Thursday, November 30, 2006

Mama's New House

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Incarceration rates for women are outpacing men -- many of them for non-violent drug offenses in our failed "War on Drugs."

A record 7 million people — or one in every 32 American adults — were behind bars, on probation or on parole by the end of last year, according to the Justice Department. Of those, 2.2 million were in prison or jail, an increase of 2.7 percent over the previous year, according to a report released Wednesday.


Men still far outnumber women in prisons and jails, but the female population is growing faster. Over the past year, the female population in state or federal prison increased 2.6 percent while the number of male inmates rose 1.9 percent. By year's end, 7 percent of all inmates were women. The gender figures do not include inmates in local jails.

"Today's figures fail to capture incarceration's impact on the thousands of children left behind by mothers in prison," Marc Mauer, the executive director of the Sentencing Project, a Washington-based group supporting criminal justice reform, said in a statement. "Misguided policies that create harsher sentences for nonviolent drug offenses are disproportionately responsible for the increasing rates of women in prisons and jails."

From 1995 to 2003, inmates in federal prison for drug offenses have accounted for 49 percent of total prison population growth.

This is insane. The fact that 3.5 million Americans are either in prison, probation, or parole for non-violent actions should serve as a blaring wake-up call to America that we have a seriously unhealthy prison fetish -- at the expense of rehabilition which could help keep these families together for the sake of children involved.

I would be particulary interested in seeing a breakdown of how many inmates are serving time for nothing more than marijuana possession (thanks, Radical Russ!) -- a "crime" in the league of cigarette or alcohol possession, and definitely several notches below certain legal pharmaceutical possessions, with their plethora of unpleasant side effects , dispensed by doctors like peanut M&Ms. I could easily argue that marijuana is actually less harmful (and definitely more "natural") than any of the aforementioned substances, but why bother when others have done the work for me.

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