It’s Time to End American Exceptionalism When It Comes to Putting Citizens Behind Bars

It’s time to end the United States’ exceptionalism when it comes to incarcerating its citizens. Our objective should be to make America average. We need to re-join the family of civilized nations when it comes to incarceration.

A groundbreaking report released yesterday by the National Research Council, the principal operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences, documents the unprecedented and costly price of U.S. incarceration rates. With less than five percent of the world’s population but nearly 25 percent of the world’s prisoners, the U.S. continues to rank first among nations in both prison and jail population and per capita rates. As the report points out, this unprecedented rate of incarceration is a relatively new phenomenon in U.S. history. America’s prison population exploded largely as a result of the failed drug war policies of the last 40 years.

The report, commissioned by the National Institute of Justice and the MacArthur Foundation, documents how the drug war has contributed to the skyrocketing U.S prison population and the staggering costs associated with mass incarceration. The report points out that U.S. incarceration rates are 5-10 times higher than rates in Western Europe and other major democracies. The report also documents the staggering racial disparities in drug enforcement and incarceration.

The report calls for a significant reduction in rates of imprisonment and says that the rise in the U.S. prison population is “not serving the country well.” It concludes that in order to significantly lower prison rates, the U.S. should revise its drug enforcement and sentencing laws.

– Read the entire article at AlterNet.