Quoth Mitt Romney on Fox and Friends: “We don’t have mass incarcerations in America. Individuals are brought before tribunals, and they have counsel. They’re given certain rights. Are we not going to lock people up who commit crimes?”
Finding hard statistics on how many Americans are caught up in the nation’s “justice” system is difficult. Here are a few, culled from various sources, which ring true:
One in every three Americans has a “criminal record.”
One in every thirty or so Americans is, at any given time, under some sort of “correctional supervision” — prison, jail, house arrest, probation or parole.
Double those numbers to get some idea of the “justice” system’s impact on African-Americans. Triple them and you’re starting to get into the ballpark when it comes to African-American males.
Two million Americans, give or take, are at any moment actually behind bars. Some polemicists highlight this figure as “the biggest per capita prison population in the world.” I don’t know if they’re right (official figures from, say, North Korea are naturally suspect), but they’ve definitely got a case.
92% of Americans accused of crimes accept “plea bargains,” admit to lesser charges, and forgo their right to trial in return for lighter sentences. 6% go to trial and are convicted. 2% go to trial and are acquitted.
The Mitt Romneys — and, not so long ago, the Bill Clintons — of the world refer euphemistically to this system as “rule of law.”
The rest of us refer to it as “government gone wild.”
Wild enough that the most calculatedly centrist, mainstream politician on the American hustings, Hillary Clinton, thought it necessary to take a poke at the problem in reference to the riots in Baltimore following Freddie Gray’s abduction by police and death en route to jail, for the perfectly understandable “crime” of not wanting to hang around an area when the police showed up.
But apparently not too wild for Mitt Romney. Following two failed presidential campaigns, Romney has re-branded himself as the talk circuit’s new Alfred E. Neuman — “what, me worry?”
Hillary has a point. Or, rather, she’s catching on late instead of never to an existential threat.
To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, America cannot endure one third criminal and two thirds awaiting arrest. It will cease to be divided. It will re-embrace freedom or it will continue to devolve into totalitarian police statism.
Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.
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