oranje - recent posts from my current home

Monday, May 22, 2006

Where are you, Victor Hugo?

Lately, I have been gravitating towards articles that address issues in our prison and homeless populations. It has seemed to me that, with the reports of the privatization of the prison system, that something had changed in our system that provoked this change. I read an article today about the increase in the prison population here. One alarming statistic is the increase of prisoners that are incarcerated without trial because the judge is not allowing accused individuals bail. This seems to me to be related to the growth of our homeless population. Another article (AP at NYT, so you'll need a log-in to read) puts L.A.'s homeless population at 14,000.

1 in 136 people in the United States are incarcerated. Right now. This means that the number of citizens in our population who will experience incarceration in their life is on the increase. The number of minority prisoners is on the rise, including women.

Another trend that has been disturbing is number of prisoners who are exonerated by new findings through DNA testing. Although the prisoners that have been exonerated were originally accused of heinous crimes (murder, rape) it makes me think that there are some people that are incarcerated who really didn't do the crimes they are accused of but have no recourse that would exonerate them through this type of testing.

Ther is something so wrong with the picture that is being painted by these satistics. The United States needs a Vicor Hugo to champion the cause of the under classes.


Lisa Hunter said...

I think that the US prison population is so large partly because of the long-sentences for drug related crimes. In New York State in particular, the sentencing is draconian, with little room for a judge to intervene. I was on a jury several years ago in a drug possession case, and it was a searing experience. The guy was clearly guilty, but the sentence he would get was so unfair that we spent hours and hours deliberating, even though there were eye-witnesses and two police who caught him red-handed.

Susan Constanse said...

Yes, that was pointed out in the article in the Times. I can't help but think that the current level of incarceration will force a pivotal shift in our culture that will be detrimental in a way that we are ill-equipped to deal with.