The United States accounts for less than 5 percent of the world population, but if you're a prisoner, chances are you're locked behind bars in the land of the free, which accounts for 25 percent of the globe's incarcerated men and women -- nearly 2.4 million people.
Fueled by the war on drugs and “tough on crime” demagoguery, the U.S. prison population has surged over the past three decades, to the point that roughly one out of every 100 Americans is incarcerated – and one out of 32 is under some form of correctional supervision. As it stands now, an African-American male is more likely to be convicted of a felony than to graduate college.
That has to change. And it's not just bleeding-heart liberals who think that.
As former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Pat Nolan of Prison Fellowship Ministries recently argued in The Washington Post, “There is an urgent need to address the astronomical growth in the prison population, with its huge costs in dollars and lost human potential." And a whole lot of other conservatives -- from former Attorney General Ed Meese to the American Conservative Union's David Keene -- think that too, having signed on to a letter from the newly formed Right on Crime Campaign urging conservative lawmakers to reduce the nation's bloated prison rolls.
If House Republicans are serious about fighting the deficit and "Big Government," they should examine ways to reduce the U.S.'s reliance on incarceration. Please urge Rep. James Sensenbrenner, the new chairman of the House Judiciary Committee's panel on crime, and his vice-chair, Rep. Louie Gohmert, to hold hearings to look at ways to do just that.
Photo Credit: Jenn Vargas