“With 1 in 100 American adults behind bars, falling crime rates and a cash-strapped economy, the United States would seem ripe for the kinds of national reforms that might keep people out of prison. Recent polls have shown that even our law-and-order-minded citizenry would rather see penalties eased for certain criminals than pay more money to keep them locked up.
A smattering of states, blue and red alike, have taken tentative steps to reduce their prison populations. Yet overall, the incarceration rate remains flat even as crime levels decrease and budget deficits grow. And on the federal level, the numbers of prisoners just keep growing; Congress, meanwhile, can’t even manage to pass a bill to study criminal justice reforms, much less make them.”
Let us remember that this pattern of locking up poor people for cheap labor in a “cash-strapped economy is nothing new and not at all unique to our time period. Most of the prison system is arranged to exploit free labor with the profit going to private hands to no benefit for the community or victims of crime.