Prisons Corruption Media Articles
Excerpts of Key Prisons Corruption Media Articles from Major Media
Below are many highly revealing excerpts of important prisons corruption articles reported in the mainstream media suggesting a cover-up.
Links are provided to the full articles on major media websites. If any link should fail to function, click here
. These prisons corruption articles are listed by article date. For the same list by order of importance, click here
. For the list by date posted, click here
. By choosing to educate ourselves on these important issues and to spread the word
, we can and will build a brighter future
For an index to revealing excerpts of media articles on several dozen engaging topics, click here
Why Police Lie Under Oath
2013-02-03, New York Times
Are police officers necessarily more trustworthy than alleged criminals? I think not. Not just because the police have a special inclination toward confabulation, but because, disturbingly, they have an incentive to lie. In this era of mass incarceration, the police shouldn’t be trusted any more than any other witness, perhaps less so. That may sound harsh, but numerous law enforcement officials have put the matter more bluntly. Peter Keane, a former San Francisco Police commissioner, wrote [that] “Police officer perjury in court to justify illegal dope searches is commonplace. One of the dirty little not-so-secret secrets of the criminal justice system is undercover narcotics officers intentionally lying under oath. It is a perversion of the American justice system that strikes directly at the rule of law. Yet it is the routine way of doing business in courtrooms everywhere in America.” The New York City Police Department is not exempt from this critique. New York City officers have been found to engage in patterns of deceit in cases involving charges as minor as trespass. Jeannette Rucker, the chief of arraignments for the Bronx district attorney, explained in a letter that it had become apparent that the police were arresting people even when there was convincing evidence that they were innocent. To justify the arrests, Ms. Rucker claimed, police officers provided false written statements, and in depositions, the arresting officers gave false testimony.
Note: For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on police and prisons corruption, click here.
Can Forgiveness Play a Role in Criminal Justice?
2013-01-06, New York Times
Most modern justice systems focus on a crime, a lawbreaker and a punishment. But a concept called “restorative justice” considers harm done and strives for agreement from all concerned — the victims, the offender and the community — on making amends. And it allows victims, who often feel shut out of the prosecutorial process, a way to be heard and participate. In this country, restorative justice takes a number of forms, but perhaps the most prominent is restorative-justice diversion. There are not many of these programs — a few exist on the margins of the justice system in communities like Baltimore, Minneapolis and Oakland, Calif. — but, according to a University of Pennsylvania study in 2007, they have been effective at reducing recidivism. Typically, a facilitator meets separately with the accused and the victim, and if both are willing to meet face to face without animosity and the offender is deemed willing and able to complete restitution, then the case shifts out of the adversarial legal system and into a parallel restorative-justice process. All parties — the offender, victim, facilitator and law enforcement — come together in a forum sometimes called a restorative-community conference. Each person speaks, one at a time and without interruption, about the crime and its effects, and the participants come to a consensus about how to repair the harm done. The methods are mostly applied in less serious crimes, like property offenses in which the wrong can be clearly righted. The processes are designed to be flexible enough to handle violent crime like assault, but they are rarely used in those situations.
Note: This deeply moving and highly educational piece from the New York Times Magazine about the power of restorative justice is well worth reading in its entirety at the link above.
Breaking the hold of corporate welfare on America's incarceration industry
2012-12-19, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
The US Department of Justice released a report this week showing that 26 states have recorded decreases in their prison populations during 2011. California boasted the biggest decline of over 15,000 prisoners and several other states including New York and Michigan reported drops of around 1,000 prisoners each. This is the third consecutive year that the population has declined, and as a result, at least six states have closed or are attempting to close approximately 20 prisons. But sadly, because incarceration has become a virtual jobs program in many states and because certain corporations are profiting handsomely from the incarceration binge that has been in place for the past few decades, the reduction in prison populations and prison closures is being met with huge resistance. According to a recent report by the Sentencing Project called On the Chopping Block (pdf), which detailed all the prison closures and attempted closures in the past year, several state governors have been dragged into legal battles with state employees and unions who want the prisons to stay open. The private prisons, which are funded by the taxpayer ... need to generate revenue to keep their shareholders happy. For them, the bottom line is keeping their prisons full, regardless of need or cost. Last year, the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) came under fire when it emerged that they sent a letter to 48 states offering to take over any prisons going spare – with the small caveat that they be guaranteed 90% occupancy for the next 20 years.
