The New York Times published an opinion piece yesterday on the human rights violations committed by the American judicial system in the name of justice. Yes, you should read that again. According to the ACLU, 3,278 people have been convicted to life without parole for nonviolent crimes, and we are spending billions of dollars keeping them in jail. Incarceration rates have quintupled since the 1970s, although many cities boast less violent crime. Mandatory sentencing (like California’s Three Strikes law, brought forth by fed-up, ignorant voters through the voter proposition system) results in ruined lives, parentless children, and prisons crowded with first-offenders, ancillary drug “conspirators,” and nonviolent criminals serving life sentences without parole.
Don’t believe it? I couldn’t either. So read Nicholas Kristof’s piece and get real. Better yet, read the full report, A LIving Death, by the ACLU. Even judges are frustrated that they can’t do their jobs. Do we really need to be spending tax payers’ money keeping a young mother in prison for poor judgment — for life? The fact that 4 out of 5 of these prisoners is a person of color shouldn’t surprise anyone familiar with our systems of institutionalized racism.
Can we please admit that our justice system has failed in this social experiment and repeal mandatory sentencing laws everywhere? I’m on that bandwagon … please join me.