terça-feira, 25 de março de 2014

Presos em excesso

“TOO many Americans go to too many prisons for far too long, and for no truly good law-enforcement reason.” The person who said that was neither a defence lawyer, nor a prisoners’-rights advocate, nor a European looking down his nose across the Atlantic. It was instead America’s top law-enforcement official, Eric Holder, the attorney general. On Monday Mr Holder announced several changes to federal prison policy, the most important of which was that federal prosecutors will no longer charge low-level, non-violent drug offenders with crimes that trigger “draconian” mandatory-minimum sentences. But how did America’s prison population become so unmanageably huge?
America has around 5% of the world’s population, and 25% of its prisoners. Roughly one in every 107 American adults is behind bars, a rate nearly five times that of Britain, seven times that of France and 24 times that of India. Its prison population has more than tripled since 1980. The growth rate has been even faster in the federal prison system: from around 24,000—its level, more or less, from the 1940s until the early 1980s—to more than 219,000 today.