Incarceration Nation

(También en Español)

News of Note: Zakaria: Incarceration nation

“Here are the facts. The U.S. has 760 prisoners per 100,000 citizens. That’s not just many more than in most other developed countries but seven to 10 times as many. Japan has 63 per 100,000, Germany has 90, France has 96, South Korea has 97, and ­Britain – with a rate among the ­highest – has 153….

“Drug convictions went from 15 inmates per 100,000 adults in 1980 to 148 in 1996, an almost tenfold increase. More than half of America’s federal inmates today are in prison on drug convictions. In 2009 alone, 1.66 million Americans were arrested on drug charges, more than were arrested on assault or larceny charges. And 4 of 5 of those arrests were simply for possession….

“Partly as a result, the money that states spend on prisons has risen at six times the rate of spending on higher education in the past 20 years. In 2011, California spent $9.6 billion on prisons vs. $5.7 billion on the UC system and state colleges. Since 1980, California has built one college campus and 21 prisons. A college student costs the state $8,667 per year; a prisoner costs it $45,006 a year.

What justifiable reason is there for America to have a higher prison population than any other country on earth? Outrage can be the only response.

How much longer will this for-profit destruction of human lives continue before the whole country realizes what’s going on?

Revealing statistics like these might just wake up the public, as more and more activists are working to give prisoners in this country and these issues a voice that will soon be harder to ignore.

Creative Commons image by: Tim Pearce, Los Gatos

Pot Legalization Foe Getting Rich off the Drug War

(También en Español)

News of Note: Pot Legalization Foe Getting Rich off the Drug War

“The lobbyist who helped kill California’s Proposition 19, the 2010 ballot measure that would have legalized recreational marijuana, has constructed an entire business model around keeping pot illegal. While fighting against the proposed law, lobbyist John Lovell accepted nearly $400,000 from a wide array of police unions, some of which he also represented in attempting to steer millions of federal dollars toward California’s marijuana suppression programs….

“Police unions and their lobbyists weren’t the only economic interests with a stake in Prop. 19. The alcohol industry and prison guards also contributed money to fight the measure. “

Is cannabis illegal because America needs more people in prison? Is cannabis illegal because people shouldn’t have an alternative to alcohol? If not, then how do these lobbyists justify their support of cannabis prohibition? Locking people up in prison not because they are dangerous, but because you profit from it, is a crime against humanity. The primary opponents against cannabis legalization are not concerned with human safety.

When laws are passed under false pretenses, who is our government looking out for? And what is our society turning into?

Creative Commons Image by Petr Brož

Jurors: Researching online? Go to jail!

(También en Español)

News of Note: Jurors: leave the information age—or go to jail

An English court has sentenced a juror to six months in prison for contempt of court after she performed research on the Internet and forced the abandonment of a criminal trial.

Psychology lecturer Theodora Dallas, 34, was a member of the jury in the trial of Barry Medlock, accused of causing grievous bodily harm. She looked up certain information related to the trial on the Internet, came across information concerning Medlock, and told her fellow jurors what she had found. One of them informed the judge, causing the judge to abandon the trial. Medlock was later retried and found guilty.

In order for a jury to be unbiased they must be ignorant? The entire nature of a jury is rooted in subjectivity. But how is a decision less biased when the jurors only have access to information concerning their specific case? I believe access to information is a human right. Because any juror could do outside research without telling anyone, help expand their own perspective, and easily get away with it, how much longer will this rule enforcing ignorance be  justified or realistic? It isn’t a far stretch to say that our legal system has a few holes; this might be a good place to start making some improvements. Let us know what you think, I’m eager to hear other people’s take on this issue.