Critic Cites “Glimmers Of Hope” In “Abysmal” U.S. Penal System


Although African-Americans make up 12 percent of the U.S. population, they are 40+ percent of jail and prison populations, notes University of Kansas Prof. H. George Frederickson. Writing on, he says state corrections costs are projected to reach $75 billion by 2011. On average, 7 percent of state budgets go to support penal systems. Frederickson praises the 2007 book “Governing through Crime: How the War on Crime Transformed American Democracy and Created a Culture of Fear,” by Jonathan Simon of the University of California Berkeley.

Governing through crime, says Frederickson, has resulted in mass imprisonment noted by its scale, its categorical (racial) application, and its increasingly warehouse-like or waste management-like qualities. He cites “glimmers of hope”: Texas is expanding drug treatment and reforming parole; Kansas is aiding community corrections agencies’ parolee training and monitoring, and is setting guidelines to aid judges and officers in revocation decisions. Nevada is recalibrating good time served to cut sentences. Overall, however, “American penal practices are abysmal, an affront to democracy and to justice.”


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