with the parent behind bars? And what would the cost to society be if these criminals were out on the street committing crimes? This is not a simple problem.]

David Cole, "Punitive Damage," The New York Times Book Review, May 18, 2014

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