Gates of Injustice

by TChris

A new book by Reuters correspondent Alan Elsner, Gates of Injustice, is reviewed here. The book paints an ugly portrait of America's prison system.

To get a sense of the magnitude of this problem, according to Elsner's calculations, the U.S., with five percent of the world's population, has 25% of the world's prisoners.

As Elsner points out, the cost of running the U.S. prison system is now more than $57 billion per year. This compares with the entire federal Department of Education budget of only $42 billion. ... California, it appears, spends $6000 per year per student attending university, while spending $34,000 per year for every prisoner it holds behind bars.

The "corrections industry" has become a big business, but it's often the kind of business the begs the firing of the CEO.

According to Elsner, "hundreds of thousands of men are raped each year. . . Racist and neo-Nazi gangs run drugs, gambling and prostitution rings from inside their prison cells, buying and selling weak and vulnerable fellow inmates as sex slaves, while authorities turn a blind eye." As a result, individual prisoners once released are often more violent, more addicted, angrier and less able to function in society than they were when they entered the system.

Elsner blames the "get tough on crime" philosophy for the growing prison crisis -- a philosophy that choked off debate about alternative ways to address crime.

Elsner targets the acceptance by both parties of a "get tough on crime" philosophy that has held sway since the 1970s. During this time, the prison population in the U.S. increased 400%. Almost two-thirds of those arrested were simple drug users, and most of them African American or Hispanic. Meanwhile, law enforcement turned a blind eye to white drug abuse and failed to deal more effectively with stopping the flow of drugs into the U.S.

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