Activism Discussion: Incarceration Nation

Incarceration Nation
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Al92653
2006-12-25 12:39:16 EST
TomPaine.com
Incarceration Nation
Marc Mauer
December 11, 2006
Marc Mauer is the executive director of The Sentencing Project and the
author of Race to Incarcerate and co-editor of Invisible Punishment (both
from The New Press).


Two remarkable developments in Washington in the past week highlight the
extent to which the United States has become the land of mass incarceration.

First, the Supreme Court denied the appeal of Weldon Angelos for a
first-time drug offense. Angelos was a 24-year-old Utah music producer with
no prior convictions when he was convicted of three sales of marijuana in
2004. During these sales he possessed a gun, though there were no
allegations that he ever used or threatened to use it. Under federal
mandatory sentencing laws, the judge was required to sentence Angelos to
five years on the first offense and 25 years each for the two subsequent
offenses, for a total of 55 years in prison. In imposing sentence, Judge
Paul Cassell, a leading conservative jurist, decried the sentencing policy
as "unjust, cruel, and even irrational."

The Angelos decision came on the heels of a Bureau of Justice Statistics
report finding that there are now a record 2.2 million Americans
incarcerated in the nation's prisons and jails. These figures represent the
continuation of a "race to incarcerate" that has been raging since 1972.
With a 500 percent increase in the number of people in prison since then,
the United States has now become the world leader in its rate of
incarceration, locking up its citizens at 5-8 times the rate of other
industrialized nations. The strict punishment meted out in the Angelos case
and thousands of others explain much of the rapid increase in the prison
population.

The composition of the prison population reflects the socioeconomic
inequalities in society. Sixty percent of the prison population is African
American and Latino, and if current trends continue, one of every three
black males and one of every six Latino males born today can expect to go to
prison at some point in his lifetime. The overall rates for women are lower,
but the racial and ethnic disparities are similar and the growth rate of
women's incarceration is nearly double that of men over the past two
decades.

While the United States has a higher rate of violent crime than comparable
nations, the substantial prison buildup since 1980 has resulted from changes
in policy, not changes in crime. The "get tough" movement, which embraced
initiatives designed to send more people to prison and to keep them for
longer periods of time, contributed to massive prison construction and a
corrections budget now totaling $60 billion annually. These policy changes
included mandatory sentences that restrict judicial discretion while
imposing "one size fits all" penalties, "three strikes and you're out" laws
that allow life terms upon a third felony conviction, and the "war on
drugs."

Drug policies have been responsible for a disproportionate share of the rise
in the inmate population, with the 40,000 drug offenders in prison or jail
in 1980 increasing to a half million today. A substantial body of research
has documented that these laws have had virtually no effect on the drug
trade, as measured by price or availability of drugs. Most of the drug
offenders in prison are not the "kingpins" of the drug trade. Indeed, the
low-level sellers who are incarcerated are rapidly replaced on the streets
by others seeking economic gain.

While crime rates have been declining nationally for a decade, research to
date demonstrates that expanded incarceration has, at best, been responsible
for only a quarter of this decline. Other factors that played a key role
include a strong economy in the 1990s that provided employment opportunities
for low-skill workers, a marked decline in crack cocaine use and its
associated violence by the early 1990s, and strategic community policing.
New York City, which experienced a two-thirds reduction in homicides from
1990 to 2002, did so despite a one-third decline in its jail population
during that period. And conversely, while Idaho led the nation with an
astonishing 174 percent rise in its prison population, it nevertheless
experienced a 14 percent rise in crime.

With a new Democratic Congress in place, there is hope that long-festering
criminal justice policy inequities can finally be addressed. Long-time
reform champions Reps. John Conyers, D-Mich., and Bobby Scott, D-Va., are
poised to take over the chairmanships of the House Judiciary Committee and
its Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security subcommittee, respectively. But
we should be cautious in our expectations given the Democratic Party's
record of complicity in endorsing "get tough" measures. Bill Clinton's 1994
crime bill, for example, was loaded with harsh sentencing provisions and $8
billion in new prison construction. Progressives would be wise to continue
to build bipartisan support for criminal justice reform measures. In recent
years this has led to alliances with conservative Senators Sam Brownback and
Jeff Sessions who sponsored bills for prisoner reentry and crack cocaine
sentencing reform respectively.

As we look to the new Congress, high on any reform agenda should be the
following:

. Crack cocaine sentencing reform-During the last 20 years, the federal
sentencing laws for crack cocaine offenses have subjected thousands of
low-level defendants to mandatory five- and 10-year prison terms, while
exacerbating the racial dynamics of incarceration. More than 80 percent of
the persons charged with these offenses are African Americans, who receive
much stiffer terms than those meted out to powder cocaine defendants.

. Mandatory sentencing reform-Congressional mandates to impose harsh
sentences with no judicial input have created unfair and overly harsh
penalties, and have been decried by the American Bar Association and Supreme
Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, among many others.

. Racial impact statements-Just as fiscal impact statements aid lawmakers in
assessing the financial implications of sentencing policies, the preparation
of racial impact assessments could provide similar benefits to policymakers.
Had such assessments existed in 1986, we could have had a debate on the
racial dynamics of the crack cocaine laws prior to their enactment, not 20
years later.

