Here’s a great piece by Matt Taibbi – Cruel and Unusual Punishment: The Shame of Three Strikes Laws
While Wall Street crooks walk, thousands sit in California prisons for life over crimes as trivial as stealing socks.
It’s directly related to this post – the piece reports on California’s Three Strikes law. According to Taibbi, “By the late 90s, 24 states and the Federal Government had a some kind of Three Strikes law”.
Here’s an excerpt:
Where some saw Three Strikes as a moral outrage, others seized on the financial burdens. Conceived as a way to keep child molesters in jail for life, Three Strikes more often became the world’s most expensive and pointlessly repressive homeless-care program. It costs the state about $50,000 per year to care for every prisoner, even more when the inmate is physically or mentally disabled – and some 40 percent of three-strikers are either mentally retarded or mentally ill. “Homeless guys on drugs, that was your typical third-striker,” says Romano. “And not that the money is the issue, but you could send hundreds of deserving people to college for the amount of money we were spending.”
The typical third-striker wasn’t just likely to be homeless and/or mentally ill – he was also very likely to be black. In California, blacks make up seven percent of the population, 28 percent of the prison population and 45 percent of the three-strikers.