For the first time in history, one out of every ninety-nine Americans is incarcerated according to a recent report by the Pew foundation. That translates to one percent of all Americans, or 2.3 million citizens, making America the number one country in the world for imprisoning its own people.
Are we truly such an unruly, anarchist, lot as this?
Of course, these statistics bear absolutely no effect on any reduction in violent crime - America is more violent and crime addled than ever. Cash-strapped states are groaning under the financial implications of having to house, feed and rehabilitate so many of it's residents - to the tune of a whopping 49 billion dollars on corrections alone last year.
Of course, there is no argument that when society is at risk from the actions of violent citizens, when lives are endangered and basic social liberties are called unto question, certain freedoms are to be forfeited in order to restore order. The question in this case however is one of our current stand on drug laws, and just how many citizens are being imprisoned unjustly because of their ohoices of what they do with their bodies?
This is not to argue that all drugs should be legal. But when 1 in 99 citizens are being imprisoned in the one country that holds itself as 'the Land of the Free', it's time to start asking some hard questions.
Consider that last year alone, over 700,000 Americans were arrested on Cannabis charges. Not Meth, not Cocaine, but Cannabis. A plant. This marked an 800% increase in arrests since 1980. My question is, how does this benefit society? How has this made us safer, more secure or even wiser? Is it just me, or does it seem a ridiculous assertion that we have so many people locked away, unable to participate in the roles of society over the possession and employment of one simple plant?
"The new approach, born of bipartisan leadership, is allowing the two states to ensure they have enough prison beds for violent offenders while helping less dangerous lawbreakers become productive, taxpaying citizens," the report said.
The unmitigated gall. At least 700,000 of these 'less dangerous lawbreakers' were indeed likely productive, taxpaying citizens who simply liked to smoke a little weed. The average marijuana user, as most in my age demographic will attest, is neither an impoverished criminal languishing glassy-eyed in a ghetto nor a hardcore felon with a crowbar waiting to break into your home. The average potsmoker is instead a law-abiding, tax-paying middle class American with a steady income, two cars and 2.5 children. A functional and contributing member of society who harms no other in the choice that he makes.
To imprison then the core of our scciety based on a choice that is statistically safer than alcohol or tobacco is not simply abhorrent, its reprehensible.
For at least 700,000 of these imprisoned, and perhaps on behalf of them, I ask you, America:
When is enough, enough?