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Prison Shocker: U.S. Imprisons Three Times as Many Black People as South Africa During Apartheid
Even Congressional Republicans were a bit disturbed by that stat.
The United States imprisons almost three times as many Black people than were jailed in South Africa during Apartheid, Rep. Spencer Bachus said Thursday during a subcommittee oversight hearing on the Federal Bureau of Prisons. While games of comparison are rarely productive, the American prison industrial complex has seen cries of racism for years now. And for once, both Democrats and Republicans are up in arms over the shocking state of affairs and say they are in favor of overhauling a system that many say is broken and biased.
Bachus reported that the U.S. prison population hovered around 24,000 for most of the 1900s until suddenly, in the 1980s, the country saw a staggering rise in the inmate population to nearly a quarter million. The main causes? the War on Drugs that began in the 1980s under then-President Ronald Reagan, mandatory sentencing and three-strikes laws, all of which, most agree, disproportionately affect minorities.
The rise in prison population may have another less publicized cause: gradual privatization of the prison industry, with its profits over justice motives. If the beds aren’t filled, states are required to pay the prison companies for the empty space, which means taxpayers are largely left to deal with the bill that might come from lower crime and imprisonment rates. Most privately built prisons mandate 90%-occupancy rates, according to the new report by In The Public Interest. The incentive to do so is big. When the state of Arizona recently failed to meet its 97% quota, the state paid the prison company Management & Training Corporation $3 million, the Huffington Post reports.
Of all the contracts that the advocacy group assessed, nearly two-thirds of the quotas were met. The prisons in question then were found to use the profits to expand their reach, pulling a variety of strings in an effort to make lawmakers increase incarceration stats through new laws. The US currently leads the world in incarcerating its residents, with one in every 100 adults behind bars, making it a $6 billion annual industry. Over the past 30 years, the prison population has more than quadrupled, mostly due to the very same drug offenses that disproportionately African Americans.
"There has to be an effort to reduce the population," BOP Director Charles Samuels Jr. told the subcommittee. Soon after. Rep. Bobby Scott, the ranking Democrat on the subcommittee joined forces with Bachus and Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz to sponsor a House reform bill, signaling a rare moment of bi-partisan agreement.
Other subcommittee members pressed Samuels on other issues, including prison staff safety, the cost of making a phone call, which is .23 a minute for domestic calls, and various other costs that come from taxpayer money. Though Samuels was unable to provide requested statistics, both parties agreed that the bloated prison population creates a dangerous environment for both inmates and staff, creating an open floodgate for a ride in public safety concerns, making reform a rare cross-party imperative.
Hundreds of armed vigilantes have taken control of a town in a western Mexico state plagued by drug cartels after clashes with an armed group that left three people dead, officials said.
The Michoacan state government said in a statement that the “self-defense” units seized the town hall and main square of Tancitaro on Saturday.
Some 400 vigilantes kicked out the municipal police and took over security in the town, a source in the CISEN intelligence agency told AFP.
Before taking Tancitaro, the self-defense force exchanged fire with suspected organized crime members in the nearby town of Pareo, said Marco Vinicio Aguilera, an official in the state prosecutor’s office.
“Three bodies belonging to members of an armed group were recovered," he said, adding that two vigilantes were wounded in the clash.
The government said the vigilantes were from the towns of Buenavista and Tepalcatepec. Soldiers and state and federal police were deployed to the area.
Several Michoacan towns have taken up arms this year, fed up with the murders, kidnappings and extortion committed by the Knights Templar drug cartel.
The U.S. government spends $228 billion dollars a year to lock people up behind bars. In fact, the United States is responsible for 25% of the world’s prison population. It’s time to do better. It’s time to go beyond bars.
Support For Marijuana Legalization Reaches Historic High Of 58 Percent ~ Akei | Drug Policy
Only two states, Colorado and Washington, allow the recreational use of marijuana, and marijuana remains illegal under federal law. Nevertheless, a new Gallup polls suggests that Washington and Colorado are at the forefront of a national trend. Fully 58 percent of Americans now support legalization:
One year ago today, voters in Washington and Colorado legalized general use cannabis. Above, supporters in Washington react moments after the announcement that Initiative-502 passed. (photo credit: Alyson Martin)
August 30, 2013—Despite 75 years of federal marijuana prohibition, the Justice Department said Thursday that states can let people use the drug, license people to grow it and even allow adults to stroll into stores and buy it — as long as the weed is kept away from kids, the black market and federal property.
In a sweeping new policy statement prompted by pot legalization votes in Washington and Colorado last fall, the department gave the green light to states to adopt tight regulatory schemes to oversee the medical and recreational marijuana industries burgeoning across the country.
The action, welcomed by supporters of legalization, could set the stage for more states to legalize marijuana. Alaska could vote on the question next year, and a few other states plan similar votes in 2016.
[…] “If state enforcement efforts are not sufficiently robust … the federal government may seek to challenge the regulatory structure itself,” the memo stated. States must ensure “that they do not undermine federal enforcement priorities,” it added.