Note: For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on corruption in the prison/industrial complex, click here.
Brad Pitt blasts U.S. 'War on Drugs,' calls for policy rethink
2012-10-13, Chicago Tribune/Reuters
Brad Pitt has thrown his weight behind a documentary that blasts America's 40-year war on drugs as a failure, calling policies that imprison huge numbers of drug-users a "charade" in urgent need of a rethink. The Hollywood actor [recently became] an executive producer of filmmaker Eugene Jarecki's "The House I Live In," which won the Grand Jury Prize in January at the Sundance Film Festival. The film opened in wide release in the United States on [October 12]. Ahead of a Los Angeles screening, Pitt and Jarecki spoke passionately about the "War on Drugs" which, according to the documentary, has cost more than $1 trillion and accounted for over 45 million arrests since 1971, and which preys largely on poor and minority communities. "It's such bad strategy. It makes no sense. It perpetuates itself. You make a bust, you drive up profit, which makes more people want to get into it," he added. "To me, there's no question; we have to rethink this policy and we have to rethink it now." "The House I Live In" was filmed in more than 20 states and tells stories from many sides of the issue, including Jarecki's African-American nanny, a drug dealer, narcotics officer, inmate, judge, grieving mother, senator and others. It also shows that although the United States accounts for only 5 percent of the world's population, it has 25 percent of its prison population. Additionally, African Americans, who make up roughly 13 percent of the population and 14 percent of its drug users, account for 56 percent of those incarcerated for drug crimes.
Note: Some believe that whenever the government declares a war on something, the result is an increase in that thing. For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on government corruption, click here.
Kids in solitary confinement: America's official child abuse
2012-10-10, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
Thousands of teenagers, some as young as 14 or 15, are routinely subjected by US prisons to [the] psychological torture [of solitary confinement]. One teen who participated in the Human Rights watch report wrote that being in isolation felt like 'a slow death from the inside out'. Molly J said of her time in solitary confinement: "[I felt] doomed, like I was being banished. Like you have the plague or that you are the worst thing on earth. I guess [I wanted to] feel like I was part of the human race – not like some animal." Molly was just 16 years old when she was placed in isolation in an adult jail in Michigan. She described her cell as being "a box": "There was a bed – the slab. It was concrete … There was a stainless steel toilet/sink combo … The door was solid, without a food slot or window … There was no window at all." Molly remained in solitary for several months, locked down alone in her cell for at least 22 hours a day. No other nation in the developed world routinely tortures its children in this manner. And torture is indeed the word brought to mind by a shocking report released today by Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union. Growing Up Locked Down documents, for the first time, the widespread use of solitary confinement on youth under the age of 18 in prisons and jails across the country, and the deep and permanent harm it causes to kids caught up in the adult criminal justice system.
Note: For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on the injustices rampant in prisons, click here.