. Felon disenfranchisement reform-Five million Americans could not
participate in the November election due to a current or previous felony
conviction. Laws that govern these practices are enacted by the states, but
Congress has the authority to require uniform voting rules in federal
elections. Legislation proposed by John Conyers in the House would require
states to permit voting by any non-incarcerated person in federal elections,
even if barred from participating in state elections.

Three decades of prison expansion have led to rates of imprisonment that are
shameful for a democratic nation. Both public safety and community health
would be better served through investments in policies that promote job
creation, high school graduation and substance abuse treatment. It's time to
reverse the race to incarcerate.



George
2006-12-25 12:45:18 EST

"al92653" <al92653@xyz.com> wrote in message
news:51Ujh.39618$B42.36334@newsfe12.phx...
> TomPaine.com
> Incarceration Nation
> Marc Mauer
> December 11, 2006
> Marc Mauer is the executive director of The Sentencing Project and the
> author of Race to Incarcerate and co-editor of Invisible Punishment (both
> from The New Press).
>
>
> Two remarkable developments in Washington in the past week highlight the
> extent to which the United States has become the land of mass
> incarceration.

<snip>

Why haven't they locked you up yet, Al?

George



Frank Arthur
2006-12-25 13:06:39 EST

"al92653" <al92653@xyz.com> wrote in message
news:51Ujh.39618$B42.36334@newsfe12.phx...
> TomPaine.com
> Incarceration Nation
> Marc Mauer
> December 11, 2006
> Marc Mauer is the executive director of The Sentencing Project and the
> author of Race to Incarcerate and co-editor of Invisible Punishment (both
> from The New Press).
>
>
> Two remarkable developments in Washington in the past week highlight the
> extent to which the United States has become the land of mass
> incarceration.
>
> First, the Supreme Court denied the appeal of Weldon Angelos for a
> first-time drug offense. Angelos was a 24-year-old Utah music producer
> with no prior convictions when he was convicted of three sales of
> marijuana in 2004. During these sales he possessed a gun, though there
> were no allegations that he ever used or threatened to use it.

Poor baby. Only three illegal sales of drugs and carrying a gun with him
(for target practice?)
and their picking on this fine upstanding citizen?



Al92653
2006-12-25 16:19:25 EST

"George" <george@yourservice.com> wrote in message
news:B6Ujh.12662$%e7.4500@bignews2.bellsouth.net...
>
> "al92653" <al92653@xyz.com> wrote in message
> news:51Ujh.39618$B42.36334@newsfe12.phx...
>> TomPaine.com
>> Incarceration Nation
>> Marc Mauer
>> December 11, 2006
>> Marc Mauer is the executive director of The Sentencing Project and the
>> author of Race to Incarcerate and co-editor of Invisible Punishment (both
>> from The New Press).
>>
>>
>> Two remarkable developments in Washington in the past week highlight the
>> extent to which the United States has become the land of mass
>> incarceration.
>
> <snip>
>
> Why haven't they locked you up yet, Al?
>
> George

>You first, zionazi!



George
2006-12-25 23:28:25 EST

"al92653" <al92653@xyz.com> wrote in message
news:vfXjh.29508$Zb5.9393@newsfe13.phx...
>
> "George" <george@yourservice.com> wrote in message
> news:B6Ujh.12662$%e7.4500@bignews2.bellsouth.net...
>>
>> "al92653" <al92653@xyz.com> wrote in message
>> news:51Ujh.39618$B42.36334@newsfe12.phx...
>>> TomPaine.com
>>> Incarceration Nation
>>> Marc Mauer
>>> December 11, 2006
>>> Marc Mauer is the executive director of The Sentencing Project and the
>>> author of Race to Incarcerate and co-editor of Invisible Punishment
>>> (both from The New Press).
>>>
>>>
>>> Two remarkable developments in Washington in the past week highlight
>>> the extent to which the United States has become the land of mass
>>> incarceration.
>>
>> <snip>
>>
>> Why haven't they locked you up yet, Al?
>>
>> George
>
>>You first, zionazi!

Gee, what an original comeback. That must have taken you, oh, nearly a
whole day to figure it out. Must be a new record for you.

George

"The trouble ain't that there is too many fools, but that the lightning
ain't distributed right."
-Mark Twain



JamesDorset
2006-12-26 08:48:13 EST
On Mon, 25 Dec 2006 09:39:16 -0800, al92653 wrote:



> In imposing sentence, Judge Paul Cassell, a leading conservative jurist,
> decried the sentencing policy as "unjust, cruel, and even irrational."
>
>
>


And instead of doing the right thing and giving the young man a reasonable
sentence -- he proceded to follow this irrational law.

Unfortunately, the judge didn't have the balls to make a little "case law"
on his own. It just goes to show that people with official titles keep
this criminal system going, and going, and going. The crimes against our
people, and people of other nations, will just keep getting worse.

Time for a new government!



My Name
2006-12-26 09:17:25 EST
JamesDorset <JamesDorset@firstcoastinternet.org> wrote in
news:pan.2006.12.26.13.48.11.413210@firstcoastinternet.org:

> Time for a new government!

Indeed it is past time. The only thing I've found dedicated to
that purpose is this: http://www.pushhamburger.com/unite.htm

--
A government, of freemasons, by freemasons, and for
freemasons.
But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the
light:
for whatsoever doth make manifest is light.
The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be
single,
thy whole body shall be full of light.
But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of
darkness.
If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great
is that darkness!
Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead,
and Christ shall give thee light.
The light shineth in darkness;
and the darkness comprehended it not.

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