Wednesday, 27 March 2013

What has gone so wrong in America?

There are approximately 2 million inmates in state, federal and private prisons.No other society in human history has imprisoned so many of its own citizens.The figures show that the United States has locked up more people than any other country.

The private contracting of prisoners for work fosters incentives to lock people up. Prisons depend on this income. Corporate stockholders who make money from prisoner’s work lobby for longer sentences, in order to expand their workforce. The system feeds itself with forced labour, by creating new crimes aimed demographically at certain sections of society.

The British government are now planning to build a privatised super-prison, with plans close seven of its conventional prisons.

Federal law stipulates five years’ imprisonment without possibility of parole for possession of 5 grams of crack or 3.5 ounces of heroin, and 10 years for possession of less than 2 ounces of rock-cocaine or crack. A sentence of 5 years for cocaine powder requires possession of 500 grams – 100 times more than the quantity of rock cocaine for the same sentence. Most of those who use cocaine powder are white, middle-class or rich people, while mostly Blacks and Latinos use rock cocaine. In Texas, a person may be sentenced for up to two years’ imprisonment for possessing 4 ounces of marijuana. Here in New York, the 1973 Nelson Rockefeller anti-drug law provides for a mandatory prison sentence of 15 years to life for possession of 4 ounces of any illegal drug.

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