America Is Hardly The Land Of The Free
January 10, 2014 by Bob Livingston
When one thinks of a prison nation, North Korea, Iran, Cuba, Venezuela or some Third World backwater or banana republic dictatorship country might spring to mind. But the truth is the No. 1 prison nation is the United States.
No country incarcerates a higher percentage of its population than the United States. Currently, more than 2.4 million Americans occupy U.S. prisons. That’s one out of every 100 American adults.
The U.S. houses one-fourth of the world’s prison population. The International Centre for Prison Studies claims the 2013 prison population for America is 716 per 100,000 population. Cuba’s number per 100,000 is 510; Russia’s is 490; Azerbaijan’s is 407; Panama’s is 392; the Cayman Island’s is 382. North Korea, Iran and Venezuela didn’t make the top 20.
According to a study in the journal Crime & Deliquency, Americans’ interaction with the so-called criminal justice system begins at an early age. It surveyed data from 1997 to 2008 and found that:
- By age 18, 30 percent of black males, 26 percent of Hispanic males and 22 percent of white males had been arrested.
- By age 23, 49 percent of black males 44 percent of Hispanic males and 38 percent of white males had been arrested.
- Among females 18 years old, 12 percent of whites, 11.9 percent of blacks and 11.8 percent of Hispanics had been arrested.
- By age 23 the numbers for females increased to 20 percent for whites, 18 percent for Hispanics and 16 percent for blacks.
The actions that got young people on the wrong side of the law and saddled them with a lifetime criminal record include truancy, underage drinking, drug offenses and more serious and violent offenses.
There are currently in America more than 3,000 prisoners serving life without parole sentences for committing nonviolent crimes. Crimes like shoplifting a $150 coat, shoplifting a couple of $45 Michael Jordan jerseys, possessing a crack pipe, possessing a bottle cap with a trace of heroin, and acting as a go-between for a $10 marijuana sale to an undercover police officer have landed some people in prison for life, thanks to three- and four-strike laws that mandate life sentences for repeat offenders.
In his book Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent, Harvey Silverglate claims: “[I]t is only a slight exaggeration to say that the average busy professional in this country wakes up in the morning, goes to work, comes home, takes care of personal and family obligations and then goes to sleep, unaware that he or she likely committed several Federal crimes that day.”
Currently, there are more than 4,450 listed Federal criminal offenses. These listed Federal offenses have exploded well beyond the statute books and into the morass of the Code of Federal Regulations, giving Federal prosecutors thousands of additional vague, complex and technical prohibitions removed from Congressional authority or any authority but the Federal prosecutors themselves.
In America, people are being imprisoned for holding a plant leaf or seed, drinking raw milk or selling natural supplements. Children are being taken away from parents and locked into hospitals both for the “crime” of the parents’ following the advice of their physician and for not following it.
As we document almost every day, police are becoming increasingly militant, violent and militarized. They are even scooping up surplus tanks and armored vehicles for their police forces. Even the Federal Reserve, a private entity, now has its own police force with arresting powers.
America the land of the free? In your dreams.