Pubdate: Sun, 27 Jul 2003
Source: Montgomery Advertiser (AL)
Copyright: 2003sThe Advertiser Co.
Author: G. Bradley Appeldorn


Our country is in the midst of an orgasmic celebration of violent power 
turned on the criminal. In 1970 the United States had fewer than 200,000 
inmates. There are now about 1.8 million.

This is the highest rate in the Western world and is some six times greater 
than that of most industrialized nations. The state of Alabama alone holds 
more inmates, whether incarcerated or on work release, parole, or 
probation, than Great Britain, Japan, Singapore and the Netherlands combined.

What accounts for our massive and anomalous drive to incarcerate our 
citizens? It's not simply a response to rising crime. Statistics inform us 
that the crime rate has declined for six straight years. Still our prison 
population increases.

It's hard not to see racial dimension. Fully, one-third of black men 
between 20 and 29 are caught up in the criminal justice system. If you're 
black in the United States you're eight times more likely to end up in 
prison than if white. Or to put the figures in perspective, our country 
jails its blacks at a rate four-fold greater than South Africa under apartheid.

Alabama spends more than $280 million a year on housing and feeding 
inmates. What if you took the $10,000 or more it takes to incarcerate one 
person and used that instead for education, drug treatment, family 
counseling and job training? Instead, Gov. Riley wants to raise our taxes.

G. Bradley Appeldorn

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