The caging of America

I just read The Caging of America by Adam Gopnik in the New Yorker. It’s an informative article about the sad state of affairs in America prisions. It’s well known that we lock more people up in America than any other country. Blacks are incarcerated seven times as often as whites. People with money get good lawyers and a slap on the wrist, those without, get locked up for years. And like most broken things in America, there are financial incentives for our politicians to maintain the status quo. With the privatization of prisions, millions of dollars are being spent by lobbyists to make sure we keep our prisons full.

It’s hard to think about the current state of affairs without recognizing that something is fundamentally wrong in the way we think about incarceration. William J. Stuntz blames our Bill of Rights for emphasizing process and procedure over principles of fairness and justice. Gopnik’s commentary about prison rape is quite compelling:

Prison rape is so endemic—more than seventy thousand prisoners are raped each year—that it is routinely held out as a threat, part of the punishment to be expected. The subject is standard fodder for comedy, and an uncoöperative suspect being threatened with rape in prison is now represented, every night on television, as an ordinary and rather lovable bit of policing. The normalization of prison rape—like eighteenth-century japery about watching men struggle as they die on the gallows—will surely strike our descendants as chillingly sadistic, incomprehensible on the part of people who thought themselves civilized.

For those who haven’t read it, I recommend you read the full thing. It’s well written, thought provoking and worth a read.

  • In my opinion this is what has contributed to the reduction of crime.
    The crack epidemic is done, totally out of control gangs is less and incarcerating more people, for a longer time…

    I do think federal drug sentences are way out of wack, MM and 3 strikes, but this is where we are and I don't see much changing down the road.. It appears that the Feds are going to keep stretching out the sentences for all…Its broken, and out of control…When is over done, enough to satisfy 3553..

  • The largest and most rigorous study was commissioned by the British Home Office and based on 2,643 sexual assault cases (Kelly, Lovett, and Regan, 2005). Of these, 8% were classified by the police department as false reports. However, the researchers noted that some of these classifications were based simply on the personal judgments of the police investigators and were made in violation of official criteria for establishing a false allegation

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  • Wow, that's a staggering on blacks that they are incarcerated seven times as often as whites. I can't but help feeling so sorry for the poorer unfortunate ones.