How lawmakers and lobbyists keep a lock on the private prison business
2012-09-27, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
America's three largest private prison companies ... spent in the region of $45m over the past 10 years in lobbying state and federal governments. During the same period, these companies saw their profits soar as they scored more government contracts. [Also] during the same period, various pieces of legislation got passed ensuring that immigrant detention, in particular, would remain a lucrative growth market. Thanks to mandatory sentencing laws and the "war on drugs", the prison population has exploded over the past 30 years – to the point where it has become an untenable burden on state budgets. The private prison business [is] reliant on state and federal governments to provide them with their customer base: that is, bodies to fill their cells. The companies maintain that their lobbying efforts have nothing to do with this expansion and insist that it is their policy to "expressly prohibit their lobbyists from working to pass or oppose immigration legislation", such as the Arizona immigration bill SB1070, which provides for the mandatory detention of immigrants who cannot produce papers on request. [Then] where are the private prison firms spending those millions of lobbying dollars? A report compiled by the Justice Policy Institute issued in 2011 and using data from the National Institute on Money in State Politics found that between 2003 and 2010, the [Corrections Corporation of America] contributed a total of $1,552,350 to state election campaigns. Approximately half was to candidates, more than a third was to party committees and around one tenth was spent on ballot measures.
Note: For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on corruption in the prison/industrial complex, click here.
Prisons, Privatization, Patronage
2012-06-22, New York Times
The New York Times has published several terrifying reports about New Jersey’s system of halfway houses — privately run adjuncts to the regular system of prisons. The horrors described are part of a broader pattern in which essential functions of government are being both privatized and degraded. So what’s really behind the drive to privatize prisons? One answer is that privatization can serve as a stealth form of government borrowing, in which governments avoid recording upfront expenses (or even raise money by selling existing facilities) while raising their long-run costs in ways taxpayers can’t see. Another answer is that privatization is a way of getting rid of public employees. But the main answer, surely, is to follow the money. As more and more government functions get privatized, states become pay-to-play paradises, in which both political contributions and contracts for friends and relatives become a quid pro quo for getting government business. Are the corporations capturing the politicians, or the politicians capturing the corporations? One thing the companies that make up the prison-industrial complex — companies like Community Education or the private-prison giant Corrections Corporation of America — are definitely not doing is competing in a free market. They are, instead, living off government contracts. And ... despite many promises that prison privatization will lead to big cost savings, such savings — as a comprehensive study by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, part of the U.S. Department of Justice, concluded — “have simply not materialized.” A corrupt nexus of privatization and patronage [is] undermining government across much of our nation.
Note: Have you noticed that crime rates are at the lowest in many years, yet prison spending continues to skyrocket? Is something wrong with this picture? For key major media new articles exposing more on corruption within the "prison-industrial complex," click here.
Police shootings rise as crime falls
2012-06-17, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
It's a curious paradox: Crime rates continue to fall in California, but the number of people killed by the police keeps rising. In Los Angeles County, for example, the number of 2011 homicides was a historic low of 612 people. But the number of fatal police shootings skyrocketed by nearly 70 percent that same year, to 54. That number of fatal shootings by officers was almost equal to 10 percent of the county's homicides last year. Los Angeles is not alone. Nationwide, officer-involved shootings are on the rise, with cities as disparate as Dallas and Albuquerque registering sharp spikes in fatal police shootings. What's going on? It's too soon to know whether 2011 was just an unusual year or the start of a trend. In 2011, 72 officers across the country were killed by perpetrators - a 75 percent increase from 2008. This rough equation makes some sense - if the police are encountering suspects who are more likely to fire on them, they're going to fire back. California is struggling with decades-old budget decisions that have left far too many mentally ill people out on the street, where they can be a danger to themselves and others. Police officers, not caseworkers, are all too often first responders to the mentally unstable. [And] California's ... draconian sentencing laws - followed by prison overcrowding and early release programs - haven't made anyone safer. Legislators and governors have tinkered around the edges of these issues without attempting a full overhaul, but a full overhaul is what the state needs.
Note: For more on corruption within the judicial system and "prison-industrial complex," click here.
