Blagojevich caught in incarceration craze

 
Posted8/14/2019 1:00 AM

The United States is incarceration crazy, containing just 4.4 percent of the world's population, but housing 2 million souls, 22 percent of the world's prisoners. We have the highest incarceration rate at 716 per 100,000 and the highest percentage of convicted criminals who are jailed. At about $35,000 per inmate, total annual cost exceeds $80 billion.

It hasn't always been this way. Beginning under Nixon in the '70s and Reagan in the '80s, the U.S. became incarceration-obsessed. Nixon aide John Halderman admitted Nixon used draconian drug violation sentencing to jail minorities and leftists in massive numbers for political gain.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Reagan followed suit, resulting in a sevenfold increase in state prisoners since then.

A half century on, jailing nonviolent, nonhabitual criminals is still the knee-jerk response to criminal conviction. Trivial drug possession, inability to make bail, trumped up or wrongful convictions, draconian minimum sentencing, life without parole and a host of other excuses for needless incarceration add to the staggering prison population.

Today, Illinois pols and pundits ignore the critical issues threatening society to rail about harmless Rod Blagojevich's likely early release by a president ripping at our political society's fragile social fabric. Trump's inciting the worst impulses in damaged citizenry has likely gotten people injured, even killed. But mass shootings, denial of climate change, inhumane mishandling of asylum-seekers at deplorable detention centers doesn't sell pixels and newsprint in Chicagoland like the current "24/7 Keep Blago Locked Up Syndrome" crowding out real matters of life and death.

Walt Zlotow

Glen Ellyn

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