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“There is no very great danger of a rich man going to jail.” — Clarence S. Darrow, 1902

March 24, 2012
Timeline of total number of inmates in U.S. pr...

Timeline of total number of inmates in U.S. prisons, jails, and juvenile facilities. From 1920 to 2006. Data sources: http://www.nationalinstituteofcorrections.gov/Library/015837 http://www.justicepolicy.org/images/upload/00-05_REP_PunishingDecade_AC.pdf http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/index.cfm?ty=pbdetail&iid=908 http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/index.cfm?ty=pbdetail&iid=1006. See also the data sources at File:US incarceration timeline.gif. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One hundred and ten years ago… how little things change.

“Some so-called criminals — and I use this word because it’s handy, it means nothing to me — I speak of the criminals who get caught as distinguished from the criminals who catch them–some of these so-called criminals are in jail for their first offenses, but nine-tenths of you are in jail because you did not have a good lawyer and, of course, you did not have a good lawyer because you did not have enough money to pay a good lawyer.  There is no very great danger of a rich man going to jail.”  — Clarence S. Darrow, Speech to inmates at Cook County Jail, 1902

The United States is the world’s leader in incarceration with 7.2 million men and women under correctional supervision; including five million on probation or parole and 2.3 million people who are currently incarcerated in prisons or jails… a 500% increase over the past thirty years.  These trends have resulted in prison overcrowding and state governments that are overwhelmed by the burden of funding a rapidly expanding penal system, despite increasing evidence that large-scale incarceration of our citizens is not an effective means of achieving public safety If it were, we would be safe already… don’t ya think…

Annually it costs some $68 billion dollars to fund local, state, and federal corrections systems in the United States.  This has transformed American society by removing a disproportionate number of nonviolent minority offenders from their communities while diverting taxpayer money from critical social programs.  Like schools, hospitals, research, the arts, museums, libraries, bridges, roads, parks …

I wonder what might happen if we spent 1/2 of that money on schools instead.

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