The crime of punishment at Pelican Bay State Prison
2012-05-31, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
For the past 16 years, I have spent at least 22 1/2 hours of every day completely isolated within a tiny, windowless cell in the Security Housing Unit at California's Pelican Bay State Prison in Crescent City. Eighteen years ago, I committed the crime that brought me here: burgling an unoccupied dwelling. Under the state's "three strikes" law, I was sentenced to between 25 years and life in prison. The circumstances of my case are not unique; in fact, about a third of Pelican Bay's 3,400 prisoners are in solitary confinement; more than 500 have been there for 10 years, including 78 who have been here for more than 20 years. Unless you have lived it, you cannot imagine what it feels like to be by yourself, between four cold walls, with little concept of time, no one to confide in, and only a pillow for comfort - for years on end. It is a living tomb. I eat alone and exercise alone in a small, dank, cement enclosure known as the "dog-pen."I have not been allowed physical contact with any of my loved ones since 1995. I have developed severe insomnia, I suffer frequent headaches, and I feel helpless and hopeless. In short, I am being psychologically tortured. Now fellow SHU inmates and I have joined together with the Center for Constitutional Rights in a federal lawsuit that challenges this treatment as unconstitutional. I understand I broke the law, and I have lost liberties because of that. But no one, no matter what they've done, should be denied fundamental human rights, especially when that denial comes in the form of such torture. Our Constitution protects everyone living under it; fundamental rights must not be left at the prison door.
Note: For more on the unbridled cruelty and corruption of the prison-industrial complex, click here.
Plantations, Prisons and Profits
2012-05-26, New York Times
“Louisiana is the world’s prison capital. The state imprisons more of its people, per head, than any of its U.S. counterparts. First among Americans means first in the world. Louisiana’s incarceration rate is nearly triple Iran’s, seven times China’s and 10 times Germany’s.” That paragraph opens a devastating eight-part series published this month by The Times-Picayune of New Orleans about how the state’s largely private prison system profits from high incarceration rates and tough sentencing, and how many with the power to curtail the system actually have a financial incentive to perpetuate it. The picture that emerges is one of convicts as chattel and a legal system essentially based on human commodification. • One in 86 Louisiana adults is in the prison system, which is nearly double the national average. • More than 50 percent of Louisiana’s inmates are in local prisons, which is more than any other state. The national average is 5 percent. • Louisiana leads the nation in the percentage of its prisoners serving life without parole. • Nearly two-thirds of Louisiana’s prisoners are nonviolent offenders. The national average is less than half. In the early 1990s, the state was under a federal court order to reduce overcrowding, but instead of releasing prisoners or loosening sentencing guidelines, the state incentivized the building of private prisons. But, in what the newspaper called “a uniquely Louisiana twist,” most of the prison entrepreneurs were actually rural sheriffs. They saw a way to make a profit and did.
Note: To read the powerful 8-part investigation of the Louisiana prison system from the New Orleans Times-Picayune, click here. For more on the cruelty and corruption of the prison-industrial complex, click here.
How America's death penalty murders innocents
2012-05-21, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
The US criminal justice system is a broken machine that wrongfully convicts innocent people, sentencing thousands of people to prison or to death for the crimes of others, as a new study reveals. The University of Michigan law school and Northwestern University have compiled a new National Registry of Exonerations – a database of over 2,000 prisoners exonerated between 1989 and the present day, when DNA evidence has been widely used to clear the names of innocent people convicted of rape and murder. Of these, 885 have profiles developed for the registry's website, exonerationregistry.org.
The details are shocking. Death row inmates were exonerated nine times more frequently than others convicted of murder. One-fourth of those exonerated of murder had received a death sentence, while half of those who had been wrongfully convicted of rape or murder faced death or a life behind bars. Ten of the inmates went to their grave before their names were cleared. The leading causes of wrongful convictions include perjury, flawed eyewitness identification and prosecutorial misconduct. "The most important thing we know about false convictions is that they happen and on a regular basis … Most false convictions never see the light of the day," said University of Michigan law professors Samuel Gross and Michael Shaffer, who wrote the study. "Nobody had an inkling of the serious problem of false confessions until we had this data," said Rob Warden, executive director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University.
Note: For key reports from major media sources on the injustices and corruption of the prison-industrial complex, click here.
