The US: An incarceration nation analysis

“With liberty and justice for all.”

Never has a phrase been so universally understood yet so often misinterpreted.

The U.S. was created on key morality-based concepts that have been lost to a system of bureaucracy and economic growth.

Case in point: the Department of Justice.

While the U.S. comprises only five percent of the global population, it contains 25 percent of the world’s prison population.

About one in every 31 adults in the U.S. is under the control of the corrections system, whether they be in prison, in jail or on supervised release.

“Either we are home to the most evil people on earth, or we are doing something vastly counterproductive,” wrote former Virginia senator Jim Webb in 2009.

The prison population has grown roughly 790 percent over the past 30 years, while violent crime has significantly decreased.

Howell W. Woltz, TEP, constitutional expert, author of “Justice Denied: The United States v. The People” and former inmate, told The Guilfordian this anomaly is caused primarily by three things.

“One, Congress has created over 14,000 laws with prison as a penalty, many of which are for behaviors never before considered criminal,” said Woltz.

“Two, the power and discretion of sentencing has been taken away from courts and juries and given to public prosecutors through legislation that requires mandatory sentences.

“And three,” Woltz continued, “an enormous industry has sprung up around this anomaly, which has developed significant political clout.”

The Constitution included nothing pertaining to the creation of a Justice Department nor did it include the concept of public prosecution.

In fact, it was established in 1870 by Ulysses S. Grant as an Executive Department, which is not authorized as a duty of the president under Article II of the Constitution.

Before the Justice Department was created, the accusing party was required to provide sufficient evidence prior to a prosecution under federal law to be initiated.

As a result, federal cases were rare. Now they are not.

“There are 94 offices of the U.S. Attorney scattered around the country today, creating cases against citizens faster than prisons can be built to hold them,” said Woltz.

To prove it, the federal conviction rate is 98.6 percent.

Furthermore, according to civil-rights attorney and journalist Harvey A. Silverglate, the average American commits at least three federal felonies every day without even knowing it.

There are now about 2.5 million prisoners in the U.S. at federal and state levels, with over 7.3 million people still in the corrections system.

Last year, the Justice Department budgeted more than $8.6 billion to the Bureau of Prisons.

This means the average cost per prisoner for 2012 was about $35,000, all of which is funded by taxpayers.

“The goal of the system is no longer to do justice but to win convictions and fill prisons — unfortunately — at a far greater cost to the public good than over-policing a free people could possibly provide,” said Woltz. “This will be seen as the human rights disaster of the 21st century.”

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