Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Over the past few decades, America has locked up more and more people. Our prison population has tripled. Now we jail a higher percentage of people than even the most repressive countries: China locks up 121 out of every 100,000 people; Russia 511. In America? 730.
“Never in the civilized world have so many been locked up for so little,” The Economist says.
Yet we keep adding more laws and longer jail terms.
The rules that bind us now total more than 160,000 pages. The Congressional Research Service said it was unable to count the number of crimes on the books. Yet last week the feds added or proposed another thousand pages. States and cities have thousands more. Have you read them all? Have our “representatives” read them all? You know the answer.
Then there’s the so-called war on drugs — a war on people, actually. Lots of politicians admit that they used drugs in their youth — even presidents. Barack Obama wrote in his memoir, “Dreams From My Father”: “Pot had helped … ; maybe a little blow (cocaine) when you could afford it.”
And, yet in office, these same politicians preside over an injustice system that jails a million Americans for doing what they did. Don’t they see the hypocrisy? Give me a break.
I want my government to arrest real criminals — ones who violate our rights — and to lock them up so we’ll be protected. But our politicians go way beyond that. Governments at all levels have long been in the business of forbidding conduct that violates no one’s rights and piling on complex laws to govern conduct that might harm someone. And they keep passing more.
They have created a byzantine maze of criminal law that is so incomprehensible that even legal specialists don’t agree on what the rules specify. Then ambitious prosecutors ruin lives enforcing those laws. The prosecutors and lawmakers say this is for our own good.
No, it’s not.