The wrong Carlos: how Texas sent an innocent man to his death
2012-05-14, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
Antonin Scalia, one of the nine justices on the US supreme court, made a bold statement. There has not been, he said, "a single case – not one – in which it is clear that a person was executed for a crime he did not commit. If such an event had occurred … the innocent's name would be shouted from the rooftops." It is now clear that a person was executed for a crime he did not commit, and his name – Carlos DeLuna – is being shouted from the rooftops of the Columbia Human Rights Law Review. Carlos DeLuna was arrested, aged 20, on 4 February 1983 for the brutal murder of a young woman, Wanda Lopez. From the moment of his arrest until the day of his death by lethal injection six years later, DeLuna consistently protested he was innocent. The august journal has cleared its entire spring edition, doubling its normal size to 436 pages, to carry an extraordinary investigation by a Columbia law school professor and his students. The book sets out in precise and shocking detail how an innocent man was sent to his death on 8 December 1989, courtesy of the state of Texas. Los Tocayos Carlos: An Anatomy of a Wrongful Execution, is based on six years of intensive detective work by Professor James Liebman and 12 students. What they discovered stunned even Liebman, who, as an expert in America's use of capital punishment, was well versed in its flaws. "It was a house of cards. We found that everything that could go wrong did go wrong," he says.
Note: For lots more from major media sources on the built-in injustices and corruption within the prison-industrial complex, click here.
Corrections Corp of America on Buying Spree - State Prisons For Sale?
Corrections Corporation of America ... president and CEO, Damon Hininger, [spoke] in a conference call with analysts ... about the recent purchase (January 2012) of a state prison in Ohio. CCA purchased the Lake Erie Correctional Institution for $72.7 million as part of Governor John Kashich’s ... prison privatization program. According to a press release from the state, tax payers will realize an estimated $3 million in annual savings. CCA is not stopping at Ohio though. CCA’s Chief Corrections Officer Harvey Lappin, former Director of the Bureau of Prisons who joined CCA less than a year ago, is making similar offers to buy prisons in other states. CCA offers to buy the state’s prison with cash up front in exchange for a 20-year management contract plus an assurance that the prison will remain 90% full over that period. In Ohio’s case, that meant that for the big chunk of cash up front, it would guarantee payments to CCA for 20 years for inmate per diem, occupancy fee ($3 million/year) and a guarantee that the minimum inmate population would be no less than 90% of capacity. Selling the facility has its downfalls. Once a state has sold its facility, it leaves little opportunity to contract with another prison management company in the event of a dispute or to save money. CCA, in the case of buying a prison, could be in the driver’s seat to dictate prison policy to the state.
Note: For revealing reports from major media sources on corruption in the prison-industrial complex, click here.
Pennsylvania judge gets 28 years in 'kids for cash' case
A longtime judge has been ordered to spend nearly three decades in prison for his role in a massive juvenile justice bribery scandal that prompted the state's high court to toss thousands of convictions. Former Luzerne County Judge Mark Ciavarella Jr. was sentenced ... to 28 years in federal prison for taking $1 million in bribes from the builder of a pair of juvenile detention centers in a case that became known as "kids-for-cash." The Pennsylvania Supreme Court tossed about 4,000 convictions issued by Ciavarella between 2003 and 2008, saying he violated the constitutional rights of the juveniles, including the right to legal counsel and the right to intelligently enter a plea. Ciavarella, 61, was tried and convicted of racketeering charges earlier this year. Federal prosecutors accused Ciavarella and a second judge, Michael Conahan, of taking more than $2 million in bribes from the builder of the PA Child Care and Western PA Child Care detention centers and extorting hundreds of thousands of dollars from the facilities' co-owner. Ciavarella, known for his harsh and autocratic courtroom demeanor, filled the beds of the private lockups with children as young as 10, many of them first-time offenders convicted of petty theft and other minor crimes.
Note: For lots more from reliable sources on government and corporate corruption, click here and here.
