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We are a Part of a Prison Nation

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Janet Jackson had her Rhythm Nation. We have our Prison Nation.

The numbers are in, and it turns out that the U.S. prison population grew more in 2005-2006 than in any other year since 2000 (via TalkLeft). The U.S. prison population, already the largest in the world, grew by 2.8% last year. It now tops the charts at over two and a quarter million people.

Not surprisingly, this jump is largely attributable to the U.S.’s harsh drug laws. Record numbers of drug offenders currently reside in the nation’s jails and prisons.

The Drug Policy Alliance isn’t taking the news sitting down. They’ve released a cheeky new series called Incarcerex. Here’s a sample:

(head over to the DPA’s website for a larger version of the image and the rest of the series.)

Incarcerex, according to the DPA, is the “treatment” for Common Re-election Paranoia(CREEP), a malady plaguing politicians and driving them to be “tough on crime,” by throwing in jail low level drug offenders. Good for elections. Bad public policy.

But there’s hope, and shockingly it may come in the form of right wing Christian Conservatives, who have been the driving force behind the Second Chance Act. If passed by Congress (and signed by the Prez), the law would provide a significant chunk of change to reduce recidivism through education, job programs, drug treatment, etc. The NY Times called on Congress to pass the law in an editorial today. Federal involvement in prison policy — an area usually left to the states — is badly needed here. It’s the feds who made this mess with their “War on (some people who use) Drugs.” It’s time for them to at least start the process of cleaning it up.

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