On Thursday, President Barack Obama became the first sitting American president to visit a federal prison. His visit, intended to raise awareness of the need for criminal justice reform, was preceded earlier this week by a speech he delivered at NAACP’s annual convention echoing that same message.
In his remarks, Obama cited a saddening statistic: “The U.S. is home to 5 percent of the world’s population, 25 percent of the world’s prisoners.” The incarceration rate in the U.S. is four times higher than authoritarian, anti-democratic nations like China.
Too many people behind bars is a problem we know all too well in Illinois. The state has one of the top-ten largest correctional populations in the country, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. And it’s tearing apart families; 62 percent of prison inmates in Illinois have one or more children. These kids grow up in broken homes, scarred for life by an absent parent. They’re usually less successful in adulthood, as a result.
These facts beg the question: Does each person in prison really belong there?
Read the rest on the Chicago Sun-Times here.
Advocate Brad Schlesinger was published in Outside the Beltway about how the drug war disappeared the jury trial.
With an out-of-control prison population and burgeoning criminal codes full of laws that punish a host of non-violent consensual behavior, it’s far past time to end the one-size-fits-all mandatory minimum sentencing laws the 1980′s drug war fervor brought us. Doing so will allow the role of the criminal jury trial to at least be restored to a modicum of its intended status – a check on the largely unconstrained and arbitrary police power of the state. A truly free society requires it. As 19th century American intellectual Lysander Spooner so aptly wrote back in 1852, “if the jury have no right to judge of the justice of a law of the government, they plainly can do nothing to protect the people against the oppressions of the government; for there are no oppressions which the government may not authorize by law.”
Read the rest of the piece here.
If you’d like to speak with or book Brad or any of our other Advocates, please contact Young Voices now.
Yesterday Reason published an article by Young Voices Associate Cathy Reisenwitz, Kwame Kilpatrick Is Just the Tip of the Corruption Iceberg:
Anger at corrupt public officials stems from the difficulty of government oversight. Faith in this system of government requires faith in the people at the helm. But if there’s anything to be gleaned from every scrap of recorded history ever it’s this: A system which requires we trust individual actors to not act in their own self-interest is not a good system.
All that anger is understandable. But in Mahatma Gandhi’s—or somebody’s—immortal words, “Don’t hate the player. Hate the game.”
Read the rest here.