Guantánamo leaks lift lid on world's most controversial prison
2011-04-25, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
More than 700 leaked secret files on the Guantánamo detainees lay bare the inner workings of America's controversial prison camp in Cuba. The US military dossiers ... reveal how ... many prisoners were flown to the Guantánamo cages and held captive for years on the flimsiest grounds, or on the basis of lurid confessions extracted by maltreatment. The 759 Guantánamo files, classified "secret", cover almost every inmate since the camp was opened in 2002. More than two years after President Obama ordered the closure of the prison, 172 are still held there. The files depict a system often focused less on containing dangerous terrorists or enemy fighters, than on extracting intelligence. Among inmates who proved harmless were an 89-year-old Afghan villager, suffering from senile dementia, and a 14-year-old boy who had been an innocent kidnap victim. The documents also reveal: • US authorities listed the main Pakistani intelligence service, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI), as a terrorist organisation. • Almost 100 of the inmates who passed through Guantánamo are listed by their captors as having had depressive or psychotic illnesses. Many went on hunger strike or attempted suicide. • A number of British nationals and residents were held for years even though US authorities knew they were not Taliban or al-Qaida members.
Note: For many key reports on government secrecy from major media sources, click here.
'Guantanamo North': Inside Secretive U.S. Prisons
Reports about what life is like inside the military prison for terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay are not uncommon. But very little is reported about two secretive units for convicted terrorists and other inmates who get 24-hour surveillance, right here in the U.S. For the first time, an NPR investigation has identified 86 of the more than 100 men who have lived in the special units that some people are calling "Guantanamo North." The Communications Management Units [CMU] in Terre Haute, Ind., and Marion, Ill., are mostly filled with Muslims. About two-thirds of the inmates identified by NPR are U.S. citizens. Prison officials opened the first CMU with no public notice four years ago, something inmates say they had no right to do under the federal law known as the Administrative Procedures Act. The units' population has included men convicted in well-known post-Sept. 11 cases, as well as defendants from the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the 1999 "millennium" plot ... and hijacking cases in 1976, 1985 and 1996. When the Terre Haute unit opened in December 2006, 15 of the first 17 inmates were Muslim. As word got out that the special units were disproportionately Muslim ... the Bureau of Prisons started moving in non-Muslims. Guards and cameras watch the CMU inmates' every move. Every word they speak is picked up by a counterterrorism team that eavesdrops from West Virginia. [Several] inmates have been suing the Federal Bureau of Prisons. They say the special units were set up outside the law and raise serious due process issues. Unlike prisoners who are convicted of serious crimes and sent to a federal supermax facility, CMU inmates have no way to review the evidence that sent them there or to challenge that evidence to get out.
Note: For other major media articles exposing excessive secrecy in government and elsewhere, click here.
Mexican Officials Say Prisoners Acted as Hit Men
2010-07-26, New York Times
Prisoners in a northern Mexico jail were allowed out at night to carry out murder-for-hire jobs using jail guards’ weapons and vehicles, officials said [on July 25], revealing a level of corruption that is stunning even in a country where prison breakouts are common as guards look the other way. The prisoners carried out three massacres this year in the city of Torreón in which 35 people were killed, Ricardo Nájera, the spokesman for the attorney general’s office, said at a news conference. Among them, the authorities said, was last week’s attack on birthday revelers at a party hall. The gang shot randomly into the crowd, they said, killing 17 people. Ballistics studies confirmed that four guns used in the shooting were the same as those assigned to jail guards, Mr. Nájera said. “The criminals carried out their executions as part of a settling of scores against members of rival gangs linked to organized crime,” he said. “Unfortunately, in these executions the criminals also cowardly murdered innocent civilians — and then returned to their cells.”
