A vicious cycle of degradation: America’s prison problem and its ‘war on drugs’

25% of the world’s prison population are housed in America, a country with 5% of the world’s population. It has the largest prison population in the world as well as the highest incarceration rate other than the Seychelles. The incarceration rate of 707 per 100,000 inhabitants is close to 5 times the rate of the UK while the prison population of more than 2.2m, is nearly 600,000 higher than China, a country more than 4 times it’s size. Add to this the 4.8m people on parole or probation and the result is that 2.9% of the US adult resident population (or the entire population of Hong Kong) is under correctional supervision.

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Race and policing in America – Not so black and white… or is it?

An officer in Cleveland was acquitted of manslaughter last week despite firing 49 shots at an unarmed couple in their car. Even without knowing all the facts, there is something in that statement that just shouldn’t sit well with any reasonable human being. Add in the context that the policeman was white and the victims black and this starts to feel all too like a number of other cases in the public eye in recent months. The case of unarmed citizen Eric Garner for example who died after being held in a chokehold by NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo despite repeating the phrase now synonymous with this broader issue “I can’t breathe” 11 times. Or the case of the John Crawford III who was shot and killed without warning by police in a Wal Mart in Ohio for picking up an unloaded air rifle off the shelves of that same store. And in this case Melissa Williams and Timothy Russell two unarmed civilians who were shot at 137 times by police, 49 of which were from the gun of officer Michael Brelo whose job it should be to protect them as US citizens.

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