Despite having one billion fewer people within its borders, the United States contains approximately 500,000 more prisoners than the People’s Republic of China. In a ranking of countries, the U.S.A. is number one worldwide in both total imprisoned population and in prisoners per capita (China is number two in total and number 71 per capita). But isn’t China the oppressive regime? Are U.S. citizens really so much more criminal than the rest of the world? Do we have a justice system which is simply more astute at discovering offenders? Is this imprisoned class the price which we must pay for living in “the land of the free”? Let us look at the evidence.
First, yes, U.S. citizens are more criminal because it is the law which creates crime. Considering the way in which law is so often carelessly and unconstitutionally formed in this country, it is plain that the severity of our criminal presence results from the whimsical nature of our elected representatives. It was upon one of these thoughtless whims which the war was declared on drugs; unapologetic and tactless “justice” has hence been enforced.
It was the Reagan administration which took the war on drugs and placed along with it severe and unforgiving penalties. In the 1980s federal mandatory sentencing was applied to drug crime. No longer could a judge take the individual into account upon sentencing. Whether grown at home for personal use, or offered to children like candy—the distinctions were eliminated and drug law was codified to be based on weight of material possession. In the minds of the purveyors of this elevated war on drugs: “drugs are bad and the clear presence of victim matters not.”
Since this unforgiving mindset has been applied to our governance, the imprisoned class has risen distinctively and dramatically. Prior to 1980 our prison population remained steadily under 500,000. We have since seen a telling increase–over 2 million formerly free souls are now in jail. About half of those 2 million offenders are incarcerated for drug related crimes.
Now you may find no sorrow for those who continue to suffer servitude for victimless criminality; but a reasonable mind should, at least, lead you to discover the extreme and impractical resource drain of such widespread and severe punishment. It is not only the imprisoned who suffer—it is also the people who must sadly endure the careless use of their money. Resources are limited and, presently, a ghastly portion of the population’s whole productive effort is exerted toward the astronomically expensive enforcement of our war on drugs. If you can’t find it in your heart to feel for the destitute minorities, then at least find it in your head to realize the grossly uneconomic effect of terrible law.