Ex-US judge pleads guilty to child prison scam
2010-07-23, BBC News
Former Pennsylvania judge Michael Conahan has pleaded guilty to a racketeering conspiracy charge for helping put juvenile defendants behind bars in exchange for bribes. He is accused along with former judge Mark Ciavarella of taking $2.8m (£1.8m) from a profit-making detention centres. Prosecutors in a federal court in Scranton, Pennsylvania, said Conahan had closed a county-owned juvenile detention centre in 2002, just before signing an agreement to use a for-profit centre. Prosecutors say Mr Ciavarella, a former juvenile court judge, then allegedly worked with Mr Conahan to ensure a constant flow of detainees. The two men were originally charged in early 2009 with accepting money from the builder and owner of a for-profit detention centre that housed county juveniles in exchange for giving children longer, harsher sentences. A spokeswoman for the non-profit Juvenile Law Center alleges that Mr Ciavarella gave excessively harsh sentences to 1,000-2,000 juveniles between 2003 and 2006. Some of the children were shackled, denied lawyers, and pulled from their homes for offences which included stealing change from cars and failure to appear as witnesses.
Note: To understand just how corrupt our judicial system is, watch Consipiracy of Silence at this link.
America locks up too many people, some for acts that should not even be criminal
2010-07-22, The Economist magazine
America is different from the rest of the world in lots of ways, many of them good. One of the bad ones is its willingness to lock up its citizens. One American adult in 100 festers behind bars (with the rate rising to one in nine for young black men). Its imprisoned population, at 2.3m, exceeds that of 15 of its states. No other rich country is nearly as punitive as the Land of the Free. The rate of incarceration is a fifth of America’s level in Britain, a ninth in Germany and a twelfth in Japan. America’s incarceration rate has quadrupled since 1970. Similar things have happened elsewhere. The incarceration rate in Britain has more than doubled, and that in Japan increased by half, over the period. But the trend has been sharper in America than in most of the rich world, and the disparity has grown. It is explained neither by a difference in criminality (the English are slightly more criminal than Americans, though less murderous), nor by the success of the policy: America’s violent-crime rate is higher than it was 40 years ago. Many states have mandatory minimum sentences, which remove judges’ discretion to show mercy, even when the circumstances of a case cry out for it. “Three strikes” laws, which were at first used to put away persistently violent criminals for life, have in several states been applied to lesser offenders.
Note: For a recent report on the size of the US prison population in comparison with other countries, click here.
Sentenced to Serving the Good Life in Norway
2010-07-12, Time Magazine
On Bastoy, an island 46 miles south of Oslo,  residents live in brightly colored wooden chalets, spread over one square mile of forest and gently sloping hills. They go horseback riding and throw barbecues, and have access to a movie theater, tanning bed and, during winter, two ski jumps. Despite all its trappings, Bastoy island isn't an exclusive resort: it's a prison. Bastoy's governor ... describes it as the world's first human-ecological prison — a place where inmates learn to take responsibility for their actions by caring for the environment. Prisoners grow their own organic vegetables, turn their garbage into compost and tend to chickens, cows, horses and sheep. The prison generally emphasizes trust and self-regulation: Bastoy has no fences, the windows have no bars, and only five guards remain on the island after 3 p.m. In an age when countries from Britain to the U.S. cope with exploding prison populations by building ever larger — and, many would say, ever harsher — prisons, Bastoy seems like an unorthodox, even bizarre, departure. But Norwegians see the island as the embodiment of their country's long-standing penal philosophy: that traditional, repressive prisons do not work, and that treating prisoners humanely boosts their chances of reintegrating into society. Norway's system produces overwhelmingly positive results. Within two years of their release, 20% of Norway's prisoners end up back in jail. In the U.K. and the U.S., the figure hovers between 50% and 60%. Of course, Norway's ... prison roll lists a mere 3,300 inmates, a rate of 70 per 100,000 people, compared with 2.3 million in the U.S., or 753 per 100,000 — the highest rate in the world.
Note: Why aren't other countries taking heed of Norway's excellent example? Part of the reason is that some companies make massive profits from the prison system. For more on this, click here.