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How to waste money and lives: the American prison system

Celia Chazele @ Michael Moore - In 1970, fewer than 200,000 Americans were incarcerated. Today, with some 2.3 million in prison or jail, the US has more people and a higher percentage of its population locked up than any other country. Adding those on probation and parole, over seven million are under penal supervision. Although much of the growth stems from tougher drug laws, increased sentencing for most offenses has played a large role, too. According to criminologist Todd Clear, prison sentences in the US today average almost twice as long as thirty years ago. American prisoners now endure sentences twice those of the English, four times those of the Dutch, and five to ten times those of the French for the same crimes.

Our penal system affects more middle-class white Americans than we might realize, yet the impact on them is tiny compared with that on minorities – especially young black men from impoverished urban neighborhoods. Over 90 percent of inmates are male, and while 12 percent of the U.S. population is African-American, over 40 percent of prisoners with sentences longer than one year are black. Read more.

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