Monday, December 11, 2006

The War on Americans

US Has the Most Prisoners in the World

WASHINGTON - Tough sentencing laws, record numbers of drug offenders and high crime rates have contributed to the United States having the largest prison population and the highest rate of incarceration in the world, according to criminal justice experts.

Mandatory minimum sentencing laws were introduced under the guise of the "War on Drugs". Basically, they have stripped judges and the courts their traditional authority to apply balanced justice on a case by case basis. Furthermore, mandatory minimums run counter to the American common law heritage.

The "War on Drugs" is not the only root cause of such high incarceration rates but there is a definite correlation between the introduction of mandatory sentencing and the dramatic increase in the prison population.

Think about like this. A young 18 year old is attending a senior year high school party that includes the typical teenage pastimes of drinking, dancing, and for some, smoking a bit of cannabis. The drinking alone is cause for arrest. Upon a personal search, the cops who crashed the party find a half joint (approximately 1 gram) of cheap home grown marijuana. She is arrested, taken to jail and brought before the judge. Previously, the judge might have only given her a slap on the wrist or perhaps a small fine. (Previously the cops would not have even been arresting young people for such insignificant offenses). Had it been something a bit more severe, the judge may have ordered treatment or counseling. However, today this young lady must serve time. She was on her way to college but that will now be postponed. She wasn’t a “drug addict” but she might become one now as her options are now narrowing. Her only real crime was perhaps bad judgment. Now, she goes from high school education to a prisoner’s criminal education. Does this sound far fetched. I’m describing a real hypothetical situation of a girl from any “main street” working middle class suburb. This is a cakewalk compared to what the young urban poor face (especially black men).

"The United States has 5 percent of the world's population and 25 percent of the world's incarcerated population."

This should be at the top of the congressional legislative agenda. First and foremost, Congress should immediately stop the “War on Drugs” in its current form. The “War on Drugs” is nothing more than a police war against the very citizens they are sworn to protect and serve.

Secondly, there should be an immediate repealing of the mandatory sentencing laws. Local courts, representing local communities should have the legal authority to make judgments on a case by case basis.

Third, state governments need to reevaluate the current position on alcohol and drugs. While the threat of alcoholism and drug addiction are very real social issues, communities need to find a new approach to both attempts to regulate consumption and treatment. I suggest an immediate decriminalization of soft drugs and a legalization of alcohol for adults 18 and older. Legal adults should not be discriminated against based on age. (Incidentally, minors should not be given the right to obtain driving licensees).
Treatment and counseling centers could be funded at a fraction of the cost which is spent policing and incarcerating non-violent “drug and alcohol offenders”.

The sad irony is that this government, with all its “compassionate conservatism” and belief in small limited government has become the world’s largest police state. The very areas were government should be active have been stripped away from the people who most need government services. In place of real people oriented “Social Services” the government has created a new class of criminals and robbed ALL citizens of basic and essential civil liberties and fundamental human rights.