Tuesday, December 28, 2004
From Sunday's Editorial page: "The mandatory sentencing fad that swept the United States beginning in the 1970's has had dramatic consequences - most of them bad. The prison population was driven up tenfold, creating a large and growing felon class - now 13 million strong - that remains locked out of the mainstream and prone to recidivism. Trailing behind the legions of felons are children who grow up visiting their parents behind bars and thinking prison life is perfectly normal. Meanwhile, the cost of building and running prisons has pushed many states near bankruptcy - and forced them to choose between building jails and schools.
Seldom has a public policy done so much damage so quickly. But changes in the draconian sentencing laws have come very slowly. That is partly because the public thinks keeping a large chunk of the population behind bars is responsible for the reduced crime rates of recent years. Studies cast doubt on that theory, since they show drops in crime almost everywhere - even in states that did not embrace mandatory minimum sentences or mass imprisonment. In addition, these damaging policies have done nothing to curb the drug trade."
To read the full editorial click here. [Mark Godsey]