The War on Weed (WEEDIQUETTE Episode 3) – Vice News Published on Mar 16, 2016


Bernard Noble is serving 13 and a third years in prison for having two joints in his pocket. Krishna Andavolu traces Noble’s story from his arrest to his incarceration.

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The simple truth about why mass incarceration happened – Updated by German Lopez on August 30, 2015, 10:00 a.m. ET


How could US politicians possibly think it was a good idea to incarcerate millions of Americans starting in the 1980s, creating the system of mass incarceration we have today?

It’s a question that gets tossed around a lot nowadays, with varied answers — from claims it was an attempt to control the population to arguments that private prisons created a profit motive for locking up millions of Americans.

But there’s a much simpler explanation: The public wanted mass incarceration.

Chart of percent of Americans who said crime is "the most important problem."

It’s easy to forget now, but the politics of crime were huge in the 1990s. According to data from Gallup, never before or after the nineties have so many Americans said that crime is the most important problem facing the country today.

Americans had a very good reason for these concerns. From the late 1960s to the early 1990s, crime was unusually high. The country was still coming off what was perceived as a crack cocaine epidemic, in which the drug ran rampant across urban streets and fueled deadly gang violence. So Americans, by and large, demanded their lawmakers do something — and politicians reacted with mass incarceration and other tough-on-crime policies.

It’s very easy in hindsight to consider this an overreaction — now that we know crime began its decades-long decline in the early 1990s, and now that researchhas shown that mass incarceration only partly contributed to this decline.

But people didn’t know that at the time. They didn’t know crime was about to begin its long-term drop, and the research on mass incarceration was far from conclusive.

Politicians thought crime would get worse, not better

In fact, there were warnings at the time that things were on the verge of getting worse. One prominent concern in the 1990s — based on what turned out to be very bad social science research — suggested that there was an incoming epidemic of superpredators, violent youth who would rob and kill people. This great video, from the New York Times, captures the era well:

In this context, it was expected that all politicians — liberal and conservative — take a tough stance on crime. That’s partly why liberals like Hillary ClintonJoe Biden, and Bernie Sanders supported the 1994 crime law that contributed to mass incarceration. It’s why dueling candidates for governor in the liberal state of New York campaigned on who could be tougher on crime. And it’s why practically every state passed tough-on-crime policies throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

More than two decades later, criminal justice reform is all the rage. It’s an expectation for Democratic presidential candidates to have a progressive criminal justice platform. So the same politicians who caused this problem are being asked to undo what they did in the past. And they face a common question: How can they be expected to solve a problem that they helped cause?

Popular demand for tough-on-crime laws in the past doesn’t in any way excuse the devastation lawmakers inflicted on millions of people through mass incarceration and other policies. But based on voters’ concerns in the 1990s, if a politician didn’t contribute to the problem back then, he or she may not be prominent enough to run for president today. That’s how America ended up with mass incarceration — and the seemingly contradictory Democratic presidential candidates for 2016.

Article continues:

http://www.vox.com/2015/8/30/9223105/why-mass-incarceration

Are Prisons Bleeding Us Dry? – By Sheila A. Bedi December 1st 20136:45 AM


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The NAACP has been saying it for decades. A few years ago, Newt Gingrich realized it was true. The ACLU has filed lawsuits to end it. President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder are beginning to understand it. Texas Governor Rick Perry, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal are all on board.

What realization could possibly inspire consensus from such diverse voices? It is the understanding of the horrors of mass incarceration.

One in 100 adults in the U.S. lives behind bars. One in nine African-American men are imprisoned. This country’s addiction to incarceration has not made us safer, but has instead imposed upon us an untenable, senseless tax while unfairly targeting poor communities of color and perpetuating crime and violence in our neighborhoods. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and activists on the left and the right are taking action to roll back imprisonment rates.

So why, then, is Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel lobbying the Illinois legislature to funnel more people into prison for longer? During the recent veto session last week, Emanuel requested that the legislature impose a mandatory three-year prison term on people who are convicted for the unlawful possession of a firearm.

Thankfully, the proposal failed, when Representative Ken Dunkin (D-5th) wisely requested information about the fiscal impact of the mandatory minimums. The analysis wasn’t completed by the time the legislature adjourned, but had it been finished, it would have revealed a staggering price tag. The Illinois Sentencing Policy Advisory Council estimated (PDF) that the cost of the Mayor Emmanuel’s proposal could exceed $965 million a year.